50% of Scots think Scotland is badly represented by Labour

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by Dave Taylor

Anthony Wells, the YouGov polling expert has published an article based on YouGov polling which he presented to the UK Con Conference.  The report is entitled The Conservatives’ Northern Problem.

Anthony claims:  “At the election last year the Conservatives led by 22 points in the South, while Labour led by 7 points in the North.  Back in 1979 when Thatcher came to power the Conservatives led by 21 points in the South, Labour led by 4 points in the North.

Hence, while this isn’t a new problem, it is getting worse – in 1979 the Conservative share was 10 points higher in the South than the North, now it is 13 points higher.  The north/south divide for the Tories isn’t new but is growing.”

I have a lot of respect for Anthony.  He is a real specialist in the polling field though he admits to knowing little about Scotland, and when he says “the North”, he means the North of England.

The sample size for “the North” is reasonably sized (677), and certainly larger than the Scottish sample of 240, but Anthony has consistently argued that while subsamples aren’t terribly useful for voting intention they can demonstrate significant differences in attitudinal issues.

There is such a significant difference in the Scottish sample.  Not in the Tory data that Anthony was investigating (he is an English Tory, but one of the good ones!) but in the attitudes of the Scottish sample to the Labour Party.

We know that, due to their methodology, YouGov select panel members predominantly on their “party ID” – data collected immediately after the 2010 election and based on UK political attitudes.  Unsurprisingly, their Scottish panel is biased towards those voting Labour in the 2010 GE.  This is reflected constantly in the Scottish sample in their daily polls.

So we can reasonably assume that this panel also was biased towards Labour.

The question asked “How well or badly do you think the Labour party represents and understands voters in  … Scotland”

The GB panel responded: Well 32% : Badly 26%
The Scots panel answered:  Well 28% : Badly 50%

The figures for the same question asked about the Conservative party representing and understanding voters in Scotland revealed the depths of the electoral chasm out of which the Conservatives must climb.

The GB panel responded:  Well 10% : Badly 50%
The Scots panel responded: Well 11% : Badly 68%

As always one poll on its own, with a small sample, is not definitive.  However, it does suggest that Labour voters in Scotland don’t see just the Tories as “Southerners”, a view shared by our friends in the North of England, but that unlike the Northern English, Scots see the UK Labour Party in the same way.  

When a panel consisting of voters who may be fairly assumed to be biased towards Labour reports that 50% of Scots think Labour is representing and understanding Scotland badly, it shows that the problems faced by Labour are similar in scale and kind to those faced by the Scottish Conservatives.