Edinburgh - 21 December - The Scottish National Party has increased its lead over Labour in the last month, with its standing apparently unaffected by reported problems in the health service and the disruption caused by the closure of the Forth Road Bridge, according to a new survey by TNS.

The survey of 1035 over-16s in Scotland also found the economy has become a more important consideration in voting decisions since the summer, and that more people in Scotland oppose the renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons system than support it.

With under six months to go before elections to the Scottish Parliament, support for the SNP in the constituency section of the Holyrood election was steady at 58% among those who expressed a party preference. Labour slipped by three percentage points to 21%, while Conservative and Liberal Democrat support held steady at 12% and 4% respectively with others up two points at 4%.

In the regional list section of the vote, SNP support was two points higher than the previous month at 54%, with Labour down five points at 20% the Conservatives on 12% (+1), the Liberal Democrats on 4% (-1) and the Greens on 9% (+4).

Tom Costley, the head of TNS Scotland, said: “The past month has seen the political agenda return to devolved issues such as healthcare and transport, with opposition politicians attacking the SNP government’s record on hospital provision and on maintenance of the Forth Bridge. The criticism appears to have had little or no effect on support for the SNP.

“One interesting feature of the poll is that the number of those who say they are certain to vote in 2016 has been declining, and now stands at 58%, down from 64% as recently as the TNS poll in September. The turnout in Scotland in the May 7 general election was 71%.

“It may be that, faced with the SNP’s huge lead in the polls, a number of voters feel that their vote would not influence the result. However, it seems unlikely that turnout in May will be as low as the 50% recorded in the 2011 Holyrood elections.”

Asked about issues that would be important in deciding how they vote, healthcare was at the top of the list with 51%, though this was eight points lower than when TNS last asked the question in June. The economy, which was the fifth most important concern in June at 30%, rose to joint second place – with education and training – on 40%.

Employment and job prospects were cited as important by 39% of respondents (+3) and pensions/benefits by 37% (+5). 

TNS also asked respondents their opinion on replacing Trident with a new nuclear weapons system. More than a third opposed the proposal (38%) with 29% supporting it and 26% undecided.

Men were more likely than women to support Trident (38% vs 21%) but women were more likely to be undecided so opposition to the new weapons proposal was equal between the sexes at 38%. Support among the over 55s, at 47%, was nearly three times as strong as among the 16-34s (17%). 

Support was relatively stronger among Labour voters, at 39%, perhaps reflecting the concern among some unions about job losses at the Faslane nuclear submarine base and Coulport arms depot west of Glasgow. Job concerns are also likely to be behind the relatively higher support for Trident among those in the West of Scotland parliament region (39%).

Notes to editors:
The full data tables are available here

  • A sample of 1035 adults aged 16+ was interviewed across Scotland over the period 16th November to 14th December 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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TNS is part of Kantar, the data investment management division of WPP and one of the world's largest insight, information and consultancy groups. 
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