At last some good poll news for the SNP. It’s neck and neck, couldn’t be closer, but if these results were repeated on the day, the SNP would just edge it.
Thankfully for you, dear reader, I’ve run my well of cliches dry. What else does the poll tell us? Put it like this, the First Minister can stop packing away the crystal, but he might not want to cancel the removal vans just yet.
For where there is hope, there is still potential despair, not least amongst the Peat Worrier’s favourite voter group, women.
The headline findings are all very well but the SNP still has some way to go before it can consider itself in the comfort zone. There is still a deal to be sealed with the squeezed middle (and that really is an end to the cliches).
Women are still favouring Labour over the SNP, on the constituency and the regional votes. On the first, 29% intend to vote Labour compared to 24% for the SNP. On the second, the same percentage favour Labour over 23% for the SNP. It’s not a huge chasm but it makes plain that the SNP’s problem with wimmin is still unresolved.
There’s better news on the key age demographic, which in this poll is the 35 – 54 year old age group. The SNP leads Labour on the constituency vote, with 3o% against 25%, and on the regional vote to create the top up list, it’s neck and neck with each party on 25%. Previous polls were showing a considerable lead for Labour so it would appear – if this poll is not a rogue – that the SNP is closing the gap.
Moreover, amongst voters aged 55 and over, traditionally a Labour voting stronghold, the SNP is showing a lead. It’s 30% apiece on the first vote, with the SNP on a 31% share compared to Labour’s 28% on the second. And more than any other, this group can be counted upon to actually turn out on the day.
Looking at the economic circumstances of participants, there is a haves/have nots divide. Amongst those working full time, the SNP leads on both votes, by 1% and 3% respectively. Yet amongst those out of work, Labour has a considerable lead on the first vote – 8% – and 2% on the second. It will be interesting to see if this divide becomes more pronounced as we draw closer to 5 May. Most interesting of all, of course, will be who turns out: which group – those clinging to their jobs and fretting, or those already on the scrapheap and fretting even more – will be more motivated to vote?
Whether another group of voters are motivated to make their way to the polls may also prove crucial to the outcome. The SNP still trails Labour – and by some considerable margin – amongst those who have children. On the constituency vote, Labour is five points ahead and on the regional vote, they are an astonishing nine points. Suddenly, the targeting of five-a-side dads and schoolgate mums – as trailed by John Park MSP, Scottish Labour’s election co-ordinator – makes sense.
Labour can take succour, too, from the findings amongst urban and rural voters. Again, there is a divide. Urban voters tend to favour Labour; those in rural areas are inclined towards the SNP. While the gap between the two parties is narrower amongst urban voters, it needs to be said that a much larger proportion of the Scottish electorate are to be found in such seats. The fact that there are simply more voters and more seats that can be defined as urban is probably good news for Labour.
These trends are largely confirmed by people’s views of the performance of the two main leaders. While Salmond trounces Gray on satisfaction levels generally, it’s a lot closer in these key demographic groups. More women are satisfied with Alex Salmond’s performance than dissatisfied but Iain Gray enjoys a similar position. It’s the same amongst voters with children and amongst urban voters. Amongst those working full time, 16% more participants are satisfed than dissatisfied with Salmond but Gray has the same satisfaction and dissatisfaction rating of 33%.
The point is that while the headline shows a commanding and probably insurmountable lead on the personality stakes for Alex Salmond, all is not completely lost for Iain Gray, especially amongst those voters making up the squeezed middle. Will a presidential style SNP campaign cement this lead or cause it to crumble? Who knows. I’m just glad it’s not me making this judgement call.
Overall, though, there is much for the SNP to cheer. They have made up considerable ground on Labour in a short space of time and now occupy poll position (no pun intended). The burd looks forward to seeing how Labour will respond. Despite all protestations to the contrary, there has been a sense that they were coasting to the finish line. Everything they have put in place so far appeared to be working: another poll like this will raise more than a few doubts that it is not.
But scratch the surface to look at the key demographic groups, and the picture is more fluid. The SNP is still languishing, especially in women’s electoral affections, amongst voters with children and in urban seats. This suggests that in population terms alone they might not win, either in seats or on the popular vote. And it is difficult to discern at this stage what it is offering in terms of platform, message and policies to reverse the situation.
Indeed, its problem with wimmin is so ingrained and longstanding, perhaps all it can hope for at this late stage is to keep the gap to manageable proportions. This will mean focusing on getting their women voters out and persuading Labour’s to stay home. The more polling data we have to analyse, the more it becomes clear: this Holyrood election won’t be over until the ladies sing.