YouGov’s January and February Scottish polls


By Dave Taylor

One of YouGov’s weaknesses, when it comes to Scottish Polling, is that they weight their sample by Westminster based ‘party identity’.

They have no way of telling whether their sample of Labour Party IDs and Scottish National Party IDs have a larger or smaller number of voters who switch their votes between Labour and SNP.  That there is a significant ‘churn’ of voting intention between Labour and SNP is clear.

In the following, the January figures are given first (with the February figures in brackets).  Voting intention for most parties is stable.

The Tories are on 16% (17%) for Westminster, 13% (12%) for Holyrood constituencies, and 13% (13%) on the list.

Lib Dems have 7% (7%) for Westminster, 7% (8%) for Holyrood constituencies, and 7% (7%) on the list.

The Greens support is 5% (6%), while the SSP achieves 3% (3%) on the list.

Compare that with the situation of SNP and Labour.

Labour are on 35% (42%) for Westminster, 32% (36%) for Holyrood constituencies, and 31% (32%) on the list.

The SNP have 37% (30%) for Westminster, 44% (40%) for Holyrood constituencies, and 39% (38%) on the list.

As if we didn’t know, SNP and Labour are the two largest parties in Scotland, but there is a significant pool of voters from which both parties draw, and that can vary from day to day.

Independence and Devo Max

‘Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?’

Yes 32%, No 53% were the responses in February to a single question – percentages relate to the proportion of party supporters for Holyrood constituencies).  Predictably, the highest No vote came from the Tories (95%) and Lib Dems (80%), while the highest Yes vote came from the SNP (74% as opposed to 12% No). Labour had the largest split vote – 75% No and 15% Yes.

People were also asked about a three option referendum – although an actual referendum would never be asked in such a way.  The choices were – with the overall figures for each –

  • Keeping the powers of Scotland’s Parliament as they are: 33%
  • Scotland’s Parliament having full responsibility for all taxes and spending, but within the UK: 36%
  • Full Independence: 24%
  • Don’t Know: 7%

Again, the party breakdowns are not surprising. 78% of Tories and 58% of Lib Dems wanted the status quo (Home Rule is no longer the preferred Lib Dem option), while only 47% of Labour supporters were happy with the current constitutional set up.

For Independence were 56% of SNP supporters along with 9% of Labour, 3% of Tories and a miserable 2% from the LDs.

Those for whom ‘Devo Max’ was the first choice were 39% of SNP, 36% of Labour, 33% of Lib Dems and only 16% of the Tories.

YouGov offered all those who had expressed a preference to give their second choice.

No one will be surprised that 83% of those who opted for the status quo preferred ‘Devo Max’ rather than Independence, while 95% of those wanting independence preferred ‘Devo Max’  to the status quo!

The concern for independence supporters will be that ‘Devo Max’ supporters broke 2:1 in favour of the status quo rather than independence if they couldn’t have their favoured option (62% to 29%).

The implications for the campaign

Research by psychologists, into organisational change, has long suggested that people’s reactions to the ‘threat’ or ‘challenge’ of change can be chaotic.  People simultaneously react emotionally and rationally – and these reactions can be confused and contradictory.  People’s feelings, behaviours, and thoughts about the change may not necessarily coincide.

That is especially true in the early stages when a possible change becomes a serious possibility, and Scotland becoming an independent country, or taking massively more control over its own affairs would certainly be a big change!

Naturally good managers, who see the need for change, build in a period of time for people to go through a period of angst, before the full details are placed on the table.  Bad managers, who only consider changes when they are forced in to them, demand a quick decision.

The political comparisons are obvious.

If confusion is normal among individuals, then polls which aggregate individual responses will be equally confusing, and that seems to be the case with much polling at the moment.

For example, YouGov’s January poll showed Scots equally split between leaving the EU and staying in it.  The February poll has 44% wanting Scotland to be represented in the EU by the UK Government, 33% thinking Scotland should be independently represented, and only 24% wanting to leave altogether.

Again on controlling our own taxation, in one question 60% wanted control of it, while in another question, only 44% did.

The February poll also replicated a number of other questions asked in July 2008. The most popular responses are shown with the 2008 figure in brackets.

‘Keep the Queen as Head of State’ 60% (55%)
‘Keep the pound as our currency’ 82% (73%)
‘Continue to contribute troops to Britain’s armed services’ 67% (66%)
Use UK immigration laws and have no border controls 62% (55%)
No BBC Scottish Six News 63% (60%)
Be part of British Olympics Team 54% (51%)
Scots should use UK Embassies 60% (60%)
Be represented by the UK in the UN 52% (55%)

And finally on NATO, where it is SNP policy to leave NATO –
‘Continue to be represented by the UK in the NATO military alliance’ 57% (57%)
‘Be a separate member of NATO’ 24% (28%)
‘Leave NATO altogether’ 7% (6%)