General election 2024: opinion in Scotland

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
June 18, 2024, 9:55 AM GMT+0

Labour’s lead over the SNP now stands at 4pts

The latest YouGov polling in Scotland – conducted on 3-7 June – shows that the 10pt Labour lead we had for Keir Starmer’s party in mid-May has now fallen back to four points. This is a primarily a result of Labour’s vote share falling back by five points (from 39% to 34%) rather than the SNP making any noticeable progress – the party currently stands on 30%, compared to 29% last month.

The Conservatives continue to trail in a distant third place, on 13% of the vote (from 12% in May). The Liberal Democrats are on 8% (no change), Reform UK on 7% (+3) and the Greens on 6% (-1).

The results show that the SNP have lost more than a third of their voters since the 2019 general election, with only 62% continuing to back the party. A quarter of SNP voters (24%) have gone to Labour and a further 7% to the Greens.

The Conservatives have it even worse, hanging on to only half of their 2019 voters (49%). One in five are abandoning the party for Labour (19%) and a similar number for Reform UK (18%), while another 10% are off to the Lib Dems.

By contrast, Labour are holding on to 79% of their 2019 vote, with their largest loss an 8% contingent to the SNP.

At least a third of Scots who voted for independence in the 2014 (32%) referendum are now backing unionist parties ten years on – the SNP are holding on to 58% of Yes voters, while winning over only 9% of No voters.

Scottish party leaders

Our first poll conducted since John Swinney became first minister finds that Scots are divided on how well he is doing. Three in ten (30%) say he is doing a good job, while 35% think he is doing a bad job, and 35% are still unsure.

These figures are a reversal of expectations prior to Swinney’s taking up the office – in a survey in mid-May we found that 35% of Scots expected him to do well and 31% thought he would do badly.

Scots are slightly more likely than not to think Anas Sarwar is doing a good job as leader of Scottish Labour (35%) than a bad one (28%).

While this survey was conducted prior to expenses scandal stories breaking about Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross, Scots already had a negative view of him. Half (50%) said they thought he was doing badly as party leader, compared to only 19% who thought he was doing well.

Voting motivation: positive or negative?

A [recent / forthcoming] study of English voters found that one in three are voting ‘negatively’ – that is to say, motivated more by trying to stop another party winning than ‘positively’ for their favourite party.

Looking at the 98% of Scottish voters who are intending to vote either Labour, SNP, Conservative, Lib Dem, Green or Reform UK, we can see negative voting is slightly less common in Scotland, with 26% saying their choice is based on trying to stop the party they like least from winning. Almost three quarters (72%) say that they are voting for the party they like most.

Those currently voting Labour (39%) are the most likely to say that they are voting that way to stop another party, compared to 29% of Tory voters and 13% of SNP voters.

Of those Scots who are voting against another party, 51% say they are voting to stop the Tories, while 43% are voting to stop the SNP – only 6% say they are trying to hurt Labour.

Voting motivation 2: independence boogaloo

The elections in Scotland have a second layer of motivational consideration, given that the SNP has used them in recent years as a proxy referendum on independence.

With this in mind, we asked Scottish voters an alternative version of the prior question to gauge whether Scots are casting their ballots with an eye on trying to affect the outcome in Westminster or whether it is more that they are trying to leverage their vote to bring about (or avert) Scottish independence.

When asked this way, the number saying that they are backing the party they like the most drops to 42%. After this, voters are split – 29% say they are voting in the way that will best affect their preferred independence outcomes, while 25% are voting in the way they think will best affect which party becomes the UK government.

Scots who are voting for the Conservatives are the most likely to say they are voting for the party they like the most, at 47% to the 36% of SNP and Labour voters who say the same.

After this, similar portions of Scottish Tory voters say they are voting for their preferred independence outcome (25%), while 20% are voting in the way that will best affect which party enters Downing Street.

By contrast, SNP voters are generally voting because that’s the best way to bring about Scottish independence (54%), compared to only 13% of Labour voters for whom independence (or not) is their primary voting motivation. Half of Labour voters (49%) say they are most motivated by trying to determine which party forms the UK government – this rises to 58% among those who are voting for the party now having backed someone else in 2019.

Examining motivations based on Scots’ independence referendum vote shows that 17% of those who wanted Scotland to detach from the UK in 2014 are casting their vote in the way they think will best affect which party becomes the UK government. A similar proportion of unionist voters (20%) are basing their choice on which party is most likely to bring about their preferred outcome on Scottish independence.

Independence vote

Currently 53% of Scots who would vote in an independence referendum say they would vote No (-2 from May) while 47% would vote Yes (+2).

See the full results here

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Photo: Getty