Poll Analysis: Panelbase 30th of March – 1st of April 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!

Hot on the heels of Survation, and indeed overlapping slightly on fieldwork, Panelbase popped up on Sunday as the second pollster to publish figures following the launch of the Alba Party. They had a truly dramatic poll that kept up me up until 3am desperately making tweaks and changes to my model to try and account for their findings.

Although this therefore made for a rather exciting poll, a note of caution – it is just one poll. We’ve got a total of eight pollsters who have done any Holyrood polling in 2021, and only two of them have so far reported back in the post-Alba period. Once we’ve heard from a couple more, we may begin to have a clearer overall picture!

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Regional Vote

SNP ~ 39% (-3 / -3)
Conservative ~ 21% (-1 / -2)
Labour ~ 17% (-2 / -2)
Green ~ 8% (+2 / +1)
Alba ~ 6% (+6 / +6)
Liberal Democrat ~ 5% (-2 / nc)
All for Unity ~ 4% (+4 / +4)

Big chaotic energy here! In contrast to Survation’s muted showing for Alba, here they are on 6%, whilst All for Unity show up on 4%. You have to go back to the 2003 Rainbow Parliament to find a time when any party outside the current Holyrood 5 won more than 2% of the list vote, never mind two. Even then, that was the SSP, who’d had an MSP elected in 1999 and were major players at that point. If this was replicated in May, it would be a pretty stunning reshaping of the electorate.

If Alba’s figure was a surprise to everyone given their much poorer showing in Survation’s poll, AFU’s was a complete bolt from the blue. To say folk weren’t really expecting anything of Galloway’s latest vehicle would be putting it mildly. His last run at the Scottish Parliament in 2011 saw him fall short with 3.3% of the vote in Glasgow. As with Salmond in the North East, the general sense is that AFU’s vote will be concentrated in the South where Galloway is standing – though whether Galloway will indeed prove most popular in Galloway is yet to be seen.

To make way for them, almost every one of the Holyrood parties shows a decrease in their share versus the previous Panelbase poll – the sole exception being the Greens. I noted a similar lack of Green movement with Survation’s poll, and this reinforces that despite social media’s love of the tactical vote explanation, the Greens actually possess their own base of support. This is a point I’ve been (comedically) wary of making too strongly on BBS lest people decide it’s personal bias as opposed to merely glaringly evident from two decades of electoral data.

It’s also worth considering how the two post-Alba polls we’ve had have proven dramatically contrasting. Survation is typically favourable to Holyrood’s smaller parties, and yet found a low Alba figure. Panelbase is typically unfavourable to smaller parties, and is indicating a massive breakthrough for two new ones. Polling is never an exact science and pollsters will be struggling to fully account for new parties, but at this precise moment in time we may be experiencing more heat than light.

There have also been some questions about the particular formatting and prompting of answers in this poll. That raises the possibility of a YouGov-SSP style situation, where they were finding consistently and oddly high figures for a party that had fallen so far out of the political arena that it ended up not contesting this election at all. Emphasis on “possibility” – as noted above, we need more polls before we can say anything for sure. Rather than this poll itself being explosive, it’s more like the fuse has been primed and we’ll see from other pollsters whether it actually ends up lit.

Constituency Vote

SNP ~ 49% (+2 / +2)
Conservative ~ 22% (-1 / nc)
Labour ~ 20% (nc / -3)
Liberal Democrat ~ 6% (-1 / -2)
Green ~ 2% (nc / +1)

Given the much quieter nature of the constituency ballot, there’s far less drama over on this vote. The SNP have gained a couple of points since early March, balanced out by a single point drop for both the Conservatives and Lib Dems.

Seat Projection

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

Projecting that into seats might give us something like this:

SNP ~ 66 (+1 / +3)
Conservative ~ 25 (-5 / -6)
Labour ~ 19 (-6 / -5)
Green ~ 9 (+6 / +3)
Alba ~ 5 (+5 / +5)
Liberal Democrat ~ 4 (-1 / -1)
All for Unity ~ 1 (+1 / +1)

The clear constituency lead for the SNP has them on a majority of seats in this projection, whilst the nature of AMS means a rake of seats cascade to the Greens, Alba and even AFU on these figures. Though the SNP don’t need any other party support in this scenario, the chamber’s constitutional balance tips 80:49 in the pro-Independence parties favour. It’s perhaps now worth briefly reflecting on the so-called “supermajority” that Alba have stated it is their intention to deliver, which is 86 seats (two-thirds) in Holyrood.

80 seats may seem tantalisingly close to that, but though AMS is easily distorted by a handful of seats, it’s still relatively resistant to large distortions. If we move votes between Alba and the SNP, not only do Alba eat up pro-Union seats, but they also eat up Green seats (and that sole SNP list seat). Using this poll as our baseline, my estimate is that a further 13% would have to move from the SNP (leaving them on 26%) to Alba (giving them 19%) in order to hit that number.

As a methodological note, also mentioned in the the Survation analysis, Alba’s support has been mapped to be in rough proportion to the combined SNP and Solidarity vote in each region in 2016, reweighted with a bonus in the North East for Salmond. AFU have been treated similarly by combining the Conservative and UKIP vote, with a bonus in the South for Galloway.

No Westminster Q in this one.

Standard Question

Yes ~ 48% (+2)
No ~ 47% (nc)
Don't Know ~ 5% (-2)

At this point, regular readers should be able to reel off, word-for-word, what my analysis of this is. It’s on a knife-edge, totally margin of error, who knows which way Scotland would go in an actual referendum right now? This effectively reverses the last poll which had No a point ahead, giving Yes its turn in the statistically-insignificant lead.

Excluding Don't Knows

Yes ~ 51% (+1 / +6)
No ~ 49% (-1 / -6)

Unlike the last poll, the balance of responses has this one narrowly come out with Yes ahead after excluding Don’t Knows. Again though, this is all so margin of error that the only thing we can say with any certainty right now is how uncertain everything is.

Council Area Projection

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

On a simple Uniform Swing versus 2014, this is the evenly split point where 15 councils apiece lean one direction, and 2 sit awkwardly bang on the 50-50 mark. 

Other Independence Questions

This had one of those currently common questions on when respondents thought another Independence referendum should be held:

  • Not in the next few years ~ 46%
  • In the next 2-5 years ~ 29%
  • In the next year ~ 25%

So although not having one in the next few years is the most popular option overall, just over half of people think there should be one in this coming 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 ~ 49 (-17 / -7)
Conservative ~ 27 (+2 / -2)
Labour ~ 22 (+3 / -4)
Green ~ 11 (+2 / +3)
Alba ~ 8 (+3 / +8)
Liberal Democrat ~ 7 (+3 / -3)
All for Unity ~ 5 (+4 / +5)

A purely proportional vote on this one would do even more to reshape the chamber. This would have a narrower majority for Independence parties at 68 vs 61, but with just 60 between the SNP and Greens, they’d need Alba’s 8 to make up a majority. In the pro-Union ranks, AFU would have a group rather than a solo MSP, which would prove similarly uncomfortable for the established pro-Union parties were this ever to materialise.

If you find this or other Ballot Box Scotland output useful and/or interesting, and you can afford to do so, please consider donating to support my work. I love doing this, but it’s a one-man project and takes a lot of time and effort. All donations, no matter how small, are greatly appreciated and extremely helpful.
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