Since the new year, we have begun to see the General Election campaigns really kick off in earnest – with both the Conservatives and Labour launching posters that outline their core arguments for the battle ahead. The Conservatives are playing upon their track record with the economy, with polls suggesting they are more trusted with the keys to the Treasury than their Labour counterparts, while Labour are going on the offensive about the NHS, pressing home their advantage in opinion polls surrounding the issue. These will likely be the themes we’ll hear most about between now and May, with both parties trying to shore up their vote in the face of an unprecedented onslaught from traditionally smaller parties.
Here is the current GB-wide poll of polls (with change from last month in brackets):
|32% (+1)||33% (-)||9% (+2)||15% (-2)||5% (-1)||6% (-)|
Here in Scotland the battlegrounds are beginning to emerge as well. The SNP have launched their offensive for the General Election with the argument that a strong SNP contingent in Westminster would help them secure a better deal for Scotland, with strong devolution. Their plans seem to be working, as despite a brief, small but noticeable dip in performance during December as new Labour leader Jim Murphy brought a lot of attention to what was Scotland’s traditional choice for Westminster, the SNP still lead by a huge margin in the poll of polls. Labour seem to be announcing new policies left and right, but their claims – such as Murphy’s policy that they would create 1000 more nurses than the SNP would offer to – have been subject to ridicule so far.
Here is Scotland’s Westminster poll of polls (with change from last month in brackets):
|45% (+2)||26% (+1)||15% (-2)||5% (-1)||4% (-1)||3% (+1)||1% (-)|
And here is how the state of the parties has changed in Scotland over the last two months:
All-in-all this produces a rather hazy forecast in terms of which party will come out on top in May. Predictions on seat numbers are extremely volatile, as there are no concrete ways of projecting how national polling will translate into constituency polling, but with a simple ratio swing across the country’s constituencies here is how the current results would turn out.
These predictions would put Labour 25 MPs short of a majority in the Commons, meaning that a coalition with the SNP would be the most effective way of forming a Government.
This month I will be attempting to change my forecasting model to take into account the extensive constituency polling done by Lord Ashcroft and Survation between the last General Election and now, so that rather than relying on applying national polls to situations that are now 5 years old, I will be using more recent snapshots of what is going on in seats across the country. This will hopefully provide a more solid idea of where the tide is really turning, especially in terms of which seats UKIP and the Greens are running strong as well as how much of an impact the SNP are really making in Scotland.
In other polling news, there was one new poll released regarding Britain’s attitudes towards a potential EU membership referendum – with YouGov reporting that Brits would narrowly vote to remain within the EU. However, when held together with ComRES’ poll the month before – the only two polls from within the last two months – the averages would still suggest that the UK would vote to leave (although the figures fall within the 2% margin of error), although Scotland would vote to stay.
Here is the GB-wide poll of polls on EU membership (with change since last month in brackets):
|Stay In||Leave||Don’t Know|
|39% (+3)||40% (-5)||21% (+2)|
|49% (+5)||51% (-5)|
Here is the Scottish poll of polls on EU membership (with change since last month in brackets):
|Stay In||Leave||Don’t Know|
|53% (+4)||32% (-2)||16% (-2)|
|63% (+4)||37% (-4)|
The other issue that exists in Scottish/UK politics at the moment is still the question of Scottish independence. There have been two polls in the last month on the issue within Scotland, and held together they suggest that Scots would now narrowly vote for independence if they were given another chance (although the figures fall within the 2% margin of error)
Here is the poll of polls (with change since last month in brackets):
|48% (+2)||47% (-)||6% (-2)|
|50.74% (+1)||49.26% (-1)|
There have also been two polls released since the Smith Commission released its plans for further devolution to Scotland, and in both the attitude of the Scottish public was that the powers recommended for devolution to the Scottish Parliament were not enough.
Here is the poll of polls, taking into account both a YouGov and an ICM poll:
|Not Enough||Okay||Too Far|
So while these polls provide a snapshot of how the political opinion polls suggest the UK public view politics at the moment, things will undoubtedly change over the next month as manifestos are compiled by the main parties and the major battle lines of the General Election are drawn further.