Just when you thought it was safe, we’ve got one last bit of data for you from our second Panelbase poll, which seems to have really grabbed the attention of the Scottish political world (as best observed in the furious, hysterical reaction from “Better Together” activists on Monday evening when Scotland Tonight announced they were going to be referencing it in the show).
We asked people a couple of questions about their voting intentions in various circumstances, but some of the most intriguing and revealing results came when we inquired as to how they planned to vote in the 2016 Scottish general election.
There will, of course, be an election in 2016 no matter what the outcome of the independence referendum. So we asked almost 900 respondents (identified by their 2011 constituency votes) how they currently thought they would vote if that election was (a) for a new independent Scottish Parliament, and (b) to another devolved administration like the current one.
The overall results weren’t that dramatic – for a devolved Parliament the figures were SNP 30, Labour 20, Conservative 13, Lib Dem 5, Green 2, SSP 1 and Don’t Know 21. For an independent one the SNP, Labour, Greens and SSP all gained (+5, +2, +1 and +1 respectively), while the Tories dropped by 2 points and the Lib Dems by 1. Slightly surprisingly, the number of Don’t Knows actually fell by 3 points (to 18%) for an independent parliament.
But where it got interesting was in the party breakdowns.
2011 SNP VOTERS
Lib Dem 2/<1
Don’t know 16/11
2011 LABOUR VOTERS
Lib Dem 6/2
Don’t know 20/18
2011 CONSERVATIVE VOTERS
Lib Dem 3/2
Don’t know 15/13
(The sample of Lib Dem voters was too small to be useful when broken down, but makes scary reading all the same – just 33% of people who backed the Lib Dems at Holyrood in 2011 plan to vote for them again in 2016 in another devolved Parliament, or 36% if Scotland is electing its first independent government.)
So what did we just learn? Most strikingly, that if Scotland votes No next year, less than half of the people who voted Labour in 2011 currently plan do so again in 2016. A massive 28% are already planning to defect, with almost half of those heading to the SNP. (And as many as 6% switching to the Tories.)
The prospect of independence, though, firms up the Labour vote back to a majority of current supporters. Clearly, the idea of some Westminster talent coming home and replacing the current C-team is an attractive one to Labour voters.
Less encouraging for Labour is that almost as unexpectedly, independence would see the SNP vote solidify, not weaken. It’s common received wisdom in Scottish political circles that with its unifying goal achieved, the bonds holding the party’s left and right wings together would be broken and the vote, if not the party itself, would splinter into factions.
It’s also regularly asserted that the electorate votes SNP for competent Holyrood government, but only if it feels secure that it won’t achieve independence.
Our survey just doesn’t back either of those beliefs up – those who voted SNP in 2011 expecting a “safe” minority/coalition administration are considerably MORE likely to stay with the party in the event of independence than if the referendum is lost, and it makes almost no difference to voters of other parties.
We also find that whether the Scottish Government is independent or devolved makes almost no difference to the views of Tory voters, who are already the most loyal to their party and would remain so whether Scotland votes Yes or No.
These, then, are fascinating results all round. They suggest, in line with our other findings, that an independent Scotland would lean more to the left than at present, and that Labour stands to lose the most from a No vote.
Fully a third of those who voted for Labour in 2011 currently intend to abandon the party next time round should the No camp emerge victorious next September, with another 20% wavering – far higher numbers than either of their two main rivals.
Johann Lamont should be careful what she wishes for.