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Wednesday 14th November 2012 | 16:22
Tomorrow, voters across England and Wales (excluding London) will have the chance to vote in the first ever elections for 41 new police and crime commissioners. However, ComRes tracking polls conducted for ITV News suggest that turnout could be extremely low, raising concerns about the representativeness of the result and the popularity of their introduction.
Despite a large majority of people in England and Wales (excluding London) claiming awareness of the elections; fewer than half (49%) intend to vote, which while low is nonetheless up significantly on polling earlier in the run-up to them. Worryingly, one in ten says that they are not even aware that the elections are taking place.
Elections for Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) will be taking place across England (except London) and Wales on 15 November 2012. Before today were you aware that these elections were taking place on 15 November 2012?
[Base English and Welsh Adults, excluding London n=1,609]
Yes, I was aware but I do not intend to vote in the election – 38%
Yes, I was aware and I intend to vote in the election – 49%
No, I was not aware – 13%
With the Government hoping that these elections will give people more of a say on how crime is tackled in their local area, our poll suggests that the public have serious doubts over whether this aim can be realised. Only one in five people (22%) think that the newly elected police and crime commissioners will be effective at reducing crime in their area, and few people think that elected PCCs will mean that the needs of their local area will be better protected. In fact the majority of people think that elected PCCs will just be an added layer of extra bureaucracy, and many think they will be a waste of money.
A separate ComRes poll for the Police Federation shows that crime remains an extremely important concern for the electorate, with David Cameron right to take the issue seriously if he is to improve his electoral chances in 2015. Nearly two in five people in England and Wales think that crime and policing will be a major influence on how they vote at the next election, and this is higher still among Conservative voters and older people. Crime and policing will influence a greater proportion of votes than issues that are dominating the press at the moment such as Europe, education, and transport.
Q1. Which, if any, of the following issues do you think will most influence how you vote at the next General Election? Please select up to four.
[Base England and Wales adults n= 1,865]
Crime and policing
None of the above
With a quarter of people in England and Wales feeling less safe walking in their neighbourhood at night now compared to five years ago, elected PCCs present an opportunity to make a serious difference to many people’s lives. But, given the very low expectations, it has yet to be seen whether PCCs can confound their critics or will be a short term experiment. Either way, it is very difficult to find anyone able to name even one local candidate or who has claimed to have received election literature, all of which has added to the sense of anti-climax. The polling shows that successfully elected PCCs who wish to build a positive legacy need to focus on reducing violent crime, burglary and anti-social behaviour. But their first challenge is to overcome the deafening apathy and ignorance surrounding the elections and personalities contesting them.