Next in the post-Supreme Court / pre-Christmas run of polling, we’ve got a one from YouGov (link to tables) for the Times (link to original writeup). I have to admit to enjoying this pairing more than Panelbase and Sunday Times, given the greater consistency in actually providing Holyrood figures. This time around it was actually Ballot Box Scotland that was slow to cover things, with a winter bug keeping me down earlier in the week, and a website bug delaying publication of this piece until today!
The previous YouGov covered the 30th of September to 4th of October. Changes are shown as (vs that poll / vs last election).
Starting with the SNP, they’ve still got a solid lead over their closest competitors here. Although not as high as the Ipsos finding, 40% is roughly in line with their 2021 result and represents a couple of points gained relative to October. Labour meanwhile might be disappointed to be static versus that last poll, but it still means a pretty big recovery is on the cards.
By contrast, the fact the Conservatives have shed another point gives them their worst Holyrood poll of the term. Forget recovery, this would be a return to their pre-2016 doldrums. Although the Greens are similarly down a point, that would still have the two parties within touching distance and give the Greens a best-ever result. Faring worst in this poll though are the Lib Dems, who after seeming to benefit from the Conservative collapse earlier in the year are losing all that ground again.
This is one of the better polls for Alba – in fact, of the 26 polls up until now it’s only the third to put them on 3% or more. It’s still very much in the realms of margin of error though, and it’ll take a lot more than just the occasional bump upwards for them to actually challenge the assumption they remain dead in the water. Speaking of dead parties, the fact Reform UK also manage any level of support at all is a reminder of how little these kinds of figures can mean for micro-parties in the mid-term period, seeing as they got 0.2% last year and have absolutely no real presence in Scotland whatsoever.
Changes on the constituency vote are milder. Though the SNP are up a point and Labour down one since the last poll, both are ahead of their May 2021 figure. The Conservatives can take it as a small mercy they haven’t slid further here, but they’re still at their lowest thus far, whereas the slight erosion in Lib Dem support has them unchanged relative to 2021.
Projecting that into seats might give us something like this:
Perhaps unsurprisingly given their (rough) majority of the Constituency vote, this is another poll that projects to an SNP majority. It’s in fact the same majority as the last poll, with the Conservatives again losing over half of their seats. Labour however are at a joint second-best seat projection for this term thanks to nibbling away at Lib Dem representation.
It’s the UK Parliament figures where YouGov really diverge from Ipsos. Whereas the SNP were up versus the last poll and 2019 with Ipsos, here they’re down on both measures, which is particularly remarkable when you consider the lead for Yes below. That’s balanced somewhat by what is the Greens joint highest figure of, err, 4%, but still leaves the combined share for the pro-Independence parties below the majority mark that would be the aim of any “de facto referendum.”
Worries about lost seats would nonetheless be relatively minimal for the SNP in this scenario, as Labour are also down two points compared to the last poll, keeping them at a distance where they’d struggle to convert more than a handful of seats. That seems to have come from a slight Conservative recovery, up from their worst figure yet, though it’s all very margin of error-y. The Lib Dems continue to languish in difficult territory, but there’s again a relatively high Reform UK figure that I highly doubt we’d ever see at an actual election.
Note: YouGov includes Refused (1%)/Won’t Vote (3%) figures in their headline. The figures in this chart are calculated by excluding those two options to leave Yes/No/Don’t Know, in line with other polls, and thus will differ slightly from initially reported headline figures (which were 47%, 42% and 8%).
YouGov continue the trend established by Redfield & Wilton, Ipsos and Find Out Now, with the fourth poll in a row putting Independence ahead. Although we’re talking single digit differences here, this is the lowest figure for Yes when including Don’t Knows of the batch. However, given those Don’t Knows are higher than everyone else, it’s still slightly ahead of the Redfield & Wilton
It’s worth making two points, I think, from these four polls. Firstly this is indeed clearly a trend, suggesting that the Supreme Court decision has at least temporarily pushed a few Scots into saying they’d back Independence. Whether that’s purely a reaction in the moment that will dissipate pretty quickly we can’t say yet. My personal instinct, in line with what I’ve said previously about the debate needing a lot more substance and a lot less procedure if it’s to genuinely move, leans towards this being a short term bump.
Secondly, it’s a reminder to people not to be tiresome, partisan numpties on Twitter. In response to Ipsos in particular we had the likes of FirstNameBunchanumbers (with 28 whole followers) and Scottish Friends of the Kremlin being shared far and wide for having “disproven” the poll, as if the methodology of a respected and long-established pollster is truly going to be so flimsy as to fall apart at first encounter with anyone that has a partisan axe to grind. Well, here’s another pollster with very similar findings, so that all seems rather silly now. “I don’t like it therefore I don’t believe it” is, and here’s some general life advice, not a particularly wise approach to take!
Timing of a Referendum
Although the Supreme Court – and the draft Scottish Budget published this week – have put the kibosh on a referendum next year regardless, a majority of voters remain opposed to the idea anyway. However, opinion has continued to narrow, suggesting that events this year have weakened that opposition. In March, the split was 59% opposed to a vote next year versus 28% supportive.
Move to a five-year horizon and the figures are an almost perfect mirror image, this time giving majority support for a referendum at some point. I’ve said it before, and I’m going to keep saying it, but there’s clearly an appetite to settle the issue at some point. That doesn’t necessarily have to mean a referendum, but it does need more than just saying “no you can’t have a referendum” and pretending that’s the same thing as a compelling case for Independence supporters to turn to the Union.
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.
As is usually the case when we move to more proportional models for Holyrood, the SNP come up significantly short of a majority here. They would however comfortably be able to continue their co-operative government with the Greens, and although Alba would have seats if they hit 3%, they’d be too small a contingent to act as an alternative basis for a majority.
Going even more proportional further erodes the SNP’s relative strength, but again, there’s still a clear majority of 68 seats if they pair up with the Greens again. Though they’d be surplus to requirements in this scenario as well, the 4 Alba seats contribute to a 72:57 lead for the Pro-Independence parties.
Scandinavian Style Westminster
A bit of a bumper poll for the proportional version of Westminster, this one, as not only do we get the relatively common Green duo for having crossed the threshold, but there’d also be a pair of Reform UK MPs. The Conservatives also gain two seats in this model compared to the last poll, with the net growth of four for parties on the right of the spectrum coming two each from the SNP and Labour. As ever, this looks a lot more like the voters of Scotland than the huge SNP majority that FPTP would spit out.
I’m led to believe we’ve got one more poll due out before Christmas, so expect the usual Annual Review pieces once that’s been released!
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