I'm not sure mere words are sufficient to convey the enormity of the full-scale Scottish poll that has just been released by YouGov, with less than a month to go until general election day.
Scottish voting intentions for the May 2015 UK general election (YouGov, 8th-9th April) :
SNP 49% (+3)
Labour 25% (-4)
Conservatives 18% (+2)
Liberal Democrats 4% (+1)
UKIP 2% (n/c)
Greens 1% (-1)
There's an oddity here, because earlier today YouGov released a new 'nowcast' seats projection for the election, and in the commentary it was stated that the only significant trend that had been detected anywhere in Britain over the last week was a "very slight softening" of the SNP vote. So when it was reported earlier today that the new full-scale poll was "newsworthy", we assumed (OK, I assumed - not all of you did!) that we must be looking at a reduction in the SNP lead.
However, there isn't a direct contradiction, because the nowcast is based on different (and unpublished) survey data. The full-scale poll is more up-to-date, so it could be that it's picking up a trend that the nowcast hasn't caught up with yet. Or there may have been a methodological change that boosted the SNP in the full-scale poll - most probably the introduction of a likelihood to vote filter - which we'll find out about when the datasets are released.
Or, of course, margin of error effects could be at play, in which case the truth is probably somewhere between the full-scale poll and the nowcast. That would imply a relatively unchanged position - which would be absolutely fine, because it would still leave the SNP with a gigantic lead! Even the nowcast suggested that the SNP remained on course to win almost every parliamentary seat in Scotland.
Until we find out whether there has been any methodological change, it's difficult to make observations about the long-term trend with any confidence. But if we were to assume for the sake of argument that it's possible to make a direct comparison between the headline numbers of this poll and previous YouGov polls, the conclusion would be that we're looking at the first strong evidence of the SNP lead having increased further since the latter half of October. The first post-referendum YouGov poll put the lead at 16% - and an increase to 24% can't easily be explained by normal sampling variation (although it's not completely impossible). The SNP's own vote has increased from 43% to 49% since the autumn, which would also be very difficult to dismiss as margin of error noise. The position is less conclusive in respect of the Labour vote, which started out as 27% in the autumn, and has only varied within a narrower range of 25% to 29%.
Respondents to the new poll were asked who they thought won the first Scottish leaders' debate on Tuesday night (ie. the one on STV). It won't be any surprise to most non-journalists to learn that Nicola Sturgeon emerged as the landslide victor -
Nicola Sturgeon 56%
Ruth Davidson 14%
Jim Murphy 13%
Willie Rennie 1%
However, we can rest assured that the creepy Cult of Murphy in the press pack are reeling in disbelief at the sight of these figures, so comprehensively had they convinced themselves that their Messiah trounced Ms Sturgeon on Tuesday. Yes, guys, he was a distant third - behind even the leader of the Scottish Tories.
I mentioned last night my amusement at the antics of Ross Clark of the Spectator, who was so dismayed by the absence of instant polls after Tuesday's debate that he decided to invent some and declare Jim Murphy the winner of them. But that pales into insignificance in comparison with this tweet from Iain Martin just after the debate finished, which is surely destined to go down in history as the finest ever display of comically un-self-aware Murphy devotion -
"Twitter full of desperate Nats saying Sturgeon won debate. It's that cult thing again. Even when leader loses, claim victory. Creepy."
Iain was last seen barricading himself into a quiet pantry, and is expected to emerge in a few weeks.
I've no idea why he's feeling so chastened, though. Surely the explanation for this poll is obvious - 56% of the entire population of Scotland are "desperate" members of the Sturgeon "cult"! A whole nation of brainwashed zombies! Now that really is creepy, Iain. Creepy on stilts.