ComRes, 8th-13th of January 2021

Keep tabs on all the latest polling, articles and information ahead of the 2021 Scottish Parliament election in the Ballot Box Scotland Holyrood Hub!

One of our two new regular pollsters, ComRes really are proving very keen. They gave us the last poll of 2020, and here they are again with the first poll of 2021. I expect polls to be coming thick and fast from all pollsters as we’re now in the election year – though whether it goes ahead as planned in May or is knocked back until later on is yet to be seen.

However, what seemed like it might be the main Scottish politics story of the day barely made it to tea time, as Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard suddenly announced his resignation. This was a bit of a bolt from the blue, as Leonard had strongly resisted multiple calls from disgruntled colleagues to resign throughout 2020 and seemed set to hold on until the election.

As we’ll see in the figures, it was also a politically jarring moment for this move. The party may find running concurrent leadership and election campaigns difficult – we’ll see whether it has an effect on polling within the next few weeks, I reckon.

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Regional Vote

SNP - 44% (+2 / +2)
Labour - 18% (+1 / -1)
Conservative - 16% (-4 / -7)
Green - 11% (-1 / +4)
Liberal Democrat - 8% (+1 / +3)

Let’s get the usual clear SNP lead out of the way first. It’s up a bit on the last poll, though still places ComRes on the lower end of recent SNP figures for this vote. The bigger news is the precipitous drop in Conservative support since last month, dropping by a full fifth. 16% is the worst they’ve polled since 2016, and means they drop into third behind Labour, who had nudged up by a point.

That’s why Leonard’s announcement was so surprising in its timing. You have to go back over three years to 2017 to find a poll from anyone except Survation that placed Labour second. Sure, this poll doesn’t show anything like an actual recovery overall – it’s down a bit since 2016, after all – nor is one poll enough, but it did at least suggest the prospect of regaining second place and stabilising somewhat. 

Moving onto the other two Holyrood parties, the Greens drop very slightly from the (joint) record high of the previous poll, though still very much on the upper end of their recent spread. The Lib Dems aren’t reaching new heights, but 8% is still their best result for a few months.

Constituency Vote

SNP - 53% (-2 / +6)
Conservative - 19% (-1 / -3)
Labour - 18% (+2 / -5)
Liberal Democrat - 6% (nc / -2)

The other half of the poll is somewhat contrasting. Here, the SNP have lost a bit of support since last month, which narrows the gap between their two votes. There’s also a much less severe drop here for the Conservatives, though this is still a (joint) worst figure, making this entirely the worst poll for the party overall this term. And unlike their list vote, the Lib Dems are completely static here.

Seat Projection

Please see this page for how projections work and important caveats.

SNP - 71 (nc / +8)
Labour - 20 (+1 / -4)
Conservative - 19 (-4 / -12)
Green - 11 (nc / +5)
Liberal Democrat - 8 (+3 / +3)

Absolutely no change from last month’s poll in terms of the seats won by the SNP and Greens, giving an identical constitutional breakdown of 82 vs 47 in favour of the pro-Independence parties. Movement is between the pro-Union parties, with the Lib Dems making solid gains. Effectively, per my model (and also Uniform Swing), 8% is roughly the tipping point for the Lib Dems to pick up a whole handful of new seats, so that 1% gain works overtime here.

For folk who saw the seat projection that went out in the Scotsman coverage of this poll, you may notice a bit more of a disparity than normal. If you’re a nerd and want to know why that is, I did a little Twitter thread about it

Unfortunately, ComRes haven’t been asking about Westminster – though it is still quite some time away, in theory.

Standard Question

Yes - 51% (-1)
No - 38% (nc)
Don't Know - 10% (nc)

On the big constitutional question, there’s very, very little movement – the fact Yes is down 1 without a corresponding increase for the other two answers means everything here has basically come down to rounding. Independence is still commanding an absolute majority of voters in this poll, and Union is still at a joint record low.

Excluding Don't Knows

Yes - 57% (-1 / +12)
No - 43% (+1 / -12)

That very marginal change on the overall figures means there’s a corresponding slight narrowing once we exclude Don’t Knows. That still has Yes at it’s second highest ever support by this measure, 11 months after it first took a consistent lead.

What’s most notable on this front is perhaps that per the 5-poll average on the tracker, this is the first time support for Independence including Don’t Knows has crossed the 50% mark. It’s currently sitting at 50.3%, versus 39.8% for Union, which is the first time it has dipped below 40%.

I’m always at great pains to remind folk that these 5-poll averages are entirely arbitrary measures which I use because polling is generally too infrequent for time-based (e.g. 30 day) averages. Nonetheless, this is a remarkable little milestone.

Council Area Projection

Please see this page for how projections work and important caveats.

On a simple Uniform Swing versus 2014, this might put a total of 27 Councils in the Yes column, an increase on the 4 in 2014. That’d leave 5 for No, down from 28 at the referendum.

Timing of a Referendum

As they did in the previous poll, they also asked about the timing of a prospective future Independence referendum:

  • In the next year – 18% (-1)
  • Next two years – 19% (-2)
  • Next five years – 15% (nc)
  • Next ten years – 7% (+1)
  • Longer than ten years – 16% (+4)
  • Never – 16% (nc)
  • Don’t Know – 10% (nc)

There’s a bit of shuffling around here towards the more distant options, perhaps as the worsening of the pandemic over the past month has pushed other issues to the front of people’s minds. Nonetheless, there is still a narrow majority of 52% of respondents believing there should be a referendum within the 2021-2026 term of parliament.

Hypotheticals

As ever, the last little bit of analysis concerns those hypothetical and more proportional voting systems that I have a bee in my bonnet about here at BBS. The fact Westminster uses pure FPTP is an affront to democracy, and though Holyrood fares far better, AMS is still deeply imperfect. The examples here simply transpose the poll findings onto more proportional voting systems – the reality is that different systems would of course result in different voter behaviour.

Changes here are vs AMS / vs same projection for the last poll.

SNP - 58 (-13 / +3)
Labour - 24 (+4 / +1)
Conservative - 21 (+2 / -5)
Green - 15 (+4 / +1)
Liberal Democrat - 11 (+3 / +2)

Basically the same story as always here – the SNP are vastly over-represented under AMS, and therefore everyone else does better when it’s more proportional. Also as per recent trend, this would still give a Pro-Independence lead of 73-56, but that’s a fair bit narrower than the artificially inflated AMS reality.

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