By Dave Taylor
Most of you will have seen the headline data from the latest ICM poll on Referendum Yes 37%, No 44%, Don’t Know 19%.  On European election voting intention – it’s SNP 43%, Lab 24%, Con 14%, UKIP 7%, LD 6%, Green 4% respectively.
Interestingly, in England & Wales, pollsters ComRes report that Tory and Labour are neck and neck at 33% support each, while YouGov have the Labour lead in GB down to 2%.

Those Scots who were relying on English voters giving them a Labour Government in a continuing UK may be becoming a lot less confident about the consequences of a No vote.  Every polling commentator knows that even the best of pollsters will produce a rogue poll from time to time so a poll like the latest ICM, that shows a 5% swing from No to Yes, needs to be critically examined for rogueishness.

Professor Curtice suggested that the shift had taken place only among those aged 44 or less, and that the sampling of “difficult to poll” 16-24 year olds might have distorted the result.

His analysis should never be dismissed.  On the Panelbase polls, which favoured Yes more than No, he asked reasonable questions about factors that might have distorted their results.  When those factors turned out not to be critical, he was honest enough to admit that.

So let’s just look at those who were old enough to vote in the 2011 Holyrood elections (recognising that the proportion of 18-24 year olds who actually voted then was very low).  Presumably, that should omit the fickle young folk.

Better still, ComRes weighted those numbers by likelihood to vote, thus removing yet more uncertain groups.  When we see those tables, we find that the voting intention for the referendum does indeed change.

While the No vote remains constant at 44%, Yes rises by 2% to 39% as the Don’t Knows fall by 2%.

That only a 3% swing among established voters would produce a Yes win (assuming that those enthused to vote in the referendum aren’t doing so in response to Better Together’s vision for a positive future under Westminster!) seems mildly encouraging for the Yes camp.

ICM also asked “If Scotland were to vote ‘No’ in the referendum, which of the following comes closest to your view about what should then happen next?”

Unsurprisingly, Yes voters overwhelmingly said “The Scottish Parliament should become primarily responsible for making decisions about taxation and welfare benefits in Scotland.”

44% of No voters agreed with that position, as did 63% of Don’t Knows.

49% of Noes and 16% of Don’t Knows thought “There should be no further change to the powers and responsibilities of the Scottish Parliament.”

Pushed further by ICM, ‘No’ voters who wanted taxation and welfare benefits to be controlled by the Scottish Parliament were asked how they would vote if that wouldn’t happen.  Only 10% would shift to a Yes vote, while 69% would stick to voting No, with a further 21% undecided in such a circumstance.

Before Yes supporters get too carried away with the ICM poll, it’s worth noting that even with Devo-Max not being on the table, there seems to be a solid 38% of voters committed to voting No.

As always, we need to temper any enthusiastic response to a single poll by a single pollster!  We will only be sure of a shift in public opinion if the trend is confirmed by other polls.

On the Euro elections, ICM have given us the first polling evidence as to how people are considering voting.  Since these elections aren’t for a Government, they are more suggestive of the general popularity/unpopularity of parties than other elections.

No one will be surprised that the Lib-Dems are even less popular in Scotland than UKIP and seem certain to lose their only MEP.  Greens will be disappointed that they are 2% behind even the Lib-Dems (Sorry, Patrick Harvie) and are unlikely to come anywhere near winning the 6th Scottish MEP slot.

If Scots actually do see the SNP as the most popular party to this extent, then the current Lib-Dem seat will fall to them, and they will have an outside chance of picking up Labour’s 2nd seat as well.

It makes sense, therefore, to look again at how those who registered an opinion in 2011, view the Euro elections.

The SNP hold on to 85% of their 2011 vote, as opposed to 74% for the Better Together alliance.  Additionally, the SNP pick up 31% of those who didn’t vote in 2011, 11% of those who voted Labour, and 4% of former Tory voters.  They gain none of former Lib-Dem voters, since they captured all potential support from that source in 2011.

Even in 4th place, UKIP remain a minimal force in Scottish politics.  They are only up 2% on their performance in the 2009 Euro election.  Looking at the source of their vote, 37% voted Tory in 2011, 23% voted SNP, 20% voted Labour, 9% voted UKIP (or other fringe parties), 9% didn’t vote in 2011, while 3% are former LDs. 

If this poll is accurate, then we are likely to see the 6 Scottish MEPs becoming 3 SNP, 1 Con, 1 Lab plus the 6th seat as probably Lab, but potentially SNP.

The Euro elections look set to provide a very interesting appetiser to the main event in September.


Marga B
2014-01-29 11:47

Pity about the Liberal vote. Isn’t the Liberal group in the EP the only one to support independence for Scotland and Catalonia, and wasn’t their former leader a Scot?

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