Thursday, September 14, 2023

One swallow does not make a summer, but give the SNP leadership their due: YouGov have just served up a rare sighting of a relatively good poll for the party

Scottish voting intentions for the next UK general election (YouGov, 8th-13th September 2023):

SNP 38% (+2)
Labour 27% (-5)
Conservatives 16% (+1)
Liberal Democrats 7% (+1)

Seats projection (with changes from 2019 general election): SNP 39 (-9), Labour 11 (+10), Liberal Democrats 5 (+1), Conservatives 4 (-2)

This appears to be the second largest Westminster lead for the SNP in any poll from any firm since Humza Yousaf became First Minister, and it's substantially bigger than any lead they've had since June.

If the above was actually the outcome of the election, the SNP would feel they'd had a major result.  Although they would have lost a significant number of seats, they'd have dodged the main bullet of losing their majority and their leading party status.  Every instinct in my body suggests it's not going to be quite that simple, though.  It's only the blink of an eye since a Redfield & Wilton poll showed them losing their lead altogether.  It may be that normal sampling variation led YouGov to flatter the SNP's position and Redfield & Wilton to understate it.  But even by raising that possibility, the YouGov poll is moderately good news for the SNP because it's a strong signal that things may not be quite as bad as Redfield & Wilton made them look.

As ever, the biggest caveat is that Westminster elections are 'away fixtures' for the SNP, because coverage of the campaign seen by Scottish voters will in the closing weeks be flooded by the London-based media, who for the most part will only be interested in reporting Labour and the Tories.  To overcome that disadvantage, the SNP will need to start the campaign with a 'BBC-proof' lead, and I'm not convinced that even an 11-point lead would quite cut it.

The other important note of caution here is that the SNP's lead has grown largely due to Labour going backwards rather than the SNP themselves going forwards.  The 38% vote share for the SNP is actually pretty similar to their 36% in the previous YouGov poll and their 37% in the one before that.  It's true that in a first-past-the-post election, by far the most important factor is the gap between the most popular party and the second placed party, so in one sense the SNP's own lack of progress doesn't necessarily matter.  But nevertheless it's a reminder that 38% doesn't make them remotely safe if Labour bounce back at the expense of other parties.

On the independence question, the No lead has increased from two points to five since the last YouGov poll, before the exclusion of Don't Knows.  That doesn't worry me in the slightest, because the previous two-point lead was miraculously low by the normal standards of YouGov, who are generally on the No-friendly end of the spectrum.  We're just seeing a modest reversion to the mean, and a five-point deficit for Yes is still pretty healthy in YouGov terms.

Scottish Parliament constituency ballot:

SNP 41% (-)
Labour 28% (-3)
Conservatives 16% (+2)
Liberal Democrats 8% (+1)
Greens 3% (-)

Scottish Parliament regional list ballot:

SNP 33% (+1)
Labour 25% (-3)
Conservatives 16% (+2)
Greens 11% (-)
Liberal Democrats 8% (-)

Seats projection (with changes from 2021 election): SNP 59 (-5), Labour 32 (+10), Conservatives 20 (-11), Greens 10 (+2), Liberal Democrats 8 (+4)

The Holyrood trend mirrors that of Westminster, with the SNP lead growing by default due to Labour seemingly losing votes to other unionist parties.  I dare say it will be pointed out in some quarters that YouGov are in agreement with Redfield & Wilton in suggesting the pro-independence majority at Holyrood is on course to be maintained, but in fact the two polls could hardly be more different.  The projection of a pro-indy majority from the Redfield & Wilton numbers was really just a statistical quirk that would never have played out in the real world, whereas in YouGov's case it's built on much more solid foundations, with a substantial SNP advantage on both ballots.

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  1. There was a UK level poll at the weekend which showed the SNP up one. I thought that that was odd given the context of everything that is going on, but perhaps not.

  2. Fewer and fewer 'Our Precious Union' T-shirts on the streets these days. Lots have obviously given up on this London rule nonsense.

    1. And conversely, the numbers attending pro-independence marches is increasing steadily. A real change is in the air, that's for sure, and it's not good for Westminster.

    2. Yup. That's been very noticeable.