Since the Scottish referendum we’ve had Scottish polls from MORI, Panelbase, YouGov and Survation and they’ve been consistent in showing large leads for the SNP over Labour in Westminster voting intentions. ICM now have a new Scottish poll out and it shows the same as other companies – topline Westminster voting intentions are CON 13%, LAB 26%, LDEM 6%, SNP 43%, UKIP 7%, GRN 4%.

The 17 point SNP lead is smaller than the 24 point lead that Survation recorded at the start of the week (and without tables yet we can’t really speculate why) but would still produce a landslide win for the SNP if repeated in the general election next year. In the Guardian write up they mention some analysis by John Curtice suggesting that Labour may do even worse than uniform swing suggests – looking at responses from areas where Labour was over 25% ahead of the SNP in 2010 shows the Labour vote dropping more there than average. I’d be wary of reading too much into sub-samples of voting intention in a poll that’s only 1000 people to begin with, but nevertheless this seems perfectly plausible for the reasons I mentioned here – when there is a huge drop in support for a political party a uniform swing does start to become untenable due to a floor effect… there are simply too many seats where a party doesn’t have enough support to begin with to lose that much, so they have to lose more votes in places they had more votes.

UPDATE: Full tabs are here, and reallocation of don’t knows did happen and did help Labour – it would have been a nineteen point lead otherwise.

453 Responses to “ICM Scottish poll gives SNP 17 point lead”

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  1. @RAF

    Being generous, could T.Blair be trying some reverse psychology?

    On second thoughts, no. It’s much more likely to be his hand of history hovering protectively over the legacy of New Labour.

  2. Laszlo

    How can a party be further from the Tories than Labour when their slogan is not Workers of the World unite, but capitalists of Scotland pay enough tax to maintain social peace and the existing order?

    Perhaps because their supporters want them to be? There’s an interesting question in the ICM poll (Table 28 in above link) which begins Scotland is set to get more power over both the taxes that its citizens pay, and the money that is spent over its public services and benefits. Do you think:, followed by the options:

    Overall taxes should be raised to fund better public services for Scotland 26%

    The current balance between taxes and public spending is about right 41%

    Public expenditure in Scotland should be reduced to allow for lower taxes 13%

    Don’t know 21%

    But if you look at the percentages of each Party’s (Westminster VI) supporters that chose the first option:

    Con 10%

    UKIP 12%

    Lab 25%

    Lib Dem 31%

    Other 36%

    SNP 41%

    It suggests a situation where it’s Labour who are near to the Tories on what is seen as left-wing position.

  3. @ Roger Mexico

    It suggests a situation where it’s Labour who are near to the Tories on what is seen as left-wing position.
    It doesn’t. It suggests a situation where it’s Labour’s current supporters who are nearer to the Tories etc.

    And it certainly doesn’t reflect policy choices by the Parties heretofore – the SNP are the Party of the Council Tax Freeze.

  4. @Alec

    “This looks to me like the grudging acceptance – ‘OK – our team got it wrong, we admit, but look at your team – they’re rubbish too’. ”

    Our ‘team’ (N.B. – I am not part of any team, but your partisan p.o.v. on the matter puts me on a side that opposes your views) has not been in charge of any of the Scottish economy. That’s the whole point of the pro-indy folk.

    All these events happen and the Scots and their elected Scottish Government can do nothing to prevent Westminster mismanagement of the nations resources. Successive governments spend and incur debt based on future incomes (including NS Oil).

    The irony that the Scots can’t leave, and would incur a share of the debt that they wouldn’t have had, had they been indy is not lost on me.

    I suggest you leave the subject alone. Every time others quieten down, you restart the debate. Even a clock is right twice a day, and even a doom monger (e.g. Nostradamus) is right occasionally if they predict doom continuously.

    Rather than look at as “our team got it wrong, we admit, but look at your team – they’re rubbish too’. ” – try looking at it as,

    “Our team hasn’t had a chance to manage things wrongly, but your team has consistently managed things wrongly, so if there’s blame and doom to be discussing, start with the serial offenders.”


  5. Alec

    Tony Blair has been saying some less than encouraging things about Ed and labour’s chances according to the DT and the G.

    […] I would have thought ex leaders might have had the decency to either offer support to their party or say nothing, 5 months out from an election. It doesn’t smack of a man keen to help his old pals.

    That’s very unfair. Mr Blair is always very eager to help out his old pals.

    It’s just the Labour Party he doesn’t like.

  6. Amber

    Well, unless over 70% of the Scottish electorate are deluded, it suggests that that is the way round those Parties are perceived by those who vote for them. If nothing else, not only is Labour not getting its message across, but if it does want to increase taxes it’s likely to lose many of the remaining voters it does have.

    I was actually surprised by the size of the difference when I saw it. It’s far more than those due to demographics (eg SEG or employment status). It illustrates how far Scottish Labour has become detached from its traditional support.

  7. Carfrew

    As I recall, you expressed it in the context of the currency debate, the government’s denying of the currency to Scots. And the “stab-your-face” metaphor graphically illustrated your perception of the threat.

    No I didn’t. In that context I wasn’t talking about the currency debate at all. What I said about that was that, according to polling, most people simply didn’t believe it was a credible threat and that something would be worked out in the event of a split. Whether this would have been true or not is irrelevant, it’s what people thought.

    What you are get confused with is another metaphor I used about the the way in which pleas for the union to remain were undermined by the associated threats being made if Scotland voted not to stay. I merely pointed out that saying “If you leave me, I’ll slash your face” was not a recipe for a long and happy marriage.

  8. @RAF

    “Also, if politics since the crash has moved to the Right how come the Tories are on 32%?”

    With UKIP on 15% plus, that’s where the rise (to right-leaning parties) is.

    Three years ago the lead of Lab, Lib, Green, SNP over Con and UKIP was in the teens, while it’s closer to around 2-4% now.

    Although, I don’t believe that those moving to UKIP are all inherently right-wing, so much as they see UKIP as a party of the working class, whereas historically the working-class parties tended to be more left-wing.

  9. TB may have read Chilcott conclusions ,aka as Big Gordies revenge ,and he is not in a good mood.

    The thought of ed winning on a mildly left platform upsets all the blairites even more than the conservatives.

  10. @Statgeek – relax – I was being lighthearted.

  11. @ CMJ

    Thsnk you very much for taking the time to explain the workings of the CUSUM method. I am currently trying to do some reading to make more sense of this tool. I can see if scores were drawn from an invariant population the cumulative sum measure would behave in an orderly fashion. However, at the moment I don’t understand how the change-detection criterion is decided and I am a bit perplexed by discrepancies between the calculation steps as you describe them and the formulae given in the wikipedia entry you pointed to.

    Intuitively, it seems to me that the threshold value must be linked to population variance. (The CUSUM measure is likely to wander less with a low variance population.)

    On calculation, Wilipedia describes a function which represents the maximum of (a) zero and (b) a cumulative score which is further corrected by the subtraction of s weighted correction. This function can never rise above zero. There is a corresponding function to detect change in the opposite direction (and here the value never falls *below* zero). In contrast, your own – somewhat simpler – CUSUM measure is free to move both above and below zero.

    Anyway, I plan to check it out. But if you have off-the-cuff answers to these questions it would save me a bit of time…

  12. @Unicorn

    Apologies – the link is for a one sided CUSUM, when I use a two sided one:

  13. @ Charles & @ Ernie

    “Can you explain why you chose trends rather than (say) the average over the past n polls?”

    I can see that poll-followers would be interested in seeing whether a was doing better than it was (rather than departing from a long-established trend). However, I can’t see any obvious way of agreeing on a baseline window.

    At any time, the current set of polls would look different when compared with data collected the previous month, the previous six months, or (say) at the same time the previous year. You would have to agree some way of avoiding baseline cherry-picking (ie., picking a set of n prior polls specifically to bolster your case that a change is afoot). UKPR posters could no doubt reach such an agreement, but personally I can’t think of any baseline definition that would command unquestioning support.

    (Note that one version of CMJ’s CUSUM method bypasses the baseline problem by setting out to detect change *within* an N poll sequence. But there still seems an element of cherry picking in allowing yourself to choose the length of the sequence.)

  14. @CMJ

    Thanks for providing that reading material. Radio silence while I try to absorb it all…

  15. @ Roger Mexico

    It illustrates how far Scottish Labour has become detached from its traditional support.
    I don’t think it does. It may illustrate that the a large part of the Scottish electorate likes to think of itself as more left-wing than it actually is.

    They can answer a polling question saying they’d pay more taxes; but what they actually vote for is lower taxes.

    The council tax freeze was the flagship policy of the SNP for the Holyrood elections, which they won.

  16. Amber – like most voters (including RUK Lab ones) they probably mean higher taxes for other poeple and/or for some as an abstract notion in a Scandanavian model kind of way.

    If all voters who said they agreed with higher taxes for Public Services voted in line with that claim the Tories would have been trounced in 83. 87 and 92!

  17. @SYZYGY

    Blair’s clearly not intending to, but his comments might have just that reverse effect.

    I doubt whether confirmation by Blair that Miliband has indeed brought about policy changes that have very much drawn a line under the New Labour years will do anything to put off left-leaning 2010 Lib Dems who subsequently defected to Labour, most of whom wanted an alternative to New Labour, which Brown never offered except for an illusionary moment in 2007. It might even bring a few of those 2010 Lib Dems who were dallying with the Greens back into the Labour camp.

    Labour defectors to UKIP similarly hold Blair in low regard by and large, with the claim that Labour no longer stands for what it traditionally did resonating particularly amongst older C2DE voters. Blair saying that Labour has changed back towards a more traditional position directly challenges the perception that Miliband is pursuing “same old” New Labour policies.

    Similarly, Blair’s comments directly challenge the perception in Scotland that Labour has moved to the centre rather than away from it.

    It’s possible that a few more diehard New Labour supporters might defect after voting Labour in 2010, but I think not, because the ship containing the likes of Glenda’s lad sailed some while back. Other than a handful for whom the hard right policies of Cameron and Osborne (facilitated by Clegg) might appeal, they have nowhere to go.

    So although I doubt whether the comments will have any discernible impact on VI, damaging to Labour they are definitely not.

  18. I’ve long thought the best thing Blair could do would be to openly denounce Miliband and defect. But then as Michael Foot once said of Blair, “I don’t think you could call anyone an opportunist who joined the party while I was leader”.

  19. @Unicorn

    This is an excellent primer for control charts

  20. @Phil Haines

    ‘Blair’s clearly not intending to, but his comments might have just that reverse effect.’

    I can’t help but be a little bit pleased when the narcissistic intent boomerangs…

    Happy New Year.

  21. “Also, if politics since the crash has moved to the Right how come the Tories are on 32%?”

    Politics moved left during the credit bubble 1998-2008.

    The Cameroons were a response to that.

    Politics moved right after 2008 just before the Cameroons took over.

    hence 32%

    I’d say the (economic) Right has squandered their opportunity now through making it too obvious they wanted to use the ongoing banking crisis for some wholesale safety net carnage – even if they failed to actually achieve much of it – so a double fault from their point of view.

    So now politics remains right (socially) but whether left or right economically is on a knife edge at the mo depending on who is blamed most: banksters or government spending, although as the banksters are the ones who benefit from the government debt and the politicians who create the debt that benefits the banks go on to get banking directorships after they retire I’d say the answer to that is the same either way.

    However regardless of what’s true it depends on who wins the argument. If EM can successfully pin the blame on the banks and get the Cameroons to defend them then he can knock the economic argument back to the left – otherwise economically it’ll stay in a kind of limbo.

    all imo

  22. @ CMJ

    “There are really simple ways of establishing if the direction in which data is moving…”

    Okay…I’ve taken the time to browse through the material you kindly flagged up for me.

    I certainly agree that these are interesting and potentially useful methods for detecting change in a time-linked series of dats points (such as polling VI values, for our present purposes). I am not so sure I would go with the description ‘really simple’, though.

    It is certainly easy to put together the CUSUM plot itself. But the heavy lifting comes in specifying the change threshold (using the V-mask). The opening angle of the V will presumably be dependent on the confidence interval you opt to work with, and also the normalised size of the change you are setting out to detect. (That is, a higher threshold would be needed to detect a 1 standard deviation change thsn that for a shift of a tenth of this magnitude.) I see from your reading material that there are packages that will generate thresholds once the user has entered their requirements. But not exactly back-of-the-envelope stuff.

    As a matter of interest, when you used the method to support the claims about Labour’s late December improvement, what thresholds and confidence bands were you using and what size of change (in SDs) were you reporting to have been detected. (I seem to recall you describing the changes informally as small but reliable, but the formal details would help.)

  23. @ Roger Mexico

    Laszlo’s entire last paragraph read:

    SNP is not more left than Labour, only more radical. Its history and some of their policies are much closer to the Conservatives. If nothing else, the militant nationalism. How can a party be further from the Tories than Labour when their slogan is not Workers of the World unite, but capitalists of Scotland pay enough tax to maintain social peace and the existing order?

    Laszlo can speak for himself but I understood him to be distinguishing between the underlying philosophies of international socialism and a nationalism which is focused on defending a particular notion of nationhood, rather than the specifics of tax policy.

    Personally, I don’t consider increasing taxes on ordinary people to be specifically leftwing .. and it is currently very undesirable. There is a lack of demand in the economy which increasing taxation would only exacerbate. Furthermore, gov’t spending is not dependent on tax receipts.

    However, I appreciate that I’m out of step with the prevailing assumptions as to what is left and right wing :)

  24. Sue – if you are out of step than so am I.

  25. Jim Jam – I can’t think of better company to be out of step with :)

  26. Syzygy,

    “some of their policies are much closer to the Conservatives”

    Which ones would those be?


  27. I’d like to know what policies currently being put forward by EM and the Labour Party, Tony Blair thinks are too left wing for the Labour Party to put forward.

    Could it be the minimum wage, reform of the House of Lords, Gay Rights, increase in public expenditure especially social services, increase in benefits, free nursery places for all children, parental rights at work, Assemblies for Wales and Scotland. Also…….

    oops, sorry, wrong Labour Parrty leader…..

  28. @Unicorn

    The links are to complex and expensive software packages. Sadly, I could not find and easy and quick primer. I use Minitab at work, and a single licence runs at about £700.

    My stats have been learned through my Black Belt Six Sigma Training. You use a narrowish band of techniques, and you don’t massively delve into the detail – for the applications the stats are used for it is not required. In my work, you don’t have the time to spend days getting into the great detail – you want a reasonable view of patterns and trends in a reasonable time period.

    My own method for developing CUSUM charts van be found in the linked document:

    It gives quick, reasonable results. If I were engineering critical parts for an aircraft engine and working out the mean time to failure, I would use stats to ultra-fine degree.

    However, for polling data, there are so many variables enough out of your control, then I think taking it to far to end up disappearing up your backside for no real value.

    The method I use for CUSUM was given to me by my Black Belt Trainer, and he was happy to approve it as an appropriate method.

  29. Correction

    However, for polling data, there are so many variables enough out of your control, then I think taking it to far and end up disappearing up your backside for no real value.

  30. Second Correction:

    However, for polling data, with so many variables out of your control, then I think taking it to far and ending up disappearing up your backside for no real value is a real risk.

  31. cmj

    Wottabowt a third correction for “TOO far” ??

    [and some commas ………..]

  32. @R&D

    I gave up by then!

  33. Blair now saying he was “misinterpreted” – doubtless by those who read the words he had said, and were only proficient in English instead of Blair’s native tongue – Newspeak.

  34. @OLDNAT

    ‘Blair now saying he was “misinterpreted” ‘

    Hmmmm.Who to believe, Blair or the National Press?

    That’s a bit of a toughie!

  35. “That’s a bit of a toughie!”

    Indeed. There was a time when they were one and the same.

    /get in!

  36. Will Jennings, Professor of Political Science & Public Policy at Southampton Uni has tweeted a chart that showed the public had indeed shifted to the left:


    Your challenge should be directed at Laszlo since it was his quote .. but I am certainly tempted to respond :)

  38. Well it’s great to be back after spending two weeks at Riaca Capo in southern Italy visiting my mammy’s mammy and daddy for Christmas.

    Hope you all had a great Christmas.

    I see some things haven’t changed!….the weather and the SNP’s big leads.

  39. @CMJ

    ‘My own method for developing CUSUM charts Can be found in the linked document:…”

    Thanks for this. I can follow everything … except how you determine the threshold for change detection, and exactly what this implies in terms of Type 1 and Type 2 error rates.

    I am more than happy to make use of quick-and-dirty procedures as long as I know what the output means and what the limitations of the method might be. From what you have described I still can’t get any sense of the level of false positive rates you might get from your stripped down version of the technique. From the links you posted it is clear that the commercial software allows the user to set alpha levels and sensitivity criteria as appropriate to the task.

    Given the resources, I can now see that it would be possible to use the method to conclude something like: ”The analysis shows with p < 0.01 that within the time series there was an increase in population mean of 0.1 SD or more" (and also to identify roughly the point at which the change occurred).

    What I *don't* know is exactly what you are asserting when you share the results of an analysis you have carried out yourself.

    The bottom line is that I (still) remain to be persuaded that you have presented compelling evidence for a statistically reliable recent upturn in Labour VI even though I am perfectly happy to acknowledge that you have educated me about the existence of well-honed tools for performing exactly this kind of task.

  40. Apologies for not responding – too many relatives on hand who need an interpreter. It was a pleasant (?) surprise party for me apparently. Off to with the Kuvasz for a walk.

    My political views would not have a colour even on the short experiments with colours on UKPR … Hence the point … But it’s an an accommodating version.

    If it ever comes up again I will list the policies where SNP and the Conservatives are rather uncomfortably close.

    Happy New Year to you all.

  41. Laszlo,

    I does appear, though, that Nicola Sturgeon is more genuinely left of centre than her predecesssor who I think moved ostensibly leftward tactically and it worked.

    I doubt she will be as cosy towards Murdoch for example.

  42. I should add that AS moved towards the centre to get Elected having started out as a lefy winger.

    Some people might say he has varied his principles to suit – I could not possibly comment.

  43. O/T Shenanigans from Putin again. See

    He’s offered Argentina 12 defence planes in return for wheat and beef.

    Add that together with the amount of times he’s been breaching UK airspace (along with other NATO countries), and it looks like some sort of confrontation is building.

    To bring this back to the polling and the general election – I think there is no way ANY British Prime Minister would give up trident in such a climate, it would send the wrong signal amongst other things.

    Therefore there won’t be any deal between the SNP and any other party after the election. The main parties will explain why to the voters and call another election if they have to.

  44. @Jim Jam

    Yours at 10,11 am

    “Amber – like most voters (including RUK Lab ones) they probably mean higher taxes for other poeple and/or for some as an abstract notion in a Scandanavian model kind of way.

    If all voters who said they agreed with higher taxes for Public Services voted in line with that claim the Tories would have been trounced in 83. 87 and 92!”

    Well the Tories were trounced in 83,87 & 92 in Scotland so that rather ruins your point.

  45. @CANDY
    You would think so would you not. But, how desperate is Labour?
    Plus of course there will be any number of Green, LD & Labour supporters, who don’t think Trident is “moral”, despite international gangsters running riot. There will also be many Labour voters who think that Trident is a new boy band.

    The question that I ask, is what will the Tories do with the news situation you quote, cut the army to 40,000? Because St Anthony says that they are the ones who will be in power.

  46. @Candy

    No British PM will give up Trident anyway. This latest ‘reason’ is one of thousands since the 1960s.

    Obviously the Argentinians will have to consider the value of planes that first saw service almost 50 years ago and their next 20-30 years of costs (and all the spare parts and their source), versus the value of damaging its appearance as a nation of peace.

    The SU-24s are not really worthy of the current generations of aircraft, but having said that, apparently the Argentinians are raising things a little:

    “We’re just waiting for a rig, which isn’t easy to organise in the South Atlantic, ­before we can escalate to the next stage,” said the source.

  47. Actually, with a little thought, I’m beginning to question the veracity of this Russia / Argentina deal. Russia doesn’t need wheat / grain (usually), short of there being a food shortage.

    The Ukraine is/was the ‘breadbasket of Europe’, and Putin didn’t get his hands on it (yet).

    Nope. Not convinced that the Argentinians would buy planes that old, and that the Russians need the food.

  48. Allan Christie

    Welcome back for Hogmanay.

    Is there much difference between Calabrian attitudes to Rome, and those of much of the UK to London?

    Or were politics not discussed?

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