Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Early straw in the wind from YouGov suggests that the SNP have emerged from the festive period with their big lead intact

YouGov have released their first (Britain-wide) poll of 2015, breaking a two-week drought...

Britain-wide voting intentions (YouGov, 4th-5th January) :

Labour 34% (-2)
Conservatives 31% (-1)
UKIP 14% (-2)
Greens 8% (+3)
Liberal Democrats 7% (+1)
SNP/Plaid Cymru 4% (n/c)

The biggest oddity is the drop in UKIP's vote, which has happened in spite of a major methodological change that ought to have boosted the reported vote for the party, arguably by quite a bit.  YouGov have started prompting for UKIP along with the other "main" parties, rather than sending respondents to a second menu of options if they say they plan to vote for "some other party".  However, there are two unusual factors at play in the poll - the first is the methodological change, and the second is the Christmas interruption.  So it's not totally impossible (albeit probably unlikely) that prompting for UKIP is indeed having an effect, but that a substantial drop in the UKIP vote over the last fortnight is more than offsetting the impact.

Most important for our purposes is of course the Scottish subsample, which is showing : SNP 46%, Labour 30%, Conservatives 12%, Greens 6%, Liberal Democrats 3%, UKIP 2%.  The 16-point SNP lead is entirely typical of the results we were seeing between the referendum and Christmas.   When considered in combination with yesterday's Populus subsample, it increases the likelihood that the festive break has had no detrimental effect on the SNP's fortunes.

Intriguingly, though, today's subsample is not directly comparable with the pre-Christmas subsamples, because YouGov seem to have followed Angus Reid's good example by introducing a measure of Scotland-specific weighting (or at least sampling) for the first time - the exact words are "we are controlling our sampling in London and Scotland more carefully".  It's also cryptically added that "anyone who regularly studies our crossbreaks may notice a difference within them", without any clue as to what that difference is likely to be.  My guess is that we may be looking at grim news for the Scottish Tories and the Scottish Lib Dems in particular, because both parties have an especially low share of the vote today.  That could add weight to the seemingly outlandish projections from full-scale Scottish polls that suggest the Tories might just lose David Mundell's seat to the SNP.  Whether there's going to be any impact on the national gap between the SNP and Labour is harder to say, although the vote share for both is a bit higher than the recent average.

The party system in London is not as distinct as Scotland's, but presumably the logic for London-specific sampling is the bucking of the England-wide trend that was seen in the city in the European election results, with Labour doing particularly well and UKIP doing particularly badly.

From today until the general election, we should never again have to wait more than 48 hours for a fresh poll - as far as I can remember, YouGov don't take an Easter break or anything like that.

*   *   *

UPDATE : Bizarrely, the former Labour MP Nick Palmer (who is a decent sort, not generally known for trolling) has leapt on the change in YouGov's methodology, and claimed that "the Scottish subsample today shows a narrower gap than usual".  All I can do is point out the bleedin' obvious - that's simply not true.  It's the opposite of the truth.  A 16-point SNP lead is within YouGov's normal range, and if anything is towards the higher end of it.

I can only guess that Nick is so fixated on Labour's vote that he automatically assumes that a slightly higher Labour share must mean a lower SNP lead.  It doesn't.


  1. SNP respondent down-weighting on the high side. Trend of this increasing continues.

  2. Wonder how pleased Ed is with his northern branch office ((c) Labour) leader this morning. Papers down south all over McMurphy's anti-English 'Tax the southerners to fund the Scottish NHS' policy. Clearly he wants to stir up cross border division and resentment; as is 'typical of the unionists'.

    e.g. times FP:


    1. Even Radio 3 was at it this morning. The way it was reported you could hardly blame people in the south-east of England from being incandescent.

  3. Was about to post the same thing, this story has definite legs and its all over the London press today.

    Perhaps Jim Murphy has managed the double whammy. He's finished off Labour in Scotland and started the end of Labour in England too.

    You do have to wonder, given how good a political operator he is supposed to be and what a monumental fuck up this story is, are we looking at a deliberate fit of pique at being sidelined to Scotland by Ed?

    1. If he still harbours ambitions of leading UK Labour, it would make sense for Murphy to undermine Miliband.

      He doesn't gain anything if Labour wins the general election. He would just remain a backbench MP who is hoping (against all recent opinion polls) to win the 2016 Holyrood election.

      If Labour tank in the GE but still hold onto most of their Scottish seats, Miliband would be out and Murphy's personal reputation would be enhanced. He would still be an MP and therefore still in place to take over in London.

    2. I was initially going to dismiss this as I couldn't see how even Murphy could be so arrogant as believe he could turn things around.

      But on reflection, yes, the reality is that he doesn't have to turn around the 20pt swing, he only has to shave about 5pts off this to go from less than 10 seats to 30+. So it is possible this was in his initial thinking.

      However the resiliance of the SNP support (that;s 4 months now) and the Curtice analysis suggests that it's not a uniform swing at all but higher the more entrenched Labour is. Of course Murphy didn't know this when he submitted to whatever leverage Milipede had on him.

      But he does know this now, and therefore I do still tend towards pique rather than tactics to undermine Miliband.

    3. "it would make sense for Murphy to undermine Miliband."

      That was my first thought!

      The second thought is to keep an eye on the Scottish Labour/Tory split - anent possible tactical anti SNP votes by Blue Tory supporters seeking to shore up the Red Tory vote.

    4. @James

      My thinking is the same as yours. Jim Murphy will repeat time and time again how he has no need to ask Milliband's permission for anything, and he will be secretly hoping Labour lose the GE whilst holding onto 30 seats in Scotland.

      Holyrood holds no future for Murphy's ambition.

    5. A lot of SNP folk claimed to want Murphy to win the leadership election, but I think this latest stunt shows why he was the most dangerous of the contenders. I can't imagine Findlay or Boyack being ruthless enough to throw their party to the dogs in England in order to win in Scotland.

    6. We've no idea what effect it's having in Scotland yet - the crassness of the bribe may be totally backfiring.

  4. James: Have you any idea who the additional 2% "other" will be? Like you, I'd seen the 6% gap that would normally be accounted for by the SNP and Plaid. I don't think I'd noticed a figure for this other, other before and am struggling to think who it could be for. A variety of local independents? 2% seems quite a high figure.

    1. I have a theory on this: UKIP supporters on YouGov will have gotten so used to quickly clicking "other" when presented with a list of the main GB parties, a minority of them will have failed to notice that UKIP had been added to the "main parties" list.

      Clicking "other" on the main parties list would then have taken those UKIP supporters to a list of other parties (SNP, PC, Respect and BNP or "other"). Again faced with no UKIP option, they will have ticked "other". There is no option to go back in YouGov surveys.

    2. Yes. That makes absolute sense. UKIP are down from 5% to 2% which otherwise seemed an odd result to come from prompting for them.

    3. Yougov online polling has a Back button.

    4. Some do, but many of the ones I've done did not.

  5. I read a comment (can't remember where) but someone living in Birmingham mentioned that he though the BNP were doing well down their.

    This might explain the high 'Other' vote?

    1. BNP scored nil in the YouGov poll (as did Respect).

      Alasdair Allan: "Yougov online polling has a Back button."

      Maybe I need to update my browser!

    2. There isn't always a back button - sometimes it's there, sometimes it isn't.

  6. I've just been surveyed by Populus over the phone about my Westminister voting intentions... They asked if I was satisfied with David Cameron's performance and if I believed I would be better off this time next year. They also asked who I wanted in power come May, I said SNP/Labour collation all the way.

    1. What constituency do you live in James?

    2. Glasgow Central (Sarwar, ugh).

      The writer Alan Bissett lives nearby in Pollockshields and he tweeted the other day that he was also polled by Populous over the phone.

  7. Very pleased that in the Scotland sample the pro-indy parties, SNP and Green are on 51%, excellent.

    And pleased that there are hints that David Mundell's seat may be at risk from the SNP. The hustings for the constituency started this evening, there are six nominees so we should get a really strong candidate. Mundell won 38% of the vote last time. If the SNP can win all the yes voters (36%) and maybe UKIP can take a few percent from Mundell then we are in with a good chance.

    By the way, in real life Mundell's name is pronounced Munnel to rhyme with Funnel (according to his mum and those who went to school with him, he hates it, lol).

    1. "And pleased that there are hints that David Mundell's seat may be at risk from the SNP."

      Excellent news. To be honest I was always slightly surprised that there seemed to be a bit of an assumption that Mundell was somehow 'safe'. As you point out the kippers are going to take a bite out of the tories and even if it's a small one that could easily tip the balance with a well motivated and larger number of SNP activists eager to take the fight to the tories. The massive labour majorities in some parts of scotland will not stop the SNP trying their hardest to overturn them. Nor will it stop SNP activists and supporters trying to boot out Mundell. Even just cutting down some of the very big majorities will be a victory of sorts as it will pave the way for a greater presence on the ground and even stronger campaign in 2016.

    2. Hard to believe Mundell's seat will go SNP, though I plan to give it my best shot. Even on current polling, Scotland Votes gives it to Mundell. Electoral Calculus gives it to the SNP but look at the detail!


      They've cut the LibDem vote from 19.79% to 0.19%. Individual wards are being allocated between 1 and 18 LibDem votes! This is frankly bonkers and I think someone must have dropped a stitch rather badly.

    3. "Hard to believe Mundell's seat will go SNP"

      It would be a truly remarkable victory for the SNP and activists like yourself in the area if we did win. The crucial thing though is that Mundell doesn't feel 'safe' any more than the Labour westminster timeservers who think they are entitled to their seats. If the SNP in the area take the fight to Mundell (as I'm certain you will) then that alone will underline how many scots are far from happy with the tories revolting conduct during the first Indyref. They should be made to pay for their lies and fearmongering just as much as 'scottish' Labour. No doubt Mundell had a few champagne celebrations after the first Indyref result as he thought the SNP and Yes parties would melt away and he could carry on westmisnter tory business as usual. He won't be celebrating now as he has been proved spectacularly wrong and will have to get off his arse and actually fight to keep his westminster expenses and seat. He won't enjoy that one bit, nor should he.

      " Individual wards are being allocated between 1 and 18 LibDem votes! This is frankly bonkers"

      Indeed. Where did they find so many? :-D

      I know, the figures are wrong but at the same time there will unquestionably still be a meltdown of sorts in a great many places for the 'scottish' lib dems. (if obviously not on that scale)

      Speaking of the yellow tories, yet more comedy gold from calamity Clegg and his ostrich faction.

      "Alex Salmond is showing "breathtaking arrogance" over his chances of snatching a Liberal Democrat seat, Nick Clegg said - and pledged to personally campaign to secure a "big upset" at the general election.

      Mr Salmond is seeking a return to the Commons in the Gordon constituency in Aberdeenshire, where Lib Dem veteran Sir Malcolm Bruce is stepping down in May after more than 30 years. "

      Clegg really is the gift that keeps on giving. Only an imbecile like calamity Clegg could possibly have missed the hilarious irony whereby the lib dems quite clearly think Gordon is their own personal fiefdom and sod the voters if they don't like it. Breathtaking arrogance and the usual westminster bubble thinking and sense of entitlement that yellow tories in Clegg's ostrich faction now routinely display.

      But there's more! Oh, yes.

      "Asked if he would travel to the constituency to campaign with candidate Christine Jardine, he said: "Absolutely."

      SNP MSP for North East Scotland Christian Allard said: "When the SNP are focused on the serious issues of ensuring that Scotland gets strong representation at Westminster, Nick Clegg seems to be reduced to playing it for laughs.

      "We would relish visits from Nick Clegg to Gordon and anywhere else in Scotland - the more the merrier, and we would happily pay his bus fare.

      "The latest poll shows that an extraordinary 74% of people in Scotland don't trust Nick Clegg - only 10% do - and no wonder after so many broken promises.

      "By contrast, polling also shows that most people who voted Lib Dem in 2010 back Alex Salmond standing for Westminster - as do a majority across Scotland as a whole - so Nick Clegg isn't even backed by the dwindling number of Lib Dem voters."


      Please, for the love of God Clegg, promise to campaign on the ground for wee Danny Alexander too. It might cost the SNP quite a bit to accommodate the sheer number of SNP activists who would happily get the bus up to greet Clegg and wee Danny, but it would be worth it.

    4. Mick, thanks for your posts, which are always fun to read. And I've only just picked up on the nomenclature of 'the first Indyref'. I like it a lot.

  8. Wow! would I be right in saying that if Mr Mundels loses his seat, there will be as many Tyrannosaurus Rex's in Scotland as there are Tory MP's?

    1. No, there would be more T-Rex's than Tories - there's one in the National Museum in Edinburgh!

  9. As a follow-on from my previous post, I have skimmed through the seat predictions on Electoral Calculus and no less than 43 of the 59 Scottish seats are showing the LibDems down to approximately 1% of their 2010 performance. All under 1% of the total vote.

    The remainder of the seats seem to be showing perfectly reasonable LibDem vote shares. Somebody has had a serious arithmetic fail on this one.


    1. There are some improbably precipitous LibDem drops among the English seats as well, though a quick look only showed one as bad a the 99% decreases seen in most of the Scottish seats.

      I've emailed them.

    2. Indeed, looking at the individual seat predictions from that site, a lot of them look seriously incredible. Mainly that a shedload of probable LibDem votes have been allocated to the SNP. But not in every seat. I'm baffled.

  10. I saved the October prediction for Mundell's constituency (though not the November one). October had the SNP ahead, and has the LibDems down to 0.79% (from 19.79). The December one, as I said, has them on only 0.19%.

    In the 43 seats I identified as showing crazy LibDem predictions at the moment (December figures), ALL of them have the party below 0.2% in the seat. In several they're allegedly only going to get less than 0.1%.

    I think the October figures for Mundell's seat at least look extremely improbable too, though not quite as insane as the December ones. How long has this been going on for?

  11. Martin Baxter of Electoral Calculus has emailed me to stand by his predictions.

    To clarify, he has the LibDems at 0.19% in Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale (Mundell) and at 25.55% in the adjacent and actually very similar constituency of Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Moore). And he stands by it.

    More accurately, he stands by his overall who-wins-which-seat projections, which aren't that different from Scotland Votes so maybe he has a point. But when you drill even a little way into the detail and come up with nonsense like this, it calls the entire exercise into question.

    James, would you like to run with this one?

    1. Rolfe, I think you raise some very valid points and it does look way, way too skewed. The only possible explanation I can think of is that where the lib dems do collapse they tend to collapse in a spectacular manner (hence all the lost deposit hilarities of late) while where they do hold on they tend do so rather stronger than expected.

      That's obviously a gross simplification of a hugely complex calculation but I think there's at least a touch of that in play. If not on the huge scale that those figures are indicating. Which is why you are right to call them into question.

    2. He seems to be including an element of incumbent resilience, but there are only 11 LibDem seats and he has the party at relatively reasonable levels in another 5 seats which I think are Labour at the moment. I don't know why these five rather than any of the others.

      The figures are wrong, as you say. They are way WAY too skewed. It makes a nonsense of the entire site, even if the overall who-wins-what predictions aren't too far off the mark. Credibility busted in my eyes anyway.

      If the LibDems drop under 10% here, that WILL be a melt-down. This is David Steel's old fiefdom (some of it anyway). Putting them at less than 0.2% is insanity on stilts.

    3. The thing is, the lost LibDem votes have been handed on a plate to the SNP, in Baxter's calculation. He has the party going up from 11% to 41% of the vote. I mean, come on. We may be good, but we're not that good. We are not going to virtually quadruple our share of the vote.

      If you allocate the LibDems a genuinely realistic vote, say 8%, then these votes come mainly from the SNP and some from the Conservatives. How you play the split will determine who wins the seat on the new figures, but realistically it's the SNP that will drop more and probably below the Tories.

      There is something badly, badly wrong with this guy's algorithms. The errors may largely cancel out on the broad picture, but he can't surely pretend this ridiculous detail is in any way credible?

    4. Well to be fair we did actually see a lib dem meltdown in 2011 where they were reduced to a taxi full of MSPs. Calamity Clegg has somehow managed to make things worse for them since then with his chaotic incompetence, hypocrisy and tory poodling.

      Does that mean I agree with those figures? Nope, but the lib dems are going to take a hell of a pasting in some places that will be quite something to see.

      8%? Yeah I could see that but I certainly wouldn't rule out a lower figure either. Calamity Clegg is comically unpopular with the voters and it's him front and centre come the GE remember. Same massive problem that little Ed faces. Happily for us. :-)

      As for the tories, sure they were temporarily bouyed up by the first Indyref result but their activist base (such as it is) is very, very far from being a formidable fighting force. As well as being mostly in the oldest demographic they are also pretty kipperish in their outlook from what I have found with the scottish tories I have encountered. They might not mind giving the fop Cameron a swift kick via Farage. Most won't but a fair few will. Come the inevitable IN/OUT EU split in the tories the scottish tories will be almost as torn and fractious as the rUK ones.

    5. Rolfe
      My guess is he's presumed LibDems will be very tactical, but loyal to some existing MPs. One factor may be UKIP having announced back last year that they were going to target Mundell and Labour Heartlands, but another could be he's presuming LibDems will be the least happy of the Unionists with the Smith report, or their own party as they didn't stand up to their own submission which was fairly middle of the road. And most disappointed with Labour, so preferring to see SNP to Lab. Just an off the cuff guess.

    6. It's not an unreasonable assumption in qualitative terms, but quantitatively he's taken it way too far. The idea that the LibDems will get less that 0.2% of the vote in 73% of the seats in Scotland is barking mad. It destroys the credibility of his entire site.

  12. That does seem a little excessive. However, wIth the Liib Dems scoring around 3-5% in Scotland-wide polls, and yet expecting to put up a decent fight in the seats they hold (Inverness etc, Berwickshire etc, Gordon), then it would follow that the bulk of the 'collapse' has to be elsewhere.

  13. I really hope James will give this a look when he gets round to it, and maybe drill into it more professionally than I can. He might be able to spot what's wrong with the algorithm. Broadly, far too high a LibDem vote in their existing seats, and way too low in most of the others.

    A quarter of the electorate going to vote LibDem in the eastern half of the Borders, and 0.2% in the western half. Really. When the constituency boundary actually cuts across council wards. Something needs tweaking, drastically.

    I think there's an element of the same thing in the England figures as well.