YouGov, 4th – 8th of March 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!

It’s been a while since two buses came along at once, but that’s exactly what happened yesterday with the publication of both a ComRes poll and this YouGov. This is the middle of a trio of polls that all kicked off fieldwork within a day of each other – Panelbase starting on the 3rd, this on the 4th, and ComRes on the 5th, so covering a similar period. 

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Regional Vote

SNP ~ 45% (-2 / +3)
Conservative ~ 21% (+1 / -2)
Labour ~ 16% (+3 / -3)
Green ~ 6% (-1 / -1)
Liberal Democrat ~ 5% (-1 / nc)
SSP ~ 3% (nc / +2)
Reform UK ~ 1% (nc / +1)

Although this poll follows the YouGov norm of placing on the higher end of the SNP’s support spectrum, it follows the overall current trend of their vote decreasing. That’s still a very comfortable lead, and though the Conservatives are also up slightly, it’s down a bit on 2016. Labour haven’t tended to fare well in YouGov polls either so this is actually a half-decent performance in this context, whereas the Greens and Lib Dems are really suffering.

Once again, YouGov have that inexplicable 3% for the SSP. Comedically enough, the day after fieldwork for this poll concluded, the party announced it wouldn’t be standing in this election, the first time it’s been absent from Holyrood ballots. Bearing in mind they won their first MSP with 2% of the national vote in 1999, if the party were actually at 3% support, they’d have stood.

I know I say this every time (often enough to be accused by some random on Reddit of having a “weird obsession” idk I just like things to be correct, Gary) and I don’t mean it to be cruel, but the reality is the SSP are completely absent from everyday political life. Whatever artefact of methodology is finding that was never going to be replicated on the day.

Constituency Vote

SNP ~ 52% (-4 / +5)
Conservative ~ 22% (+3 / nc)
Labour ~ 17% (+2 / -6)
Liberal Democrat ~ 6% (nc / -2)
Green ~ 2% (nc / +1)

Though 4% is a pretty substantial drop, for the SNP in this poll it’s a drop in the ocean, as they’d still be in line for an absolute majority of votes on this ballot. That means they maintain their huge lead over the Conservatives, who at least recover from a joint-worst figure for the term to match their result at the last election, whilst Labour are again up a bit versus the last pool but pretty weak compared to the election.

Seat Projection

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

SNP ~ 73 (-1 / +10)
Conservative ~ 29 (+5 / -2)
Labour ~ 20 (+3 / -4)
Liberal Democrat ~ 4 (-1 / -1)
Green ~ 3 (-6 / -3)

A pretty huge majority – by PR standards – for the SNP in this one, cutting quite the contrast to the other two polls in this cluster. Everyone else loses seats to them, though the Conservatives do now appear to be settling back into a level of strength comparable with their previous result.

Due to the way their respective votes are distributed, we get another wrong way round situation between the Lib Dems and Greens, with the latter winning more votes but fewer seats. A mere 1% difference from the last poll caused them to drop 6 seats in the projection, albeit that Labour’s painfully low result in the previous poll had loosened a few seats up that aren’t otherwise much of a prospect for the Greens at 7% support.

SNP ~ 50% (-3 / +5)
Conservative ~ 23% (+4 / -2)
Labour ~ 17% (nc / -2)
Liberal Democrat ~ 5% (+1 / -5)
Green ~ 2% (nc / +2)
Reform UK ~ 1% (-2 / nc)

I’ve gotten rather used to no one except Survation having Westminster VI, so it’s nice of YouGov to give us some variety here. These results aren’t particularly dissimilar to the Holyrood figures, with downward motion for the SNP and upwards for the Conservatives. Though it’d be their worst result in decades if it actually happened, the Lib Dems do at least gain a bit compared to a very low figure in November.

Standard Question

No ~ 43% (+1)
Yes ~ 41% (-2)
Don't Know ~ 10% (nc)

After two polls where there was basically nothing between the two options but some rounding, YouGov find a slightly wider gap with No back in the lead. It’s still very much margin of error, but we’re in a pretty unmistakable trend of support for Independence receding again. As with the early stages of the upward trend last year, I’ll remain cautious about how long and how deep this will be for the moment.

Excluding Don't Knows

No ~ 51% (+2 / -4)
Yes ~ 49% (-2 / +4)

That means there’s an actual lead for the Union once we exclude Don’t Knows rather than a dead heat. The last time No was unarguably ahead in a poll was at the end of March last year, which might as well have been a decade ago given how the pandemic has warped all sense of time. This conclusively brings to a close the only clearly sustained period of plurality support for Independence.

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 20 Councils in the No column, a decrease from 28 in 2014. Yes could be on 12, up from 4 at the referendum.

Other Independence Questions

Just like the last poll, there were some questions on the conditions for another Independence referendum. Starting with “this year if there’s an SNP majority”:

  • Should not ~ 50% (+6)
  • Should ~ 36% (-7)
  • Don’t Know ~ 14% (+1)

This shows a pretty big shift away from the idea of having a referendum this year compared to the last poll. I would put the “this year” part of the question up in neon lights however – given the ongoing pandemic and the fact we’ve had a much worse period than we were hoping for back in November, not wanting a referendum this year is hardly a surprise.

But we’ll get onto that longer term in due course. Before that, they also asked about holding on this year in the case of a pro-Independence but not solely SNP majority:

  • Should not ~ 51% (+3)
  • Should ~ 32% (-5)
  • Don’t Know ~ 17% (+2)

This is even more strongly opposed, though the swings are slightly smaller. As in November, I’d note the wider democratic implications in a parliamentary system of conditioning policymaking on single-party rather than whole-parliament majorities, but that’s the kind of systems nerd I am!

To round things out, they asked about the case where there’s no majority for Independence in parliament at all:

  • Should not ~ 61% (+3)
  • Should ~ 21% (-4)
  • Don’t Know ~ 17% (nc)

As you’d expect, if there’s no majority for it, voters overwhelmingly don’t want to have a referendum. That should be par for the parliamentary course – Old Caledonia being rather different from New Caledonia and its guaranteed trio of referendums!

The last two questions on timing departed from the shape of parliament and were just on the principle of timescales. Firstly, holding one next year:

  • Should not ~ 48%
  • Should ~ 33%
  • Don’t Know ~ 19%

A clear plurality of voters don’t want to have a referendum next year regardless of circumstances, though not an outright majority. Again this doesn’t surprise me given we’d still be in a relatively early stage of pandemic recovery. How about the next five years though?

  • Should ~ 42% (-2)
  • Should not ~ 39% (-1)
  • Don’t Know ~ 19% (+3)

A marginal narrowing here but mostly due to uncertainty, with a small plurality of voters favouring a referendum during the upcoming term of parliament. I’ve written in previous polling articles that it’s possible this is a bit of a moving target, where people will say “not now, but in the next five years” right up until it’s five years from now and still feel “not now, but in the next five years.” Regardless, it does show there is at least some degree of appetite for another vote.

The absolute final question I’ll cover here is what voters think an SNP majority Scottish Government should do if the UK Government doesn’t transfer powers to hold a referendum:

  • Don’t hold a referendum without powers ~ 48% (+3)
  • Hold a referendum without powers ~ 36% (-3)
  • Don’t Know ~ 17% (+1)

In short, folk may be slightly inclined towards holding a referendum sometime soon, but only if the UK Government agrees. Fodder for both sides here, which seems to be the way of it at the moment in general!

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 ~ 60 (-13 / -2)
Conservative ~ 28 (-1 / +1)
Labour ~ 22 (+2 / +5)
Green ~ 8 (+5 / -3)
Liberal Democrat ~ 7 (+3 / -1)
SSP ~ 4 (+3 / nc)

As per usual, a whole rake of SNP seats would go into the other party’s columns if the system were more fully proportional. As much as I disbelieve the SSP figures, the poll says what it says and I don’t discard the figures from it just because they are clearly gammy, so there’s a quartet of MSPs for the party here. 

Scandinavian Style Westminster

Changes here are only versus the same projection on the last poll, given my aversion to doing projections on pure FPTP.

SNP - 30 (-2)
Conservative - 14 (+3)
Labour - 10 (nc)
Liberal Democrat - 3 (+1)
Green ~ 2 (nc)

Obviously this would be massively different to FPTP where the SNP would likely achieve an almost clean sweep on these figures. The missing -2 in the above is for Reform UK, who were on the 3% threshold in the previous poll. The SNP squeak a majority of seats here thanks to having bang on half the vote.

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