Final Polls Still Show SNP Well Ahead

The final two polls of voting intentions in Scotland for the general election were released late last night. The first was by Survation for the Daily Record, the second by YouGov for The Times and The Sun. The YouGov poll was in fact a boosted Scottish sub-sample of a much larger Britain-wide poll, but as it contains over 1,300 respondents it can reasonably be regarded as a full-sized poll of the Scottish electorate.
Both polls confirm the impression of the Panelbase poll released yesterday that there has not been a substantial change to the balance of public opinion in the final days of the campaign.

Survation put the SNP on 49%, down two points on the company’s previous poll in the third week of April, but their estimate of Labour support has also dropped a point to 25%.

YouGov estimate the SNP are on 48%, down one point on a week ago, though they now put Labour up two points on 28%.

All of these movements could simply be the result of the chance variation to which all polls are potentially subject.  Still, the effect of today’s polls is to reduce the SNP lead over Labour in our poll of polls from 25 points to 23 points.

The Survation poll does, however, contain a second measure of voting intentions. Here respondents were presented with a mock version of the ballot paper with which they will be presented today at the polling station, reminded of the constituency in which they will be voting, and then asked for which candidate they will vote. The aim of the exercise is to identify the possible impact both of tactical voting and the personal popularity of individual candidates.

On this basis the SNP’s tally is estimated to be a little lower on 46%, while Labour are slightly higher on 26%. As we might anticipate given the degree to which Liberal Democrat MPs tend to be reliant on their personal popularity in their quest for votes, the Liberal Democrat tally also rises a point (from 6% to 7%), while the Conservatives slip back a point on this measure from 16% to 15%. The somewhat lower level of SNP support evinced by this exercise suggests that the fact that many of their candidates are relatively unknown may prove to be a disadvantage where the contest is especially tight.

Indeed, looking at the detail of the poll, much of the reason for the difference in the two sets of figures lies in the responses of those who initially said they were undecided how they would vote but felt able to say for which individual candidate they might vote. As many as 35% said they would back their local Labour candidate, whereas only 21% said they would chose the SNP candidate in their constituency. Name recognition may be of particular importance to uncommitted voters. Otherwise there is some evidence that Conservative supporters in particular may switch to voting Liberal Democrat or Labour in their constituency, perhaps tactically against the SNP, but even so this group constitutes no more than 11% of all Conservative supporters.

Today’s Survation poll also contains another reminder, if one were needed, that we should not regard whatever gains the SNP may make in the election as evidence that Scotland has swung in favour of independence. The company reports that while 44% would now vote in favour of independence, 48% are opposed.  If the SNP do well in the election, it will tell us as much about the workings of the first past the post electoral system as it does about the balance of public opinion on the independence debate.

Topics: Elections, parties & leaders

About the author

John Curtice is Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University, Senior Research Fellow at ScotCen, and Chief Commentator on the What Scotland Thinks website.