London mayoral election poll: Economy is main issue

Jobs, growth and the economy are the most important issues for Londoners in the upcoming mayoral election, a new poll suggests.

The Ipsos MORI poll of 1,001 demographically-representative adults was commissioned by BBC London.

Some 59% of respondents cited the economy as one of the most important concerns.

Tackling crime (49%), improving public transport (38%) and building cheap homes (37%) were the other top issues.

But the poll showed Conservative incumbent Boris Johnson and Labour candidate Ken Livingstone were neck and neck when it came to public trust in their economic strategy.

Asked which candidate had the best ideas on the issue, 27% said Mr Johnson and 27% opted for Mr Livingstone.

Meanwhile 40% said they did not know - suggesting many votes are up for grabs over the issue.

Tomasz Mludzinski, senior research executive at Ipsos MORI, said: "The economy and creating jobs is the number one important issue that Londoners say will help them decide who to vote for.

"It is particularly important for those people who voted for Boris Johnson in 2008.

"When looking at who Londoners think has the best ideas on the issues it becomes clear how open the election is."

Worryingly for Liberal Democrat candidate Brian Paddick, just 1% of respondents thought he had the best ideas on the economy.

The emphasis on growth and jobs mirrors that in the 1992 US presidential election, which saw Bill Clinton unseat George Bush Senior under the slogan: "It's the economy, stupid."

'Personality dominated'

And Mr Mludzinski said that, as in races for the White House, personality was likely to be very important in the mayoral election.

He explained: "This election, unlike general elections, is dominated by personalities.

"Voters get to vote for an individual candidate for the top job - the closest thing we have to a presidential election.

"Therefore personalities and personal characteristics are very important in this election - it's not just about policies."

Some 43% of Londoners polled said they liked Mr Johnson the most, while 35% preferred Mr Livingstone.

Mr Johnson was also seen as a better ambassador for London, by 47% to 32%.

But more people felt Ken Livingstone understood the concerns of ordinary Londoners, by 49% to 26%.

Image caption Just 1% of those polled thought Mr Paddick had the best economic plan

And more people felt Mr Livingstone would be better in a crisis (43% to 32%).

Mr Mludzinski said of the latter finding: "This is a key measure - particularly in an election based on individual candidates.

"Mr Livingstone's lead here is possibly down to handling the 7/7 bombings."

In contrast Mr Johnson came in for criticism for his perceived slow response to the London riots.

Ken Livingstone's campaign has largely focused on a pledge to cut transport fares.

Yet the poll suggested Mr Johnson had a five point lead over his rival when the public were asked who had the best ideas on transport (36% compared to 31%).

'Very close'

Mr Johnson was also perceived to have the best ideas on crime (26% compared to 22%).

Pollster Mr Mludzinski concluded: "What this poll clearly shows is that the mayoral election is very close between Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson.

"Each candidate has their personal strengths and weaknesses - but when it comes to policies, the public is split or undecided."

London School of Economics local government expert Tony Travers said: "This poll shows the electorate clearly differentiate between the major candidates.

"They have strong opinions about which issues and services they're better or worse on."

He continued: "In such a close election, what the candidates actually think and say can really affect the result.

"Normally these things don't actually matter because people have already made their minds up.

"This will certainly being the closest election since the post was created in 2000."

During the 2008 election Lib Dem Brian Paddick secured less than 10% of first preference votes.

Image caption Bill Clinton's 1992 election campaign slogan went down in political folklore

And the new study suggests people are still to be convinced he has the right policies for London.

Just 1% thought he had the best ideas on transport or housing, while 2% thought he had the best ideas on the environment.

However, Mr Paddick - a former policeman - fared slightly better on crime, with 7% rating his plans most highly.

Tony Travers said: "Brian Paddick is a perfectly respectable candidate - but he is being terribly squeezed in this epic struggle between the two big beasts.

"Neither is Jenny Jones a bad candidate for that matter, but she has the same problem."

Ms Jones, the Green Party candidate, was thought to have the best ideas by 1% of those polled on transport, crime, the economy and housing.

Only on the environment did she do better, with 7% rating her policies most highly.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites