ComRes, 11th-15th of December 2020

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

I’d thought the Survation poll at the start of the week would be the last poll of 2020, but (Scottish polling) new kid ComRes have popped up with their third poll. In doing so, they’ve confirmed they’ll be doing regular polling up to the election, which is definitely good news for nerds like me! Apologies this took a couple of days to appear as well – tables weren’t released on Thursday, and yesterday was a busy day for me.

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Regional Vote

SNP - 42% (+1 / nc)
Conservative - 20% (-1 / -3)
Labour - 17% (-1 / -2)
Green - 12% (+1 / +5)
Liberal Democrat - 7% (nc / +2)

ComRes are keeping to their habit of finding the SNP on relatively low figures, though still well clear of their nearest competition. That competition is, per normal pollster form, the Conservatives – it’s not that Survation are definitely wrong with saying Labour were second, it’s just out of kilter with everyone else, and we won’t really know which (if any) pollster has been getting it right until the election itself.

Also of note here is that 12% for the Greens is their joint highest share since 2016 – and it was early 2017 that they last polled so highly. This is one area where Survation and ComRes have converged more, tending to find the highest Green shares.

Constituency Vote

SNP - 55% (+5 / +8)
Conservative - 20% (-3 / -2)
Labour - 16% (-2 / -7)
Liberal Democrat - 6% (nc / -2)

Whereas the SNP are low in the regional vote, they are very high in the Constituency vote, and in fact substantially up since the October poll. A gap of 13% is one of the widest gaps between their two votes polling has ever shown. That’s come at the expense of both the Conservatives and Labour, whilst the Lib Dems remain on a relative low.

My general feeling is there’s something in the polling methodology that is leading to an exaggerated gap, and that even if this persists until May, on the day itself we’ll see a smaller gap.

Seat Projection

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

SNP - 71 (+5 / +8)
Conservative - 23 (-2 / -8)
Labour - 19 (-3 / -5)
Green - 11 (nc / +5)
Liberal Democrat - 5 (nc / nc)

As with most other recent polling, the SNP are projected into a clear majority via constituency seats alone. The bumper Green vote also gives a bumper crop of Green MSPs, giving a large overall Pro-Independence majority at 82 seats to 47 for the Pro-Union parties.

I know I’m aye banging on about it, but when you’ve got such a big gap between the SNP’s two votes, the overhang is really quite intense. AMS isn’t meant for this level of divergence! As I noted above I think it’s unlikely this will happen on the day, but if it did it would have dramatic consequences – the SNP’s FPTP premium here is 10 extra seats over their AMS ideal.

Sadly, ComRes still aren’t including Westminster in their polling!

Standard Question

Yes - 52% (+5)
No - 38% (-4)
Don't Know - 10% (-1)

Big gains for Independence in this poll too, putting it into a majority even when including Don’t Knows. That’s not the highest Yes finding by this measure though it is towards the top end, but it’s quite possibly the lowest No figure – certainly since 2016 at any rate.

Excluding Don't Knows

Yes - 58% (+5 / +13)
No - 42% (-5 / -13)

Given there’s such a wide gap in the base question, that naturally translates to an even wider one in the pure Yes-No. This means this is the joint-highest figure for Yes, after the Ipsos MORI poll from early October. Given we had a couple below the recent average in the past little while, this still keeps us around that 54% mark overall – so, still waiting to see if there’s any movement either way here in the longer term.

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 28 Councils in the Yes column, an increase on the 4 in 2014. That’d leave 4 for No, down from 28 at the referendum.

Timing of a Referendum

As a few pollsters are doing these days, they also asked about the prospective timing of a future Independence referendum. 

  • In the next year – 19%
  • Next two years – 21%
  • Next five years – 15%
  • Next ten years – 6%
  • Never – 16%
  • Don’t Know – 10%

In total, 55% of respondents feel there should be a referendum at some point in the next term of Parliament, and only 16% think there should never be another one. As if anyone in Scotland could think otherwise, the issue clearly isn’t going away.

Leadership Ratings

ComRes also polled on another occasional question – party leader ratings. For each leader, these were (favourable / unfavourable)

  • Nicola Sturgeon (SNP) – 56% / 28%
  • Willie Rennie (Lib Dem) – 17% / 25%
  • Patrick Harvie (Green) – 16% / 22%
  • Douglas Ross (Conservative) – 16% / 25%
  • Richard Leonard (Labour) – 11% / 29%
  • Lorna Slater (Green) – 9% / 11%

The main story here is that no one except Sturgeon has even half of respondents expressing an opinion on them. ComRes themselves were particularly cutting when remarking on this in their tweet! Very little in politics comes down to one explanation, so there’ll be a lot behind this. However, I do wonder if some of the reason is that more than two decades into devolution, we still don’t have consistent, high-quality coverage of the unique Scottish political sphere.

With political news still generally centring on Westminster politics, Sturgeon is a rare example of a Scottish political figure that receives coverage given she heads up the Scottish Government. On the other hand, Leonard and Ross are less likely to be heard from than Johnson and Starmer. And if you’re Rennie or either of the two Green Co-Leaders you’re even more onto plums.

Trying to put more of a focus on the Scottish level is part of the BBS ethos, but that’s limited to all things polling and election. I don’t have the capacity, desire, or least of all expertise to displace good quality journalism in terms of interrogating policy and positioning. There are of course lots of very good Scottish journalists out there – there just needs to be more support higher up chains to shift the focus of coverage is all.

Anyway, tangent over, back to the normal BBS work!


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 - 55 (-16 / +2)
Conservative - 26 (+3 / -2)
Labour - 23 (+4 / -1)
Green - 16 (+5 / +1)
Liberal Democrat - 9 (+4 / nc)

The other contributor to the SNP’s weighty haul of seats under AMS is the regionalised rather than national nature of proportionality – in this instance chopping another 6 seats off their total compared to the AMS ideal. It says a lot about how inflated AMS has made their seat share that whenever this measure comes out with something in the 50’s it feels very low, when it’s still at least twice their next closest competitor.

I generally leave this one unremarked upon as the explanation is in the attached post and, even for BBS, going through seven voting systems in the article for every poll would be a lot. For this poll though I’ll just point to the “Pure List” line as being the “AMS Ideal” I’ve referred to at other points – the seat total that the list vote pushes the system towards, but which can be disrupted by the constituency allocation.

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