Labour Still Have A Mountain To Climb: New Survation Poll

The quiet of the New Year is definitely over. Just 24 hours after the publication of the first readings of the year, today’s Daily Record reports the findings of its latest monthly poll from Survation.

Much like yesterday’s Panelbase poll in The Sunday Times today’s poll suggests there might have been some narrowing of the SNP lead in voting intentions for May’s Westminster election. At 46% SNP support is down two points on Survation’s poll just before Christmas, while at 26% Labour’s vote is up by two points. But we should also note that the SNP tally is still just as high as it was in Survation’s poll in November (which is when Panelbase previously polled Westminster vote intentions) and thus this poll is far from unambiguous confirmation that there has been slippage in SNP support. Certainly if Labour have made any progress in recent weeks it would appear to have been small relative to the size of the task before it. If today’s poll results were to be reflected in the ballot boxes, the party might be left with just half a dozen Scottish seats, while the SNP could win as many as 52 of the country’s 59 seats.

Some of the patterns which appear to underlie the SNP post-referendum ‘surge’ and which have become very familiar in recent months are in evidence once again in today’s poll. For many voters the Westminster election looks to be another chance to express their views about independence; no less than 85% of Yes voters (who have a voting intention) say they will vote SNP compared with just 15% of those who voted No. Equally, in contrast to the pre-referendum norm, very few voters say they will vote differently in May from the way they would in a Holyrood election. At 50%, SNP support on the Holyrood constituency vote is only a little higher than it is for Westminster. Labour are unlikely to make a great deal of progress for so long as these patterns remain in place.

Today’s poll also looks as voters’ preferred outcome for the election in May. As the Record itself emphasises, a clear plurality (35%) of voters in Scotland say that they would most prefer a Labour/SNP coalition after May’s general election. This is in truth hardly surprising (and echoes the finding of a poll conducted for the SNP last month). Most of those who back that view are SNP supporters, no less than 67% of whom would most prefer coalition with Labour. Whereas there is some chance of a majority Labour government, there is, of course, no prospect of a majority SNP government at Westminster. Consequently, having ruled out a deal with the Conservatives, coming to an arrangement with Labour effectively represents the SNP’s only hope of wielding influence after May and is thus the outcome we would expect most SNP voters to back.

It is, however, not an arrangement for which there is a great deal of reciprocal feeling in Labour ranks; no less than 59% of Labour supporters want a majority Labour government while just 17% back an arrangement with the SNP. Mind you, that still leaves Mr Murphy with the problem that only 20% of all Scots want to see his party back in unfettered power, hardly a powerful springboard from which to try and save his fellow MPs’ seats.

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About the author

John Curtice is Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University, Senior Research Fellow at ScotCen and at 'UK in a Changing Europe', and Chief Commentator on the What Scotland Thinks website.