Published on 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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11 reader comments

  1. LI says:

    I’m curious to know how many people were surveyed about Scotland being ‘dangerously divided”? There will be extreme examples of division I’m sure but, in my experience, the overwhelming majority of people in Scotland continue to get on as they did pre indyref. I’ve heard this concept peddled in the media for a while but I’m yet to see any examples. Makes for a good story though, eh?

  2. mark sneddon says:

    The Scottish people will demand the next referendum. Not the SNP. This has been clearly stated by Nicola Sturgeon.

  3. Pulpstar says:

    Which seats are Lib Dem, Con, Labour Holds under your first

    SNP 53 seats
    Lab 4
    LD 1
    Con 1

    And which under

    SNP 42
    Lab 13
    LD 3
    Con 1

    Thanks.

  4. Alasdair Angus Macdonald says:

    I see that Channel 4 is continuing the slanted stance which it adopted during the referendum. It is cherry-picking anti-SNP stories and generally highlighting stories which cast Scotland in a poor light. Of course, party policies should be subjected to rigorous examination, but it has to be done even-handedly.
    For the record, since I first voted in 1968, I have never voted for the SNP. I voted YES in the referendum.

  5. Phil Lawrence says:

    The single issue which I think plays against the narrative of Conservatives voting tactically in Scotland – at least in Labour seats – is the leadership of Ruth Davidson. She is not everyone’s cup of tea by any means but she has galvanised her party north of the border. On occasions she has passed up opportunities to score cheap political points and instead looked to establish systemic causality.

    A prime case in point was on a recent edition of Question Time when she was presented with an “open goal” question on the NHS. She took the high road and did not attempt to apportion political blame. Even co-panellist Val McDermid was prompted to admit that it was not often that she found herself on the same side as Ruth Davidson.

    In truth Davidson is not so different from most Tories in Scotland but she has this ability to come across as diligent and reasonable. However she has given a lot of her party’s members their self-respect back after the leadership of the awfully nice but extremely schoolmarmish Annabel Goldie. To then go and vote for another party, especially Scottish Labour, will be just too much for so many of these re-energised Scottish Conservatives.

    There is the perception that for the first time in more than a generation that the Tories in Scotland are potentially within striking distance of Labour and that is a massive fillip for the boys and girls with blue rosettes. The creepy cult of Jim Murphy in the mainstream Scottish media is there every time you pick up a paper or click on a news link. To vote for someone who is perceived by all but the most dyed-in-the-wool Labourites as a completely insincere charlatan who models his entire being on Tony Blair will be an impossible journey. The Murphy factor as a severe turn-off must not be underestimated.

    Finally there is also the simple electoral arithmetic which dictates that, in a given scenario, regardless of SNP or Labour the seat will be going anti-Tory. Maybe letting Labour be wiped out can play to the Scottish Conservatives’ advantage in the long game but in the here and now there just might be some considerable schadenfreude to be had by letting Ed Miliband have a prickly SNP grouping of such size that he has to weigh up their presence every single day of the next Parliament.

    Interesting times!

  6. Patrick Roden says:

    One of the biggest factors Gary, is the way in which the Labour Party insulted and smeared people who supported the Yes campaign, even after it was pointed out to them, that a lot of these people were Labour members/voters.
    They lost a lot of their core voters because of that, and will never get them back.

  7. ronald russell says:

    I find polls are fluid, depending on the numbers polled the type of questions asked and the leanings of the people polled. Canvassing gives a more accurate system of gauging the intentions of voting, because the questions are relatively straightforward and puts the householder at ease on their own doorstep. To that end the vast majority of folk canvassed so far are definitely voting SNP in the areas covered up till now.

  8. Duncan McFarlane says:

    Suspected this would happen and this seems to confirm it. Referendum re-aligned voters on both sides on the issue of independence or staying in the union. The SNP will still likely take some seats, but tactical voting by unionists is likely to mean it’ll be significantly less than the 40 to 50 the polls had been predicting previously. Still a big thing that there are no seats in Scotland that are “safe” for one party any more, where voting makes almost no difference, after decades in which most were “safe” for Labour.

    1. Duncan McFarlane says:

      After reading Professor John Curtice’s post on tactical voting he’s estimating tactical voting will only save Labour 4 seats for a total of 7. As he’s got decades of experience and expertise on elections, i trust his judgement.

  9. Robert says:

    I suspect it will be in between with labour keeping maybe between six and eight and the Liberal keep well one if they are lucky.

    The issue is of course how many people bother to vote, in England and Wales it will be another 20010 hence labour have been looking at coalition for sometime but with I suspect the liberals Plaid and whom ever they can get.

    Then again if people do decide to give Murphy a bloody nose it could be seriously poor.

    I think people tend to vote for whom they think is best for me it would be the SNP, that’s because I do see Miliband or Cameron worth bothering with.

  10. george sutherland says:

    I think you would find that the vast majority of Tory voters are against another referendum – ever. Some Labour supporters would also take this stance but both during and following the referendum many people who originally took a NO stance are now fully behind another referendum (man suggesting 2020 as a suitable date). Also, many NO voters now feel they were grossly misled, especially by the Labour Party who were informing pensioners that they would no longer receive their pension if they voted YES. Mr Murphy even circulated a leaflet stating this to be the case. The latest opinion poll in his constituency indicates that the SNP are now in the lead. Electors in his constituency would be doing a massive service to the country by removing him in May

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