YouGov, 24th-27th April 2020

We had to wait a little bit longer than I’d have liked for this, having already had a Survation and two Panelbase polls by now, but YouGov have finally dropped their first Scottish poll of 2020! This one has a really quite interesting – and bizarre – little quirk in it, making it even more fun than polls usually are (for nerds). At the same time it’s also a mite frustrating, but we’ll get onto that very shortly.

Display format;

Holyrood Voting Intention and Projection (Tracker)


  • SNP – 45% (+8 / +3)
  • Conservative – 23% (-2 / nc)
  • Labour – 12% (-2 / -7)
  • Green – 8% (nc / +1)
  • Liberal Democrat – 7% (-3 / +2)
  • Scottish Socialist Party – 4% (+1 / +3)
  • Brexit – 0% (-2 / nc)

There’s two big items here, but let’s start with the less surprising one. The SNP have a massive gain of 8% versus the previous YouGov poll. That shouldn’t be unexpected as that poll was pre-GE19 and the two Panelbase polls we’ve had so far this year also showed substantial SNP growth. It’s not quite as high in this poll, but still larger than even their 2011 peak in this vote, and the joint-best YouGov finding for them since pre-GE17. With the exception of the Greens who are static on 8%, the other Holyrood parties are all down, and Brexit have dropped out of existence again. Last year’s Lib Dem revival has now completely evaporated, and Labour are also on their second lowest figure for this vote ever – it was only that September YouGov that had the Lib Dems ahead of them where they did worse, on 11%.

Next item – the SSP. This is the big surprise here, coming out at 4%, and a few folk on Twitter have seized on it. As ever, I’m here to urge extreme caution on YouGov’s SSP figure, and was pouring cold water on it on Twitter all evening yesterday. I’ve mentioned it before, but they are currently the only pollster registering any serious support for the party, and in fact have been consistently finding 3% for the past two years. I’m as certain as I can be that this is just a weird blip with YouGov’s methodology, and the remarkable 4% here is just a bit of noise bouncing around that blip. If other pollsters were finding even a couple of % of SSP support, I’d be more inclined to view this as genuine, but they aren’t. With all due respect to those who are active in the SSP, the party simply isn’t a visible presence in Scottish politics, and hasn’t been for some time.


  • SNP – 54% (+8 / +7)
  • Conservative – 23% (-3 / +1)
  • Labour – 12% (-2 / -11)
  • Liberal Democrat – 8% (-3 / nc)
  • Green – 2% (+1 / +1)

With the exception of the SSP oddity, it’s a very similar story over on the constituency vote – big SNP gains, static(ish) Greens, and the other three Holyrood parties suffering a bit. Most notably for Labour this is their absolute lowest ever figure for this vote. I have found myself saying that a few times about Labour of late, which speaks to how poorly they are doing compared to their historic norm. As almost a counterbalance, this is the highest polled SNP vote share since the last election, though it’s slightly below some of their polling before then. Coming a whole 31% ahead of their nearest competition is going to make the constituency map even more monochrome…

If we do the usual projection into seats, it might look like;

  • SNP – 68 (+6 / +5)
  • Conservative – 28 (-4 / -3)
  • Labour – 15 (-1 / -9)
  • Green – 10 (+1 / +4)
  • Liberal Democrat – 7 (-3 / +2)
  • SSP – 1 (+1 / +1)

A third poll in a row showing an SNP majority, just one seat shy of their 2019 performance. With 11 other pro-Independence party MSPs, it’d also be by far the most seats collectively won by that side of the constitutional divide. Bearing in mind those caveats about projecting constituencies off the national vote, the SNP come out here with a mind-boggling 67 of the 73 constituencies. In all honesty I’d expect the Dumfries and Galloway seats to be more securely Conservative than this, but as ever, I present the data as it comes out my calculator. That’s also true of the SSP, where that incredible (both meanings of the term) 4% combines with my calculator’s tendency to expect the strongest growth in a party’s strongest areas to give them one of the Glasgow list seats. As befits some of their lowest poll figures, Labour here are at the second lowest seat share I’ve projected since the last election.

Bringing in the Scandinavian Style System that I use to illustrate how a more proportional system might work is obviously going to have some even more chaotic energy whenever it’s a YouGov given the SSP cross my threshold for representation (vs AMS projection);

  • SNP – 60 (-8)
  • Conservative – 30 (+2)
  • Labour – 15 (nc)
  • Green – 10 (nc)
  • Liberal Democrat – 9 (+2)
  • SSP – 5 (+4)

As it’s using the list vote no SNP majority but, leaving aside the dubiety of that SSP figure, they would have the choice of not one but two different pro-Independence parties to work with if sticking to their own side of the constitution. The big gap between the SNP and their competitors also begins to distort even the proportionality of this system, as they pick up enough of the directly elected seats to win very, very marginally more than their due share of seats.

Staying on this theme of different electoral systems, I’m cursing the timing of this poll. Having finally finished the lengthy Ballot Box Briefing on the Scandinavian system, I was intending on using this weekend to do a much shorter post investigating the whole range of alternative scenarios my calculator runs. That could then be linked as reference every time I include the chart below to explain it. Alas, this will have to be the second post where this chart is brought in but might be a bit mysterious. The basic principle is that there are a range of options for improving the proportionality of the current system, ranging from minor tweaks to AMS to the wholesale reform of the Scandinavian model.

Westminster Voting Intention (Tracker – still to be updated!)

As this is the first YouGov since December’s election, changes here therefore obviously only versus that election.

  • SNP – 51% (+6)
  • Conservative – 25% (nc)
  • Labour – 15% (-4)
  • Liberal Democrat – 6% (-4)
  • Green – 2% (+1)
  • Brexit – 0% (-1)

Big gains for the SNP here too – in fact, 51% would top even their 2015 tidal wave of support. With the Conservatives static on 25% and with the way votes are distributed at the moment, I wouldn’t expect that to translate to 56 seats again this time, though it’d probably get close. Although not as bad as at Holyrood, Labour’s share here would be their worst ever Westminster result, and again we see the complete reversal of the Lib Dem revival here. Although the Green figure is up slightly, it’s more likely just to reflect a natural level of support for the party at Westminster elections rather than an actual increase, bearing in mind they only stood in just over a third of seats in December, whereas this poll will just be nationwide.


No constitutional stuff in this poll, but whilst the pandemic is still ongoing, it makes sense to cover questions related to that here as well. The first question asked Scots how well or badly the two governments and the NHS were handling Coronavirus (UK Government / Scottish Government / NHS Scotland);

  • UK Government
    • Very Well – 7%
    • Fairly Well – 40%
    • Fairly Badly – 30%
    • Very Badly – 18%
    • Don’t Know – 5%
  • Scottish Government
    • Very Well – 19%
    • Fairly Well – 55%
    • Fairly Badly – 14%
    • Very Badly – 5%
    • Don’t Know – 7%
  • NHS Scotland
    • Very Well – 48%
    • Fairly Well – 41%
    • Fairly Badly – 3%
    • Very Badly – 1%
    • Don’t Know – 7%

So very slightly more people think the UK Government is handling things badly than think it’s doing well, whilst the overwhelming majority think the Scottish Government is handling it well. For NHS Scotland, a whopping 89% think they are handling it well versus just 4% who think badly.

Respondents were also asked how much confidence they had in various figures to make the right decisions about Coronavirus;

  • Boris Johnson (Prime Minister)
    • A lot – 9%
    • A fair amount – 31%
    • Not very much – 23%
    • None at all – 32%
    • Don’t know enough about him to say – 6%
  • Rishi Sunak (Chancellor)
    • A lot – 10%
    • A fair amount – 29%
    • Not very much – 17%
    • None at all – 11%
    • Don’t know enough about him to say – 33%
  • Dominic Raab (Foreign Secretary, and effectively Deputy to Johnson)
    • A lot – 5%
    • A fair amount – 22%
    • Not very much – 23%
    • None at all – 23%
    • Don’t know enough about him to say – 27%
  • Matt Hancock (English Health Secretary)
    • A lot – 3%
    • A fair amount – 23%
    • Not very much – 23%
    • None at all – 23%
    • Don’t know enough about him to say – 28%
  • Chris Whitty (Chief Medical Officer for England)
    • A lot – 13%
    • A fair amount – 22%
    • Not very much – 10%
    • None at all – 7%
    • Don’t know enough about him to say – 48%
  • Nicola Sturgeon (First Minister)
    • A lot – 27%
    • A fair amount – 44%
    • Not very much – 11%
    • None at all – 12%
    • Don’t know enough about her to say – 6%
  • Jeane Freeman (Scottish Health Secretary)
    • A lot – 5%
    • A fair amount – 14%
    • Not very much – 12%
    • None at all – 9%
    • Don’t know enough about her to say – 60%
  • Gregor Smith (Acting Chief Medical Officer for Scotland)
    • A lot – 3%
    • A fair amount – 11%
    • Not very much – 7%
    • None at all – 4%
    • Don’t know enough about him to say – 75%

Distilling some of the key points out of that, whilst the Prime Minister only has the confidence of 40% of Scots when it comes to this pandemic, versus 55% who aren’t confident about him, the First Minister has a 71% confidence rating versus 23% lacking confidence.

Of the four UK Government ministers identified (including the PM), the only one to have a net positive in terms of confidence is the Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who comes out at 39% versus 28%. Almost half of respondents also don’t know who England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Witty is or much about him, but those that did were twice as likely to have confidence in him than not.

For the two Scottish figures apart from the First Minister, folk weren’t actually particularly sure who either of them were, with 60% not knowing enough about the Health Secretary Jeane Freeman to make a call, and massive 75% were in the dark about Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer Gregor Smith. Freeman had slightly more people lacking confidence than having it, at 21% not confident versus 19% who are, whilst it was the reverse for Smith, at 14% confident and 11% not. The relative lack of knowledge about these figures perhaps sits a bit oddly with the general confidence in the Scottish Government’s response, which perhaps speaks to confidence in the First Minister rubbing off on her Government as a whole.

Two final interesting questions on lockdown, first on when restrictions should start to be loosened;

  • Immediately – 4%
  • In a few weeks time, regardless of the situation – 5%
  • Not until daily deaths starts to fall – 10%
  • Not until daily deaths has fallen substantially – 32%
  • Not until no new cases at all – 15%
  • Not until testing is easily available – 14%
  • Not until a vaccine is available – 5%
  • When we can no longer maintain it without causing severe economic damage – 5%
  • Other – 2%
  • Not Sure – 8%

We may all be climbing the walls with boredom by this point, but it seems very few of us want to loosen restrictions until there is clear progress in some form against the virus. The final question worth looking at was the thorny issue of whether there should be a uniform approach to easing lockdown measures across the UK, or whether there should be variation;

  • Same time for whole UK even if some areas are ahead of others in reducing spread – 37%
  • Areas ahead in reducing spread should measures should be reduced there – 50%
  • Don’t know – 13%

So about half of us would be comfortable with some kind of geographic differentiation in when lockdown begins to ease. Whether that’s on a nation-by-nation basis, or a more granular regional/council area basis, we don’t know from this question. Skirting carefully around some of the partisan posturing on this front, it is worth remembering that depending on how this pandemic progresses, it may well be just as likely to see Glasgow facing different restrictions to Inverness as to have a difference with Nottingham, rather than the solid “Scotland has one set of rules, England another” some have been imagining.

Phew! Something of a bumper-post this one due to the SSP situation and the lengthy Coronavirus questions, but important to cover it all.