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Key Tory messages 'less trusted'

Key Conservative general election campaign messages are less trusted than Labour's, polling has found.

Both parties have launched major strands of their pitch to voters since the start of the year but the Opposition's claims have hit home more with voters, according to YouGov.

It found that 48% of adults agree that the NHS in its current form may not survive five more years of David Cameron and 42% believe that the Tories want to cut spending on public services back to 1930s' levels - both claims made by Labour.

Contentious claims made in Conservative posters that the deficit has been halved were rejected by 49% of voters, with just 24% supporting the statement, according to the research.

Only one third, 33%, believe Tory claims, launched at an event by five Cabinet ministers, that Labour has made £20bn of unfunded spending commitments.

Meanwhile, Conservative peer and polling guru Lord Ashcroft has launched a website which he says could help people vote tactically in what promises to be the most complex general election of modern times.

The site details polls conducted for the former Tory treasurer over the last eight months in 114 of the crucial marginal seats which could decide the result of May's election.

The surveys show that some voters - such as Labour supporters in the Thanet South constituency targeted by Ukip leader Nigel Farage - face a tough choice between backing their own party or casting their ballot tactically to keep out someone they oppose.

"Labour voters in Thanet South who do not wish Nigel Farage to represent them in Parliament will observe, however reluctantly, that to keep him out they will have to vote Conservative," said Lord Ashcroft.

It comes as the head of Twitter claimed that social media is set to help sway the result of the general election, with the smaller parties most likely to benefit.

Bruce Daisley bemoaned the "depressing" prospect of months of "life-sapping electioneering" in the run-up to the May vote but said social media could help hold politicians to account.

The company's UK managing director said the "combined minds of social media users are a distributed brain that can quickly get to the facts" during electioneering.

In a blog for the Huffington Post UK, he added: "Current predictions for this May suggest that over a third of all votes will go away from the big two parties with the Green Party, SNP and Ukip likely beneficiaries.

"With a voting system that seems to openly scorn votes for minority parties, then social proof of seeing your friends voting in this way is almost certainly likely to shore up the support for these formerly fringe groups."

:: YouGov interviewed 1,769 adults in Great Britain between January 5 - 6.

Lord Ashcroft said his polling in marginal seats showed it was possible that a "handful of seats could decide" whether David Cameron or Ed Miliband has first chance to try to assemble a government after the election.

But with the rise in support for Ukip, the Greens and the Scottish National Party, as well as the decline of the Liberal Democrats, it was not possible for voters to be sure that the party which finished second in their constituency in 2010 remained the best home for their votes if they wish to remove a sitting MP.

The polls suggest that Labour is now best positioned to unseat Nick Clegg in Sheffield Hallam despite having trailed in third place in every election since 1979, and that Ukip is now the main challenger to Labour in seats like Dudley North and Great Grimsby, where Tories narrowly missed out in 2010, said the Tory peer.

"The results in the marginals will matter more than ever," said Lord Ashcroft.

"But as my polling over the last eight months has shown, there is no consistent pattern in the seats that will decide the outcome. Some northern Tory MPs seem to have a better prospect of holding on than some of their southern colleagues; some Liberal Democrats are so far defying the national tide with swings in their favour; some red and blue seats are vulnerable to a party whose vote share was only in single figures five years ago."

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