Continuing analysis of the trio of Scottish polls that dropped on Wednesday and Thursday, this one from YouGov (link to tables) for the Times (link to original writeup) was conducted over exactly the same dates as the ComRes. That will be last to get an analysis piece, as it doesn’t have tables published yet. Polls conducted in close proximity can often reveal differences arising from methodology, on top of usual statistical uncertainties, but it’s especially interesting to see two polls with complete overlap like this.
The previous YouGov covered the 18th to 23rd of March. Changes are shown as (vs that poll / vs last election). For comparison, since these three all came out at once, see the ComRes and the Survation analysis pieces.
What immediately distinguishes this poll from the other two is a much larger SNP lead over Labour, with the party only down slightly since the election. Of the four pollsters we’ve had multiple polls from over that time, there’s an even 2:2 split between high/low trends, with YouGov aligning with Panelbase on the high front. Even so, it’s much lower than the constituency figure for the party, and I’ll again point out my increasingly-vindicated view that this vote is more representative of “natural” voting patterns.
Although this is the weakest poll for Labour of the trio, it’s still a substantial improvement over the past two elections. They are comfortably ahead of the Conservatives, who hit the same low they do in the Survation poll. As we’ll see in the other questions, this is part of what is the overall worst poll for the Conservatives in vote share terms.
However, they can breathe a small sigh of relief that the Greens are only nipping at their heels rather than completely level – though after their stunning revival in 2016, they might have hoped that any prospect of Greens coming third would be at Labour’s expense, not their own. Like Labour, the Greens are on their weakest share of this batch of polling, but it’s both much better than their May 2021 figure and pretty strong for a poll where the SNP are comparatively high.
Finally, the Lib Dems are the most boring component of all of these polls. They’re basically polling at a “recovery without breakthrough” level that would draw few headlines given everything else going on. They should be perfectly happy with that, and at least voters actually care about them – Alba continue to be an utter irrelevance to Scottish politics, polling as well as the equally irrelevant Reform UK.
Over on the constituency vote, the SNP have an even more commanding lead, and in fact this is their third best polled share on this vote of the term thus far. Were it not for Survation, Labour would have a record result here, but will have to settle for their second best, whereas the Conservatives are at their lowest so far. Like the list vote, the Lib Dems are doing a bit better, but not remarkably so.
Projecting that into seats might give us something like this:
The combination of strong SNP and collapsing Conservative constituency votes lead to the model coming out with an SNP majority for only the third time this term. Last year the SNP were already over-represented in terms of constituencies in the North East and West regions, so if they relieve the Conservatives of West Aberdeenshire and Eastwood, that’s two additional seats that won’t be compensated for on the list. Combined with a strong Green result, this is the second highest projected total for the Pro-Independence parties thus far this term.
For the UK Parliament, the SNP’s share is right in the middle for this set of polls, and bang on where it was in 2019. Labour are on a joint peak with the Survation poll, but that gap of 14% between the two parties would remain a serious barrier to picking up seats given how nonsensical FPTP is.
For the Conservatives this will particularly grim reading, with a low unmatched since January 2015. As with other questions, the Lib Dems are in a middling position, worse than their 2019 result but probably enough to hold their key constituencies. Finally, unlike the other two pollsters, the Greens are prompted for, but continue to make very little headway in FPTP votes.
Note: YouGov continues to only provide tables as percentages rather than number of actual respondents, so the overall figures here are best estimates after removing “refused” (2%) and “wouldn’t vote” (3%). These figures therefore differ somewhat from what is initially reported, and can sometimes have slightly odder rounding effects.
Given everything that had gone on in September, folk on both sides were expecting there could be a big constitutional swing. For the Pro-Union side, some felt the grieving after the death of the monarch would strengthen the bonds of Union, whilst others felt the enhanced prospect of a Labour government would do so. On the Pro-Independence side, others expected the personal link would not carry over to Charles from his mother and thus remove an emotional plank of the union, whilst the chaotic and unpopular early encounter with Trussonomics would cause Scots to recoil from the prospect of future Conservative governments.
In reality, nothing happened. Absolutely hee haw. Or, perhaps all of these things happened but just cancelled one another out! Or rather, nothing happened relative to other recent polling – this does show a substantial narrowing since the last YouGov, but that was something of an outlier and this better fits general trends. Once again, we have an Independence poll that is split almost evenly, though continuing the current marginal tilt towards the Union. Trust us Scots to find some way of making a period of high political drama into a snoozefest.
Edited: Data on additional questions, including the timing of a referendum, was not included in the original data release. I’ve since added the sections below in, including both the stuff on timing I usually do, plus other topical titbits.
Timing of a Referendum
Looking across the three timescales YouGov offer, opposition to a referendum this year has increased a bit – give it was October when folk were being asked this, I’m surprised support wasn’t 0%. Even if you’re dead keen on it, who wants to have a vote with two months notice in the middle of winter? No thank you.
However, support for a referendum on the two other timescales has increased significantly. For one next year, the Scottish Government’s preferred timetable, there’s still a clear majority against. That does suggest though that naming a date did bring some supporters of Independence as a concept around to the idea of a ballot sooner rather than later. Looking at a 5 year horizon, although still shy of a majority, there’s now a much clearer lead for the idea there should be a vote.
This is a pretty established trend by this point – “don’t ask us now, but do ask us at some point in the near future”. That’s an uncomfortable position for both sides, as the Pro-Independence side would obviously quite like to vote next year, whereas the Pro-Union side would rather never do so. It adds to the point I made in the ComRes analysis that the question isn’t going away.
Indeed, in a comment to the Daily Record, I suggested that so long as we continue to discuss matters of process (including mandates and timing), we’re unlikely to see any movement on the substantive issue of Scotland’s constitutional status. Shocking as it may be to those obsessing over the minutiae of all this, voters aren’t going to change their mind on Independence versus Union on the basis of when a referendum is held – and until some kind of substantive debate takes place, it seems we’re going to be stuck in the roughly 50:50 territory.
Monarchy or Republic (UK)
One other interesting topical point worth pulling out is that YouGov also asked about whether there should continue to be a monarchy, or an elected head of state. Following the death of the previous monarch, and immediate consequential assumption of the title by her son, we saw the tiniest little bits of debate about this. Emphasis on tiniest, however, as the consensus appeared to be it was jolly fine and well to change the head of state instantaneously, but not for anyone to express dissatisfaction with the process for doing so.
When asked to think about the UK, half of respondents said they felt the monarchy should continue, versus a third who said they’d prefer an elected head of state. This is notably closer than polling at UK level recently, which found about two-thirds supportive of the monarchy versus only about a fifth supporting a republic. This further evidences a long-held sense that attachment to royalty has significantly weakened in Scotland, even if it’s not yet a minority view.
Monarchy or Republic (Independent Scotland)
When asked about a prospective Independent Scotland however, it becomes a statistical tie, with Monarchy ahead of a Republic by a single point. In the event Scotland breaks the ties of political union with the rest of the UK, it seems Scots are much more open to breaking the tie of royal union too. However, the fact it’s so close suggests that for the Pro-Independence camp, there may currently be a wisdom from their perspective in suggesting Scotland would continue as a Commonwealth Realm a la Canada or (for the time being) Jamaica.
Although support for a Republic is unsurprisingly much greater amongst Independence supporters, it’s unlikely to be a vote-defining issue for them. For current Pro-Union voters, being offered a continued social link with the rest of the United Kingdom in the form of the monarch may however prove a slight reassurance that Independence won’t be a complete revolution in how the country is governed – though again, it’s extremely unlikely to shift too many votes purely by itself, but more as a package of “softly, softly” measures.
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.
Reforming AMS to be more proportional would knock the SNP down into minority territory for this poll, but they’d comfortably be able to continue their cooperative government with the Greens.
On a more fully proportional model, the SNP’s advantage narrows further. However, unlike the other two polls that came out at the same time, the combined SNP-Green share of the vote (50%) exceeds the Pro-Union total (46%). That means even with enhanced proportionality, the Pro-Independence parties would end up with a 67 to 62 lead in seats.
Scandinavian Style Westminster
If Westminster used an actually democratic voting system, there would be far fewer questions over Labour’s ability to gain seats. They’d come up just shy of coming in the same band as the SNP, whilst the complete Conservative collapse would still look better than what they got on twice the vote under FPTP in 2019. The Lib Dems continue to bump along with little difference to what they’d expect under FPTP, whilst the Greens hitting the 3% threshold would actually see them represented in the UK Parliament.
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