Monday, February 9, 2015

New TNS-BMRB poll gives the SNP a 10% lead - but the fieldwork dates overlap with the polls that gave the SNP much bigger leads, so there's no "narrowing of the gap"

A new full-scale Scottish poll is out tonight from TNS-BMRB...

Scottish voting intentions for the May 2015 general election (TNS-BMRB, 14th January - 2nd February) :

SNP 41%
Labour 31%
Conservatives 16%
Greens 6%
Liberal Democrats 4%
UKIP 2%

Although this poll shows a smaller SNP lead than recent polls from other companies, it's important to stress that this categorically does NOT constitute "a narrowing of the gap" (as a Labour troll is already trying to have us believe on Twitter).  We haven't previously had a full-scale Scottish poll from TNS-BMRB since the referendum, so we don't have any baseline numbers to work from.  It's quite possible that a marginally better showing for Labour is simply an in-built "house effect" of TNS-BMRB's unusual methodology, in much the same way that they were consistently one of the most No-friendly firms during the referendum (until the Great Convergence at the very end).

The only poll this isn't different from is the last Panelbase poll, which in fact was completely identical in as much as it had the SNP on 41% and Labour on 31%.  But the afterlife of that result ought to teach us an important lesson, because we later found out that Panelbase had used a dodgy methodology - they had asked a leading question immediately before the main voting intention question.  Could something similar have happened here?  It's unlikely that TNS would use an unusual question sequence, but there's always the perennial issue of past vote weighting to consider.  For their later referendum polls, they did use the more reliable 2011 weighting, but not until they were coaxed into it after one of their polls produced an obviously skewed result.  Is there a chance they will have foolishly thought to themselves "this is a Westminster poll, so we need to revert to Westminster weightings"?  Let's hope not, but it shouldn't be forgotten that Panelbase did make that mistake in October, and we therefore can't know for sure until we see the datasets.

[UPDATE, 11.45am : Shockingly, it turns out that TNS have indeed used 2010 weighting.  Although they diluted the effect by using 2011 weighting as well, this may partly explain them showing a lower SNP lead than other firms.  More details in a fresh post HERE.]

Assuming that there isn't any issue with the weighting procedures, the most likely explanation is simply the fact that TNS are the only firm that still use the old-fashioned face-to-face approach.  As Calum Findlay points out in the comments section below, this method has produced unusually favourable results for Labour in recent Britain-wide polls, and it could be that the same is happening in Scotland - albeit that's still only enough to put Labour a "mere" 10% behind in Scotland, as opposed to the outright leads they've enjoyed in the Britain-wide TNS polls.  To put it in perspective, if tonight's numbers were accurate, the Electoral Calculus predictor suggests that the SNP would win 38 of the 59 Scottish seats at Westminster - an enormous gain of 32 seats.  Labour would be cut in half from 41 to 20, and the Liberal Democrats would be completely wiped out (albeit we know in reality they're likely to hold Orkney & Shetland due to the special political environment in that part of the world).

UPDATE : Now this is crucial - I've just seen a claim on Twitter that the fieldwork dates for the poll ran from mid-January through to 2nd February.  That's not unusual for TNS, who as a result of their face-to-face methodology often produce polls that are already well out-of-date by the time of publication.  It means the poll partly overlaps with the fieldwork for the Ipsos-Mori poll which gave the SNP an enormous 28% lead, and it wholly overlaps with the YouGov poll that gave the SNP a 21% lead.  (In fact, the YouGov poll should really be considered more recent than TNS, because it was entirely conducted towards the tail-end of the long TNS fieldwork.)  There's also considerable overlap with the sensational Ashcroft constituency polling that put the SNP in such a commanding position.  All of this makes it literally impossible that we're looking at a "narrowing of the gap" (as David Maddox of the Scotsman has now, to his eternal shame, joined the Labour trolls in claiming).  The lower SNP lead must, as stated above, be a house effect of the TNS methodology - unless of course this is an out-and-out rogue poll, but that's much less likely.

As we always used to say during the referendum campaign, when different firms are contradicting each other by light-years, there's no way of knowing for sure who is closest to the truth.  So to a limited extent Labour might be justified in taking some comfort from this poll, in spite of the fact that there has been no narrowing.  If the TNS methodology is exactly right, a 10-point deficit with three months to go would leave them with a fighting chance of winning more seats than the SNP, because the electoral system works in their favour if they are only slightly behind on the popular vote.  However, they would still require a very significant swing to whittle the SNP's lead down sufficiently, so the challenge would still be formidable.  And more to the point, even if we assume that the more SNP-friendly pollsters are getting something terribly wrong, it's very hard to believe that both YouGov and Ipsos-Mori would be showing SNP leads of over 20 points if the real gap was only 10.  So, in truth, all tonight's poll does is slightly increase the chances that the real position is somewhere in between the two extremes - which would suggest Labour have a huge deficit in the mid-to-high teens.  In normal circumstances, that gap would be considered utterly insurmountable, and I'm struggling to see why we shouldn't reach that conclusion in this case.

And isn't it curious that I've just referred to YouGov and Ipsos-Mori as "SNP-friendly pollsters"?  There seems to be no real correlation at all between which firms were favourable to the Yes campaign, and which are favourable to the SNP now.

Yes-friendly pollsters in the referendum campaign :

Survation
Panelbase 
ICM

SNP-friendly pollsters after the referendum :

Ipsos-Mori
YouGov
Survation

No-friendly pollsters in the referendum campaign :

Ipsos-Mori
YouGov
TNS-BMRB

Labour-friendly pollsters after the referendum :

TNS-BMRB
Panelbase

Although whether Panelbase should really be in the latter list is open to question, because they've produced three post-referendum polls, all using different methodologies, and all with very different results.  ICM have only conducted one post-referendum poll with a reasonably middling result, so it's too early to say where they're going to slot in.

*  *  *

SCOT GOES POP POLL OF POLLS

It feels very peculiar to receive the results of a new full-scale Scottish poll, and yet to exclude it from the subsequent Poll of Polls update.  But the rules I laid down in the autumn for the Poll of Polls are very clear - full-scale polls are included if the fieldwork was at least partly conducted within the last seven days.  I'm writing this in the early hours of the 10th, and both the TNS and YouGov polls were concluded on the 2nd.  So they're both out, and instead we revert to an update based on the Scottish subsamples from GB-wide polls conducted entirely within the last seven days - three from YouGov, two from Populus and one from Ashcroft.

Scottish voting intentions for the May 2015 UK general election :

SNP 42.2% (-3.4)
Labour 26.0% (-0.5)
Conservatives 19.2% (+3.0)
Liberal Democrats 5.5% (+0.6)
Greens 3.0% (-0.3)
UKIP 3.0% (-0.8)

(The Poll of Polls uses the Scottish subsamples from all GB-wide polls that have been conducted entirely within the last seven days and for which datasets have been provided, and also all full-scale Scottish polls that have been conducted at least partly within the last seven days. Full-scale polls are given ten times the weighting of subsamples.)

46 comments:

  1. Still a damn good lead for the SNP, it takes some doing to try and paint this as good news for Labour.

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  2. Also, TNS are by far the friendliest pollster for Labour in GB polling, regularly showing 5+ leads. Labour in fact had an 11 point lead a few weeks ago!

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    1. Going by TNS's previous record, something will be worth looking at is the fieldwork dates.

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    2. Compared to the 2010 General Election the SNP are up 21%

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  3. Good poll. Not a bad thing to have a reality check for the activists, especially if, as I suspect TNS are over-egging the Labour vote. Will be interesting to see the data.

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  4. Jeez the SLAB Twitter trolls are creaming themselves over this, including a certain David Maddox. I hope it breathes new found complacency into their campaign.

    Iain

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  5. Something worth noting from the topline results is that Greens on 6% is a bit higher than normal. I doubt they will get that across Scotland, if only because I doubt they will put up candidates everywhere. 6% would mean them getting like 10%+ in quite a few places (to get a 6% average), which seems a bit unlikely.

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  6. According to Britain Elects, the fieldwork was 14th Jan - 2nd Feb, which would overlap the latest YouGov, Ipsos and Survation polls, as well as the Ashcroft polling.

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  7. James, the safest Liberal seat in Scotland is not Orkney and Shetland. It's Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross.

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    1. I've deleted my first reply, because it didn't make sense. How is Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross safer? Thurso only got 41% of the vote there in 2010.

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    2. Because he is one of the most conservative parts of Scotland AND he is the Laird of the land. The Viscount Thurso, the heir of the Sinclairs. Hell, the electorate is so tiny, most of the population are probably related to him.

      He is the fifth generation of the Sinclair family to represent the area, albeit only the second to be elected to represent Caithness. He has all the family history that the conservative CoS old dears love.

      Alternatively Alistair Carmichael is an incomer from Argyll, not exactly a welcome geneology in any of the outer isles especially the Nordic ones. He has a good lead as a Liberal because, well Orkney and Shetland always voted Liberal. But they don't vote ENOUGH Liberal to make him safe.

      I can see both of them remaining no matter how strong the SNP surge is. But if only one is left, it will be John Sinclair, the Viscount Thurso.

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    3. If Thurso does survive (which I doubt), it'll be because of a personal vote and nothing else. There was no sign of the general conservatism of the area saving the Lib Dems' bacon in the 2011 Holyrood election - whereas the Lib Dem vote in Orkney & Shetland proved resilient (or resilient enough) in both 2011 and in the 2014 Euros.

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    4. Yes it will be his personal vote. That was kind of my point. Everything in Caithness says he will survive. Nothing in any other LIberal seat (apart from Carmichael's huge lead) says they will survive.

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    5. "Everything in Caithness says he will survive."

      I disagree - I think he's toast.

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    6. Is there a rational basis for this or hope and expectation? Honestly, this isn't a sit read by millions of Loyalists. He is Viscount Thurso, respected by his constituents and of a family that has always run the area (descendant of the Earls of Caithness). It;s a tiny constituency, it is pretty much the same size as Orkney and Zetland.

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    7. "Is there a rational basis for this or hope and expectation?"

      Absolutely - the Lib Dem vote has plummeted in that area, and even a reasonably significant personal vote won't be enough to offset that. You're talking as if almost everyone who votes Lib Dem will have the individual candidate in mind, but that isn't the case. For the same reason I think Charles Kennedy's future is in doubt (although I also think he has a much better chance than Thurso).

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    8. The LIberal vote has plummetted NATIONALLY. But in "that area", there is no evidence to support that. You can apply UNS if you want but there is no evidence to support UNS. Not a single poll has been done in Caithness, not a single measure of how it is going to vote.

      Without such polls, all we can do is apply how we think the vote will go. Yes the Liberals are fucked, But in Caithness, where they have the LAIRD in a massively conservative area? His personal vote will be much stronger than Carmichael. If you believe Carmichael will hold on and not Sinclair, you really are denying the obvious.

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    9. "But in "that area", there is no evidence to support that."

      Of course there is - there have been several elections there since 2010.

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    10. And none of them with John Sinclair as the candidate. Srsly dude, I appreciate the positivity but sometimes it gets ridiculous.

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    11. Oh, come off it, Alasdair. I have a degree of respect for you (particularly after your FOI coup earlier) but you do sometimes say some truly absurd things. And calling me "dude" won't make up for the complete lack of logic. There isn't a single scrap of evidence for your notion that Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross is the most likely Lib Dem seat to survive - it just seems to be a bee you've got in your bonnet based on a rather silly caricature of what the area is like. Logically, there are at least three Lib Dems who have a better chance of surviving than Thurso - they are Carmichael, Kennedy and Moore.

      I'm also not aware of any evidence that Orcadians and Shetlanders are particularly fussed about Carmichael's geographic origins. By the way, why "Zetland"? Are we returning to the 1930s?

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    12. I prefer Zetland, like Milngavie and Dalziel I love my old school Runic spelling.

      Here's the problem you have. You are a West Central Scottish man who has no idea what happens outside of that closed system. I've lived in Dollar, Edinburgh and Glasgow. I also met more people in Dollar from outside the Central Belt than you would probably accept.

      Orkney and Zetland is a very peculiar place but it isn't a place that accepts and Argyller as their master. Carmichael has no local vote,. At all. No-one will vote Carmichael because he is tubby mis-spelt Dair.

      Meanwhile in Caithness, you have a descendant of the Earls of Katness with a very conservative electorate. Not only that but his grandfather was the MP, he has other relatives as Lords and he is both a Lord and an MP. Sinclair is a ridiculously strong Personal Vote candidate. I hope it will not be enough.

      But in a small constituency and Caithness is TINY by UK standards he can do it because he has his close personal; relationships AND very strong constituency work to help him. Where the fuck do you think he has been the last two years. Hint - in Caithness. Welcoming his electorate to support him.

      Carmichaael has been busy telling Scotland it's fucked and should crawl away and die. It's not a hard proposition.

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    13. I'm sorry Alisdair but I have to agree with James here. There is no evidence that John Thurso's personal vote will be enough to save his skin. His percentage of the vote in 2010 was down by over 9% (much greater than the average 3.7% LibDem decline in Scotland) from 2005 and Ladbrokes rate his chances of retaining the seat as 5/2. I assume you have put the house on it. By contrast, Carmichael is 1/8 to retain Orkney and "Zetland".

      And your claim that James understands nothing of Scottish politics outside West Central Scotland is both ludicrous and patronising. James' record speaks for itself.

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    14. You know in all these recent threads I have never once said the Liberals will save any seats in Scotland. All I can said is that if any Liberal keeps his seat it will be John Sinclair. I don't really see why you think this is such a contentious point

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    15. It's contentious because the Lib Dems won a much higher share of the vote in 2010 in Orkney & Shetland (62%) than they did in Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (41%).

      In terms of personal vote, Thurso got a bit of an incumbency bonus in 2005 when his share of the vote went up 11%. The problem is that he lost almost all of that bonus in 2010 (down 9%), which was before the wider collapse in Lib Dem support in Scotland.

      Their vote in the constituency isn't going to collapse completely, but I struggle to see how it is going to hold up sufficiently for him to hold the seat. Carmichael, on the other hand, could have a swing against him of 25% and would still hold Orkney & Shetland.

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    16. Alasdair I think you should actually look at the geography of the seat. It isn't Caithness, it extends through Sutherland into Easter Ross. Living just over the boundary I don't see the personal vote as you describe it. He may well be the Laird of Thurso but in general that has no more effect on the people of Sutherland or Easter Ross than if he was the Laird of Auchtermuchty. His personal vote diminished with boundary changes. Maybe you should recognise that your extensive knowledge of Dollar, Edinburgh and Glasgow and meeting people from up here is enough to make you an expert. Ask the activists in the constituency if you want an opinion on what goes on in it please.

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    17. Alasdair/James - OK here is my take on Johnnie Thurso's chances. Firstly I live in the constituency, and I even know him a wee bit, but I still think he has a fight on his hand. Two things - in Holyrood terms this is Rob Gibsons seat, and he had a strong lead in those elections, and secondly its not just Caithness and Sutherland, but has a fair chunk of Easter Ross included as well. Rob holds the Holyrood seat (which is slightly larger, with some of Easter Ross included) with a 7,500 majority over the Libdems,

      If Prof Curtice is right and people now folk for their MP with the same mindset as their MSP, John Thurso has a serious problem. Two things may save him. Firstly Highland MPs gather a fair amount of personal vote, and the party of incumbancy only tends to see real problems when the member steps down. Secondly the Westminster Candidate for this seat is an Inverness man, not Caithness.

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    18. Alan - I'm inclined to agree with you, I think the Lib Dem vote has collapsed to such an extent that neither John Thurso or Charlie Kennedy can survive. In my view the Highlands are not that different from the rest of Scotland when it comes to the sort of fundamental changes in voting we have seen in Scotland in the past 30 years, they are just at at the end of wave, rather than the crest.

      However, I'll still reserve judgement on a complete lib dem wipe out until midday on Friday the 8th of May!

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  8. That's two Scottish polls in just a few weeks to put the SNP lead at 10%. "Ah, but there's, like, another one that shows, like, a 30 point lead, you know!!".

    Do I detect a hint of anxiety among the nationalists?

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    1. Obviously you haven't bothered reading the blogpost you're commenting on.

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  9. Last week TNS gave Labour a 6% lead UK-wide, which is completely out of step with current polling. And 6% for the Greens in Scotland? Alarms bells are ringing based on those 2 points alone..

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  10. YouGov sub-sample: SNP 42, Lab 25, Con 17; LD, UKIP and Green 5 each. Oddly, 2% for SNP and PC in London...

    http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/gy4done25m/YG-Archive-Pol-Sun-results-090215.pdf

    Fairly typical of the recent YouGov pattern. The only odd thing in their recent sub-sample results is that the Tories have sometimes been higher than in other polls. That's also been reflected in the supplementary questions that are asked (approval ratings).

    Going back to TNS, I wonder if they have a slightly different VI question. They got different results in the referendum from other firms because they always asked "how do you intend to vote on 18th September" rather than "how would you vote if there was a referendum today". This had the effect of them obtaining a much higher "don't know" result and much lower committed "yes" and "no" support than other firms. It was only when that larger number of "don't know"s were excluded that they were identified as a "no-friendly" pollster. They, like Mori and YouGov, picked up the large movement to Yes in August / early September. Their last referendum poll (fieldwork finished 4th September) had Yes 38, No 39 and DK 23. All of their previous polls had Yes in the low 30s or high 20s with lots of don't knows.

    If they are using the same methodology, this could explain the difference between TNS and other firms. I think this must be the case because of the overlapping fieldwork dates with polls that gave much bigger SNP leads. This would mean some people would commit to supporting SNP now, but aren't certain that they will stick to that until May. I suppose that would be a cause for (some) hope for Labour that there is an element of the potential SNP vote, as picked up by the other firms, that is soft and could be won back.

    If so, that wouldn't be tremendously surprising given that a fairly large part of the SNP rating has only recently moved to that position. To then expect those same people, who have changed their VI within the last six months, to be absolutely certain of sticking to their new VI for at least another three months, would perhaps be unreasonable.

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  11. Curtice's blog post about the TNS poll says their figures for Holyrood VI are basically the same as the 2011 result.

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  12. TNS historically have got the highest Labour numbers in Scottish polling (they got 44% Lab in April 2010 and 49% Lab in Jan 11 for example. I recall during the iref, that when asked about Holyrood voting in 2011, TNS consistently found their samples gave a much higher recalled Labour share, often to the point Labour had got the same number of votes as the SNP or even beaten them in 2011.

    Reasons for this are unclear; maybe the door to door approach just yields more Labour voters. Maybe the face to face creates a shyer Yes/SNP vote. It did seem that way during the iref.

    Tables should be interesting.

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    1. In fairness to TNS, they did pick up the movement to the SNP in their later 2011 polls and the April 2010 poll (Lab 44, SNP 23) wasn't too far off the final result. That poll overstated both Labour (by 2 points) and the SNP (by 3 points) compared to the actual result.

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    2. Sure, in fact in 2010 arguably they were closer to the final result, although they still predicted a higher labour share than occured.

      In 2011 they were very much responsible for Labour thinking they were going to romp home. TNS retained the Labour lead for the longest. Only in their final poll on 2nd may did they get the SNP ahead. That poll was quite close to the result. In contrast, MORI had the SNP edging ahead in February.

      Anyway, the current TNS poll used 2010 weighting which probably goes some way to explain the narrower gap.

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  13. The other thing about the overlapping fieldwork dates is that the TNS poll doesn't just overlap with MORI and YouGov, it also overlaps with some of the Ashcroft polling. e.g. Dundee West was from 23-30 January, Paisley and Renfrew South was 22-29 January. The Glasgow polls were done earlier in January.

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  14. Nothing has really changed. If you DO include YouGov and TNS it is still a 15-16 point lead for the SNP in the poll of polls.

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  15. Here's something interesting: the Tories put up a list of 2014 candidates on their website, 102 of which were listed as "non-target". i.e. they think that they can win without much effort or that they have no chance.

    https://twitter.com/RTaylorUK/status/564926726099439616

    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1KFnWl0aAr9TzOAhF7zSeMf0aRpQRyfLD7cRUQBBoUSA/edit#gid=0

    Quite a few Scottish seats in there....

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  16. TNS have posted an article on their site about the poll.

    http://www.tnsglobal.com/uk/poll-points-SNP-general-election-success-but-lower-Scottish-turnout-than-referendum

    Just glancing at it, it seems like a very high don't know response. 16% would not vote, 6% refused to answer and on top of that 26% undecided. I suspect this is a product of their question, which is how do you intend to vote in the May election, rather than "how would you vote if the election was today".

    If there is cause for hope in this poll for Labour, it's on the basis that some people who say SNP if asked to say how they would vote today, are undecided when asked how they intend to vote in May. So there is a possibility of Labour being able to bring those SNP today / undecided in May voters back, but equally TNS could converge towards the other polling companies as they make their minds up fully.

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    1. Something important: I notice that the data has been weighted to both 2010 and 2011 recall.

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    2. Holyrood VI:

      Constituency: SNP 47, Lab 31, Con 13, LD 4, Other 5.

      List: SNP 44, Lab 26, Con 13, Green 9, LD 6, SSP 1.

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    3. Somewhat bigger leads (and ratings) for the SNP in Holyrood than WM. That slightly goes against the other polls, which have suggested that the gap between the two has largely closed. IIRC the last YouGov gave a slightly bigger lead for the SNP in WM than Holyrood.

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  17. If I may add to the mix of data:

    https://twitter.com/StatgeekUK/status/565104742469476352

    Statgeek. (No Twitter login :))

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  18. Would a lower turnout favour the SNP? Are Yes voters more likely to vote?

    DDH

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  19. James What is your take on the key role the Independent Candidate has on the Orkney Shetland election outcomes ? It seems to me if there was no Independent the Libs would be wiped out,

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