Posts Tagged #sp11

Election round up: Never mind the parties, what about their voters?

How do you round up when there’s nothing to round up?  I mean, they might as well not have bothered this week.

It’s beginning to feel like Groundhog Day: every morning the meeja are summoned to some inane photo opportunity in some poor unsuspecting town; the respective machines reel off constant announcements and statements (go visit the Steamie to see how relentless they are); news programmes dutifully report the day’s headlines and if they’re really lucky, a gaffe.  And then everyone goes leafleting, canvassing, to hustings and meetings and then they do it all again the next day.  Yep, so far, so dull.

What happened this week?  More polls showed a super soaraway lead for the SNP;  a relaunch for Labour put Salmond, the SNP and independence firmly in its sights;  Annabel presented a ridiculous caricature of herself, if this is possible, in a hairnet eating teacakes;  Iain Gray failed to fight Salmond in the Asda aisles;  and Hadrians wall was breached as UK leaders and big hitters headed north to shore up the faltering Labour and Lib Dem campaigns, and Mr and Mrs Salmond went to London to see the Queen and that wedding;  shock, horror there was a wumman in charge of the country and the sky didn’t fall in.

Dear voter, hang tight, the end is in sight. Here’s hoping for a rip-roaring grand finale with two leaders’ debates this Sunday on the BBC and then on Tuesday at STV.  Please inspire us with a gripping toe-to-toe discourse on the key policies and issues.

So that’s the parties;  what about the voters?  Who is actually voting for whom in this election and what does that say about, well, anything?

Using the IPSOS-Mori poll because it has the most detail in terms of voter disaggregation, there are few surprising variations on what we might expect.

If you intend to vote SNP on 5 May, you are most likely to be male, aged 35 -54, working full time, born in Scotland and living in a rural area, in the least deprived communities.  However, the SNP can also expect a considerable vote from pensioners, though amongst younger age groups, its vote is pretty evenly split between those having children and those not.

Given that Labour and the SNP are fighting it out for the centre ground, they might also be tussling over the same voters?  Actually, no.  Labour voters are more likely to be female, under 35, working part time, living with children in a council or housing association house in the most deprived areas in cities or towns.  Interestingly, their voters are just as likely to come from other parts of the UK or indeed, beyond, as from Scotland.

What does this tell us?  That Labour is holding onto its traditional voter ground, is resonating with the “squeezed middle” but needs to do more to secure the aspirational vote.  It is clear that this vote still sits largely with the SNP.  And despite big efforts, the SNP is still toiling to appeal to women and urban voters.  This matters: if the SNP’s projected lead turns into seats, expect Scotland to turn largely yellow all across the North and South of Scotland, but the central belt will stay stubbornly red.  One other interesting demographic is how few people (according to this poll but probably backed up by experience) born outwith Scotland intend to vote SNP:  the party’s civic nationalist messages do not appear to be getting through.

Perhaps the most significant development is the switch of the all-important pensioner vote, which has been mirrored in the polls throughout this election and which I blogged on previously.  Given older people’s propensity to actually go and vote, these are the voters likely to have a huge bearing on the overall result.  And the shift would appear to be just reward for the SNP Government’s overt woo-ing with a range of pensioner-friendly policies.

What of the other parties?  Conservative voters are most likely to be female, retired, without children, born elsewhere in the UK and living in the most affluent areas in rural communities.  Little surprise there then, but note that their main challengers for this vote are the SNP (who are winning it hands down).

The Lib Dems’ vote is most likely to be younger (25 -34), have no children, own their home, and again live in the most affluent areas of rural communities.

Do you see the pattern?  It seems to support the headline findings which show that the SNP is taking votes from both these parties.  And it also shows the danger of believing the national polls in terms of how big the SNP’s lead over Labour actually is.  Unless and until the SNP is winning votes from Labour in urban constituencies, few seats in the central belt will change hands.

Effectively, the SNP is in the lead because it is taking votes away from the Tories and Lib Dems in largely rural seats, which is also supported by IPSOS-Mori’s findings on the regional vote.  These suggest more Tory and Lib Dem constituency voters intend to vote SNP on the list vote than for Labour.

It all points to two things.  First, that we are likely to have a big urban-rural divide in terms of election outcome.  How that will play out in Holyrood and government remains to be seen.  Secondly, Labour has indeed got its campaign strategy wrong.  Its lagging behind the SNP has less to do with losing the national battle (though this has undoubtedly had an impact), and more to do with mistaking this election – as veteran political journalist Angus McLeod deftly pointed out – as a core vote one, when it has actually been a switcher election.

Finally, what of the Scottish Greens?  Well, the party enjoys pretty even support across all the demographics, though its vote is more likely to be urban, living in the least deprived areas and most likely to have been born outwith the UK.  Everything else is pretty marginal: while having a universal appeal across age groups, gender and employment status might suit the egalitarian spirit of the Greens and their need to pick up regional votes from all types of voters, one wonders what might happen if it targeted more heavily towards particular groups and communities?

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Election round-up – target seats and voters

If you were hoping to rest your brain this holiday weekend, you might want to mosey on over to some other blog.  This week’s election round-up is taking a wee look at target seats and voters.  And it’s complicated.

It is one of those sad but true facts that some constituencies matter more than others to the outcome of this, and indeed, any other Holyrood election.  For example, for the SNP to overtake Labour in Uddingston and Bellshill would require some kind of cataclysmic event and a swing of hitherto unseen enormity.  So, even if Michael McMahon never issued a leaflet and spent the whole of the campaign sunning himself in Majorca, he would still be a shoe-in. 

On the other hand, Glasgow Southside is a battleground where every vote counts.  The SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon took it from Labour at the third time of asking, and just as she was getting herself comfy, along came the Boundary Commission to remove her majority.  A few streets added in, a few taken out and suddenly, this constituency has a wafer thin, notional Labour majority.  Ms Sturgeon is in the unenviable position of having to win her own seat back.

The SNP and Labour have key targets up and down the country which they must gain or hold in order to emerge with the biggest number of seats in Parliament and win the election.  However, it should not be assumed that they are only battling each other – some targets involve the other parties.  So where in Scotland might we find the gladiatorial battles?

Glasgow Southside;  Linlithgow;  Stirling;  Almond Valley;  Edinburgh Eastern;  Cunninghame North;  Dundee City West;  Aberdeen Central;  Clydesdale;  Falkirk West;  Kilmarnock & Irvine Valley;  Clackmannanshire and Dunblane; Na h-Eileanan an Iar (all are marginals with either the SNP and Labour in first or second place in 2007)

Midlothian South, Argyll and Bute, Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, and Aberdeen South (SNP – Lib Dem tussles)

Dunfermline;  Edinburgh Central;  Edinburgh Southern (Labour – Lib Dem fights)

Dumfriesshire is a rare beast indeed being a Labour-Conservative battle, while the Conservatives still dream, occasionally, of taking Perthshire South (Roseanna Cunningham’s seat) from the SNP.

But things are not static during an election campaign:  trends and intelligence emerge from polls and parties’ own voter identification activity that bring other seats into play.  Thus, SNP and Labour have both clearly scented weakness in seats held by the Lib Dems and Conservatives;  constituencies like Edinburgh Pentlands, Galloway and West Dumfries, Ayr, North East Fife and Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch are now in the mix.

Of course, the existence of a regional vote that provides a top up of seats through the list system complicates things somewhat.  Parties now cannot focus on these key marginals and ignore everywhere else.  Every vote really does count on the list so there also does have to be a universal campaign to ensure that seats are won through this route.  It is of particular importance to the SNP (and parties like the Scottish Greens who do not put up constituency candidates at all) which is why everyone from Alex Salmond down realised being in the lead on the constituency vote in polls was not enough.  Thus, the SNP has been promoting the regional vote as required to elect the government, which is somewhat massaging what the list system is supposed to do. 

Labour, meanwhile, is working to ensure it does not cede seats on the regional vote, and can pick up the odd one as a kind of bonus.  But its beam is focused firmly on winning in about twenty very marginal constituencies in order to deliver them a majority of seats and election victory.

So, what does it mean to be a target seat?  A shed-load of leaflets;  support from parties’ central resources;  activists being sent in from neighbouring constituencies to help out;  morale-boosting visits from party leaders and other national figures;  remote canvassing by telephone;  and if voters are really, really lucky, a doorstep visit from the candidates.  By this stage, less than two weeks out from polling day, everything but the kitchen sink will be being thrown at these constituencies.

But it’s actually even much tighter than that.  Even within this minority of seats, there are some voters who matter more than others.  Those who have previously voted for one of the parties and who will do so again;  those who are still thinking about it but are inclined to do so either for the first time or again;  those who don’t know;  and when support for a vote is perceived to be soft, the previously identified votes for that party.  There is also the need to factor in those likely to be more cheesed off or more likely to switch, which in this election, is where the squeezed middle comes in – families, women, people aged 35 – 44 and C2s.

If the parties have done the work, with less than two weeks until polling day, they should have a bank of people who are certain or at least very likely to vote for them.  They are effectively votes in the bag.  Now, the big push is to go back to all those they know have voted Liberal Democrat or Conservative in the past to see if they can be persuaded to switch or at least, lend their vote.  A final attempt is probably also made at this stage to persuade some of the undecideds, the classic floating voter who often does not bother, to come on board.

Of course, finding the targets are only half the battle:  getting them out to vote on the day or earlier by post is the most important bit.  All of these poor voters in these key target seats can expect to be hattered and harried several times on polling day, to ensure they do actually vote.

It really is a numbers game:  intensified work and activity in certain target seats combined with identifying enough voters and then making sure those people cast their votes.   

And the moral of this election round up?  If you live in one of the above-named constituencies, and are a 38 year old woman with children who is a clerical assistant or a mechanic, who has voted SNP or Labour in the past but isn’t sure how to vote this time round, you might not want to share any of this with the parties. 

If you want any peace between now and 5 May, you could go on holiday.  Or take a vow of omerta, keep the phone off the hook, change your mobile number and email address and never, ever answer the door.

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Election round up – follow the leader

Four weeks down, three to go.  There is light at the end of the tunnel, or at least polling booth.

A good way to get a sense of what seats the parties are targeting and how the campaigns are going is by playing follow the leader.  Anyone who remembers the 2007 election might recall that Alex Salmond spent rather a lot of time campaigning in Stirling, Alloa, Kilmarnock, Glenrothes and even the Western Isles.  That’s because the SNP’s canvass returns were telling them that these seats were shifting.  And while SNP wins came as a surprise to many, reading the leadership travel runes in the campaign definitely gave signs of real hope.

So where have the four main party leaders (and other leading party figures) been on their travels this week and can we glean anything meaningful from their journeys?

Since last Saturday, SNP leading lights have visited Renfrewshire, Glasgow Southside, Dundee, North East Fife, Glasgow again, Stirling and er, Liverpool.

Labour has been to Edinburgh, East Kilbride, Stirling, Ochil, Edinburgh Eastern, Aberdeen and Dunfermline.

The Conservatives have visited Falkirk, Perth, Cunninghame North, East Lothian, Edinburgh and Ayr, while the Liberal Democrats have been to Glasgow, Argyll and Bute, Midlothian South, Aberdeenshire East, Fife and Midlothian South (again).

I do hope they are all choosing to offset their carbon emissions….

These are probably not all the destinations covered.  No doubt Ed Miliband and Iain Gray called in at Dundee on the way from Aberdeen to Dunfermline today.  And the SNP leader’s trip to Renfrewshire probably shoehorned in as many of the seats in that area as possible.

But overall, it seems that Labour and the SNP are already targeting in terms of expending leadership energy and giving a boost to local campaigns.  Both appear to be trying to shore up marginals they hold, such as the SNP’s Dundee seats and Labour’s Aberdeen Central.  But their voter identification data would appear to indicate that seats like Stirling and Edinburgh Eastern are currently on a knife edge. 

Interestingly, the SNP reckons it is gaining more of the soft Lib Dem vote, hence the parachute into North East Fife.  The burdz not sure if this isn’t just a bit of mischief making, given that it hasn’t yet featured on the Lib Dem leadership’s radar.  Time will tell.  If we see Salmond in seats like Caithness, Aberdeen South and Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch then the Lib Dems can really start worrying.

At the moment, they seem determined to throw everything but the kitchen sink at Midlothian South in a bid to keep Jeremy Purvis at Holyrood.  In fact, if  Tavish spends any more time here, he might just qualify for a vote himself.   They do not seem to have written off Dunfermline West just yet and the amount of focus on Argyll and Bute suggests they think they have a chance of retaking this seat.

As for the Conservatives, it is hard to see what strategy is being deployed, other than keeping Annabel busy.  Falkirk?  Cunninghame North?  Nope, can’t see the point at all.  Though spending time in East Lothian and giving Derek Brownlee plenty of media airtime suggests they are worried about him retaining a seat through the South of Scotland list (as all we experts have already predicted!)

Despite the campaign being half way through and the very tight position at the top of the polls for the SNP and Labour, it is hard to discern a clear pattern.  Expect their focus to narrow in the remaining three weeks to the absolutely key marginals.  Watch carefully and as with 2007, by following the leader all the way to the finish line, you might just be able to spot which candidates have been abandoned as lost causes, which seats might spring a surprise result, and ultimately, who is going to win the election.

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