Tactical voting ‘note of caution’ issued to Labour ahead of election

Polling experts have issued a “note of caution” as data shows tactical voting could favour backing the Labour Party to punish those currently in government.

But pollsters warned of caution despite the optimistic signs, arguing that voters could “turn quite quickly” if a potential Labour government fails to deliver change.

UK-wide polls have consistently put Labour ahead of the Conservatives, while Scottish polls show the gap between Labour and the SNP is narrowing.

Speaking at a Scottish Labour fringe event on understanding the party’s voters, Professor Dr Christopher Carman, of the Scottish Election Study, said survey data showed a “note of caution” for Labour.

And 43% of voters who said they were switching their vote to Labour say they were doing it to block other parties at the general election.

He said: “Voters haven’t necessarily been won over to (Labour) policies.

“The idea that they are more inclined by tactical voting than they are by policies says that perhaps there is a note of caution.

“The question is how soft is that support. Is that something that can be reliably held between now and whenever that general election is going to be, and how do you work to maintain that support over the next several months?”

Dr Fraser McMillan, of the Scottish Election Study, said independence was no longer the salient issue for voters.

Instead, voters were now concerned on issues such as health, the economy and housing.

And with independence not at the forefront of voters’ minds, he said the SNP are “bleeding support”, with Labour being the “main beneficiaries”.

Figures also showed that 15% of those who said they were switching their vote to Labour had independence in their top three issues.

“Voting shifted to become not about competency per se, but almost exclusively about the constitution. What we’re seeing now is a kind of correction to bring that to the main, of people looking at everything not working and pointing the finger at parties in power.”

But he added: “The challenge for Labour now is if you do get in government, there’s a chance that between then and the next Holyrood election, if things don’t immediately improve across the country, I don’t think Labour will be able to avoid the cost of governance.

“I think voters will turn quite quickly if things don’t get better, at least at a devolved level – and voters may think about keeping the SNP around to challenge what Labour are doing at Westminster.”

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