Scottish election 2021: Why are voters backing each of the three main parties?

Their party’s stance on independence is more likely to drive voters who are voting for the Scottish Conservatives than the SNP, a new poll has found.

Nicola Sturgeon and Anas Sarwar’s leadership are respectively helping to shore up slipping SNP support and stemming losses for a Scottish Labour party, which had struggled under previous leadership, the poll suggests.

The survey also found Scottish Conservative voters are much more likely to be voting tactically at this election than any other voters.

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Scottish election 2021: SNP support slipping, but party still on course to secur...
Why are voters choosing to back the three main parties at the Holyrood election?

It comes as the same Savanta ComRes poll for The Scotsman suggests SNP support at its lowest point since October 2019 at just 42 per cent of the constituency vote and 34 per cent of the regional list.

Such a result, if it came to pass, would see the SNP return their worst result since 2007 with 59 MSPs – more than enough to operate as a minority government, but considerably below early hopes of a clear overall majority.

The poll interviewed 1,001 Scottish adults aged 16 or over between April 30 and May 4.

Voters who said they would vote for one of the three main parties at Thursday’s Holyrood elections were asked to choose the top three reasons why they are backing the party of their choice.

The poll did not ask Scottish Green and Scottish Liberal Democrat voters due to the sub-sample being too small for any reliable conclusions to be drawn.

Overall, each parties stance on independence is viewed as a crucial driver for those voting in the Holyrood election tomorrow.

A total of 85 per cent of Scottish Conservative voters said the party’s anti-referendum and anti-independence stance was one of their top three reasons for voting for Douglas Ross’s party.

In comparison, less than two-thirds (60 per cent) of SNP voters said one of the main reasons for voting for Nicola Sturgeon’s party was its stance on independence.

Despite criticism over the party’s view on independence, more than half of Labour voters (51 per cent) said it was a key reason for backing Anas Sarwar’s party.

However, voters’ opinions of party leaders is also driving voters to the SNP and Labour with 60 per cent of SNP voters saying it was a key reason for backing the pro-independence party.

Mr Sarwar’s positive favourability ratings are also showing through, with his leadership the most popular reason for backing Labour and chosen by 61 per cent of Labour voters.

Just 27 per cent of Conservative voters are backing the party due to the leadership of Mr Ross, the poll suggests.

Voters are more likely to be backing the Conservatives over Labour due to tactical voting, however, with more than two-thirds (38 per cent) of Conservative voters picking tactical voting as a key reason for backing the party.

This is in comparison to just over a quarter (27 per cent) of Labour voters and 14 per cent of SNP voters.

Most voters also said they chose their party due to their manifestos, with 44 per cent of SNP voters, 53 per cent of Labour voters, and 40 per cent of Conservative voters choosing it as one of their three key reasons for backing their party.

However, voters were also asked to choose between five anonymised manifestos summarising the positions of each of the major parties standing at this election.

Of these, it was the Scottish Conservatives’ manifesto which was the most popular among voters who expressed an opinion, with 21 per cent of all voters choosing it as their favourite.

The SNP manifesto (15 per cent), Green (14 per cent), Labour (13 per cent) and Lib Dem (12 per cent) manifestos were next, but a quarter (26 per cent) of Scots said they did not know.

The Conservative manifesto was, however, the most popular among Labour voters, with 25 per cent picking it, eight points ahead of the second favourite manifesto of the Liberal Democrats and 11 points ahead of Labour’s own manifesto.

Conservatives were most likely to pick their own manifesto (44 per cent) followed by the Liberal Democrat offering (11 per cent), with SNP voters broadly split across all five.

The party’s own manifesto was the most popular at 22 per cent, followed by the Greens on 18 per cent, Labour and Liberal Democrat on 12 per cent and the Conservatives on 10 per cent.

Chris Hopkins, associate director at Savanta ComRes, said focusing on law and order may have seen more people supporting the Conservative manifesto.

He said: “It’s perhaps surprising to see that, of all of the manifesto summaries tested, the Conservative one is marginally the most popular, with a fifth of Scots favouring it – although a quarter couldn’t choose between the five.

"The Conservative manifesto seemed to contain more on issues such as law and order, differentiating it somewhat from the others, and therefore potentially making it more attractive.

"Ultimately, though, the Scottish public seem fairly split on which manifesto they prefer when presented with them sans any party branding – perhaps a reflection that, save for differences on independence, the contents of the five manifestos seem fairly similar.”

Voters were also asked which of the five parties had produced the best prospectus for leading the country out of the Covid-19 pandemic and through the recovery.

The SNP and Scottish Labour’s plans were the most popular, with net ‘good’ ratings of +22.

Plans put forward by the SNP received the best ‘good’ rating, with almost half (49 per cent) of voters stating it was ‘good’. However, more than a quarter (27 per cent) said it was bad.

Scottish Labour’s was rated good by 39 per cent of the electorate and bad by 17 per cent, leaving it on the same net ‘good’ rating as the SNP.

Overall, the Conservative plan for recovery was the only one viewed negatively overall with a net ‘good’ rating of -1, followed by the Greens on +4 and the Liberal Democrats on +8.

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