Tonight sees the publication of the first full-scale Scottish poll of 2015, which has been conducted by Panelbase...
Scottish voting intentions for the May 2015 general election (Panelbase, 9th-14th January) :
SNP 41% (-4)
Labour 31% (+3)
Conservatives 14% (-1)
UKIP 7% (n/c)
Liberal Democrats 3% (n/c)
As you know, the Scottish subsamples from GB-wide polls have shown absolutely no sign of a boost for Labour recently, so I'm more than a little sceptical about the apparent drop in the SNP's lead in this poll. This is the third Panelbase poll since the referendum, and all three have shown markedly different results - the first had the SNP ahead by just two points, the second saw the gap skyrocket to seventeen points, and now we're splitting the difference with an SNP lead of ten. The change between the first and second poll could be easily explained by the fact that the first used a discredited weighting procedure which was wisely abandoned for the second. It's unlikely that there's been another methodological change in this poll, but we shouldn't rule it out until we see the datasets.
It could also be that there's something odd in the datasets that will leap out at us - maybe one group has been upweighted or downweighted by an extreme amount, thus potentially distorting the result. Or we could just be looking at an extreme example of margin of error noise. Until and unless another poll shows a narrowing of the gap, my working assumption will be that nothing's changed, and that the SNP retain the same huge advantage over Labour that they enjoyed at the end of 2014.
All the same, a 10-point lead is still plenty enough to take the SNP past the tipping-point where they would gain lots of Labour seats - even on a uniform swing. The rather crude prediction model on the Electoral Calculus website suggests the Panelbase findings would translate to the following results...
SNP : 38 seats
Labour : 21 seats
Conservatives : 0 seats
Liberal Democrats : 0 seats
In practice we can fully expect there to be regional variations in the swing that will work in the SNP's favour. It's also very unlikely that the Liberal Democrats will lose Orkney & Shetland, although the Tories certainly can't afford to be relaxed about their only Scottish seat.
Of the supplementary findings from the poll that have appeared on Wings over the last couple of days, the most eye-catching is the huge divergence between Scottish and English attitudes towards the BBC, with respondents in Scotland disagreeing by a margin of 45% to 42% with the proposition that "the BBC provides balanced and unbiased political coverage". (To use the BBC's favourite phrase from late September, that's a "decisive margin".) We have to be cautious about treating a result like this as gospel, because it's an online poll, and volunteer online polling panels tend to have a disproportionate number of politically engaged people on their books. It's possible that a telephone poll would have been slightly more favourable for the BBC. But if nothing else, this finding is compelling proof of what we already knew anecdotally - that there has been a catastrophic loss of trust in the state broadcaster among a large portion of the Scottish population, and that this has been directly caused by the BBC's dreadful failings during the referendum campaign (particularly during that crucial penultimate week). When the corporation's chief political adviser Ric Bailey appeared on Scotland 2014 a few days after the referendum and attempted to defend the indefensible, he kept starting his sentences with : "The BBC is trusted because..." After this poll, it'll have to be : "The BBC is trusted, except by viewers in Scotland, because..."
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SCOT GOES POP POLL OF POLLS
This update of the Poll of Polls is based on the full-scale Panelbase poll, plus nine Scottish subsamples from GB-wide polls - six from YouGov, one from Populus, one from Ipsos-Mori and one from ComRes. As ever, Opinium is excluded because they don't provide a geographical breakdown of their results, and the recent TNS-BMRB poll is excluded because it was too far out of date even on the day it was published!
I can't provide a vote share for the Greens, because we haven't got one yet from the Panelbase poll (and on past form it's possible that there isn't one). What I find interesting is that adding the various subsamples to the Panelbase results makes very little difference to the SNP's share, but reduces Labour's share quite significantly, and leaves us with a markedly bigger gap between the two parties of 12.6%. (To avoid confusion, please note that the percentage change figures below refer to something different - ie. the change since the last update of the Poll of Polls.)
Scottish voting intentions for the May 2015 UK general election :
SNP 41.3% (n/c)
Labour 28.7% (+2.8)
Conservatives 15.8% (-1.1)
UKIP 6.2% (-0.4)
Liberal Democrats 3.6% (-2.5)
(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.)