State of the Polls: December 2014

We’re just under five months away from the General Election, and when we ring in the New Year you can be certain that the campaigning and electioneering of all major political parties will begin to ramp up as they begin to stake their claim for your vote.

Next year’s General Election is going to be fascinating. Normally they are two dimensional contests, with the Tories and Labours battling it out for Government and the Lib Dems providing little more than a mild attempt at becoming a coalition partner. Of course the last election showed that they could be just that, as they got into Government for the first time since World War II, but since then they have suffered a catastrophe in the polls – as they have fallen from around a 23% share around the time of the last election to regularly falling behind even the Greens.

The Lib Dems’ loss has led to British politics becoming more fragmented than ever. As those voters sought to find a new party, they have scattered wildly. Of course both Labour and the Greens have picked up voters from those looking to identify with a party on the left-wing, but what has happened is that UKIP have filled the third party vacuum left by the yellows – by providing almost polar opposite policies but doing so in the frame of increasing Euroscepticism and anti-immigration sentiment.

Another factor to consider is what has happened here in Scotland over the last six months, as the independence referendum has completely shifted the goalposts in Scottish politics. Scotland was always set to vote Labour in General Elections, a fact that could be relied on ever since the days of Margaret Thatcher – but the efforts of Labour to fight against independence, despite as many as 28% of their Scottish voters voting Yes, has seen them face an enormous public backlash that has resulted in a complete role reversal in the election forecasts. The SNP now stand to gain 20 or 30 seats while Labour will suffer losses of around the same, which means that the SNP stand a very real chance of being the third largest party in the UK parliament and the kingmakers for any potential coalition deal. New leader Nicola Sturgeon has already confirmed that they would not go into agreement with the Tories, but the door is left ajar for Labour – with the SNP looking to play a very strong hand in forcing through more powers from Scotland in exchange for propping up a Labour government.

Here is how things are shaping up at the moment, courtesy of my polling averages of multiple polling organisations:

Con Lab LibDem UKIP Green Other
31% 33% 7% 17% 6% 6%

And although not an altogether accurate measure in the current political climate, here is a rough guide as to how those votes would translate into seats with a national swing:

Party MPs Change
Conservatives 259 -44
Labour 294 37
Lib Dems 21 -37
SNP 45 39
Plaid Cymru 3 0
UKIP 6 4
Green 1 0
Sinn Fein 5 -3
DUP 8 5
SDLP 3 3
UUP 1 -1
Independents 0 0
Other 4 4

The other major issue in UK politics at the moment is the issue of our relationship with EU, with both the Conservatives and UKIP promising a referendum on our EU membership if they are elected into Government in the next Parliament. The current political climate has become extremely hostile to the EU, with UKIP’s rise in the polls being almost entirely due to the issue and the fact that they became the first party other than the Tories or Labour to win a national election this year when they topped the polls in the European Parliament vote back in May showing the public’s dissatisfaction with the organisation.

At the moment the polls are very close, although it would appear that the British public would currently vote to leave the EU if the vote was held now. Here’s the poll of polls:

Stay In Leave Don’t Know
36% 45% 19%

Interestingly enough, Scotland has consistently been more in favour of EU membership in the relevant polls, though. With our different value sets being evident, here are the current polling figures.

Stay In Leave Don’t Know
49% 34% 17%

The interesting thing going into the next parliament then, from a Scottish perspective, is that the prospect of a second independence referendum is very real – particularly if the Westminster parties are seen to block progress on further Scottish devolution despite what will be firm pressure from the SNP’s larger delegation and if there is a vote on EU membership where Scotland is taken out of the EU against its’ will. These two features would prove a decisive contradiction to the arguments used by the No side in the latter stages of the referendum, where the Scottish people were told that voting No would bring “extensive new powers” in a “safer and faster” way than independence and that voting Yes could see Scotland booted out of the EU.

Attitudes to Scottish independence have also been covered in recent polls, and considering the pollsters’ new ability to weight their results by the way people voted on September 18th, it shows that there is indeed further support for independence even just three months after the vote.

Yes No Undecided
46.4% 46.5% 7%

It’s a fascinating time in Scottish and UK politics, and next year is going to feature a lot of exciting moments in the way our country is run. These polls provide an indication as to how things will go, but as we saw with the run-up to the referendum – five months is a long, long time in politics.

 

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