Edinburgh – 12 November – The SNP has maintained a large lead over Labour in the latest TNS poll, which also shows Nicola Sturgeon riding high as the most popular political leader in Scotland, with Labour’s new leadership struggling to attract support.

In a survey of 1034 adults over 16 in Scotland, 58% of those expressing a preference said they intended to vote SNP in the constituency section of the May 2016 elections to the Scottish parliament, up two percentage points on the previous month. Labour gained three points to stand at 24%, with the Conservatives on 12% (unchanged) and the Liberal Democrats on 4% (-2).

In the regional vote, 52% backed the SNP (unchanged) with 25% for Labour (+2), 11% for the Conservatives (unchanged), 5% for the Liberal Democrats (-1) and 5% 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”.

Sturgeon emerged as the favourite, with 44% saying they like her (scoring between 7 and 10) while 25% disliked her (scoring 1-4). The SNP leader is held in high regard by SNP supporters (82% like her) and is the most popular party leader among undecided voters (liked by 28%). She is also liked by more Labour supporters (32%) than Dugdale (25%).

Among the five leaders, only Sturgeon was liked by more people than disliked her.

Dugdale was liked by only 7%, with 23% disliking her, while nearly half of the respondents (46%) said they did not know who she was, including 39% of those intending to vote for her party. Half (52%) 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% 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.”

Davidson was liked by 11% of respondents, roughly the level of support for her party, and disliked by 35%. Cameron fared less well than his Scottish counterpart with 61% disliking the Prime Minister and only 14% liking him.

Corbyn was liked by around twice as many respondents as Dugdale (15%) but was also more disliked (36%) and liked by only 13% of undecideds. Remarkably, in view of his high profile election and the continuing controversies surrounding his leadership, 21% 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% of respondents. She herself was liked by 22%, though she was still emerging from Salmond’s shadow at that time.

“Labour has a mountain to climb in terms of party support, and clearly its leadership is so far failing to achieve recognition and appeal among Scottish voters. Dugdale has only six months to establish herself with voters before the Holyrood election.

“One crumb of comfort for Labour may be that, asked the same question two years ago, the then Labour leader Johann Lamont was liked by 7% of electors and 41% did not know who she was – these are similar figures to Dugdale’s but Lamont had been Scottish Labour leader for about two years by then, while Dugdale is just starting out.”

Scottish Opinion Monitor infographic

Notes to editors:

The full data tables are available here.

  • A sample of 1034 adults aged 16+ was interviewed across Scotland over the period 16th October to 4th November 2015.
  • Although the franchise is currently limited to those aged 18 and over, the voting age is expected to fall to 16 for the 2016 Holyrood election, so TNS has decided to interview those aged 16 and over.
  • To ensure the sample was representative of the adult population of Scotland, it was weighted to match population estimates for working status within gender, age, social grade and Scottish Parliament region, and to match turnout and share of vote from the 2011 Holyrood election (constituency vote) and the 2015 General Election.
  • All interviews were conducted face-to-face, in-home using CAPI (Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing) and quota sampling.

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