SNP retains strong lead as independence dominates voters’ concerns

The latest findings from Ipsos MORI’s Scottish Political Monitor, run in partnership with STV News, show that just 3% of voters plan to vote for the Alba Party on the regional list at the Holyrood elections on 6th May.

The author(s)

  • Emily Gray Managing Director, Ipsos MORI Scotland
  • Rachel Ormston Research Director, Ipsos MORI Scotland
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Ipsos MORI’s Scottish Political Monitor, run in partnership with STV News, finds support for the SNP on the constituency vote remains at very high levels ahead of the May 2021 Scottish Parliament elections. However, the party’s support on the regional list vote has fallen by nine percentage points since mid-February. In contrast, support for the Scottish Green Party on the list vote has increased since mid-February, by four percentage points. Just three per cent of voters said they would cast their list vote for Alex Salmond’s Alba Party.

Scottish Parliament voting intention

The SNP retains a strong lead in voting intention for both constituency and list votes in next May’s Scottish Parliament elections. The Scottish Conservatives remain in second place on both votes, with Scottish Labour behind them in third. Support for the Scottish Green Party on the list vote is up by four percentage points to 12%.

Headline Scottish Parliament voting intention figures for the constituency vote are:

  • SNP: 53% (+1 compared with 15-21 February)
  • Scottish Conservatives: 20% (-3)
  • Scottish Labour: 18% (+3)
  • Scottish Liberal Democrats: 6% (+1)
  • Scottish Green Party: 2% (-1)
  • Other: 1% (-1)

Headline Scottish Parliament voting intention figures for the regional vote are:

  • SNP: 38% (-9 compared with 15-21 February)
  • Scottish Conservatives: 21% (-1)
  • Scottish Labour: 18% (+4)
  • Scottish Green Party: 12% (+4)
  • Scottish Liberal Democrats: 6% (unchanged)
  • The Alba Party: 3%
  • Other: 2% (-1)

Seven in ten (72%) of SNP constituency voters say they will vote ‘both votes SNP’ by casting their regional list vote for the party as well. The remaining 28% are most likely to say they will cast their list vote for the Scottish Green Party (18% of SNP constituency voters say this), with a small minority saying they will vote for Scottish Labour (4%) or the Alba Party (4%) on the regional list. 

Around a third (32%) say they might change their mind about which party they’ll cast their list vote for.  

Top issues for voters

  • Independence is seen as the top issue helping voters decide which party they’ll vote for, with 49% mentioning it (note these are spontaneous, top-of-mind responses, not prompted). This is a five percentage point rise since mid-February, when 44% mentioned independence as a very important issue.
  • Independence is followed by education (mentioned by 28% of voters), the NHS (27%), managing the economy (16%) and coronavirus (15%). 

Top issues for voters slide

Scottish independence

  • Support for independence is at the same level as in mid-February, with Yes retaining a narrow lead. Among those likely to vote in an independence referendum, 52% say they would vote Yes while 48% would vote No

Independence support over time

  • Around one in ten (11%) of those who would be likely to vote in a referendum say they may change their mind. Yes supporters are more likely than No supporters to say they may change their minds (14% and 9% respectively). 

Trust in the parties

  • The Scottish National Party remains far more trusted by the Scottish public than either the Scottish Conservative Party or the Scottish Labour Party to deal effectively with a wide range of issues facing Scotland.
  • However, Scots’ trust in the SNP to stand up for Scotland’s interests, tackle inequality and manage education and schools in Scotland has fallen slightly since November 2020 – by 5, 4 and 4 percentage points respectively. 70% now say they trust the SNP a great deal or fair amount to stand up for Scotland’s interests, while 61% trust the party to deal effectively with tackling inequality and 55% trust it when it comes to managing education and schools.

Trust in the SNP

  • In contrast, public trust in Scottish Labour has jumped across a range of issues. 42% now say that they trust the party a great deal or quite a lot to tackle inequality in Scotland, a rise of 12 percentage points since November 2020. Similarly, more now trust the party to deal effectively with responding to the coronavirus crisis (up 12 points to 46%), managing education and schools (up 11 points to 51%) and managing the NHS (up 10 points to 52%).

Party leaders

  • Nicola Sturgeon remains the highest rated party leader among the Scottish public. 62% say they are satisfied with the way she is doing her job as First Minister, while 33% are dissatisfied. Almost half of Scots (48%) agree she is more honest than most politicians, compared with 33% who say the same of Anas Sarwar and 16% who agree this applies to Douglas Ross.

Satisfaction with Scottish Party Leaders

  • The next highest rated party leader is Labour leader Anas Sarwar: 46% say they are satisfied with him, while 20% are dissatisfied and a third (34%) don’t know. The Conservatives’ Douglas Ross fares less well, with a quarter (25%) saying they are satisfied with him, while 48% say they are dissatisfied and 27% don’t know. 
  • The Alba Party’s Alex Salmond is rated lower than Boris Johnson by Scottish voters. Just 9% say they are satisfied with Salmond, while 27% say the same of Johnson. 64% say they are dissatisfied with Salmond, and an identical proportion say the same of Johnson.

Emily Gray, Managing Director of Ipsos MORI Scotland, commented: 

Our latest poll results suggest the SNP are on course to win a majority of seats at Holyrood in May. Independence remains the top issue for Scotland’s voters and an independence ‘supermajority’ at Holyrood looks within the realms of possibility. However, our poll indicates that this may come from an uplift in support for the Scottish Greens on the regional vote rather than for the Alba Party. The Alba Party’s main impact to date may have been to remind pro-independence voters of how to use their regional vote tactically.

Technical note

  • Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative sample of 1,038 adults aged 16+ across Scotland. 
  • Interviews were conducted by telephone 29 March – 4 April 2021. 
  • Data are weighted to the profile of the population. 
  • As this is Ipsos MORI’s first poll of the campaign, we have adjusted our turnout filter for the Scottish Parliament voting intention figures. The filter excludes those who are not registered to vote and is based on all expressing a voting intention, saying they would be at least 9/10 likely to vote in a Scottish Parliament election and saying they usually/always vote or it depends at Scottish Parliament elections. This makes minimal difference to the voting intention figures; most are unchanged and the maximum change is just one percentage point.  
  • Where results do not sum to 100%, this may be due to computer rounding, multiple responses, or the exclusion of “don’t know” categories.
  • All polls are subject to a wide range of potential sources of error. On the basis of the historical record of the polls at recent general elections, there is a 9 in 10 chance that the true value of a party’s support lies within 4 points of the estimates provided by this poll, and a 2 in 3 chance that they lie within 2 points.

The author(s)

  • Emily Gray Managing Director, Ipsos MORI Scotland
  • Rachel Ormston Research Director, Ipsos MORI Scotland

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