The survey published by TNS also showed that Labour’s new leadership team of Jeremy Corbyn and Kezia Dugdale is struggling to attract support. The struggle facing Ms Dugdale was shown by statistics indicating Ms Sturgeon is liked by more Labour supporters than their new Scottish leader.
Of the 1,034 adults over the age of 16 questioned, 58 per cent of those who expressed a preference said they they intended to vote SNP in the constituency section of the May 2016 elections, an increase of two percentage points on the previous month.
Labour gained three points to stand at 24 per cent, with the Conservatives on 12 per cent (unchanged) and the Liberal Democrats on 4 per cent (minus two percentage points).
In the regional vote, 52 per cent backed the SNP (unchanged) with 25 per cent for Labour (+2), 11 per cent for the Conservatives (unchanged), five per cent for the Liberal Democrats (-1) and five per cent for the Greens (unchanged).
In the poll, TNS also asked people to rate five party leaders – Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Tory Leader Ruth Davidson, Prime Minister David Cameron and UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – on a scale of 1-10, where 10 was “like a lot” and 1 was “do not like at all”.
Ms Sturgeon emerged as the favourite, with 44 per cent saying they like her (scoring between 7 and 10) while 25 per cent disliked her (scoring 1-4). The SNP leader is held in high regard by SNP supporters (82 per cent like her) and is the most popular party leader among undecided voters (liked by 28 per cent). She is also liked by more Labour supporters (32 per cent) than Ms Dugdale (25 per cent).
Among the five leaders, only Sturgeon was liked by more people than disliked her.
Ms Dugdale was liked by only seven per cent with 23 per cent disliking her, while nearly half of the respondents (46 per cent) said they did not know who she was, including 39 per cent of those intending to vote for her party. Half (52 per cent) of undecided voters did not know who she was.
“It’s worth bearing in mind that the Scottish Labour Conference took place towards the end of the survey period,” said Tom Costley, Head of TNS Scotland. “The exposure Kezia Dugdale had around that event is likely to have raised her profile.
“Perhaps more surprising than Dugdale’s low recognition is that 30 per cent of respondents said they have not heard of Ruth Davidson, despite her achieving some prominence in the media, especially during last year’s referendum campaign and over her recent disagreement with the UK Conservative leadership on tax credits.”
Ms Davidson was liked by 11 per cent of respondents, roughly the level of support for her party, and disliked by 35 per cent. Mr Cameron fared less well than his Scottish counterpart with 61 per cent disliking the Prime Minister and only 14 per cent liking him.
Mr Corbyn was liked by around twice as many respondents as Ms Dugdale (15 per cent) but was also more disliked (36 per cent) and liked by only 13 per cent of undecideds. Remarkably, in view of his high profile election and the continuing controversies surrounding his leadership, 21 per cent said they had not heard of him.
“Sturgeon has established herself as a popular figure across the political spectrum,” said Tom Costley. “When we asked the same question about political figures two years ago, during the referendum campaign, her predecessor Alex Salmond was liked by 28 per cent of respondents. She herself was liked by 22 per cent, though she was still emerging from Salmond’s shadow at that time. “