Populus have released new polling figures on the Alternative Vote. As in February they used a split sample, asking half the respondents how they would vote using the bare referendum question, but prompting the other half with explanations of the two systems. In February Populus found a 12 point lead for YES in the unprompted question, but a 14 point lead for NO when people were given an explanation of the two systems.

This month they have repeated the exercise and found significant convergence between the two questions. Now on the bare referendum question Populus found YES on 33% (down 8 ) and NO on 37% (up 8). On the prompted question there is much less movement – YES is unchanged on 29%, NO is up three on 46%. No still have a much bigger lead when the systems are explained, but the difference is considerably smaller.


260 Responses to “Latest Populus AV polling has NO ahead”

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  1. @BT says – you beat me to it! The industrial figures here were for February, while the service figures were for March, but there is a consistency about the underlying figures.

    We knew from earlier CIPs survey data that manufacturing for export is still doing well, but that domestic consumption has effectively stagnated. The industrial production figures reflect this two paced market, with the addition of a sharp drop in North Sea oil and gas production due to temporary maintenance.

    The service sector is showing some growth in the business support sector but consumer facing businesses are showing sharp falls. The good news yesterday was largely based on end of financial year government spending. I know all about this as we’ve just cleared a huge volume of short notice contracts for public sector bodies that was basically clearing out the budgets before the cuts.

    Overall, it points to a clear set of themes; exports still going well, but with the froth slightly off the recent boom; the domestic market extremely poor; government spending contracting sharply.

    The really big question is going to be what effect the dreadful consumer confidence figures have on business confidence. If businesses look through the next 6 – 12 months and think things will be OK they will continue to invest, but if they get cold feet by seeing collapsing consumer sentiment and think that this will presage a lengthy period of slack demand, we will see them move into defensive mode.

    Yesterday there was a little reported downgrade by the OECD (Osborne’s favourite forecasters) of UK growth prospects and suggesting that UK growth would be very weak for a long time and the worst of the G8. This is going to go on for a long time, and anyone banking on a massive 2015 government spending war chest needs to sit in a dark room for a few days and calm down.

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  2. Alec

    Interesting commentary, thanks.

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  3. @John B Dick

    ‘Only by looking to Westminster can they see anything that looks like success. At the Scottish level, electoral success, membership, numbers of credible candidates and financial resources all seem set on an inexorable (though now very gradual) course of decline.’

    A little harsh and not quite in line with all the facts.

    In terms of electoral support in votes actually achieved in past elections as opposed to the guesses of current opinion polls of the SE2011 outcome, the Con Vote in Scotland was follows:

    GE2005 15..%
    SE2007 16.6% (Constituencies only)
    GE2010 16.7%

    Hardly ‘an inexorable (though now very gradual) course of decline’, that you seem to state as though it was a ‘fact’. Indeed the opposite, a very slow and gradual climb woould be more accurate.

    Before you start quoting the vote % in SE2007 Regional Votes, yes that was down to 13.9% a drop from the constituencies by 2.7% But then in SE2007 Lab dropped 3%, SNP dropped 1.9% and LD dropped 4.9% in their respective Regional vote %s. So nothing out of the ordinary there.

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  4. Personally I expect the tories to stay static at 14% on the list and drop to that on the constituency ballot due to a little bit of tactical voting.

    John B Dick is right about Bavarianation for the tories if they are to have any chance of recovering to get 20-25%.

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  5. @ A BROWN

    “Personally I expect the tories to stay static at 14% on the list and drop to that on the constituency ballot due to a little bit of tactical voting.’

    I would agree with you that Con may get 14%on the List vote, but even that would be a very small increase or no change vote. I have seen no polling evidence that tory voters are moving towards tactical voting as opposed to supporting the tory candidate in the constituency list. Voters for other parties who vote tactically against tory candidates do not affect the tory vote%. It may affect the seat outcome, but not the %.

    If you have evidence of potential tactical voting by tory voters, I would be interested in the details and your arguments.

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  6. Frank G

    If you want a harsh judgement on any political party, you know where to come.

    I did say “very gradual”. I had it in my mind that 1.5% loss was sustained last time. Might that be Mid Scotland and Fife, which I was looking at around that time?

    I’ve rubbished polls that said they would lose 3%.

    That’s just not possible. Those that are left are the most loyal and they do turn out. They won’t be distracted as easily by UK parliament antics as the LibDem anti-Cons.

    I’d expect losses of 1.5% in votes and 0-1 seats at most.

    I did say “VERY” gradual. There may come a point of total collapse, but it’s a long way off. The long term prospect is not up, is it? These comparisons always depend on the starting point.

    The other things I mentioned are just as important. What’s morale like in the party? Are they hoping to make advances, or are they worried that their high profile MSP’s other than the leader are at risk?

    Do they have any high profile MSP’s if it comes to that? I can think of a couple that are known and respected within their region or sphere of interest or knowledge, but only the leader makes much impact nationally.

    What’s the age structure of the MSP group? Is it true as the PR people seem to think, that you have to look like a Blair clone to get elected, or is it not the case that you need a mix of experience and wisdom which come with age, and the energy of youth with capability for succession?

    The problem they have with MSP’s of Jamie McGrigor or Mary Scalon’s generation is that they are popular and well known, but they won’t be around much longer.

    Their replacements are not in sight.

    Not that Labour, LibDems Socialists or Greens are in a good place for talent, membership or money, though Green optimists will be able to keep their spirits up till they see the election results.

    The LibDems problems have been covered exhaustively in these pages, but there are Scottish issues that affect their constituencies more than most: Post offices, mail and summertime.

    For a hatchet job on Labour I refer you to the Cybernats on the Scotsman blog.

    Christian sized up the SNP on these pages three years ago as “bog standard competent government and a few minor gimmicks.”

    It’s tragic that that is such an unexpected and welcome novelty because expectations, based on experience of Westminster, are so low.

    The SNP have four outstanding ministers and many at least competent ones. They have all been working very hard for the last four years. If re-elected, they will not be able to keep it up.

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  7. Frank G

    Are there any “soft Tory” voters who will vote tactically on the List? How would you distingush them from Anti-Labs who in FPTP have gotten into the habit of voting Con in their constituency?

    Might there be voters who would do what they are supposed to do, and vote for the best person for the Constituency (eg one of the three MSP Tory farmers who might understand local issues) while voting on the list to get the least worst of the big two in government?

    Could there be natural Green party supporters who vote for their party and the least worst local candidate?

    There might even be a Tory party chairman somewhere who knows that the candidate will be a liability if elected (or his run off with his wife) and in the privacy of a secret ballot chooses to vote for someone else.

    There will also be those who vote efficiently for Con on the list, and the least worst of the incumbent or the challenger for the constituency.

    There are many reasons for a split vote and research is needed. Some undoubtedly think it is a second preference. Others may think “Use it or lose it”

    To categorise the constituency vote as an indicator of genuine party allegience is as unsafe as it would be to do so with the List vote.

    It is also so very 20th Century.

    Half a century ago class voting was assumed and the challenge was to get the natural support to turn out and vote. It was suggested to me that I should vote for “our sort of people” but I voted for that party anyway despite the fact that I was another sort of people because the other lot were even less appealing.

    The NewLabour leadership have distanced themselves from the working class and joind the metropolitan celebrity media and sport culture and the mega-rich.

    The better off working class no longer think of themselves as such and do not have the group identity of the large industrial workforce. They do read the headlines in the Sun, (the reading ability of a seven-year-old will do for that) but they are only interested in Page 3 and the sport. The least well off are usurprisingly depressed, and mostly don’t vote beause they see it as hopeless.

    Conservatives have been taken over by the free market fundamentalists and marginalised one nation conservatives who in return have been unesasy with the values of the garage ownerand estate agent tendency.

    Decent middle class, old professionals, Christians, non-socialist ethical humanists have been repelled by Coservatives pandering to the rich, powerful and greedy and any in the public sector who might be sympathetic to some aspects of Conservative policy have been affronted by the pubic sector being made the scapegoat for the financial misdeeds of others.

    The class war is dead.

    Marxists should consider counselling to help them get over it. The rest of us should just put aside the assumptions of the past that any voter who is not a party member “belongs” to one of the big two and that only those who do not know on which side their bread is buttered vote for the Liberals.

    The voting system in the Scottish Parliment is too subtle for the pollsters, bogged down as they are in Westminster assumptions. There is an opportunity for them to develop their professional skills and tools.

    Political parties need to focus less on the mechanics of “speaking with one voice” (the leader’s) and go out garnering votes making a separate pitch for the candidate and for the List.

    If you get the chance to ask a candidate of he big four a question say “I will give your party one vote only. Would you prefer it was for you or for the party list?”

    That will separate the men from the boys.

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  8. John B Dick

    Thanks for the very detailed reply, to which of course I am totally unqualified to answer. I do not have any affiliations to the Tory party and will certainly not be voting for them this time around or in the foreseeable future. My main interest is in what the polls mean on the ground in the terms of seats won and lost. Analysis of the poll effects rather than its causes.

    My posting was merely to point out the inaccuracies of your statement that their overall vote in Scotland was in decline. Incidently in 2007 Mid and Fife as a region showed a drop in the tory vote of 1.3% in the list vote but an average increase in the constituency vote of 0.3%.

    I share your view that there will be no dramatic tory revival in Scotland in May. In the constituencies I expect them to gain possibly 2 seats and they may hang on to about the same number of regional seats as before. Unfortunately, it will almost certainly be at the expense of LD. I don’t think however that LDs in Scotland will be as swamped as some of the opinion polls would have you believe.

    I only wish there was some constituency specific polling to get a better shop floor feeling. In many polls there are only a handfull of respondents from some of the more remote Scottish constituencies. In one poll of the 4 respondents from Shetlands, 3 of them opted for Labour and 1 for SNP. When you looked into their crossbreak details, 3 of the 4 were 65+ and 3 of the 4 were females. Yet their vote total for Lab and SNP was even up weighted because the survey needed more 65+ and more females. Needless to say LD did not have a good poll. Of course it may be that the Shetlands has suddenly been populated by silver haired women, but maybe, just maybe, the poll was too optimistic is using only 4 respondents to survey a whole constituency.

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  9. @ John B Dick

    “Are there any “soft Tory” voters who will vote tactically on the List?”

    It is my impression that ‘soft Tory’ voters disappeared long ago. Look at their leader!

    As for the conumdrums of your reply, I can only shake my head in bewilderment and think that just maybe your type of voting system that has ‘two votes per person’ and two types of MSPs is to blame.

    If you think you have problems then think of me.

    Where I live there are two electoral rolls and which one you are on depends upon your religion. You have one vote and voting is compulsory. Most of the MPs are elected on a constituency basis, but once a party has achieved 50% of the vote in a constituency, any excess votes can be switched countrywide to try and get above 50% for your party in any other constituency. Then to top it all the overall vote %s are used to allocate a few PR type seats, but with a fairly low threshold, so a plethora of minor parties abound. The result is no party gets more than 35% and any government is probably a minimum of 3 or 4 parties. Specific ministerial posts are allocated to specific government parties in a post election bun-fight, to chose the minister and ministers are not usually MPs. There is therefore no direct accountablity of ministers to Parliament or even of the President to Parliament. The President is elected for four years by a separate election from one religious electoral role and the Vice President for four years from the other religious electoral roll. Parties squabble for publicity to try and get that extra % point increase in their vote and ministers shamelessly pander to their own party faithful especially at election time. Budgets are chaotic with all the smaller parties trying to offset the Finance Ministry’s overall economic policies with exemptions aimed specifically for their party faithful.

    We currently have a Communist President and the major government coalition party is communist.

    Never has FPTP seemed so attractive.

    Still we do have lots of sun and the beer is great!

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  10. No doubt some other poster will tell us where you are.

    It’s not just the voting system that makes predictions complex in Scotland. As well as supporters of six parties Slab Con and SNP have significant anti-parties opposing and there is also an anti-Lab/Con group.

    The last still splits its vote between three or four parties and the choice may depend on the constituency arithmetic.

    The final complication is that – taking Mid Scotland as the example again, three Labour constituency losses to SNP resulted in a net gain from LibDem to SNP of one and no change for Labour.

    The LibDem was bumped off the list to make room for the last Labour compensation.

    You can see how negative voters can add complexity in a system like that.

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