Wednesday 16 February 2011

Polling along in the blue ...

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!


Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

Calum - why aren't we hearing any details of a televised leaders debate; purely for transmission in Scotland, covering Scottish affairs etc?

J. R. Tomlin said...

Doncha just love it? So... the SNP has lost it and will die to a swell of Labour goodness, will they? According to pundits--two days ago.

Dearie me. I haven't seen quite so much backpedaling from some of the usual suspects in quite a while. All the time, trying their best to ignore the TRUTH about the dirty nature of Labour's double-dealing on al-Megrahi.

As an outsider, I still find Scottish politics just fascinating.

Anonymous said...

Opinion polls, even when accurate, do not predict election outcomes. At best they give a snapshot of how people might vote in a hypothetical election held on the day the survey is conducted.
For this reason it is best to take the hype and analysis surrounding all opinion polls with a large pinch of salt, especially when sophisticated statistical analysis is applied to tiny sub-samples.

Just for fun, however, let's imagine a scenario (NOT a prediction) based on the assumption that the 10.5 p.c. swing from Labour to SNP suggested by this latest poll is not only maintained but increased during the actual election campaign. Imagine that a further 10p.c. swing is achieved, giving the SNP 42 p.c against Labour's
31p.c. in the constituency section and 40 p.c. to 28p.c. in the lists (ignoring the other parties for the purpose of the exercise). Running these projections through the WeberShandwick seat predictor gives the following result: SNP 59, Labour 38, Conservative 14, LibDem 12, Green 5 and Margo.
There is, in this unlikely but nonetheless plausible scenario, still no outright victory for the SNP and yet again we face a repeat of the choice between minority government and coalition.

One thing, however, has changed dramatically: there is now a theoretical majority for independence, for the first time since the Parliament re-convened.
Between them the SNP, Greens and Margo account for 65 seats, as against 64for the unionist parties combined. The game would be changed for ever.

Realistically such an outcome is unlikely but it is still sufficiently within the bounds of possibility as to be worth considering.If the bookies can be persuaded to quote odds it might well be worth a modest wager.

Calum Cashley said...

There was a rumour that the BBC was to have a series of subject debates so Nicola lines up against oppo health people, Kenny against oppo justice people, John against oppo finance and so on, culminating in a leaders' debate.

Don't know whether it's true, though.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

Calum - thanks for the link to subrosa.

subrosa said...

I reiterate Crinkly Calum. Many thanks.