I have to say I’m quite pleased to see this poll from Savanta ComRes for the Scotsman, covering the 22nd – 28th of October. Not for anything that the poll says, but because it seems like that particular partnership established ahead of May’s election is continuing. If so, this could end up being the most consistent, frequent polling in Holyrood’s history. A roughly monthly (or even six-weekly) poll would be more data than we’ve ever had before, so that’d be a real treat.
It’s also worth noting this is the fifth Holyrood poll since the election. As Scottish Parliament polls are pretty infrequent until the last few months before an election, we can’t do things like the 30 day average common elsewhere. I’ve settled on “last 5 polls” as my (totally arbitrary) average, to get a sense of how opinion is shifting without putting too much on individual polls. That means the tracker page now has its first data point in that average.
The previous ComRes covered the 3rd – 9th of September. Changes are shown as (vs that poll / vs last election).
Starting with the regional vote, this is a pretty pleasant poll for both the SNP and Labour, who are both up a little bit versus last month. Whereas that’s still below their May performance for the SNP, for Labour it’s actually an improvement. This is the first poll since the election to show them gaining, and the regional vote is where it’s most important for them to do so. It’s only one poll though, so we’ll need to wait and see if it’s sustained.
On the other hand, both the Conservatives and Greens are down on last poll. For the former that means dipping below their election share too, but the Greens are instead down from what was a (joint) record high, and thus still substantially up compared to May. The Lib Dems are static on last poll but also up versus the election, whilst Alba are down on both measures – they may not justify inclusion in reporting for much longer at this rate.
Over on the constituency vote, things are slightly different. The SNP join the Lib Dems in the “no change on last poll” club, and in fact both parties are exactly where they were at the election too. Labour too are polling the same as they did in May, though up on the last poll. That allows them to overtake the Conservatives, who are down 2% on both measures.
Counter intuitively enough, this is the less positive half of the poll for Labour. They were only 0.3% behind the Conservatives on this ballot at the election, and in 2016 had actually placed ahead of them. In both cases they were much further behind on the list vote. It therefore matters much more for them to be gaining on the proportional vote, even if still in third place, than it does to place an electorally useless second in the constituencies.
Projecting that into seats might give us something like this:
Just to further emphasise that point about the list vote being more important, it’s what leads Labour to be up in seats in this projection, bouncing back to the tally of 24 they had in 2016. The Lib Dems also gain a little, thanks to the combination of the Conservatives being down and Greens less high than the previous poll, though the latter would still pick up seats versus the election. Combined with a slight decrease for the still-dominant SNP, that’d maintain the majority for the cooperative government.
An absolutely nothing poll on the big constitutional question – neither up nor down since the last one. That adds to the general gravitation around everyone’s least favourite 52:48 ratio. The Union therefore remains ahead, but Independence is more popular than in 2014 – or in other words, both sides have cause for cheer and for concern.
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.
For the moment, although the maps are useful for illustrative purposes, I’m opting just to show these hypotheticals as charts. It’s very time consuming making maps, and for these pure hypotheticals, it’s possibly a bit overkill.
Though this is an improved form of AMS, it is still AMS. That means the FPTP element counts a bit in the SNP’s favour, so although the combined total for parties on both sides of the constitutional aisle is 49%, there’s a clear lead in seats for the pro-Independence parties. They’d have 78 to the pro-Union bloc’s 67, though that’s a slightly less weighty majority than the present form of AMS is projected to deliver.
For a fully-proportional voting system, the tie in votes between constitutional blocs ends up resolved very narrowly in favour of the pro-Independence parties this time, with the barest majority of 65 for the cooperative government between the SNP and Greens.
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