So we're deep into the late flurry of polls that always arrive in the last 48 hours of any major election campaign - I expect there'll be more tonight, and perhaps even one or two tomorrow. There was a touch of panic last night when a Savanta ComRes poll came out with by far the worst showing of the campaign so far for the SNP, but it quickly became clear that the fieldwork was slightly older than yesterday's YouGov poll, which showed the complete opposite - it had the SNP on an absolute majority on the constituency ballot, which if replicated tomorrow would be by far their best result in any Holyrood election. Today we've also had Survation and Ipsos-Mori polls with more or less the same fieldwork dates as ComRes, and the results are closer to YouGov's. So, touch wood, it looks like the ComRes poll might just be a very weird - albeit scary - outlier.
Wednesday, May 5, 2021
Eve of election polls show Alba's vote holding up - with contradictory signals about the size of the pro-independence majority
Ipsos-Mori (30th April - 3rd May):
Constituency ballot: SNP 50% (-3), Labour 22% (+4), Conservatives 20% (-), Liberal Democrats 6% (-), Greens 2% (-)
Regional list ballot: SNP 39% (+1), Conservatives 23% (+2), Labour 18% (-), Greens 12% (-), Liberal Democrats 4% (-2), Alba 2% (-1)
Survation (30th April - 4th May):
Constituency ballot: SNP 49% (+2), Conservatives 21% (-), Labour 21% (-), Liberal Democrats 8% (-), Greens 1% (+1)
Regional list ballot: SNP 36% (-1), Conservatives 21% (-1), Labour 19% (+1), Greens 10% (-), Liberal Democrats 7% (-), Alba 3% (+1)
Savanta ComRes (30th April - 4th May):
Constituency ballot: SNP 42% (-3), Conservatives 25% (+2), Labour 22% (-1), Liberal Democrats 8% (+1)
Regional list ballot: SNP 34% (-2), Conservatives 23% (+1), Labour 19% (-), Greens 9% (-1), Liberal Democrats 6% (+1), Alba 2% (-)
The Ipsos-Mori poll shows a tie on independence, while Survation shows a modest No lead and ComRes shows a suspiciously large No lead for a second time in a row. That reinforces the impression that something weird is happening with the ComRes sampling - although, admittedly, there's always the possibility that a pollster that is out of step with the others will prove to be the only one that's actually right. (That's what happened with Survation in 2017.)
As for Alba, they're up in one poll, down in one, and level in the other - which suggests their vote is holding up. It seems like quite a while ago now that the Alba-haters were breathless with excitement about a single ComRes poll showing the party on 1% - I think they imagined that Alba were on the way out and would soon stop registering in polls completely. That hasn't happened - it looks like Alba will end the campaign having registered in every single poll, and so far all but one poll has put them in the 2-6% range. If they're at the upper end of that range on polling day, they could take a decent number of seats.
I also think Alba may have dodged a bit of a bullet last night. Another leaders' debate excluding them so close to polling day could have led many voters to overlook them completely, but on this occasion the BBC were shamed into providing an extra prime-time programme with compensatory coverage for parties not in the debate. I didn't time each interview, but I got the impression that Alex Salmond had about nine minutes or so, which isn't too bad considering that each leader in a five-way 70-minute debate will presumably have had an average of 14 minutes.
The Greens are looking like the independence movement's get out of jail free card - if they really are on 9-12% of the list vote, there's much more leeway if the SNP underperform in the way ComRes are suggesting (although from a psychological point of view, a majority reliant on the Greens is not as good as an SNP-Alba majority, because they're not always perceived as an out-and-out independence party).
One thing I was going to mention a few weeks ago but completely forgot - there was a YouGov poll about the first BBC leaders' debate (the one involving Lorna Slater) and respondents declared Nicola Sturgeon the winner by a country mile. That'll be a surprise to anyone who watched TV pundits trying to push the narrative that either Anas Sarwar had won or that there was no clear winner. It seems to me there's a bit of a double standard here - journalists are very eager to treat poll verdicts on leaders' debates as indisputable gospel when it suits them. For example, the notion that Alistair Darling had defeated Alex Salmond in the first indyref debate was based on a single small poll with a relatively narrow result. And yet they'll quite happily set aside a much more decisive poll result when it's not what they expected or wanted to hear.
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You can catch up with Episode 7 of the Scot Goes Popcast, in which I speak with the Alba Party's Chris McEleny, HERE.
Posted by James Kelly at 2:48 PM