Ipsos MORI Scottish Public Opinion Monitor - April 2010

With just over two weeks to go before polling day, Scottish Labour has a healthy lead in Westminster voting intentions according to the latest results from our Scottish Public Opinion Monitor.

Westminster Voting Intentions in Scotland - April 2010

With just over two weeks to go before polling day, Scottish Labour has a healthy lead in Westminster voting intentions according to the latest results from our Scottish Public Opinion Monitor. Support for the Scottish Liberal Democrats has also grown sharply, reflecting the performance of the party's UK leader Nick Clegg in the recent Prime Minister's debate. However, the poll, conducted for Scottish Television in the run up to the Scottish leaders debate on April 20th, highlights that it's all still to play for as 42% say they may change their minds before May 6th and a further 9% of certain voters are yet to decide who to support. The poll shows that Scottish Labour's popularity has grown 2 percentage points since February, standing at 36% among those who are certain to vote. In contrast support for the SNP at Westminster has fallen by 6 percentage points over the same period and stands at 26%. The main beneficiaries from the drop in SNP support appear to be the Scottish Liberal Democrats who poll at 20% in Scotland for the first time since the 2005 General Election, mirroring increased support for the party at a UK level following last week's televised debate. Indeed their support grew during the fieldwork period from 14% before the debate to 24% after the debate and 20% overall when interviewing was completed on April 17th. The new found support cannot be taken for granted however as supporters of the Liberal Democrats are the most likely to say that they may change their minds during the remainder of the campaign. On a uniform swing, this result would have minimal effect on the make up of Scottish seats in the House of Commons. Labour would have 40 MPs, with the SNP returning seven. There would be no change for the Scottish Liberal Democrats or Scottish Conservatives with 11 MPs and one MP respectively. Although the prospect of a `hung' or `balanced' parliament at Westminster appears to be increasingly likely, the majority of the public in Scotland (56%) state an overall majority for one party as their preferred outcome of the election, while around a third (36%) favour a hung or balanced parliament. It does seem that voters in Scotland are showing some signs of being enthused by the campaign, possibly as a result of the Prime Minister's debate or because of the uncertainty of the outcome. The poll shows that 68% of eligible voters are `absolutely certain' to vote on May 6th. This represents a sharp increase from the last general election, where turnout was 61% in Scotland, and from our February poll when 60% said they would definitely vote. Regardless of personal voting intention, two-thirds of people in Scotland believe that a Labour government in Westminster would be `best for Scotland', while around one in five (21%) favour a Conservative government. Consistent with our data from February this view is taken by non-Labour supporters with 60% of SNP supporters and 70% Liberal Democrat supporters saying that a Labour Government would be their favoured outcome.

Satisfaction with national party leaders

  The surge in support for the Scottish Liberal Democrats is reflected in the rise in satisfaction with the party's UK leader Nick Clegg, whose net satisfaction rating has soared from +11% in February to +44% now (60% satisfied and 16% dissatisfied). There has been less movement in the satisfaction ratings of the other leaders. The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, maintains a net satisfaction rating of +4%, the same as in February. The Scottish public, however, remains less satisfied with David Cameron whose net satisfaction rating has fallen from -5% in February to -9% now. Although the SNP's popularity has fallen since February, satisfaction with party leader Alex Salmond has grown over the same period, moving from a net satisfaction rating of +1% in February to +7% now.

On the issue of who would make the most capable Prime Minister, just over half of people in Scotland (54%) prefer Gordon Brown compared to 26% who prefer David Cameron, a slight widening since February when 51% backed Gordon Brown and 26% David Cameron. These party differences are reflected in views of who would make the most capable Chancellor of the Exchequer, with 52% preferring Labour's Alistair Darling to 19% preferring George Osborne from the Conservatives.

Increased optimism in the Scottish and UK economies

There is renewed optimism about the future of the UK and Scottish economies. Consistent with findings from previous polls, people in Scotland are more optimistic about the UK economy than about the Scottish economy but the gap has narrowed. Nearly half (47%) of people in Scotland think the UK will improve in the next year while a quarter (25%) think it will get worse. By contrast around 1 in 4 (41%) think the Scottish economy will improve compared to 30% who think it will get worse in the next year. This is the first time that optimism in the Scottish economy has outweighed pessimism since the first Scottish Public Opinion Monitor was conducted in August 2009.

Key public services are becoming increasingly important for people in Scotland

Although the economic situation is seen as the most important issue facing Scotland (mentioned by 39%, up 4% from February), the poll highlights the growing importance of the NHS (mentioned by 35%, up 13%) and education (mentioned by 34%, up 6%). At the same time, concern about unemployment has eased a little, though it is still mentioned by 38%, down 4% from February.

Technical note

For the Scottish Public Opinion Monitor, Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative sample of 1,006 adults aged 18+ across Scotland by telephone 14-17 April. Data are weighted to match the profile of the population of Scotland. The question on most important issues was open-ended.

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