Two new YouGov polls today, one covering Scotland, the other their monthly GB poll for the Telegprah. The Scottish voting intention poll, with changes from their last Scottish poll, has constituency figures of CON 13%(-1), LAB 30%(nc), LDEM 15%(nc), SNP 39%(+2). Regional support stands at CON 13%(nc), LAB 27%(-1), LDEM 11%(-2), SNP 31%(-4), Green 9%(+5), SSP 3%, SCUP 3%, Solidarity 2%, others 2%.

The latest figures show the SNP lead in the constituency section growing to 9 points, but falling to 4 points in the regional section, largely it seems to the benefit of the Greens. However, this change is probably partially to do with the way the question was asked. Normally YouGov ask voting intention questions by giving respondents a list of the main political parties or “other” to chose from, people who select “other” are then given a list of minor parties to chose from. This is the way that earlier YouGov polls in Scotland were conducted. Today’s poll however gave people a single list of all the Scottish political parties with seats in the Parliament to chose from.

This change is likely to increase the number of people saying they will support the minor parties. Including the name of the three main parties in the question tends to increase the level of Lib Dem support by a couple of percent as people were reminded that the Lib Dems were an option, so it is likely to have the same effect with smaller parties.

Theoretically it sounds fairer to include all the party names in the prompt, even minor and fringe parties, since when people come to vote all the party names will be on the ballot paper (or at least, they will in PR elections with regional lists. In general elections then in the majority of seats people won’t have a Green or BNP candidate on their ballot paper.) Unfortunately, what is “fairer” isn’t necessarily the same as what is more accurate. Back in 2004 YouGov’s poll prior to the European elections prompted by all the party names, and it resulted in a poll that predicted too high a level of support for UKIP. In that case, including all the minor parties in the prompt made the results less accurate, even though the wording seemed “fairer”.

It is impossible to say until after the event which approach will give the more accurate results. In this case, as Peter Kellner explains here, YouGov have chosen to go with a question that includes all the minor parties in the initial question because the results seemed more plausible – at the last election to the Scottish Parliament “other” parties received 22% of the vote. The last YouGov poll using the old version of the question wording showed the other parties together getting only 11% of the vote, half what they got in 2003, the new question shows the other parties together on 19%, still down on their 2003 support but not catastrophically so. We’ll have to wait until next Friday to see which question wording really does produce the more accurate figures.

12 Responses to “YouGov Scotland and prompting by party name”

  1. Either way the SNP is holding up well; I cant see them being too upset losing a few votes to the Greens..

  2. Was the change of mentioning all the minor parties also used in the UK survey?

  3. I continue to be rather puzzled by the combined low level of support for the Tories and Lib Dems in the Scottish opinion polls. 24% is a very low figure, which I will be surprised to see actually happen on Thursday.

  4. Anthony,

    What about conducting a poll where the screen was made to look like the actual ballot papers that will be used, all be it with mock names on the constituency part.


    Yougov currently has UK standings of

    Con 37%, Lab 32% and LibDem 18%, a total of 87%.

    If we assume that the SNP is getting close to a third of the vote then if evenly split that would mean that if Scotland voted the same, even without the strong green presence, it would be more like.

    Con 24%, Lab 21% LibDem 12%.

    Howver as Labour is far stronger in Scotland than the UK in general ( much as it is in the north of England) , we could shift as much a 10% from Tory to Labour giving,

    Con 14% Lab 31% LibDem 12%

    Which isn’t far from what it shows.

    Add a third to all three of these, and you would get

    Con 21%, Lab 41%, LibDem 18%,

    Which I suspect might be not that far away from the final shares of the vote in areas like Newcastle and Humberside.


  5. I think the SNP and Labour votes are far to high! Especially Labour! I doubt if they will get close to 30% of vote on May 3rd in Scotland – not unless there is wide spread electoral fruad! The idea that they the Labour Party will poll only 4% points lower than they achieved in 2003 is just not a sustainable proposition for such a deeply unpopular Party!
    The Lib Dems and Tories will surely at least maintain thier 2003 levels of support! I dont see them transfering thier votes!
    I think the regional list vote is totally unpredictable! There is bye- election evidence to suggest that it is the Lib Dems who get really hurt by a Green presence! It is also what the Lib Dems themselves fear – look at thier electoral tactics!
    Excluding wide scale electoral fruad it is the SNP who will win – it is just the size of the win that is in doubt! There vote appears to be solid for the last 2 months! No matter what LABOUR THROWS AT THEM! In deed it appears Labour cant even enthuse its own core voters!

  6. There is no surprise that Conservatives and ScotLibDems have a low level of support in Scotland. The Conservatives have been in decline for half a century. ScotLibDems are on the way up, due to PR, but are in a parliament with seven parties. It is not a two party system with “protest votes” “wasted votes” and other features of the Westminster parliament with which you are familiar are not an issue.

    Scotland is different. Some think it should be a different country.

  7. I posted elsewhere that the previous low prediction for the Greens was not believable.

    No election since 1945 has been won. The have all been lost.

    There are two main processes which bring about a change of government. One is the electorate’s opinion on the record of the government compared with their view of the competence of the alternative, the other is low morale in expectation of defeat.

    Both are at work to reduce Labour’s share of the vote in Scotland.

    There are many who bad-mouth the Labour/ScotLibDem executive, but they didn’t vote Labour last time. It is dissatisfaction with Westminster New Labour, and Jack McConnell’s unwillingness or ineffectiveness in standing up to them (Iraq, Trident, Dawn Raids and Nuclear energy) that is the main cause of churn.

    The Conservatives are marginalised and perceived as irrelevant. The Left is split. ScotLibDems benefit to some extent, but also lose because they are too close to Labour.

    If you don’t want to vote SNP. or you want to split your vote, it is difficult to avoid voting Green or independent. That is the main reason why the Greens should improve their position. Also, third time round, voters now understand the system and begin to vote tactically. Both the small parties improved their position last time, and this would have continued were it not that the left are split. The votes which would otherwise have gone to the SSP will go to the SNP or the Greens.

    I did not believe the low estimate for the Greens because there was no reason why they should lose their previous level of support. They had not been associated with an unpopular UK government nor were their MSP’s being investigated for perjury. These two factors alone account for all the change from 2003.

    Environmental issues are in the press every day and Green MSP’s are always available for an instant opinion.

    It isn’t enough to accept the numbers in a poll, there needs to be an explanation for the changes and trends. We have it now. Invite people to choose from the full list of parties.

    How often do you go into an resturant and ask for something that isn’t on the menu?

  8. Yesterday I was minded to congratulate Yougov for getting a credible result for the Scottish Greens. Today I think I should complain that you previously were content with an unlikely prediction.

    The lesson to be learned is that Scottish Parliament has had six parties from the outset, and since 2003, all have been large enough to take a share in committees and all are potential coalition partners if the numbers turn out right. This is different from the Westminster FPTP environment with two and a half parties, one of which has negligible chance of taking part in the government.

    After eight years and two previous elections, I think you should have noticed sooner.

    It’s different. The party leaders don’t sit two sword’s lengths apart. Legislation is not written in Norman French on vellum. The First Minister doesn’t choose the date of the election. Petitions are taken seriously and have directly led to legislation. Emails to MSP’s are answered. Local government and the NHS have much more contact with MSP’s. Coalition government is expected. There is pre-legislative scrutiny and no second chamber. You can see it all live on the internet, cut and paste the official report the next day and see how often as well as for what your MSP voted. I have MSP’s of five parties and half a century ago Donald Dewar explained to me how a constituent might use that to advantage. I do that.

    40% of MSP’s sit down to pee. That may be the biggest difference.

    It’s different enough to make Scots contemptuous of the antics of the Westminster parliament. Donald Dewar thought it could be a model for the reform of Westminster. That hasn’t happened.

    Yougov will have to poll Scotland as a separate entity after independence. You should do it now. Some would say “It’s Time.”

  9. Judging by this report in the web pages of the Labour supporting Edinburgh paper The Scotsman (which is normally dominated by SNP posters) the Greens have wakened up to the potential today.

    Could this be the result of the YouGov poll? Did they believe the previous polls and now are getting excited about the possibilities?

  10. First question: how did YouGov promt for the big poll in some of today’s papers?

    Secondly, I feel another problem is that polls tend to look for percentages, but in the real world percentages are only a consequence of the actual number of votes.

    For example, it seems likely that turnout will increase by at least 10% (i.e. from 50% to 55% or more). What do we know about who these people are, why they did not vote in 2003, and who they voted for in 1999 if at all?

    A rising turnout means parties would need to gain real votes only to stand still. And since I really cannot see Labour gaining votes, I find anything above 27% on the list quite unbelievable. 25% is probably more realistic.

    Similarly the Tories and the LibDems – while the myth is that the Tories stabelised in 2003, and the LibDems advanced, in fact both lost votes in line with the reduced turnout. While the LibDems might get some extra votes (though maybe not enough to increase their %), again I find it unlikely that the Tories will gain votes, hence their percentage should go down.

    For the Greens, I have written before that they have easy pick-ups in Central, West and Glasgow. I suppose I should have added, ‘if other things stay the same’. But if turnout increases it will make things more difficult for them.

    I would expect the SNP to gain lots of votes, and if turnout increase is just about 10% (i.e. turnout will be lower than in 1999), than even 600 000-700 000 (as in 1999) would see them scoring a resounding success.

    Finally, most seat predictions show a smaller SNP lead in terms of seats than Labour would have got for the same %-lead in votes. This is of course because they use uniform swing. But we can be certain there won’t be a uniform swing, in fact I think there is enough evidence to state cflearly that in big swing elections the swing in marginal constituencies is bigger than in safe constituencies (examples: UK 1997, also Germany 1998 – check constituency results under

    I’d like to see a seat prediction based on safest constituencies (for all parties) enjoying only 75% of the predicted national swing, but the competitive constituencies experiencing, say, 125% of the national swing. As it is I predict there will be many ‘surprise gains’ for the SNP, which would be, if only someone had undertaken a decent swing analysis, entirely predictable.

  11. Greenpouse – it was an academic poll, so there will be lots of differences in wording, but I believe it was prompted with all the party names as with this one.

  12. The idea that they the Labour Party will poll only 4% points lower than they achieved in 2003 is just not a sustainable proposition for such a deeply unpopular Party!
    IAIN MORE April 27th

    That was my argument Iain for predicting a 50 seat plus for the SNP before the election. I was stunned to see a mere 1 seat difference. Shades of Florida 2000 loomed out of the shadows following the Holyrood election.

    As someone who has campaigned all over Scotland over a 25 year period including most of the major by-elections; West Lothian, Govan, Dundee East etc, all the signs which were so familiar to me pointed to the Labour vote being on the verge of colapse with the SNP the main beneficiary.

    What happened? Well I’m sure the ballot farce didn’t help, indeed it may have been the smokescreen necessary for the establishment to pull the rabbit out of the hat. Who knows?

    What we can be fairly sure of at the next election is that an SNP government which has worked its socks off will deserve an even greater amount of seats than this time round, possibly even enough to gain an overall majority.