So the answer to the question "James, why haven't you covered yesterday's Survation poll yet?" is, of course, that I didn't actually notice there was a Survation poll yesterday. Polls have been so thin on the ground recently that I keep forgetting to check for them, so if anyone could devise some sort of alarm system for me, that would be splendid. Anyway, this is an interesting one because it contains independence, Westminster, Holyrood, AND local election voting intention numbers - which to the best of my knowledge makes it only the second poll to specifically ask for voting intentions for the 2022 local elections (the previous one was the Panelbase poll I commissioned myself in the autumn).
Should Scotland be an independent country? (Survation, 24th-28th March 2022)
Yes 47% (-1)
No 53% (+1)
The percentage changes are measured from the most recent Survation poll, which was conducted way back at the time of the Holyrood election last spring. The movement towards No is statistically insignificant, and while we might normally regard a 47/53 split as mildly disappointing, I think in the difficult context of the Ukraine war we just have to be happy that the Yes vote is holding up. We'll get a better sense of where we stand when the war ends - which will hopefully be very, very soon for the sake of the people suffering on the ground.
While I'm on the subject, I should mention that there's also been another poll on independence with even more recent fieldwork, conducted by YouGov on behalf of the deeply eccentric anti-independence propaganda outfit "These Islands". Bearing in mind that YouGov's results tend to be on the No-friendly end of the spectrum, it confirms the impression that nothing much has changed.
Should Scotland be an independent country? (YouGov, 29th-31st March 2022)
Yes 47% (-)
No 53% (-)
Now let's move on to the Holyrood numbers from the Survation poll - and because this is the first Scottish poll conducted by Survation since last May's election, there are no percentage changes for this one.
Scottish Parliament constituency ballot voting intentions (Survation):
Liberal Democrats 7%
Scottish Parliament regional list voting intentions (Survation):
Liberal Democrats 8%
That's the fourth poll in a row, across all firms, to have Alba on 2%, which is a marked improvement on the situation towards the end of last year when most polls were showing Alba on 1% or zero (although admittedly there were two Panelbase polls that didn't even offer Alba as an option). So the hopes from certain quarters that Alba might be in the process of completely fizzling out appear to have been based on wishful thinking. The SNP's low-ish 34% showing on the list, which is similar to what ComRes have been reporting recently, will perhaps raise a few eyebrows, but as I always say, the list results from both Survation and ComRes have to be taken with a pinch of salt because of the way the question is worded. What probably is more significant is the comparatively good showing for Labour on both ballots. If Labour do start to emerge as the main anti-independence challenger to the SNP, that may not be entirely optimal for the independence movement, because we'd probably prefer to frame the choice as being straightforwardly between Tory rule and independence.
Scottish voting intentions for next Westminster general election (Survation):
SNP 45% (-3)
Labour 27% (+7)
Conservatives 19% (-3)
Liberal Democrats 6% (-1)
Again, Labour's figure is a cause for concern here - it's higher than they managed in their mini-comeback year of 2017. On a more positive note, the Tories on this showing would be heading for calamity.
Local elections first preference voting intentions (Survation):
Liberal Democrats 6%
Independent Candidates 1%
I must say I feel slightly vindicated by this, because the local election results from the Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll were criticised at the time on the basis that the SNP were clearly being overestimated, and that "if only there had been a generic independent candidate option", the supposed flaw in the poll would have been easily solved. The Survation poll demonstrates that's a load of nonsense, because even with a generic independent option added, you still get an unrealistically low figure for the independents, and an unrealistically high figure for the SNP. The reality is that unless a poll somehow lists the actual names of independent candidates standing in the individual respondent's ward, it will never accurately capture the support for non-party candidates.
The format of the Survation poll is different from the Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll, because instead of asking respondents which parties they'll give any sort of ranking to, it asks specifically for second preference and third preference votes. But the good news for Alba supporters is that the combined 7% of respondents who plan to give Alba one of their top three preferences is higher than the 6% in the Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll who planned to give Alba any ranking at all.
Percentages of respondents who will give one of their top three rankings to each party:
Liberal Democrats 31%
Independent Candidates 7%
I'm not sure this question format is ideal, though, because I doubt if most respondents were bearing in mind that in some wards it's possible to give your top two or even your top three preferences to candidates from the same party.
There's also a supplementary question that purports to find massive public support for proportional representation...
Proportional Representation is the collective name given to electoral systems which ensure that the proportion of seats a party receives in Parliament closely reflects the proportion of votes they received from voters. To what extent do you support or oppose such a system for elections to the UK Parliament?
TOTAL SUPPORT: 56%
TOTAL OPPOSE: 11%
I suppose we supporters of proportional representation can draw some technical satisfaction from the fact that a particularly favourable question wording can produce a good outcome, but I'm not sure what it proves in the real world. If there was ever a referendum on switching to PR for Westminster, we all know the choice would instead be framed in terms of the importance of "decisive outcomes" and of maintaining the constituency link, and also the supposed danger of a small party (rather than the voters) deciding who to "put into government".
Final thought: I'm bemused by commentary on this poll that breathlessly refers to approval for "the SNP-Green cooperation government". As Orwellian language goes, that's right up there with "special military operation". Let's call a spade a spade: what we have is an SNP-Green coalition government, within which the junior coalition partner has negotiated some special exemptions (very similar in principle, incidentally, to the special exemption the Liberal Democrats negotiated for themselves in the 2010 Westminster coalition with the Tories).
* * *
To catch up with the my Scot Goes Popcast interview with Alba candidate Lisa Keogh, please click HERE
(video version) or HERE