Labour in poll position…. maybe

It only takes one poll and suddenly the blogosphere is a lather with New Year predictions for the Holyrood elections in May.   The boys at Better Nation got into a bit of a spat over it all.  Jeff applied his shiny new election predictor file to the findings from the TNS-BMRC poll for the Herald while Malc H preferred a less scientifically rigorous application.  James was left to hold the jackets.  Meanwhile, Lallands Peat Worrier presented the gender differential on voting intentions in stark relief and it didn’t make pretty reading for the SNP.

The analysis would of course be incomplete without the burd getting out her divining rods and giving her crystal ball a rub.

The treatment of the findings deserves comment.  There has been a wee bit of jiggery pokery in order to create a phenomenon called the committed voter.  Effectively all those who refused to answer or didn’t know how they intended to vote were removed from the sample and the findings re-calibrated.  This “tweaking” resulted in Labour’s findings on the first constituency vote leaping from 31% to 49%.  But it is unusual to effectively disenfranchise don’t knows from the process at this early stage in the campaign.  A bit naughty really of the Herald to report these findings as the main ones. 

The burd also notes that the committed voter tallies are what Better Nation used to come up with an overall 3 seat majority for Labour.   What would be the result if the whole sample findings were poured into the election predictor?   Something far closer to what the result in May is likely to be, I reckon.

Let’s also consider the methodology.  The Scottish Opinion Survey is one of the few polls to be conducted face to face, in people’s homes;  most others are done by telephone or completed online.  Does this account for the apparent collapse in Conservative and Liberal Democrat voting intentions? 

The burd grew up in Galloway when Ian Lang was laird of all he surveyed.  For 18 years he was the area’s MP, but in all that time, few ever admitted openly to voting Tory.  No one ever boasted of it, the most that could be coaxed was a sheepish sotto voce admission that maybe they had, at one point, voted Conservative.  Could a similar factor be at work to explain the very low polling of both the Tories and the Lib Dems?  I mean, who in the current circumstances, would openly want to admit, face to face, to a stranger no less, that one might be considering voting for the parties preparing to dismantle the welfare state and inflict huge public spending cuts on us all? 

But that does not explain why the predilection of the bashful would appear to be for Labour at the expense of the SNP.   Especially when BBC Scotland’s poll on spending cuts last autumn showed that voters blame the previous UK Labour government for our current economic woes. 

Yet, the SNP is actually at roughly the same level as before the 2007 election.  The gap between them and Labour is not insurmountable, and as is often the case with polls, the don’t knows are sufficiently large in number to make it all to play for.  On the constituency vote, Labour leads by 10% but nearly 1 in 5 of participants are undecided.  On the regional vote question, which was phrased fairly clumsily, Labour’s lead is only 9% with over 20% still to make up their minds. 

Moreover, if you look at the key target voter groups that, in the burdz humble opinion, constitute Scotland’s squeezed middle, namely women, 35 – 54 year olds and C2s, there is also still hope for the incumbent Scottish government.  On the voting intentions of women, the picture does seem pretty bleak for the SNP.  The direction of travel is all wrong with the gap widening.  What is going on here?  Why is the SNP’s problem with wimmin growing?  Not sure.  It needs more cogitation and deliberation before blogging on it but it is clear that the SNP needs to focus some energy onto fixing this before it becomes a chasm that costs them the election.

The future seems less bleak when looking at the other groups.  Of those aged 34 to 54, 34% intend to vote Labour and 19% SNP on the constituency vote, with 32% voting Labour and 19% SNP on the regional vote.   It’s not great but a brighter picture emerges when the intentions of those aged 45 to 54, who are more likely to actually vote, are considered.  Labour’s lead over the SNP narrows significantly. Incidentally, if we look at the age group most likely to vote, the over 55s, the lead is down to 6% and 5% respectively. 

Classic switcher territory also indicates there is still all to play for.  Amongst C2s, Labour polled 29% to the SNP’s 23% on the first vote and 25% to 24% on the second vote.   These poll ratings matter because previous election analysis shows that it is skilled manual labour voters who are most likely to move between parties and in marginal constituencies, their votes could make the difference between crucial losses and gains.

Is Labour in poll position to win the Scottish election in May?  Maybe.  But the fat lady – or rather the wee dumpy wumman in her pinny – hasn’t yet sung for the SNP.  And beware those low ratings for the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.  Early reports of their demise may be grossly exaggerated.


11 thoughts on “Labour in poll position…. maybe

  1. Pingback: Poll latest: whose voters are coming out of the closet? « A Burdz Eye View

  2. Eliminating the don’t knows eliminates a huge chunk of voters who may well vote but genuinely have not made up their minds yet. So you are eliminating the people who will actually decide the election lol.

    Eliminating people who do not vote or are not likely to vote is fair enough but eliminating people who do not yet have a fixed voting intention is bonkers.

  3. It’s all gone a bit Peter Snow!

    It’s not the people that vote that count. It’s the people who count the votes. (As someone once said). In that respect the SNP have failed to deliver true and effective gerrymandering. (It could be cited by other parties as “another broken promise” to the electorate).

    It may make the difference – now that would be ironic.

  4. After all these excellent analyses, I’m almost tempted to crunch some numbers myself. For now, my instinctive reaction is that Labour will form the largest minority, but will be nowhere near the magic 65 needed to govern. That throws up some interesting possibilities, since there is virtually no-one they would comfortably work with. But the SNP have shown that a significant minority can govern without over-legislating or over-spending, so Iain Gray may follow that template (using words other than that to describe it, of course).

    • Yep and that seems to be what they are aiming for just now. I do think the polls will narrow the closer we get to polling day. And that the actual result will be much tighter than even they show. Of course I could be very, very wrong….

  5. Hmm, I’m not sure how else you would get a useful figure without eliminating don’t knows and wouldn’t tells. If Labour went up from 31% to 49%, I presume the SNP went up from 20% to 32%? There may well be a ‘shy lib-dem’ factor, but unlike general elections with 75% turnout, we will probably get about 50% voting, so many of those former lib-dems could just stay at home on the day…

    The same company’s poll in Jan 2007 was a fairly good predictor of the election result – it had the greens and labour too high and the SNP to low, but I think the SNP election campaign between January and May was quite successful in winning over greens and labour voters to make Alex Salmond First Minister…

    • Why are “don’t know” suddenly superfluous to analysis? They have to be factored in surely. Maybe 5 weeks out or so you can start dismissing them as unlikely to votes but not at this stage. And you are possibly right re Lib Dems stay at home. Will make for interesting times in some seats they hold! I think the Greens problem is that they don;t have a defined constituency yet that they can rely on to churn out and vote election after election. Be interesting how people who want to protest cast that protest vote this time round!

  6. Agree with this analysis. I don’t, for one minute, think that Lib and Tory vote will crumble to that extent. Incumbent’s advantage ignored in this poll. And the undecided group is quite substantial at this stage in an electoral cycle. All to play for; but suspect SNP are banking on too much emphasis on personalities, as in Alec V Iain, John V Andy (or is it Wendy…. she certainly appears to think so!) Nicola V Jackie, Mike V Des and, even, Kenny V Richard. Person for person, the SNP are generally more convincing, but such is personality politics (to qoute Mr Benn) and that’s probably not enough to win an election! Neither party has developed a convincing narrative, never mind the ‘elevator pitch’ (two sentences as to why we should vote for you).
    Interesting that SNP’s ‘women problem’ appears to be getting worse…. Is it Alex? If so, is solution to make more of Nicola?
    Going to be an interesting – and long – campaign. Zipping up my anorak!

    • I agree. Personality not going to win this election and the elevator pitch is indeed missing. The narrative is currently referenced by Scotland deserves better and be part of better which I think is likely just to confuse voters and without further detail simply turn voters off. Be interested in your view as to the SNP’s women problem and its causes! Think Alex is part of it but also think the innate small c conservatism of women voters is back with a vengeance. And worries about cuts, resulting in seeking electoral succour in an old friend. It;s all very curious! But yep, anorak on and zipped!!

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