Health overtakes immigration as an issue for voters

William JordanUS Elections Editor
April 15, 2015, 8:49 AM GMT+0

At the same time, the Conservatives expand their lead on the one issue that beats both – the economy

Every two weeks YouGov asks voters which are the three most important issues facing Britain. Every time the question has been asked since the coalition came into government in 2010, two issues on the list of 13 came in the first or second spot: the economy and immigration.

However, in the most recent poll, health has taken the second spot for the first time, behind the economy and narrowly ahead of immigration.

50% of the British public say “health” is one of the most important issues facing the country, an all-time high. 47% put immigration in their top three, which is around the level where immigration has been for all of the past five years.

However, when respondents are asked about the most important issue facing “you and your family” (as opposed to “the country”), health regularly ranks only a few points behind the economy. Immigration, meanwhile, comes in much lower on this version of the question.

Which party leads on which issue?

YouGov also tracks which party is most trusted on several of the same issues. In this case, what is striking is how little has changed over the course of the election campaign.

On Friday, the Conservatives announced a pledge to spend an extra £8bn a year to fill a funding gap for the NHS. In the latest poll, conducted in the days after the Tories made their promise public, Labour is trusted over the Conservative party on the health service by 39% to 23%. The 16-point edge ties for the highest Labour has had since April 2013.

Ed Miliband and his shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, have also gone to lengths to show their party can be trusted again on the economy, a Tory strength for most of the coalition's time in government. Yet 39% of voters trust the Conservatives more than any other party, while just 21% trust Labour. The 18-point gap is technically the largest seen over the Tories' five years in government, though they have led by 17 points before.

In both cases, the changes since January and the beginning of the campaign season have been minimal. If the parties' campaigns have had an impact on these two key issues, they appear to be cancelling each other out.

Immigration is a harder case. The Conservatives briefly had a big advantage on the issue following Labour's defeat in the 2010 election – including leads of more than 30 points – but it has dwindled to nothing since then. However, this is one issue where Labour do not come in second or first place. Instead, the Conservative edge has fallen to the "Other" category, which is on 26% this week, with the Conservatives on 23% (six points ahead of Labour).

Almost certainly, the vast majority of respondents who choose "Other" have UKIP in mind, who have made a touch stance on immigration central to their offer. (To maintain the continuity of the trend, which pre-dates UKIP's prominence, YouGov only explicitly mentions the Conservative party, Labour and the Liberal Democreats).

In the same poll, only 13% say they intend to vote UKIP, suggesting that the party's support on the issue of immigration vastly outstrips their electoral support – another reminder of the complicated relationship voters have with the immigration issue.

PA image

See the latest issue-importance results

See YouGov's historical data on issue-importance

See YouGov's historical data on trust in the parties