The SNP has the political X factor

This latest YouGov poll, reveals with its host of findings, why the SNP has the political X factor in this campaign.

First, the party has timed its run just right.  The Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday have commissioned the same pollster since last autumn, allowing us to track the trend. 

(Constituency vote in the first table, regional in the second)

 

YouGov:

 

     
 

10/2010

 

01/2011

 

03/2011

 

04/2011

 

Labour

 

40

 

41

 

41

 

37

 

SNP

 

34

 

32

 

38

 

40

 

Conservative

 

14

 

15

 

10

 

11

 

Lib Dem

 

8

 

7

 

6

 

8

 

 

YouGov:

 

     
 

10/2010

 

01/2011

 

03/2011

 

04/2011

 

Labour

 

36

 

40

 

39

 

33

 

SNP

 

31

 

26

 

32

 

35

 

Conservative

 

15

 

15

 

11

 

12

 

Lib Dem

 

8

 

7

 

6

 

7

 

Green

 

6

 

6

 

5

 

6

 

The switch from Labour to the SNP in little over six months is dramatic: what’s caused it?  

The first issue is exposed in the style of campaigns that are being fought.  While Salmond and his team glide imperviously on, sweeping everything in their wake, Labour is stumbling and walking into trouble at every turn.  The now infamous sandwich bar ambush, Iain Gray turning up to meet health professionals and there not being a seat available, getting their sums wrong on the knife crime issue – these kind of incidents plant seeds of doubt in voters’ minds about Labour’s competency to steer and lead Scotland.  People want to be assured that the party they elect to run the country are capable of doing just that.

Thus, in the YouGov poll, when asked to rate the two prospective candidates for First Minister on a list of attributes, Salmond is perceived, much more so than Gray, as being in touch with people’s concerns, of having the best ideas for improving people’s lives, of standing up for Scotland, of being honest and trusted to look after their wallets.  In short, voters think Alex Salmond is way more competent than Iain Gray.  This trickles down through the team and across the country.

Which links to the second factor:  incumbency.  For the first time, the SNP is in an election defending a host of constituency seats and with well kent faces standing in others.  This is not a change election, as the UK elections were in 1997 and 2010, and indeed the Holyrood election was in 2007.  People really do not want the upheaval if they can avoid it. 

And so, voters are happy to stick with the devil they know.  If constituency MSPs have done the surgeries, made the visits to businesses and community groups and turned up at the opening of an envelope, making sure they’ve managed to get their photie in the local paper regularly over the last four years, then more people actually know them, or at least think they do.  It all counts, especially when people are looking for reasons not to shift their vote.  In seats where they are wanting to do so – as would appear to be the case in Lib Dem ones – it helps that the candidate is standing for the third or fourth time.

Recognition at local and national level counts and the SNP have played the game with aplomb, especially at First Minister level.  Of course, Alex Salmond with nearly thirty years of dominating the Scottish political stage, is much better known that Iain Gray who has only two and a bit years of party leadership to rely on.  It’s why only 10% in this poll don’t know what they think about Salmond – he is the kind of man that everyone has an opinion on, after all – and a third haven’t a clue what to make of Iain Gray. 

Over the years, people have warmed to Salmond and respect his talents to lead the country and now, importantly, with a term in government and a clutch of constituency seats, the SNP has broken many of the tribal ties that bind.  They can now claim incumbency status and it counts, big time.  

But the SNP should beware.  While it can breathe a sigh of relief that it appears to have addressed the lag on the regional vote (which would almost certainly have handed victory to Labour, no matter how lacklustre their campaign), the advantage is still too close to the margin of error to be comfortable.  In the key battleground seats which both need to win to be sure of victory – Almond Valley, Stirling, Ochil, Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley, Glasgow Southside – they are literally neck and neck.  

On polling day, it will all come down to who has done the work on the ground, who has identified the vote and who can turn it out.  Some of the old guard in the SNP might like to educate their whippersnapper counterparts on just how effectively ruthless Labour is at doing this. 

Labour has made it clear, right from the start, that it has invested its energy and resources in working 20 key target seats, in fighting a doorstep election.  Thus, it has invested everything in organisation and despite scepticism, it has people on the ground, as well as the back up of the UK machine run by Andy Burnham and the all important unions. 

Its difficulty appears to be that it has dived so far below the waterline in this election, it has forgotten to come up for air and in the process, has lost the momentum it started with way back in October. 

There is no doubt that Alex Salmond has successfully marched his troops up the hill of poll ratings.  Pausing briefly to admire the view from reaching the summit of 40%, he is now leading them downhill to victory on 5 May.  The great big ball of momentum is gathering pace, with today’s endorsement from the Scottish Sun.   A note of caution though – one trip, one stumble is all it takes to turn a triumphal march into a political Jack and Jill episode.  Adrenaline and fatigue can be dangerous campaign companions in the final weeks.

Worse, anyone who has ever had the misfortune to watch the X Factor will know that the favourite, the one with the stellar qualities, who hasn’t put a foot wrong all the way through the competition, doesn’t always win the contest.  It all comes down to who votes in the final.

2 thoughts on “The SNP has the political X factor

  1. how does Labour’s voter id and “get the vote out” machinery work?

    • Not sure but I do know they have invested in new software which they claim is amongst most sophisticated in Europe. Similar to the SNP though, in that you generate lists of identified voters and phone or chap their doors on polling day. Be interesting to see how new system is going to work!

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