Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Will tactical voting in the next general election be anti-SNP, anti-Tory, or both?

As I mentioned in previous posts, last week's Panelbase voting intention poll (which was both a GB-wide poll and a full-scale Scottish poll) was funded by the Scottish Independence Foundation.  The results were revealed in a press release that was put out on Thursday, and which I contributed some analysis to.  What happened afterwards was a bit of an eye-opener for all concerned, because as far as I can see not a single media outlet reported the numbers.  Britain Elects belatedly mentioned them a few days after I published them here, but I strongly suspect they got them direct from Panelbase, rather than from the press release.  The Herald then finally reported the numbers and cited Britain Elects as the source!  I can't help feeling there's a touch of snobbery and Anglocentricity at play here - as far as the media is concerned, a poll is something that comes from "proper" sources, preferably ones that have a London office.  If it comes from an unconventional source, it might as well not exist, at least until it's been given a mark of approval from elsewhere.  A completely ludicrous attitude, because it was a properly-conducted poll from a BPC firm, and indeed it intentionally avoided the type of brazenly leading questions that marred the propaganda poll that The Scotsman cleared their front page for yesterday.

When I was preparing the analysis for the press release, I did something which I don't normally do for poll analysis on this blog - I projected the vote shares into hypothetical seat numbers, because I knew that journalists tend to lap that sort of thing up.  And it brought home to me once again how silly that whole exercise is, because the chances of there being the type of uniform swing that would make seat projections meaningful are pretty slim.  For example, because both the SNP and Lib Dem vote shares were unchanged since the general election, all that could be said about the North-East Fife seat is that it would remain on a knife-edge, and it would be impossible to know whether the SNP or Lib Dems would win.  But in the real world, a no change election nationwide would almost certainly not translate into the status quo being maintained in North-East Fife, because the result last time would in itself affect the campaign next time.

North-East Fife result, June 2017:

SNP 32.9%
Liberal Democrats 32.9%
Conservatives 24.1%
Labour 9.6%
ISDB 0.5%

We know that the Lib Dems and the Tories are swimming in the same pond - they both attract centrist, centre-right and right-wing unionist voters who want to stop the SNP.  In most constituencies where the SNP looked vulnerable last year, there seemed to be an informal arrangement that one unionist party would be given a free run - it's hard to think of any other explanation for the Lib Dems' renaissance in seats like East Dunbartonshire, while they were completely collapsing in former strongholds such as Gordon.  But it looks like North-East Fife was one of the few target seats where such an understanding proved impossible, allowing the SNP to hold on due to a split unionist vote.  There will presumably be a lot of Lib Dem pressure on both the Tories and Tory voters to prevent a repeat of that outcome, with the Lib Dems' close second place being used to make the case that they've earned the right to a free run against the SNP.

That doesn't mean that the SNP have no chance of holding the seat, but I don't think they can do it by standing still.  They must assume that the Lib Dem vote will probably increase at Tory expense, and that extra votes will be needed from somewhere, maybe from people who stayed at home last time.  (It would also help if it occurs to the Tories that they may never get their hands back on the seat if a Lib Dem MP gets in and becomes too entrenched, as Menzies Campbell did after his win in 1987.)

In Tory/SNP battleground seats, though, it's possible that the opposite is true - that nationwide swings may understate the SNP's chances of regaining seats.  Both the Panelbase poll and yesterday's Survation poll suggested that the SNP would only regain one Tory seat on a uniform swing - Stirling.  But take a look at last year's result in Moray, for example...

Moray result, June 2017:

Conservatives 47.5%
SNP 38.8%
Labour 10.9%
Liberal Democrats 2.3%
Independent 0.4%

The question that forms in my mind is: who are those Labour voters?  In the central belt, die-hard unionists may well have voted Labour to stop the SNP, but they had no reason to do so in an SNP/Tory marginal seat like Moray, especially not when Jeremy Corbyn is the leader of the Labour party.  So are they in fact genuinely left-wing voters who would quite like to get the Tory government out?  If so, there may be some potential for the SNP to squeeze the Labour vote by a few percentage points, thus making their path to victory that much easier than national uniform swings would suggest.  OK, the Tories might equally be looking to squeeze the Lib Dem vote, but there's much less of a Lib Dem vote to squeeze.

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  1. Is anti-Brexit a possibility? One bit of result from Scotland during the 2017 election I was disappointed hasn't been picked up on is the combined SNP+LD result. 39 of 59, pretty much two-thirds.

    Which was close to 62%. Of course, their combined popular vote share was only 44% then. Could that be jointly improved at the expense of Labour and Tories?

  2. In any new election I think there would be some interesting contests in Tory held marginals that had significant Labour votes like Stirling, Ochil and Perthshire South, Ayr, Carrick and Cummnock and maybe East Renfrewshire. Last year many of these voters went from SNP to Labour because they wanted a Corbyn government. In a new election they may realise that Labour cannot win and the SNP could appeal to these voters.

  3. It is quite miraculous that Moray is anything but a solid Tory stronghold given the presence of the military in Lossiemouth and Kinloss. I know two local people who are Labour voters there who voted Tory last time because they are British nationalists and who will continue to do so. All other ex-Labour voters have been SNP for decades now. Given the military presrprein Moray, the area is nothing like it's neighbours.

    1. You Nazis should not participate in democratic elections as you never accept the result when you lose. You should maybe follow your Sinn Fein IRA murderous pals and walk away.

    2. GWC AKA The Hon. Cordelia Bracely-Dubois of the 77th (Manky Shirt, Self Funded) Auxiliaries and its ultra-right-wing screams.
      Poor, tormented, xenophobic Cordelia and its loathing of democracy.
      So much impotent rage.
      So very funny.

  4. I agree with the PM. The British should be not be allowed to 'jump the queue' when it comes to a brexit trade deal with the Europeans.

    1. GWC AKA The Hon. Cordelia Bracely-Dubois of the 77th (Manky Shirt, Self Funded) Auxiliaries and its ultra-right-wing screams.
      Poor, tormented, xenophobic Cordelia.
      So much impotent rage.
      So very funny.

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