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PM popular, but Tories in battle

David Cameron enjoys a clear popularity lead over his political rivals in a new poll, but his Conservative Party is tied in a neck-and-neck fight with Labour for voter support.

The ICM survey for The Guardian found that 48% of those questioned thought the Prime Minister was doing a good job, compared to 43% who said he was doing a bad one - an overall positive rating of plus five.

By contrast, Labour's Ed Miliband had a rating of minus 17 and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg minus 19, while Chancellor George Osborne scored an overall rating of minus two. The poll suggests Mr Cameron is significantly more popular than the coalition Government.

Almost half (47%) of those questioned said the coalition was doing a bad job, against 39% who thought it was doing well.

The Tories have enjoyed a boost in the polls following Mr Cameron's dramatic veto of a proposed EU treaty in Brussels earlier this month, at one point establishing a six point lead over Labour.

But the poll suggested that this veto bounce may be fading, with Tories up just one point compared to a similar survey last month on 37%, a single point ahead of Labour on 36% (down two). Lib Dems moved up one point to 15%.

Some 50% of voters said Mr Cameron was "good in a crisis", while 40% said he was not. For Labour leader Ed Miliband, the position was reversed, with just 21% finding him good in a crisis and 44% saying he was not.

Some 55% said Mr Cameron had the courage to say what is right rather than what is popular, against 37% who disagreed. On the same measure, Mr Miliband scored 41% positive responses, against 43% negative.

Just 34% of voters said the PM "understands people like me", while 59% said he did not, but Mr Miliband scored only slightly better, with 37% saying he understood people like them and 47% disagreeing.

Perhaps most worryingly for Labour after a year in which growth has slumped and some observers are predicting a "double dip" recession, 44% of those questioned said they thought Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne best able to handle the economy, compared to 23% for Mr Miliband and shadow chancellor Ed Balls.

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