State of the Polls: February 2015

You might have noticed that generally the poll of polls in the months running up to elections are fairly static. The Conservatives and Labour have hovered in and around the 33% mark for months and months, since the independence referendum here in Scotland last September at least, and you might think then that the idea of polling months before an election might be a little worthless. There’s some truth to that, but at this stage of an election it’s the little changes that mean a lot. And if there are any big changes, they mean something huge could happen in May.

We got one of those huge changes on Wednesday, as Lord Ashcroft’s polling of 15 Scottish constituencies confirmed the explosion in SNP support here and showed that some of the safest Labour seats in the country are under serious and potentially lethal threat at the General Election. The big swings towards the SNP since September have been treated with caution by many sections of the political commetariat. Of course it isn’t going to be reflected across the country, some said. There will be a massive rise in seats where the SNP are ahead but more measured gains in others, others said. Lord Ashcroft is predicting that out of the 15 seats polled, the SNP will win all but one of them – and that one is Glasgow North-East where Labour won with a whopping majority of 54% but are now only 5 percentage points in the lead.

Labour figures such as Douglas Alexander, Margaret Curran and Anas Sarwar are all in danger of losing their seats according to these polls, as is Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander who is 31 percentage points behind in his constituency of Inverness, Badenoch and Strathspey. Alex Salmond will win comfortably as he seeks election in the Gordon constituency. Although only 15 of Scotland’s 59 seats were polled, these results have sent shockwaves around the Scottish political landscape and have shown that every seat in Scotland is up for grabs – just as the uniform ratio swing that I and many other predictors of the May results have been using. Only a dip in SNP support between now and May will stop an extremely strong presence from them in the Commons in May.

In other UK-wide polling news, the Greens have risen further in the public’s voting intentions – polling just behind the Lib Dems. Their increased exposure in the last month with the arguments surrounding the Leaders’ Debate has meant that many more people up and down the country are seeing them as a viable option for their vote. Their figures in England are most impressive, hitting as high as 10 and 11% in individual polls, but that support isn’t really being picked up here in Scotland – despite the party’s booming membership here. The reason for this I feel is that with the Scottish Green Party’s prominent role in the independence campaign the interests of their voters at the moment are securing more powers for Scotland, and they are intending to vote tactically to temporarily boost SNP support so that more of their candidates are returned.

Here’s the current poll of polls across the UK:

Con Lab LibDem UKIP Green Other
31% (-1) 33% (-) 7% (-2) 16% (+1) 6% (+1) 6% (-)

And here’s how the polls look for here in Scotland:

SNP Lab Con LibDem UKIP Green Other
46% (+1) 26% 14% (-1) 6% (+1) 4% (-) 3% (-) 1% (-)

Now taking the poll of polls for each individual country of the UK (with England and Wales being listed on my dedicated polling pages) and the latest Lord Ashcroft constituency poling into account, here is the current prediction of how many seats each party would end up with if there was a General Election just now:

Party MPs Change
Conservatives 267 -36
Labour 279 22
Lib Dems 20 -38
SNP 54 48
Plaid Cymru 3 0
UKIP 6 4
Green 1 0
Sinn Fein 5 -3
DUP 9 6
SDLP 3 3
UUP 1 -1
Independents 0 0
Other 2 2

Elsewhere in polling, there has been a small shift in UK opinion towards the European Union – which now pushes the levels of support for staying within it ahead of leaving in any potential referendum on the subject. The subject is definitely still fragile, and the focus on the NHS and the Leaders’ Debates in January has likely shifted the focus of the public away from the subjects of immigration and EU intervention in domestic politics, which are certainly likely to drive up support for leaving. Here are the current stats UK-wide:

Stay In Leave Don’t Know
41% 37% 22%

 

Stay In Leave
52% 48%

On Scottish independence, a new YouGov poll conducted last week showed that support for Scotland leaving the UK was up at 53% (with Don’t Knows excluded) – the highest level ever recorded by the pollster. This will no doubt be impacted by the continued poor public perception of the performance of the Smith Commission and the fulfilment of the Vow, and will also definitely be related to the SNP’s current surge in support. While there is no imminent referendum at hand the figures may be little more than an indicator, but the support in Scotland for independence has certainly grown since the referendum with two-thirds of polls on the subject since the 18th of September showing support for independence.

Here’s the current poll of polls on Scottish independence:

Yes No Undecided
48% 46% 6%

 

Yes No
51.35% 48.65%

A new poll I’m introducing for this month is that for the Holyrood elections in 2016, which are now fifteen months away. The SNP managed to claim a majority in the Scottish Parliament in 2011, something thought nigh-on impossible with the AMS voting system put in place there, and with the current figures they are on course to do the same next year – although it’s worth noting that they are enjoying nowhere near the bump in the vote for the Scottish Parliament elections that they are for Westminster.

The good thing about Holyrood’s proportional system though is that seat numbers can be calculated slightly more accurately, based on the constituency and regional vote. Here’s the current poll of polls for the constituency and regional vote in 2016:

Constituency

SNP Lab Con LibDem UKIP Green Other
51% 26% 12% 5% 2% 4% 0%

Regional

SNP Lab Con LibDem UKIP Green Other
43% 24% 13% 5% 4% 9% 3%

And here is how those figures would translate into seats:

Party Cons Region MSPs
SNP 67 2 69
Labour 4 28 32
Conservative 1 14 15
Lib Dem 1 3 4
Green 0 8 8
UKIP 0 1 1

The changes aren’t all that drastic, with the biggest winners being the Greens going up by 6 MSPs (quadrupling their seats) and the SNP gaining 4 seats with the biggest losers being Labour with 5 seats gone. Interestingly, it appears that UKIP would win a list MSP in the Highlands & Islands, although this is based off the notion that their support was highest there in the 2011 election which may have changed in the interim.

The story of the month in the polls then is that the SNP surge in Scotland has been confirmed, the Greens are on the rise in England, we’re warming to the EU and independence is still on Scots’ minds.

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