Friday, June 8, 2018

Sensational YouGov poll suggests SNP would make sweeping gains in a snap general election, with support for an independence referendum also increasing

For the first time in months we have a full-scale Scottish poll.  This one has certainly proved worth the wait, because on Westminster voting intentions it shows the SNP opening up an enormous seventeen point lead over Labour, who have firmly moved back down into third place. 

Scottish voting intentions for the next UK general election (YouGov):

SNP 40% (+4)
Conservatives 27% (+4)
Labour 23% (-5)
Liberal Democrats 7% (+1)
Greens 2% (-1)
UKIP 1% (-2)

If those figures were replicated in any early general election, Labour would be likely to face a 2015-style wipeout, with the modest gains they made from the SNP last year being reversed.  And although the Tories have picked up support since the last YouGov poll, that has been entirely offset by a substantial increase in the SNP's own support, meaning that the SNP remain on course for seat gains from the Tories as well.  In short, it's a poll of unalloyed wonderfulness for the SNP, and The Times (who commissioned it) deserve some kind of medal for being brazen enough to put the words "Poll Blow for Sturgeon" in their headline!  (I'm not even joking - they've actually done that.)

In fairness, there may be an element of a 'reversion to the mean' about the SNP's four-point boost, because the last poll from YouGov saw the party on an unusually low 36%.  Nevertheless, of the five full-scale Scottish polls published by all firms this year, this is the first to show the SNP hitting the 40% mark.  Labour's dismal third place showing looks particularly significant, because there had been a run of polls from last autumn through to early spring putting Labour in second place.  In recent months, there has been a marked swing from Labour to Tory in Britain-wide polls, and it looks like that is being replicated in Scotland.

Intriguingly, though, the swing doesn't look quite as pronounced in Holyrood voting intentions.

Scottish Parliament voting intentions (constituency ballot):

SNP 41% (+3)
Conservatives 27% (+1)
Labour 22% (-1)
Liberal Democrats 6% (-1)
Greens 2% (-1)

Scottish Parliament voting intentions (regional list ballot):

SNP 32% (n/c)
Conservatives 26% (+1)
Labour 21% (-1)
Greens 9% (-1)
Liberal Democrats 7% (n/c)
SSP 3% (+1)
UKIP 1% (-2)

So why are Labour taking a bigger hit at Westminster than at Holyrood?  The clue may lie in the fact that they had remained in third place in Holyrood voting intentions even while they were in second place at Westminster.  It could be that some people had toyed with cross-voting (Labour for Westminster, SNP or Tory for Holyrood) because of the appeal of Corbynism, but are now bringing their Westminster vote back into line with their Holyrood constituency vote.

For reasons that are not at all clear, YouGov consistently show lower support for an early independence referendum than other polling firms.  Panelbase, for example, often find the public split right down the middle on whether there should be an independence referendum in as little as two years.  The new YouGov poll still doesn't show a position quite as favourable as that, but there has been a sharp move in the right direction.

In principle, do you think there should or should not be a referendum on Scottish independence at some point in the next five years?

Should be a referendum: 40% (+4)
Should not be a referendum: 52% (-2)

Supplementary questions also show an increase in support for a referendum being held just before Brexit, or after Brexit.

The standard independence question was also asked, finding an increase in support for Yes.  However, the figures are within YouGov's normal range, so the change may just be margin of error 'noise'.  As Calum notes in the comment section below, the fact that YouGov now appear to be including 16 and 17 year olds in their sample may have played a part, although that's unlikely to have made more than a 1% difference after rounding.

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 45% (+2)
No 55% (-2)

In case you're wondering, the thin justification for the ludicrous headline in The Times is a trivial two-point drop in Nicola Sturgeon's net satisfaction rating.  Ruth Davidson has suffered a slightly bigger drop of four points, but what makes the reporting really silly is that there is another leader who has suffered a catastrophic reversal in fortunes.  Jeremy Corbyn's net rating has plummeted from -3 to -30.  But for whatever reason, The Times thought that the steady-as-she-goes result for Ms Sturgeon was more worthy of a hysterical headline.

Oh, and Richard Leonard's net rating has slipped from -15 to -20.  But a majority of respondents still don't have any view on him (ie. they don't know who he is).