If there was a slight smile on Jim Murphy’s face at the news on Sunday that, according to Panelbase, the SNP’s lead for May’s general election had dropped from 17 points to 10, it will have disappeared on hearing the news from Ipsos MORI for STV last night that with just 24% support, his party is still as much as 28 points behind the SNP on 52%. Such an outcome would likely see all but a small handful of Labour seats fall into nationalist hands.
However, a few words of caution are in order. Ipsos MORI’s previous reading, taken in October, also put the SNP on 52%, with Labour even slightly lower on 23%. However, no other poll has put the SNP lead that high in the intervening three months – the nearest was a Survation poll in December that put the nationalists 24 points ahead. Meanwhile, this poll and Ipsos MORI’s October poll both put the Conservatives (12% in the latest poll) and UKIP (1%) lower than any other poll. These differences do not necessarily mean that Ipsos MORI are wrong, though unlike most other pollsters Ipsos MORI have not weighted their data either by how people said they voted at a previous election or by what they say they did last September and so we cannot tell how politically representative the sample is by those measures. In any event, it certainly is curious that the polling company that for much of the referendum produced the most optimistic figures so far as the Yes side were concerned, Panelbase, has since September been reporting some of the lowest SNP leads, while a company that for much of the referendum reported a relatively low Yes vote, Ipsos MORI, is now putting the SNP further ahead than any other pollster.
Still, given that Ipsos MORI’s poll shows SNP support to be unchanged, it adds to the doubts raised by Monday’s Survation poll about just how much progress, if any, Labour have made in reversing the SNP tide. With little more than 100 days to go to polling day, this latest poll will do nothing to steady the nerves of Scottish Labour MPs, staring as many of them seem to be at the apparent threat of a premature end to their political career.
Equally, this latest poll adds to the evidence of other recent polls that the arrival of Jim Murphy at the helm of Scottish Labour is not in itself a panacea for the party’s troubles. In this poll slightly more say that they are dissatisfied (38%) than satisfied (34%) with the way that he is doing his job as Labour leader. Not only does that leave him trailing Nicola Sturgeon, the boost in whose rating following the announcement that Mr Salmond was standing down is sustained in this poll (69% satisfied, 20% dissatisfied), but it leaves him looking less appealing than his predecessor, Johann Lamont, with whom last August 40% were satisfied and only 34% dissatisfied. Meanwhile, rather more people say they are less likely to vote Labour now that Mr Murphy is leader (28%) than say they are more likely to do so (20%). Nationalist supporters seem particularly unwilling to be attracted by the East Renfrewshire MP’s elevation.
Mind you at least Mr Murphy is doing better than Mr Miliband (21% satisfied, 66% dissatisfied), whose figures, as in Ipsos MORI’s previous poll, are even worse than those of Mr Cameron (27% satisfied, 67% dissatisfied). Not perhaps the best of backdrops against which to try and persuade voters to back Labour in order to get Mr Cameron out of Downing St.?
About the author
John Curtice is Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University, Senior Research Fellow at ScotCen and at 'UK in a Changing Europe', and Chief Commentator on the What Scotland Thinks website.