Mario Lanza couldn't have sung it any better. There's plenty of comment out there on the latest poll for May's election that shows the SNP ahead of Labour and it's all well worth reading with the indications being that the SNP lead, if maintained into the election, could result in an SNP Government second term. It's still too close to call, of course, but there are encouraging signs. The gender gap in SNP support is closing - it's not closed yet by any manner of means but it is closing - and the issues that people think are important are chiming with what we (the SNP) have been saying and continue to say. Let's take a look at a couple of points, though, starting with one which the Peat Worrier touched on; the party leader approval ratings.
Salmond's rating is +16%, Gray's rating is -1%, Goldie's rating is +2%, and Scott's rating is -8%. That will put a wee grin on the coupon of the First Minister but there's something else in there just as interesting - only 14% of respondents didn't have an opinion on Salmond's performance while 33% didn't know about Gray, 38% about Goldie and 40% about Scott. Does that matter? Well, my experience has been that everyone has an opinion on politicians they know about so I'll assume that 86% of the population sample know who the First Minister is (there's probably a few who do know who he is but haven't made up their minds yet), and reducing numbers know who the others are. That's a massive assumption on my part, though, and may be wrong; but if I'm right you have the interesting point that more than half of the sample (51%) approve of Salmond and only a few don't know (14%), whereas 67% don't know about Gray or disapprove of him, 68% don't know or disapprove for Goldie, and 74% don't know or disapprove of Scott. Is it important? It may be - especially when electors are having a look at the runners and riders for Government and making a decision about which party is well led and which senior party members would make good Ministers in addition to choosing their local representative. Makes it interesting, I think especially when you turn it round - Salmond has a 51% approval rating against a 35% disapproval, meaning that his approval numbers beat the approval numbers of all the other leaders, but his disapproval ratings beat their approval ratings as well as their approval ratings - still that in the bowl and mix it!
And so to tax - it and death, we are told are the only two certainties. The tax question showed a clear lead for all income tax to be set and collected in Scotland with the second choice being all income tax set and collected by the Whitehall Government. The least popular answer was the Calman Commission proposal with a figure which only just beats one in four, so I guess that's a short answer on that bizarre scheme:
I would prefer all income tax to be set and collected by the UK government as it is at present 32%
I would prefer some income tax to be set and collected by the UK government and some by the Scottish government 27%
I would prefer all income tax to be set and collected by the Scottish government 37%
Don’t know 4%
Here's another thing, though; the opinion poll is a massive bump for the SNP since the TNS poll published in the Herald in January, but the trends shown by Ipsos are also interesting, let's start with SNP v Labour. Three recent polls, Aug 2010, Nov 2010, Feb 2011, and starting with the constituency vote:
SNP 34%, 31%, 37%
Labour 37%, 41%, 36%
that went from within the margin of error to quite far outside it and then snapped right back into it - neck and neck (although the SNP is now ahead by a thin margin). The Conservatives and Lid Dems, meanwhile stayed within the margin of error but swapped places at the extremes of it which some might suggest is the Conservatives benefiting from their coalition at the expense of their coalition partners:
Con 11%, 13%, 13%
LD 13%, 11%, 10%
Look at the Additional Member vote, though, and a very clear pattern emerges:
SNP 29%, 32%, 35%
Lab 38%, 36%, 33%
When the electors are looking at the parties their approval is on the move from Labour to the SNP - it's a 5.5% swing over six months and the trendlines in those two supports is definite. For the other two parties there isn't much news to report:
Con 12%, 12%, 13%
LD 12%, 9%, 10%
and the Greens are up from 5% to 6% - still not at the races.
What does it all mean? Well, as Brian Taylor says in his piece, each opinion poll is only a snapshot, it's trends that are important, and it would seem that the trends are tending to favour the brave. In the words of a former Leader of the Labour Party Group in the Scottish Parliament, bring it on!