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

For the reasons outlined in the introduction to this piece, Ballot Box Scotland was supposed to be on a break from Twitter, focussing primarily on the website and even then running shorter form analysis than usual of polls. Then the First Minister announced she was standing down. As much as I may wish otherwise, it’s not really possible just to disengage entirely when probably the biggest political event in Scotland since the referendum has just taken place. So I’m back-ish, earlier than I’d have liked, and in spite of getting a barrage of truly bizarre emails from a creep last night which I had to report to the police. It’s great being online in the social media hate and abuse era!

We had a fair flurry of polls around the time of Sturgeon’s resignation, some coincidentally conducted just before and a couple deliberately after. This third poll to be published following the resignation was a YouGov (link to tables) for the Times, conducted a few days after the announcement but before candidates for the resulting leadership contest were settled. I’m kind of hoping this is the last in this little flurry (we had five out in quick succession) because I’m completely knackered now!

The previous YouGov covered the 23rd – 26th of January. Changes are shown as (vs that poll / vs last election). Although we’d had a YouGov earlier in February, that was for the Scottish Opinion Monitor (Scoop) and YouGov have since clarified the questions were slightly different and thus not comparable. The last “normal” YouGov is therefore the point of comparison, but will be reporting Scoop vs Scoop going forward, as I think it’s still useful to have.

Regional Vote

All of the changes here are entirely within margin of error, with nothing any higher even than 1% change up or down. For the SNP, that tick downwards gives them another YouGov low though it’s still a few percent above their worst so far this term. The same is true of the Greens who though unchanged are still on their worst-with-YouGov, though marginally above their 2021 figure.

By contrast, all three of the mainstream pro-Union parties are up a point versus the last poll, though obviously only Labour and the Lib Dems are actually doing better than the election. In Labour’s case, this is a joint high for this term – all three post-resignation polls have had them on 27%. The two fringe parties on either side of the divide also drop back below any real notability.

Constituency Vote

Changes on the constituency vote are slightly wider but still within error. For the SNP this is a joint-worst figure of the term overall, tied only with a Panelbase from the first half of last year. 

Seat Projection

Projecting that into seats might give us something like this:

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

Despite the SNP’s weakening position, they still remain dominant enough in the constituency vote that this projects to a relatively comfortable majority for the SNP-Green goverment. AMS being a funny thing, although Labour win a couple of additional constituencies and are higher on the list vote than the last poll, shifts for the Conservatives and Lib Dems mean they don’t quite replicate what had been their best seat projection thus far.

Whereas the SNP’s lead on the Holyrood constituency vote is pretty secure, that’s not the case at Westminster. The earlier and very dramatic YouGov that was part of Scoop has been pulled out of my ordinary trackers due to being non-comparable, so in that standard set this is the narrowest it’s been between the SNP and Labour since 2019, and the first time it’s been a single-digit figure. At this point, I would expect a growing number of seats to start tipping into Labour column, though without massively eating into the SNP’s tally.

On pure changes versus the last poll, the SNP’s chunky -4 is balanced entirely by an equally hefty +4 for the Conservatives. Remember however that these kinds of figures can often represent a bit of “churn”, where e.g. some SNP voters have went to Labour, replacing some Labour voters who’ve gone Conservative, rather than being an entirely direct transfer – though some will be, voters are messy!

(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.)

YouGov continue to be generally the most positive pollster for the Pro-Union side, giving the widest lead for them out of any of the three post-resignation polls. This is one that’s therefore almost back to 2014 levels. That original result was, obviously, close enough to have meant the issue has absolutely dominated our politics since then, so it’s still a long way off being settled.

You may note, if you were a close follower of these analysis pieces, the “timing of a referendum” questions have disappeared. It’s not that they aren’t being asked (though in some recent polls, they haven’t), they’ve just been cut from regular coverage due to no longer being quite so relevant. The Supreme Court decision last year made clear there will be no referendum this year, as the Scottish Government had originally planned. It therefore doesn’t really matter how much people support or oppose that timescale – it was generally pretty clearly oppose – and alternative next steps are a bit in flux for the moment.

It also saves me a little bit of time not having that to worry about for the time being! If the situation changes – for example, the new SNP leader puts in place a new approach, and that is regularly polled on, it might make sense to include.


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.

With AMS made more proportional in this model and the slide for the SNP on both votes, this gives a narrow lead for the combined Pro-Union parties.

That lead then obviously becomes even more significant when you remove the FPTP element entirely.

Scandinavian Style Westminster

Scandi WM patter.

If you find this or other Ballot Box Scotland output useful and/or interesting, and you can afford to do so, please consider donating to support my work. I love doing this, but it’s a one-man project and takes a lot of time and effort. All donations, no matter how small, are greatly appreciated and extremely helpful.
(About Donations)