The burd has been touting this as the most important election in Holyrood’s short history and it looks like the voters agree.
According to the latest YouGov poll conducted for the Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday, we could be looking at a record turnout on 5 May. In 2007, 51.8 per cent of the electorate voted, an increase of 2.5 per cent on turnout in 2003. This latest poll asked respondents about their certainty to vote and 66 per cent indicated that they were “absolutely certain to vote” in this year’s election. If they all do, it will mark a real leap and bring Holyrood elections more in line with voter turnout for UK General Elections.
A high turnout might also spell good news for the SNP, for their voters seem more motivated to get to the polls than the other parties, with 78 per cent of SNP voters absolutely certain to vote in the constituency ballot compared to 73 per cent of Labour voters, 66 per cent of Conservative and 60 per cent of Liberal Democrats. On the regional vote, the breakdown is 77 per cent SNP, 72 Labour, 71 Conservative and 59 Liberal Democrat.
The demographic breakdown is as we might expect it. Men are more certain to vote than women with 67 per cent absolutely certain compared to 64 per cent of women and the younger age groups are much less certain to vote than older ones. Voters aged 18 to 39 years old are only 50 per cent absolutely certain to vote, yet 71 per cent of those aged between 40 and 59 are absolutely certain and 78 per cent of those aged over 60 intend definitely to vote. Motivation between ABC1s and C2DEs is pretty even.
More than any other, this could well be the baby boomers’ election and this poll suggests there is still some churn in their voting intentions.
Tracking the findings from the last three YouGov polls in October 2010, January 2011 and the current one from March, there seems to be an awful lot of switching going in among 40 -59 and 60+ year olds. First, a look at the 40 – 59 age group, one of the three making up the burdz “squeezed middle” in this election:
|40 – 59||Oct 10||Jan 11||Mar 11||40 -59||Oct 10||Jan 11||Mar 11|
|Lib Dem||7||4||6||Lib Dem||7||5||5|
There are signs of a clear shift away from Labour towards the SNP as people in this age group make up their mind how to vote, and the Lib Dems’ downward trajectory continues.
The exact opposite appears to be happening with the over 60s vote:
|60 +||Oct 10||Jan 11||Mar 11||60 +||Oct 10||Jan 11||Mar 11|
|Lib Dem||9||12||4||Lib Dem||9||9||5|
On the constituency vote, Labour is definitely in the ascendancy, though not necessarily at the SNP’s expense. As more folk make up their minds, they are opting for the place they call electoral home. In five months, the SNP’s and Labour’s vote among older people has almost exactly transposed, which is quite astonishing. Older people also seem to be turning away from the Tories and the Lib Dems and embracing a radical edge with voting intentions for others – SSP and the like – up considerably.
Taking into account the differential in certainty to vote between these two age groups, it’s clear Labour has more to smile about, though no party wants to be going into the last month of campaigning with signs of slippage. Not only is it managing to persuade older people back into the fold, but its list strategy appears to be working. Ensuring that its voters pick Labour on the regional ballot is vital to seeing off the SNP challenge and picking up the odd regional seat here and there – bonus seats which will give it a clear majority. But the SNP is closing the gap on regional voting intentions among 40 – 59 year olds which suggests momentum and something to play for.
So, we know whose voters are up for it, we know that baby boomers will be out in their droves and we can puzzle over the switching going on between SNP and Labour. Overall, what does the detailed data tell us? All to play for obviously, even with four weeks to go.
But it also suggests that the SNP has a problem. This YouGov poll also asked respondents to narrow it down: only two of the parties are realistically likely to form the next government so between Labour and the SNP, who would you like to form the next government? A slight majority – 44 per cent to 42 per cent – opted for the SNP. With 40 – 59 year olds, the margin was a single percentage point in the SNP’s favour but among over 60s, it stretches to eight points. So more of the people who can be relied upon to actually vote want the SNP to form the next government but are swinging their votes behind Labour on both votes? Go figure.
The SNP does seem alive to this danger and particularly, of coming first in the constituency vote and second on the lists. It somehow has to reverse this polling trend. For example, if it cannot persuade pensioners to vote twice for the SNP, it needs them to switch their vote, in the most of seats, from the constituency ballot to the regional one. Which is a pretty tough ask with only four weeks of campaigning left, especially when primacy has been central to the strategy to date, with the touting of Salmond’s Alpha Male status and a superior team to govern the country.
Given Labour’s dominance in whole swathes of the central belt, and the size of constituency majorities, the SNP will not win the most seats by winning the constituency vote. It might hold all its marginals and take one or two more seats, but that is all. It needs to be the primary recipient of people’s regional votes particularly in the likes of Glasgow, West of and Central Scotland to give it a majority of seats. It needs to be taking four and five list seats in these regions and not haemorraghing the odd one to the Greens or the SSP.
Just as it did in 2007, the SNP needs to dominate the regions and it needs to win the baby boomers back. If it does not, then Labour will win. Simples.