State of the Polls: January 2016

Although I’m sure some will disagree, politics over the last few years has been tremendously exciting – with more twists and turns in the dramas of governance than we have seen in decades beforehand.  If you’d predicted the events of the last 18 months: from the surge in support for Scottish independence before it’s defeat in the referendum, the tsunami of support for the SNP in the following General Election, a Tory victory against all the odds in that same election and the election of staunch left-winger Jeremy Corbyn as leader of New Labour – then you’d have been guessing and getting very lucky indeed.

This year could prove to be just as tumultuous, with many major votes taking place this year that will shape the fate of Scotland, Britain, Europe and the world.

The reputation of polling has taken a battering since it was so off-the-mark in predicting May’s General Election, but it is still the best indicator that we have of what’s to come in politics in 2016.

So here’s the first of many looks at what the results could be of the major decisions the public face in this big year.

Scottish Parliament Elections

Complacency is the only thing that could possibly bring the SNP juggernaut down at the moment, as they are on course to surge to an even stronger majority at Holyrood in the forthcoming elections.  Polls are showing that Scotland sees no credible opposition to the SNP and even less of an alternative for government.

Unfortunately, there has only been one poll released in the last month but it does show that the SNP are set to increase their vote share in both constituency and list votes.


Date Poll Comp. Sample SNP Lab Con LibDem UKIP Green Other
16 Nov – 14 Dec TNS-BMRB 1,035 58% 21% 12% 4% 4%


Date Poll Comp. Sample SNP Lab Con LibDem UKIP Green Other
16 Nov – 14 Dec TNS-BMRB 1,035 54% 20% 12% 4% 1% 9% 0%

The overall result may be a foregone conclusion already, but the jockeying for position behind the winner may be the interesting part of the election.  Labour look likely to lose ground, but amongst the other parties – Conservatives, Lib Dems and Greens – the question is how much support can they pick up.  A Conservative charge seems to be on the cards if you look at the polling numbers, but when it’s translated into seats it means little difference because Labour trump them on vote shares.  The Lib Dems too would be hoping to kick off their fightback with a good showing in May, but their rivals look to be the Greens – who will promote a similarly liberal, more strongly environmental and much more strongly pro-independence cause across Scotland.  It’s also worth considering the efforts that may be made by the ideological fringe parties of RISE on the left and UKIP on the right as they seek to gain a place in the Scottish Parliament on the back of support in the list vote.


Britain’s EU referendum

While we still don’t have a date set in stone for when the British public will decide on whether to remain or leave the European Union, the prevailing wisdom is that it will be scheduled at some point this year.  First, negotiations between the Government and the EU will take place to earn Britain a stronger opt-out of regulations regarding immigration and benefits, two sticking points that the Prime Minister sees as issues where Britain disagrees with the rest of Europe and can abide by no longer.  Once these negotiations take place, and solutions whatever-they-may-be are found, the Prime Minister will ask us to decide whether to accept them and remain within the EU or to leave.

At the moment, the British public are deadlocked over our relationship with Europe – with the vote far too close to call.  This contrasts with opinion in Scotland, which is decisively more pro-EU than in England and Wales, which has led to further speculation about a potential second independence referendum should the UK leave the EU but Scotland vote to stay:

Here are the polls at the moment:

Date Poll Comp. Sample Remain Leave Don’t Know
17-18 Dec YouGov 1,598 41% 42% 17%
12-14 Dec Ipsos MORI 1,040 58% 32% 10%
11-13 Dec ICM 2,053 42% 41% 17%
11-13 Dec ComRes 1,001 56% 35% 8%
30 Nov – 3 Dec Survation 10,015 40% 42% 18%

However, what can’t be missed here is that the public overwhelmingly favours staying in the EU if reforms are considered good enough.  That will be the bone of contention that will define the referendum, but with the likelihood that David Cameron and most of his cabinet will champion the cause of the EU along with the Lib Dems and the rump of the fractured Labour Party, the chances are that the public will be presented with a vision of a stronger Britain within the EU and will vote to stay.

We saw with Scotland’s independence referendum though that a lot can change in a few months, so it’s not early enough to call the result by any means.


US Presidential Election

We’ve all heard plenty already about the forthcoming US Presidential Election, but it’s worth remembering that for all the bluster around Trump and Clinton – not a single vote has been cast in their favour for either nomination.  That changes soon.


Clinton Sanders O’Malley Other
60% 33% 4% 3%

Hillary Clinton is way out in front for the Democratic race, with Bernie Sanders failing to make up the ground so far that would be needed to make it a close primary.  If Clinton manages to take Iowa and New Hampshire, it would be time for her to prepare for the general campaign – with a head-start being helpful in getting a message across to the American public at large before they vote in November.


Trump Cruz Rubio Carson Bush Christie Paul Fiorina Other Huckabee Santorum
37% 19% 12% 10% 6% 4% 3% 3% 3% 1% 1%

For the Republicans, Donald Trump is holding strong as the favourite for the nomination – but the primary campaign is a challenge unlike any he has faced before, and the regional politics of each state’s primary could prove more nuanced and tricky for Trump than national grandstanding.  Despite his huge lead in nationwide polls, Trump isn’t ahead by much in Iowa and New Hampshire – and this is where the wheels could come off the wagon for him.  If another candidate gains enough momentum and can portray themselves as a viable Presidential election winner, then that might means that they get the nod rather than Trump.

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