During the run-up to the May 2005 general election, Michael Ashcroft became interested in political opinion polls. Using two respected polling companies, he decided to commission some research of his own. Once his polls had been analysed, they produced some fascinating findings - and some valuable lessons for the Conservative Party.
He began to become interested in political polling in the autumn of 2004 at a time when he was already working to help Conservative candidates win - and hold on to - some of the most marginal seats up and down the country.
Initially, he concentrated his research in these key marginal seats but then, as his fascination with polling grew, he decided to conduct a vast poll of 10,000 voters (the usual size is 1,500 people) in order to produce the biggest ever poll in the UK on political attitudes. Initially, he did this out of self-interest but in July 2005 he published the findings for all to see.
Between mid January 2005 and the eve of polling day in May 2005, he also conducted a daily American style "tracker poll" which he hoped would show how voters were responding to key Tory policies in the run-up to the general election.
He hoped the various polls would provide such valuable information as who voted, who did not and why; what mattered to voters and what did not; what messages moved voters, and which did not; where was the battleground and how was it different from the past; and how did the party campaigns and messages chime - or clash - with the attitude of voters.
The results were fascinating but, at the same time, alarming. The findings caused concern because they showed that the Conservative Party was not as in touch with the electorate as it should have been. The Conservative Party needs to learn lessons from these findings and ensure that they do not make the same istakes at the next general election.
He has now published the results of this research in a report, "A study of public opinion and the Conservative Party’s Campaign for the 2005 general election".