A new opinion poll, conducted by ICM, shows that with only weeks to go until the elections the SNP is closing fast on Labour. The poll, with a sample of 1003 people and conducted between the 14 and 15 March – immediately after the SNP Spring conference – shows Labour’s lead over the SNP has been reduced to just 4 points on the constituency vote and 3 points on the list.
With a number of recent polls, such as the TNS poll on 7 March, showing Labour ahead by as much as 15 points on the consituency vote it seems that a dramatic shift has taken place as the election on May 5 comes into focus.
On the constituency vote Labour are ahead on 39%, the SNP are just behind on 35%, with the Conservatives’ vote holding steady at 12%, the Lib Dems on 10% and others 4%. In terms of the list vote Labour’s lead is 3 points recording 37% over the SNP on 34% with the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Greens and others on 13%, 9%, 4% and 7% respectively.
Labour strategists will be concerned that as the election campaign draws nearer and opposition policies come under the spotlight that the lead they had built up has been soft. Last weekend a survey conducted by Scottish Opinion showed Labour ahead by only 6 points. Today’s poll then confirms a shift in voting intentions towards the Nationalists and suggests that the election will be close with both principal parties believing they can win.
The outcome of the election will hinge on those voters who are as yet undecided about their voting intentions. In order to ascertain how this category is likely to vote polling experts ascertain general attitudes towards parties. The ICM survey asked respondents: “Putting aside your own party preference, which political party do you think can do the best job of running Scotland successfully over the next Scottish Parliament term?” Voters in the survey placed the SNP on 32% ahead of Labour on 30%. When those who answered don’t know or none are excluded the SNP were on 42% and Labour 39%.
With the next Holyrood term being a five year term and with the two main parties seemingly neck-and-neck the campaign promises to be lively and activists will be fired up for battle on the doorsteps. Labour in Scotland, which has been suffering from some internal divisions and a lack of public recognition of their leader Iain Gray, is nevertheless a formidable election-winning machine and has some big Westminster hitters who will bolster their Scottish party’s campaign with high-profile constituency visits. The SNP will seek to exploit Labour’s weaknesses by contrasting them with their party’s record in office, party cohesion and the popularity of veteran leader Alex Salmond.