Poll Analysis: YouGov 17th – 20th of April 2023

Although we’ve had a distinctly unquiet two weeks in Scottish politics, as the SNP continue to be rocked by the ongoing investigation into their finances, unlike at UK level we didn’t get a day-by-day release of polls obsessing over every little detail. We’ve had a two week gap between the last of the immediate post-leadership contest polls and this one from YouGov (link to tables). As far as I can make out this is self-funded by YouGov rather than commissioned by any particular outlet.

The previous YouGov covered the 9th – 13th of March. Changes are shown as (vs that poll / vs last election).

Regional Vote

The regional vote makes for a kind of interesting certainly-uncertain situation. It shouldn’t surprise anyone the SNP are down at the moment, and dropping 5% since the last poll is comfortably outside margin of error, so we can be sure that at least some degree of lost support is “real.” This is also significant because YouGov have lately been on the high end of the spread for the SNP, but this is the lowest YouGov since before the referendum and the joint lowest of the post-Sturgeon era.

However, the corresponding positive swings for everyone else are entirely within margin of error, at a single point gain for all four other Holyrood parties. At best, the most we can conclude from that if the SNP suffer, everyone else stands to gain. In relative terms this is pretty middling for both Labour and the Conservatives, perhaps because it’s good for the Greens and Lib Dems. If not for the absolutely daft outlier that Redfield & Wilton gave, this would be the best Lib Dem result of the batch.

Constituency Vote

It’s somewhat more clear cut for the constituency vote, where another -5% for the SNP is almost entirely counterbalanced by +4% for Labour. Again, these are beyond margin of error, so we can be relatively confident they represent a significant degree of truth. Although comparatively weak compared to other pollsters for the Conservatives and to the last YouGov for Greens, the Lib Dems are on a joint best figure for this vote of the term so far.

Seat Projection

Projecting that into seats might give us something like this:

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

This projects to the absolute barest majority possible for the SNP-Green government, and it’s contingent on the SNP holding onto a proportionality-busting number of constituencies. They’ve got an overhang of 8 seats and 4 constituencies their winning margin is projected to be less than 1%, so to all intents and purposes this projection is a statistical tie between blocs and we can’t be certain which way it would really fall if those were the voting figures on the day.

The worst possibility here though for the SNP is that not only are Labour projected to flip the First Minister’s Glasgow Pollok seat, but the SNP don’t get any Glasgow list seats. A lot of people were being overexcited about other polls in this run saying Labour would win Pollok, taking that to mean “the First Minister would lose his seat!” In those cases however, the SNP had at least one Glasgow list seat, and given you’d expect him to top the list, he doesn’t lose his seat. In this poll? He absolutely does. If nothing else, “SNP-Green government holds slender majority despite significant vote minority and First Minister losing his seat” would be the most banter outcome, you have to admit.

Of the five polls we’ve had since the SNP elected their new leader, two of them have suggested a combined SNP-Green majority, and three have suggested a Pro-Union majority. That means the overall average (per the tracker page) currently points to a Pro-Union majority at Holyrood, the first time that’s been “solidly” the case this term so far – there is one other point on the tracker that happened, but the days either side of it also had polls suggesting a Pro-Independence party majority.

Westminster is actually a lot less dramatic, as a lot of the damage had already been done here earlier it seems. Everything here is within margin of error, though that includes an against-trend dip for Labour and a recovery for the Lib Dems that lifts them clear of what had been a tie with the Greens, who nonetheless are polling very (and likely exaggeratedly) well by Westminster standards.

(As ever, note that YouGov inexplicably retain Refused and Wouldn’t Vote figures in their tables, and thus the figures reported here may look slightly different to what you see reported initially, as they are after removing those non-voting options.)

Finally for the actual voting figures, YouGov are pretty much in line with every other pollster in finding very little difference on the constitutional question. So far, it doesn’t look like the SNP losing support is translating to Independence doing likewise. Instead, voters may be reacting in the moment to party politics without shifting their constitutional position. As I keep saying though, we’ll need to wait a bit longer before we can be certain about whether that’s going to continue or if this question will begin to shift further too.

Other Interesting Bits

Given the chaos engulfing the SNP lately, YouGov have taken the opportunity to ask a few questions about that, in addition to a range of favourability ratings and so on. I’m not going to go through all of those (you can check the tables linked above for them yourself), but there are a couple of particularly interesting ones to look at.

Awareness of SNP Finances Investigation

In terms of whether people are keeping tabs on the ongoing scandal, most people (72%) are following it to some degree, though just under half (46%) say that’s either very or fairly closely. That’s a fair degree of attention, suggesting this is by no means a “bubble” story that isn’t cutting through to ordinary voters. We should all also take a moment to salute the 7% of the population who say they are not aware of the story. I know that will be shocking to political obsessives but there always has been and always will be a segment of the population that just does not give a toss about politics and fair play to them – sounds blissful.

Suspending Nicola Sturgeon

There have also been some calls for Nicola Sturgeon, as leader during the period the investigation covers, to be suspended from the SNP whilst it’s ongoing. Although it’s not a majority, a clear plurality of voters think the former First Minister should be suspended. Unsurprisingly this is overwhelmingly from supporters of the Pro-Union parties, with only 12% of the SNP’s Holyrood voters saying she should be versus 64% saying she shouldn’t. 

That shouldn’t detract from how dramatic this is, however. Sturgeon was, at the time of her departure, clearly the most popular politician in Scotland. That wasn’t build solely on support from SNP voters, but there were plenty of ordinary voters who backed the Pro-Union parties who nonetheless personally rated her. That cross-constitutional goodwill may already have evaporated.

If you’d told me at the start of the year that not even four full months into it Sturgeon would have been out as FM, there’d have been a serious crisis for the SNP, and there was significant support for her being suspended from the party entirely, I’d have told you you were talking absolute rubbish. Yet, here we are.


As ever, the last little bit of analysis concerns those hypothetical and more proportional voting systems that BBS likes to play about with. The use of pure FPTP at Westminster 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.

No prizes for guessing that if the SNP and Greens barely scrape a majority on the real AMS projection, they lose it on a more proportional version of the system.

An even more proportional system much more accurately reflects the fact there’s a significant majority of the vote for Pro-Union parties. What’s really interesting here is that you could also cobble together a 65-64 majority for Labour, Greens and Lib Dems, which would potentially weaken the Conservatives in this imagined scenario by giving another possible budget partner for a Labour First Minister, assuming they and the Greens could countenance working together.

Scandinavian Style Westminster

Same old Westminster story – if you bring in PR, you rightly weaken the SNP’s group in favour of the other parties.

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