Poll Analysis: Survation, 29th – 30th of March 2021

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After the launch of Alex Salmond’s new Alba Party on the 26th of March, everyone was waiting with bated breath to see the first poll taken in the aftermath. The Courier got there first by putting Survation onto the job, meaning this is the third Survation poll taken in March. Normally when one agency makes up a third of the polls taken in a month it’s because we’ve only had three overall!

Anyway, that means this piece will be a little bit longer than usual as it turns out “new party on the scene” requires a little bit more coverage. And just wait until we get to the Panelbase that came a couple of days later and had me up until 3am when it was published…

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Regional Vote

SNP ~ 38% (-1 / -4)
Labour ~ 19% (-1 / +1)
Conservative ~ 18% (+1 / -5)
Green ~ 11% (nc / +4)
Liberal Democrat ~ 8% (+1 / +3)
Alba ~ 3% (+3 / +3)
Reform UK ~ 1% (nc / +1)
UKIP ~ 1% (nc / -1)

Note that the SNP were initially reported as 37% for this vote – at BBS, I sympathise with typos, given my projection maps usually have at least one hiding in them like an Easter Egg. Also be aware that there’s a lot of rounding and shifts away from the broad “others” pile action going on here, which is why the swings appear not to add up. 

Alba’s polling debut comes out at 3%, a figure that certainly felt a bit flat after all of the media attention, and would have come as a disappointment. If Survation had got the tables out faster, I’d have been writing a very different post on that basis – but folk on Twitter will have seen reporting on a more dramatic Panelbase poll since.

Despite their emergence, the overall changes for other parties are quite minor. Labour and the SNP are down very slightly, whilst the Lib Dems are up. And in spite of much fevered speculation about Alba damaging the Greens, their vote share was unchanged. Although social media loves tactical voting theories, that doesn’t mean that’s what’s motivating ordinary voters, and the sense it explained Green results at Holyrood has never been a theory that held very much water.

It’s also perhaps surprising that Survation have found such a low figure for Alba, given their tendency to be the most favourable pollster for the three smaller parties at Holyrood. They are pretty consistently the only pollster to put Labour ahead of the Conservatives, almost unparalleled in their finding of high Lib Dem figures, and share strong Green polling with two other agencies.

Constituency Vote

SNP ~ 49% (-1 / +2)
Conservative ~ 21% (nc / -1)
Labour ~ 20% (nc / -3)
Liberal Democrat ~ 9% (+1 / +1)
Green ~ 1% (nc / nc)

Things are naturally less dramatic over on the constituency vote, where the options on the ballot are fewer. Here there’s a very marginal decline for the SNP which is matched by an bump for the Lib Dems. That makes the joint best poll for the latter this year, bearing in mind those Survation house effect caveats.

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)
Labour ~ 23 (-2 / -1)
Conservative ~ 21 (nc / -10)
Green ~ 11 (nc / +5)
Liberal Democrat ~ 8 (+3 / +3)

It’s still just the Holyrood 5 on this projection, and the SNP still managing to squeak a majority on constituency seats alone. The Lib Dems are the only party to gain seats versus the previous poll here, reflecting as ever the difference that 1% of the vote can make for their chances.

As noted in the caveats liked to, figuring out where the Alba vote will go is difficult. Long story short I’ve mapped the spread to be roughly comparable to the combined SNP & Solidarity vote from 2016, but with a boost to North East expectations for Salmond himself. Even with that though, it’s not enough here for a seat. That’s guesswork though, which is what everyone is working on! 

I would however describe 3% as the point of maximum uncertainty, with two equally plausible scenarios. On the one hand, my model could be roughly right and although Salmond outperforms his party overall, it’s just not enough to nab a seat. But on the other, I could just as easily believe that the vote is even more concentrated in the North East to the extent he’d be elected, whilst it’s pretty abysmal everywhere else. If it was 2% I’d have leaned heavily towards “no chance”, and at 4% towards “quite likely Salmond gets in.”

SNP ~ 49% (nc / +4)
Conservative ~ 21% (nc / -4)
Labour ~ 21% (nc / +2)
Liberal Democrat ~ 8% (+1 / -2)
Green ~ 1% (nc / nc)

An almost entirely no change poll for Westminster, just to help keep the word count down. Literally the only change is +1% for the Lib Dems. The SNP retain a clear lead and there’s still a Conservative vs Labour tie.

Standard Question

Yes ~ 45% (+2)
No ~ 44% (-1)
Don't Know ~ 11% (-1)

I keep saying that the constitutional question is on a knife-edge at the moment, and this poll really exemplifies that. Sure, it looks like Yes has a 1% lead here, but that’s rounding – the tables show it to be just one response ahead of No. Not the first time a poll has shown that exact maths!

Excluding Don't Knows

Yes ~ 50% (+1 / +5)
No ~ 50% (-1 / -5)

Removing don’t knows then brings us to the 50/50 we’d expect on such a close result. I’m getting tired of saying it, you’re getting tired of reading it, but we continue to live in the margin of error. The only thing we can be sure about at the moment is that Scotland is unsure when it comes to the constitution!

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 17 Councils in the No column, a decrease from 28 in 2014. Yes could be on 15, up from 4 at the referendum.


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 / -3)
Labour ~ 26 (+3 / -1)
Conservative ~ 24 (+3 / -1)
Green ~ 15 (+4 / nc)
Liberal Democrat ~ 11 (+3 / +1)
Alba ~ 4 (+4 / +4)

Although 3% isn’t enough to squeak a seat on my model for AMS, it’s bang on the threshold necessary for seats in my fully proportional hypothetical. Although this gives a 2016-style 69:60 split in favour of the pro-Independence parties, Alba’s 4 seats would narrowly not be a necessary component for a majority, with the SNP and Greens scraping the 65 by themselves.

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 - 29 (nc)
Conservative - 13 (nc)
Labour - 12 (-1)
Liberal Democrat - 5 (+1)

Obviously this would be massively different to FPTP where the SNP would likely achieve an almost clean sweep on these figures. Versus the last poll, that little uptick for the Lib Dems has them claim a seat at Labour’s expense.

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