Amongst the plethora of holiday polling, the SNP reported with some satisfaction Panelbase’s finding (based on the Scottish poll it conducted for the party just before Xmas) that the party was eight points ahead of Labour on constituency voting intentions for the Scottish Parliament and nine points on list voting. As the party itself noted, it is quite an achievement for a government that has now been in power for over six years to still be so far ahead of its opponents.
There was, however, a sting in the tail. At 40% on both votes, this was in fact the lowest level of support that Panelbase have registered for the SNP in any poll it has conducted since the nationalists’ remarkable victory in 2011. Indeed, only a month previously Panelbase had put SNP support on 44% on the constituency vote and 43% on the list.
More importantly, this poll result fits part of a wider picture that suggests SNP support fell during the course of last year.
First, there is the evidence from Panelbase itself. In four polls it conducted in 2012, on average it put SNP support at 47% on the constituency vote and 46% on the list. In three polls it conducted between September and December 2013, those two averages fell to 43% in both cases.
Second, in three polls it conducted in 2012, Ipsos MORI on average put the SNP on 44% on the constituency vote (the only vote about which it asked). In two polls conducted between September and December, the SNP averaged just 38%.
Finally, the SNP averaged 42% and 38% in three polls conducted by YouGov in 2012. In the two polls from that organisation last autumn, those figures had slipped to 38% and 34% respectively.
The SNP may still be relatively popular as a party, but there now seems to be little doubt that its popularity has waned somewhat from the heights of 2011. That will not make the Yes side’s task of changing minds on independence any easier in the nine months that are left.