10 Apr 2015

Scotland: could tactical voting dent SNP’s election prospects?

Our YouGov poll adds to Labour’s gloom in Scotland with one tiny qualification. There’s a chance the headline figures for MPs elected are a bit better (or less awful) than it might seem.

On the basis of last night’s Times/YouGov poll the SNP has a 24 per cent lead over Labour. We asked an extra question checking whether voters had an appetite for tactical voting – would pro-union parties switch their votes to the party with the best chance of defeating the SNP?

Ask that question and the SNP lead falls to 15 per cent. Analysis suggests that this could save Labour up to nine seats they lose without tactical voting (and the Lib Dems possibly save two extra seats as well).

So The Times’ YouGov poll gives this result:

SNP 53 seats

Lab 4

LD 1

Con 1

With tactical voting questions asked in the Channel 4 News/YouGov poll you get this result:

SNP 42

Lab 13

LD 3

Con 1

The seats Labour would save if tactical voting worked along the lines suggested by our poll would often be ones with relatively marginal Labour leads in 2010. Bizarrely, the way the Labour vote has collapsed in its heartlands, seats with mind-bogglingly large majorities are more vulnerable than marginal ones where middle class supporters of the Tories (and the Lib Dems where they still exist) could save a Labour MP’s bacon.

Under this projection, near wipe-out could become an horrendous rout … I did say it was a qualification, not exactly great news.

And there’s an added problem. If Labour is caught with its hand anywhere near the tactical voting biscuit tin it could reap still more punishment from those Scottish voters already outraged by Labour’s cooperation with the Tories in the referendum on independence.

For the record, our poll suggests that when you strip away “don’t knows”, 44 per cent of Conservative supporters are ready to vote Labour where only Labour can defeat the SNP. Where Lib Dems are the only party that can defeat the SNP, 58 per cent of Tory supporters would vote Lib Dem, 38 per cent of Labour supporters.

We also asked voters if they thought Scotland had become “dangerously divided” since the referendum: 53 per cent agreed and that included 30 per cent of SNP supporters. It’s a refrain you keep hearing in Scotland: bars some people don’t feel welcome in any more, families where the divisions (often generational) have not healed.

There is a limited appetite for an early second referendum, which may help to explain why Nicola Sturgeon tried to dampen down expectations of one in the second Scottish party leaders’  TV debate – 62 per cent don’t want the SNP demanding an early second referendum; even in her own party 53 per cent support a second referendum now or soon.

Compare that with support for getting rid of Trident, which 80 per cent of SNP supporters say should be her priority if it is in a position to extract something from a minority government in Westminster.

Trying to understand how the Scottish Labour party is perceived in Scotland, we asked how Scottish it was perceived to be. On a scale of 1 to 10 our sample rated it on average 5.4 compared with the SNP’s Scottishness rating coming in at 8.7.

We also asked if voters thought a Labour government would improve their lot. Only 28 per cent of Scots thought it would. Look down the column of those who voted Labour in 2010 and 41 per cent of them think a Labour government would make their lives worse or have no effect at all. Even amongst current Labour voters 23 per cent think a Labour government will make no real difference to their lives.

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