Today’s Sun contains another poll of voting intentions for the general election in Scotland. Conducted by YouGov before last Thursday’s leaders’ debate (and the row about what Nicola Sturgeon supposedly said to the French Ambassador), it puts the SNP on 46%, unchanged from the company’s previous full sized Scottish poll undertaken in the middle of March. Labour are on 29%, up two points and the party’s highest share in any YouGov poll conducted since the referendum. But given that still leaves Labour as much as 17 points behind, it is hardly much cause for Jim Murphy to celebrate.
The fieldwork for today’s poll was in fact completed before the Panelbase poll that appeared in yesterday’s Sunday Times. But including it in our poll of polls series means that our figures are revised slightly, with Labour edging up a point to 28% (where it last was in the middle of March), and both the Liberal Democrats and UKIP slipping back to 4%.
Meanwhile, the poll provides further evidence on why Labour’s attempt to persuade SNP voters that they need to vote Labour in order to ensure that David Cameron does not retain the tenancy of 10 Downing St is having so little effect. Almost two-thirds (65%) of SNP supporters say they do not know which of David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg would make the best Prime Minister. Meanwhile even amongst those who do have a view, Mr Miliband only leads Mr Cameron by 19% to 13%. It looks as though many a SNP supporter is simply indifferent about who is Prime Minister after May 7th and that there is certainly little enthusiasm for the prospect of Ed Miliband occupying that office.
The picture is not that different when voters are asked to choose between George Osborne and Ed Balls as Chancellor. Again 65% of SNP supporters say they don’t know which would make the better Chancellor, though at least Mr Balls has a rather clearer lead over his Conservative rival amongst those who do express a preference – by 23% to 12%.
The prospect of a SNP landslide on May 7th will, of course, give rise to speculation that Scotland has changed its mind since last September and now wishes to leave the UK. This does not necessarily follow. Today’s poll confirms the finding of YouGov’s previous poll that there is in fact still a small majority against independence – by 51% to 49% once the Don’t Knows are left aside. Both that poll and today’s poll stand in contrast with three earlier YouGov polls that did put Yes narrowly ahead. If the SNP do win a landslide, it will be consequence of using the first past the post electoral system rather than of any dramatic change in attitudes towards the constitutional question since last September.
While discussing polling from YouGov we might note that on 25 March Scottish editions of The Times published the figures from the Scottish sub-sample of a mega GB-wide poll of over 8,000 voters. Despite its large overall size, the poll still only contained just over 600 respondents in Scotland, and thus it has not been included in our poll of polls series. In fact, the reported vote intentions, SNP 45%, Labour 27%, Conservatives 15%, Liberal Democrat 6%, did nothing to disturb the consensus as to where the balance of opinion lies. The poll did though uncover some interesting evidence suggesting that Labour has lost much of the reservoir of affection and loyalty that once underpinned its vote north of the border. No less than 45% of people in Scotland said that ‘Labour used to care about the concerns of people like me, but doesn’t nowadays’, well above the equivalent figure of 28% amongst voters across Britain as a whole.
Scotland is, of course, not alone in having a debate about how it should be governed in future. The parties will also be putting forward different prospectuses for England too, including in the case of the Conservatives, ‘English Votes for English Laws’. The website Labour List, recently published some polling by Survation that addressed another possible solution to the asymmetry created by the current constitutional settlement, English devolution.
The results arguably served to underline how difficult it is to identify clear and coherent support for the idea. True, no less than 61% of people in England agree that, ‘Too much of England is run from London’ (a feeling that is particularly evident in the Midlands and the North). At the same time more people in England (50%) believe that ‘more economic powers should be delivered at local or regional level’ than reckon economic powers should continue to be exercised at a national level (31%). But only 44% actually endorse the idea that there should be similar devolution to the ‘regions and communities across England’ as that now enjoyed by Scotland and Wales. Meanwhile, when asked how power should be devolved away from London, opinion was more or less equally divided between doing so to local councils (33%) and to new regional bodies (31%). Labour’s proposed Constitutional Convention will have plenty to talk about if it ever does see the light of day.
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.