Scotland’s Political Landscape After Nicola Sturgeon?
Our first poll of the post Nicola Sturgeon era (fieldwork Feb 15th-17th) shows no electoral impact at present from the FM’s recently announced departure.
The SNP’s 2019 base on balance say they are moderately more likely to vote for the party post the FM’s resignation.
SNP 2021 Holyrood voters score Kate Forbes (+38%) and Angus Robertson (+31%) highly on the basis of their ability to do a good job of succeeding the current First Minister.
The SNP remain in a strong position in our first poll that has fieldwork conducted in the days following Nicola Sturgeon’s surprise resignation last week. In terms of the next General Election, at a 43% vote share the party would be just 2% shy of their solid 2019 Westminster showing.
This type of Westminster polling would, *if* reflected in individual seats at the next General Election would see the SNP take every Conservative and Lib Dem held seat, leaving those parties with zero MPs in Scotland. This is because Labour, in attracting more of the unionist vote in Scotland would leave Conservative and Lib Dem held seats vulnerable to the SNP, despite a slightly lower vote share for the party than in 2019. While Labour would make several seat gains from the SNP, they would fail to break through materially on this polling. The net result? Despite losses to Labour the SNP would end up with more Westminster seats than the party won at GE 2019.
Labour have gained vote share from both the Conservatives (19% of 2019 Tory voters say they will now vote Labour) and the SNP (11% say they will switch to Labour) since the last election. Labour threaten to be on twice the vote share of the Conservatives in Scotland – a marked improvement from being neck and neck from September 2020 through September 2021:
Holyrood Constituency Voting Intention
Our polling shows the SNP on 43% in terms of Holyrood constituency vote share – 4.7% off their rock solid performance at the 2021 election, but comfortably in first position. Labour’s 29% is an improvement of 7.1% over their 21.6% Holyrood tally in 2021, while the Conservatives at 17% are 4.9% off their 21.9% Holyrood showing – a long way from being Scotland’s second place party just over 3 years ago.
Holyrood List Voting Intention
The Green Party, on 8% in the Holyrood List voting intention, seeing transfers from SNP constituency voters and to a lesser extent from the other parties – a level which would match their 2021 Holyrood score were an election to be held at the present time.
Why do the polls seemed unmoved by the departure of Nicola Sturgeon, and who might replace her?
Although early, it does not appear that SNP voters are apt to desert the party, or even become more undecided post the announced departure of Nicola Sturgeon – who is surely one of Britain’s most successful politicians ever in terms of winning elections. When we put to voters in the poll to what extent (did Sturgeon’s departure) make you more or less likely to vote for the SNP? looking at those who said more likely minus those saying less likely actually resulted in a +5% net more likely to vote SNP figure when viewing attitudes of those who voted for the party in the 2021 Holyrood constituency vote.
It is therefore entirely possible therefore that the SNP’s loyal voter base are really not voting for the party based on it’s leader to any meaningful extent, and/or potentially see the Sturgeon years as having run their course – a sentiment seemingly shared by the FM herself. Three-quarters of 2014 Yes voters would vote SNP at a Westminster election, and so it remains clear that independence attitudes loom large as a strong driver for SNP party choice.
As for who might replace Nicola Sturgeon, the public at large (graphic below) are rather underwhelmed in terms of who might do a good/bad job succeeding the current First Minister. Looking however, to the 48% of Scots who voted for the SNP at the 2021 Holyrood election, current deputy John Swinney (who has ruled himself out) scores +17 on this good job-bad job statistic. 2021 SNP voters score Kate Forbes (+38%) and Angus Robertson (+31%) highly. Humza Yousaf would no doubt be disappointed with his own score among this group of just +3%
Considering all these data in the round, SNP party members being able to choose a new leader (who may well be a candidate outside of this very limited selection) may actually be a benefit as well as risk to the party, although it may well be that the party leader’s future strategy on independence will be more important in deciding the party’s fortunes than leadership alone.
Damian Lyons Lowe
Chief Executive, Survation.
Get The Data
Survation conducted an online poll of 1,034 persons aged 16+ living in Scotland. Fieldwork was conducted between the 15th and 17th of February. Data were weighted to the profile of adults in Scotland aged 16+. Data were weighted by age, sex, region, 2014 Indy Ref, GE19, EU16 and 2021 Holyrood vote. Data tables for all these questions can be viewed here:
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