Friday, November 5, 2021

SCOT GOES POP / PANELBASE POLL: Exclusive insight into how lower preference votes will transfer at the local elections in May, and how the pro-independence camp is needlessly leaving votes on the park - large numbers of 'tribal' SNP voters not planning to rank other Yes parties

The Scottish local elections are just six months away, and will help shape the media narrative of whether there is momentum towards an independence referendum (or towards some sort of alternative democratic event to achieve an independence mandate), or whether the independence movement is on the back foot, just as it appeared to be after the last local elections in 2017 - when the SNP comfortably topped the poll but sharply underperformed expectations.

I've already released the headline voting intentions for the local elections from the new Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll - which to the best of my knowledge is the first such set of numbers from any opinion poll in this electoral cycle.  Here's a reminder of the results: SNP 45%, Conservatives 22%, Labour 21%, Liberal Democrats 6%, Greens 4%, Alba 2%.  Nothing too surprising in there, although there must be a question mark as to whether the SNP will really achieve what would be by far an all-time record high, given their tendency to fall short of opinion poll figures in local elections.

But of course local elections in Scotland are conducted by STV, which means voters do not just put an 'X' beside one candidate, but instead rank the candidates in order of preference - and, crucially, they can rank as many or as few candidates as they like.  Because a lot of people don't really understand how the system works, there's a danger that many independence supporters will fail to optimise the power of their votes - for example, they might just give their first and second preferences to the two SNP candidates in their ward, and not rank anyone else, when in fact if they want to help the cause of independence they should be ranking every single pro-independence party and candidate.  That's something they can do as a "free hit", because it will not affect the chances of the SNP candidates being elected in any way whatsoever.

To get an insight into how many voters are planning to rank multiple parties, the poll asked an additional voting intention question for the local elections...

Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll (a representative sample of 1001 over-16s in Scotland was interviewed by Panelbase between 20th and 26th October 2021)

At the Scottish local elections next May, voters will rank candidates in order of preference, and will be able to rank as many or as few candidates as they wish.  Which of the following parties do you think you will include in your ranking when you vote in the local elections? (Please select all that apply.)

SNP 49%
Labour 35%
Conservatives 29%
Greens 23%
Liberal Democrats 21%
Alba 6%

Now before anyone's head starts spinning, this is one question where the percentages are very much supposed to add up to more than 100!  In fact it's just a pity they don't add up to a lot more than they do, because the pro-indy camp are needlessly leaving a lot of votes on the park.  Roughly half the population are independence supporters, and yet only 23% of voters will rank the pro-indy Greens, and just 6% will rank the pro-indy Alba party.  The task for us all - and this includes SNP supporters - is to boost those numbers dramatically between now and polling day.  All Yes parties should be urging their voters to give lower preferences to other Yes parties - there really is nothing to lose and everything to gain.

That said, the Greens will obviously be a lot happier with these numbers than Alba.  They give a very different impression from the first preference results, which had the two parties very close together. At first glance, I thought the reason for the Greens' more "transfer-friendly" status might be that they can attract unionist transfers in a way that Alba can't.  But although that's certainly the case, it's not the explanation - of people who would currently vote No, four times as many plan to give a ranking to the Greens (8%) than will do so for Alba (2%), and practically the same is true for people who would currently vote Yes (37% will rank the Greens, 10% will rank Alba).  Now, it goes without saying that the trendies will claim in knee-jerk fashion that this is because voters are rejecting Alba's alleged "bigotry" - but (spoiler alert) there's another result yet to come from the poll that casts severe doubt on that interpretation.  Much more likely is that Alba are struggling from not being as well known as the Greens, and perhaps also from not having the official SNP seal of approval that's been given to the Greens by means of the de facto coalition agreement.

The numbers are naturally pretty similar among people who voted SNP in the 2019 general election - 35% will give a ranking to the Greens, and 10% will give a ranking to Alba.

There's another way of looking at this, though, which is that the SNP are actually no more transfer-friendly than Alba are.  The percentage of people who will give a ranking to the SNP and Alba is 4% higher than each party's share of the first preference vote.  That's because the SNP totally dominate the first preferences of Yessers, but are "electoral asbestos" to unionist voters (to coin a phrase).  Only 12% of current No voters will give a ranking to the SNP - not much higher than the Greens' 8%.  The party that attracts the most 'cross-voting' is, depressingly, Labour - who will be ranked by 21% of current Yes voters, enough to push them comfortably into second place in terms of how many voters will give them some sort of ranking.  Even after all this time, it seems that old loyalties and affections in the former Labour heartlands die hard, meaning that Labour could cling on to a number of council seats that in some cases should have been winnable for pro-indy parties with a "vote till you boak" approach.  But Alba may draw some satisfaction from the fact that the 10% of SNP voters from 2019 who will give a ranking to Alba is at least in the same ball-park as Labour's equivalent figure of 15%.

How transfer-friendly a party is may also be a proxy for its maximum potential vote in non-preferential elections, because it reflects the number of people who find a party acceptable.  On that front, the news is good for both the Greens and Lib Dems, both of whom do vastly better than their first preference vote and find themselves breathing the same air as Labour and the Tories.  Bafflingly, years of extremist rhetoric doesn't yet seem to have totally destroyed the Lib Dems' reputation for reasonableness and moderation - 9% of both SNP and Yes voters still intend to give them a ranking.

The scale of the challenge for Alba if they are to dramatically increase their potential pool of voters is clear - although I suspect they'll prove to be much more transfer-friendly in wards where a seat is actually winnable for them, in other words where they have an incumbent councillor with a strong personal vote.

FUNDRAISING FOR POLLS: As I've mentioned a few times, the crowdfunding for this current poll didn't reach the required amount, and I'm having to cover the shortfall with my own money. So to be able to run any further Scot Goes Pop polling, on independence or on any other subject, we're going to have reach the £6500 target figure in the new fundraiser, or at least come very close to it.  So far we're just over the halfway mark, which is a fantastic start, and a million thanks to everyone who has donated over the last couple of weeks.  However, there have been potentially ominous signs of the donation rate slowing in recent days, so please bear with me as I continue to promote the fundraiser heavily - there's simply no point in leaving the job half done.  It's really important that we as the pro-independence movement crowdfund our own polling from time to time, because there's no other way of ensuring that the questions we want to be asked are actually asked.  The grim alternative is that all polls will be commissioned by anti-independence clients, with the inevitable slant in the way the questions are posed.  (That was exactly the problem we faced during the long indyref campaign, with very few exceptions.)

One issue that always comes up when I crowdfund, but has come up even more this time than usual, is that some people are slightly allergic to donating via a fundraising platform like GoFundMe - they would prefer a more direct payment option.  I've received a few emails from people saying "I would have donated if I could pay you without going through a middle man".  When I launched the fundraiser, I did actually give my Paypal details as a direct payment method, but I'm happy to do so once again.

Paypal email address:

Paypal is actually by far the most convenient option, both for me and for those making donations, because the money is transferred immediately and without any fuss. A number of people have already chosen to donate that way.  All you need to do is make sure the above email address is entered accurately, and when you're asked if you wish to attach a note just put "poll" or "fundraiser" so I can easily earmark the funds and add them to the running total.  (But don't worry if you don't do the latter bit - I hardly ever receive money via Paypal for any other reason, so it'll be pretty obvious what it's for!)  

However, some people have an allergy to Paypal as well as to fundraising sites, and have urged me to provide my bank details so they can donate by direct bank transfer instead.  If you'd really prefer to donate that way, please contact me by email. My contact email address is different from my Paypal address, and can be found in the sidebar of the desktop version of this blog, or on my Twitter profile.

And of course there's still the option of donating via the GoFundMe fundraiser page itself, which can be found HERE.

I know times are really tough at the moment, but thousands of people read Scot Goes Pop every week, and if just 10% of them were to donate just £10 each, we'd reach the target straight away.  As expensive as polls are, I do think the five Scot Goes Pop polls run so far have provided excellent value for money - for example by repeatedly demonstrating that there is substantial public support for a 'Plan B' option if a Section 30 order continues to be refused, and by showing that voters think Brexit makes the case for revisiting the issue of independence.  Of course some people are unable to donate for very good reasons, but one really important thing you can do is to spread the word on social media, and among your friends and family.

Thank you all once again for your amazing continued support.


  1. Unfortunately the greens are riding on the back of the current climate change wave, despite being resolute in their rejection of science and evidence, and being led by a poisonous gnome.

  2. In 2019 I numbered every single candidate on my ballot, here in Edinburgh’s Innerleith ward. #1 was Bagshaw, the incumbent Green. 2 and 3 were the SNP’s pair of candidates, and 4th was the Scottish Libertarians who are pro-Indy I gather. (Otherwise can’t stand libertarian politics, but there you go.)

    My vote stayed with the Green till the very final round of the count when Whyte, the Tory was the last man standing against Bagshaw. Whyte beat the green on the remaining ballots, and technically mine “transferred” to him, my very last numbered candidate of the lot! Vote till you boak, all right. 🤮

    I habitually rank women above men of the same party, which made Whyte dead last. My ballot skipped something like 8 choices! All of them had already been eliminated or elected.

    As memory serves: the Tories are the ones who gobbled up the Green’s lost seat. Gah! This time I’ll just stop when I’m boaking. I didn’t need a Tory claiming my technically transferred endorsement. 🙄

  3. I have to preface this with the fact I'm an Alba supporter through and through. Because I'm going to be honest James, I agree with you that the lack of "transferability" to Alba has nothing to do with voters' views on bigotry. I think, at this stage, it genuinely has to do with PERSONALITY, and the fact that Alex Salmond is no longer particularly popular among any demographic of Scots.

    Now, before I'm leapt upon by a legion of fellow Alba supporters, let me explain. I respect, enormously, the work that Alex Salmond achieved in making independence a mainstream opinion in Scotland. I think he was far more politically adroit than his cautious-to-a-fault successor.

    But I cannot deny what both anecdotal and substantive polling evidence tell me. Alex Salmond is the least popular "mainstream" politician in Scotland, by a long, long way. I disagree with their dislike, but I cannot deny that the "mainstream" of the country dislikes him more actively than any other politician. I would have to be a fact-averse sycophant to deny that.

    But I can't deny it, just as I cannot deny that we need a strong political pressure group to force Sturgeon's hand on independence. The Greens will not do that, and Alex being her political rival lets Nicola sleep soundly, because she knows only a small handful like him, and not enough to challenge or eat at her support.

    We need a leader who can span the indy spectrum to move us forward, and to gain us cross-indy appeal. Alex is too divisive. With all his might, fury, and righteous anger, he conjured us less than 2% of the vote at the last election. We need a unifying figure, to move beyond the Salmond and Sturgeon years, and into the Alba years.

    1. Salmond and the Alba party are inextricably associated, though. Talk about the Alba Party to most Scots who are aware of it and we think of Salmond.

      Even if he steps aside, that link is there and will be for decades. It'll take a herculean effort to overcome that. You're probably better off obtaining a vote within Scottish Labour so you can vote for a pro-referendum candidate whenever Sarwar falls.

      Just 3,000 or slightly more votes for Monica Lennon and we would have had a pro-referendum supermajority.

    2. I agree with both of you. I've said it before, but Alex simply no longer appeals to the vast majority of Scots, rightly or wrongly. I also think he's lost the fire in his belly. That's just what came across to me when he was on TV canvassing for Alba at the last election.

      As for my vote, I said at the last election that I'd give the SNP until the end of the year to do something of substance to advance the cause of independence. As it stands, it looks like I'll be voting Alba first, Greens second, and SNP third.

    3. Sadly I think you're right. Sturgeon may have failed to have Salmond locked up but her main objective, to destroy his reputation with the public, has been a resounding success. There is no way back for Alex in public life, much as it pains me to say it as he has been 'convicted' as a sex pest by Sturgeon and her friends in the media.

      Likewise, I think the SNP/Alba divide is beyond repair - Sturgeon cultists are never going to 'lend' Alba their second votes (see WGD for confirmation of that). Similarly, for many Alba supporters (myself included) the idea of offering any kind of support to the odious alliance of Sturgeon and Harvie is beyond the pale.

      Independence is dead for the foreseeable future until either the SNP is rescued from its current woke madness and crypto-unionism, or we rebuild a true independence movement from the bottom up with Alba, the ISP or whatever. In any event, that's going to take years of work under new leadership.

  4. I preface this comment by saying that I still hold an SNP card - just barely.In the council elections my thought at the moment is to go Alba first, SNP second and, maybe, Green third then finish.

    I think you've got it about right Rhoan. Seems to me that one of the peculiarities of our strange political situation is that we don't seen to have an aspirant candidate to pass beyond both Sturgeon and Salmond and I wonder why. One can't be trusted and the other can't widen the appeal - there should be someone who can.
    I've favoured the 'acively build the grassroots YES movement on the streets' approach for a long time now but cold reality tells me that our political culture is still dependent on 'great' individuals so, unfortunately, we need one.
    Who is it to be ???

  5. The Britnat media blanking the AUOB march today from 12.30 at Kelvingrove park. WGD like the Britnats also blanking the march and they call themselves independence supporters.

    It should be noted that the start time is only 30 mins earlier than the 1.00pm start time that the SNP Glasgow council prosecuted Manny Singh over. The SNP attacking independence supporters - who would have forecast that 10 years ago. That is Sturgeons SNP - run by devolutionalists.

    1. The mad liar Skier NOW mentions the march after it has concluded. What a useless tosser. Publicise an independence march after the event - useless.

      On the march route there was a vegan karaoke sideshow with a massive inflatable chicken it immediately made me think of Sturgeon the SNP and all the chickens on WGD with their million and one reasons for doing SFA about Scottish independence.

  6. Frankly I personally will do anything via the ballot box that needs to be done to achieve independence. We must escape Westminster’s clearly increasingly corrupt control as a matter of urgency and so don’t understand those in the Yes movement who say they believe in Scotland’s sovereignty but also say they will not vote for the SNP or indeed Alba due to personal dislikes or indeed policy disagreements. Politicians themselves will come and go while individual policies/laws can and perhaps should be revisited post independence. I pray radically different Scottish political parties will quickly develop on independence not just a shadow versions of all the current ones.

  7. The SNP and Greens will likely not talk about lower preference votes, so it's going to fall to Alba to talk a lot about using your rankings wisely. Their literature and PPB should explicitly tell people to rank other indy parties in the same way as they encouraged people to give a vote to the SNP in the Holyrood election. That will very possibly get through to those SNP voters who don't actively despise Alba (which I suspect is a larger group than the SNP might like.)