Saturday, November 25, 2017

Extraordinary Perth by-election result illustrates the limitations of anti-SNP tactical voting

In my post on Thursday night, I pointed out three remarkable things about the Perth City South by-election result: a) that, on first preference votes, the SNP had moved from second place into first, b) that the SNP share of the vote had increased by 6.4%, and c) that there was a slight swing from Tory to SNP.  Well, here's a fourth remarkable thing.  In spite of the surge they enjoyed, the SNP still 'only' took 32.1% of the first preference vote, and almost all of the remaining two-thirds of votes were cast for unionist parties.  Given the perception of a unionist bloc vote that wants to stop the SNP at all costs, you'd therefore expect the SNP to have suffered a lopsided defeat once the lower preferences of eliminated unionist candidates were redistributed.  But that simply didn't happen.  Even after several rounds of redistributions, the SNP were still agonisingly close to winning the seat - they were only beaten by 154 votes.

The simplest way of demonstrating what happened is to look at how the Lib Dems' votes transferred once it became a straight contest between SNP and Tory.  Apart from a very small number of votes that had been transferred from the Greens at an earlier stage, almost all of these Lib Dem votes can reasonably be described as 'unionist party votes'.

Liberal Democrat transfers :

Non-transferable 44.4%
Conservatives 35.7%
SNP 19.8%

So almost two-thirds of this supposed unionist bloc failed to express a clear preference for the Tories over the SNP, and almost one-fifth actually expressed a preference for the SNP over the Tories.  Obviously the high number of non-transferable votes can be partly explained by unfamiliarity with the voting system, but nevertheless, even among those Lib Dem voters who did use their lower preferences, more than one-third backed the SNP.  The fact that more Lib Dems broke for the Tories than for the SNP explains why the Tories managed to squeak a victory - but unless the original first preference result had been extremely tight, that wouldn't have been enough to swing the balance.  You're not going to see the Tories overcome first preference deficits of 8% or 10% on this pattern of transfers.

I'd suggest all of this could pose a problem for the Tories at the next Westminster general election.  Assuming the 29% of the national vote they managed this year proves to be 'Peak Tory' (and there are many reasons for thinking it probably will), they're going to be looking to buck the trend in seats they already hold by appealing to Labour and Lib Dem supporters to cast an anti-SNP tactical vote.  It may be that not enough people are going to be receptive to that message - and the problem could get a lot worse if the Tory government goes on to become anything like as actively disliked in the north-east and the south as the Major government was in the 1990s.  I'm increasingly optimistic that the SNP can win back at least some seats from the Tories, whenever the election is held.

In SNP-Labour battleground seats, it's obviously a very different story, because most Tory supporters are for the moment obsessed enough with the constitution to think Labour are preferable to the SNP.  But for how much longer will that be the case?  Richard Leonard's elevation to leader could prove to be something of a watershed for unionist tactical voting, because Tory supporters will no longer be able to tell themselves that Scottish Labour is more centrist than the Corbyn-controlled UK party, and thus 'safer' to vote for.

We know that Labour are going to take every opportunity at the next election to peddle the fiction that voters need to abandon the SNP for Labour if they want to see a non-Tory government.  Well, Tory supporters are going to hear that message as well, and some of them may even start to convince themselves that a tactical vote for the SNP could be the most practical way of preventing a Corbyn administration.  At the very least, they may become more conflicted about whether the SNP or Corbyn is the greater and more immediate threat, which could lead them to simply revert to a non-tactical vote for their own first-choice party.

*  *  *

After the SNP's 'curate's egg' performance in by-elections this week, I was hoping that the two new Scottish subsamples from YouGov would offer some clues as to what the state of play really is, but in fact they've just muddied the waters even further, because they're completely contradictory.

YouGov (a): Labour 36%, SNP 33%, Conservatives 22%, Liberal Democrats 5%, Greens 3%, BNP 1%, UKIP 1%

YouGov (b): SNP 38%, Conservatives 25%, Labour 24%, Liberal Democrats 7%, UKIP 2%, Greens 1%

So we have the first YouGov subsample since the summer to put Labour in the lead...and then the first YouGov subsample since the general election to put Labour as low as third.  Across all polling firms, twenty-two of the last twenty-four subsamples have shown an SNP lead - but the two that didn't have both been published within the last week.  Make of that what you will.

29 comments:

  1. ... and of the two that didn’t, one showed a Con lead with Lab in third place, and the other showed a Lab lead, with Con in third place.

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  2. We will have to educate the public big time before the next General Election , a lot of people are still totally confused . Next , we have to put up really good candidates to stand in elections . Next we have to campaign furiously to get that candidate in . It can be done , whether it is local ,Holyrood or Westminster elections , but the fight must start now and foot soldiers are the way to do it !

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    1. Thats a bit patronising saying the Scottish people need educated. Does that include the two million naw voters herr flick..
      Your comment is one reason I would never vote Nat si.

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    2. But you would vote Britnazi! Scum then.

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    3. There is not a Britnazi party however the jock nat sis may be on your mind.

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    4. British nationalist troll.

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    5. Nah just a Scottish UK citizen.

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    6. Jesus... here come the brit nats... you were lied to, cheated and scotland left with LESS tham they were promised yet you STILL run to the uk gov... pathetic.

      From a proud ENGLISH man from london!

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    7. Jesus indeed provides bread, fish and Giro cheques tae ra Jocks.

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    8. GWC2 Seems like another angry jock playing on that he is from somewhere else... a coward behind a screen

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  3. Perth by election-

    Tory leaflets-
    blatently asked Libdems for 2nd votes.

    Still went big on No to Indyref2 with pic of candidate with Ruth D.

    They were putting out leaflets in last few days,targetting the Letham housing scheme.

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  4. When are the people of Scotland ever going to realise Tory.libdems.labour.
    Are never ever going to put Scotland at the top of their list.they are out to crush
    The snp.and always keep Scotland under the thumb.english mps.detest the SNP.

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    1. Unlike you Jock English hating nat sis the English hold some pity for you... The English hardly ever complain about the unjust subsidies the Jockos, Irish and Welsh get . The hard working English appreciate you have been brought up in a welfare culture where work is frowned upon.

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    2. Why do'nt they just throw us out then.

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    3. Unlike the jocko nat sis the English are a tolerent decent people.

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    4. State of this.

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    5. GWC2 Actually plays the victim while attacking... typical britnat

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    6. Strange comment Willie McBride. You are the victim of your ignorance. We British know who our next enemy is and that is why we are British. Now go and sell yer bum on a London street corner.

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  5. To. GWC2.like very many more.you might just wake up.one day and realise
    There is only one party fighting Scotland's corner at all times.

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    1. Which party could that be? It is not the Tartan or Blue Tories. Who can it be?

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    2. People's Scottish Party!

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    3. Sure as hell isn't Labour...

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    4. That is correct and Gordon Brewer to his credit had the big three on today, Jock Nat si Tartan Tory, Labour and Blue Tory. He suggested to them they were all singing from the same capitalist hymn sheet. And did they squirm! They all agreed they had to sort the defecit. Not one original suggestion from either.

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    5. GWC2 Seems that you are still figuring out what you are and where you sit on your political opinion... when you figure it out then come back and talk with the adults

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    6. Seems you have to figure out yourself.

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  6. ROI the glove puppet of the fascist EU attempting to threaten the British with a veto over trade negotiations. Hope they do it and Britain does a hard brexit.
    Who would have thought the Irish Republicans after slaughtering their own people for decades would have done what the jockos are intending to do and hand their country and dignity over to scum like Junk Herr. So much for the pretend Celic superior race.. Does make you laugh.

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    1. Jesus so I will assume you are a ukip supporter in denial of their own nationalism... if you are not a british 'nat si' you are a ukip fascist... a REAL fascist!!!

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    2. As opposed to real English hating jock real fascists! And anyone that uses the word jesus in a non related religious context is clearly a freak.

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