Scottish Public Opinion Monitor February 2011

With the Holyrood election now under three months away, our latest poll reveals a significant reversal in fortunes for the two main parties, with the SNP now holding a slight advantage.

Resurgent SNP take narrow poll lead as Holyrood election draws closer

With the Holyrood election now under three months away, the latest poll from Ipsos reveals a significant reversal in fortunes for the two main parties, with the SNP now holding a slight advantage, having been 10 points behind Labour in November 2010. Among those certain to vote on May 5th, the SNP’s share of the vote now stands at 37%, up by 6 percentage points since November 2010. In the same period, Labour’s share of the vote has fallen by 5 percentage points and is currently at 36%, while the Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Liberal Democrats are largely unchanged at 13% and 10% respectively. This is first time since February 2010 that an Ipsos poll has shown a lead for the governing SNP.

A similar pattern has emerged for the second ‘regional list’ vote in the Holyrood election, where the SNP has also overturned a Labour lead from November. On this part of the vote, the SNP share is now 35% (up 3 percentage points), with Labour on 33% (down 3 percentage points) and the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats largely unchanged on 13% and 10% respectively.

Part of the upturn in SNP support may be down to the continued popularity of their leader. Over half of Scots (51%) are satisfied with the way Alex Salmond is doing his job as First Minister, substantially higher than the ratings for the other three party leaders; Around a third are satisfied with the performance of Iain Gray (33%) and Annabel Goldie (32%) while just over a quarter are satisfied Tavish Scott. Just as worrying for these three party leaders is the significant numbers of Scots who cannot answer this question, indicating a lack of profile for these politicians.

A further positive finding for the SNP government comes in looking at the attitude of Scots to the issue of how income tax should be raised in the future. The UK government is currently proposing greater powers to Holyrood which would share powers for setting and collecting income tax with the UK Treasury. This position is supported by around a quarter of Scots (27%) while around a third support the status-quo position of income tax being wholly the responsibility of the UK government, but 37% would prefer all income tax to be collected by the Scottish government, a move supported by the SNP.

Mark Diffley, Research Director at Ipsos said:

‘Our latest poll shows a remarkable turnaround in the fortunes of the two main parties in the last three months. The SNP has gone from being 10 percentage points behind Labour in November to 1 point ahead now. Our projection of seats won on this result shows that the SNP would have 51 seats with Labour on 48 seats. There may be a number of reasons to explain the resurgence of the SNP. Firstly, they recently managed to pass the new budget through the Scottish Parliament, with Labour the only party to vote against the measures. Our poll in November 2010 illustrates that the majority of Scots supported the headline measures in the budget. There may also be a view among more Scots that they do not have to support Labour in order to register a protest against the policies of the UK government. The continued positive rating s for the First Minister, compared to the other party leaders, may also be important, as Scots think about who they would prefer as First Minister. Despite the surge in support for the SNP, however, the poll indicates that there is little to choose between the two main parties and that, with the campaign looming, it’s still all to play for.’

Technical Note

  • Results are based on a survey of 1,019 respondents conducted by telephone between 10th February and 14th February 2011
  • Data are weighted by age, sex and working status using census data, and tenure using SHS 2007-2008 data
  • An asterisk (*) indicates a percentage of less than 0.5% but greater than 0.
  • Where results do not sum to 100, this may be due to multiple responses or computer rounding
  • Where the base size is less than 30 the number (N) rather than the percentage of respondents is given
  • Results are based on all respondents (1,019) unless otherwise stated.


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