Reputation Survey: The Conservative Party: Tories seek trust uplift

As the general election nears and Lord Ashcroft's tax status makes headlines, public opinion is that party leader David Cameron is not the right man to 'clean up' politics.

More than half of the 3,000 respondents of our latest survey say the Conservatives' reputation has not improved since the beginning of the year.

If David Cameron wants to become Prime Minister in 2010, he must first win over the 42 per cent of respondents to PRWeek/OnePoll's survey who believe he is not the right man to clean up politics.

His party's reputation has taken a battering recently, with revelations about Lord Ashcroft's tax status named as the story that had the biggest impact on the Tories' image by 37 per cent of our 3,000 respondents.

Cameron cycling to the House of Commons in 2006, trailed by his chauffeur, was also chosen as a 'still damaging' story by nearly 20 per cent of respondents.

Our survey also shows that the public does not feel the Conservatives would lead Britain into economic growth - in total, 43 per cent of respondents disagreed with this statement.

Fifty-two per cent of respondents do not trust the Tories on issues including immigration, healthcare, the economy, defence, the environment and education, as our graph shows. The same proportion also feel the party's reputation had failed to improve since the start of this year.

'These findings are not going to surprise anyone at Tory HQ,' says George Pascoe-Watson, partner at Portland. Comms director Andy Coulson is now sharing an office with Steve Hilton, the chief architect of Camerson's Tory strategy, in Millbank Tower.

Shadow chancellor George Osborne will from this week take up post alongside Coulson and Hilton, showing the Tory big guns understand the need to pull together.

HOW I SEE IT - ROB BLACKIE, HEAD OF DIGITAL, BLUE RUBICON

These are terrible results for a party that hopes to win the election. The entire Conservative strategy is to persuade people to vote for change, represented by David Cameron.

The public has always been suspicious that Cameron's rebranding of the Tories was skin-deep. This poll shows that voters are still suspicious of his motives, unconvinced and ignorant of his policies.

Cameron's hope must be that most voters either have not heard about these allegations or do not consider them meaningful. His strategy in the election debates will be to offer change, while Gordon Brown will characterise Cameron as a wolf in sheep's clothing.

Media reporting of the debates will be heavily influenced by discussion online, as the MyDavidCameron website has already done. The Tories have to face the fact that it's easier to claim Cameron is a PR man who cycles to work with a chauffeur following him, than to explain the party's health policy.

Survey of 3,000 members of the public conducted by global research agency OnePoll

- Since the start of this year, do you feel the party's reputation has improved?

Unsure: 31%

Yes: 17%

No: 52%

- In which areas do you feel the party is more concerned?

No opinion: 28%

Winning over voters: 39%

Winning over the media: 33%

- Revelations

58% feel the revelations about Lord Ashcroft made no difference to whether they trust the party

- News

51% have heard reports about the revelations of Lord Ashcroft's tax status

- Trust in economy

43% do not trust the Conservative Party to lead Britain into economic growth (32 per cent have no opinion)

- Clean up

42% do not think David Cameron is the man to clean up politics (40 per cent were unsure).

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