Salmond popularity plummets amid referendum controversy

Salmond's popularity has fallen among non-SNP voters
Salmond's popularity has fallen among non-SNP voters

By Ian Dunt

The popularity of Alex Salmond has plummeted 13% since December, as the storm over a referendum on Scottish independence dominates the front pages.

The first minister continues to be the most popular political leader in Scotland and retains remarkable backing from SNP voters, with a 94% satisfaction score.

But his net positive rating has fallen from 35% to 22% since December, as supporters of other parties move further away from him.

Dissatisfaction among Labour voters has increased by ten points to 47%, by 14 points to 70% among Conservative supporters and by eight points to 48% among Liberal Democrat supporters

The dramatic fall in support is likely to be a result of the debate around a consultation on a referendum on Scottish independence.

While the referendum was a minor part of the SNP's electoral programme, it has now taken centre-stage.

Separate poll survey results from Tory donor Lord Ashcroft today, showed the SNP had worded their suggestion for the referendum question to maximise support for independence.

The SNP's preferred 'Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?' sees 41% of Scots vote 'yes' and 59% vote 'no'.

If the question is 'Do you agree or disagree that Scotland should be an independent country?' support falls to 61% 'no' and 39% 'yes'.

If the question is 'Should Scotland become an independent country, or should it remain part of the United Kingdom?' support for independence falls to 33%, compared to 67% for the 'no' vote.

"The fact that results change according to how you ask a question is not startling news. What is clear, though, is that the SNP have chosen the version of the question most likely to deliver the answer that would most please them," Lord Ashcroft commented.

Even with the fall in support, Mr Salmond remains head-and-shoulders above his rivals, as does the SNP in general.

Almost half of those certain to vote (49%) would back the party at the next election, down just two points since December. That compares favourably to Labour which fell three points from their already modest December position of 25%.

The Scottish Conservatives are up one point on 13% and the Liberal Democrats are up two points on ten per cent.

All three opposition parties picked new leaders after the SNP won a seemingly impossible majority in Holyrood, but they are all struggling to make themselves known to the electorate.

At least four in ten Scots are unable to judge the performance of Labour’s Johann Lamont, the Conservatives' Ruth Davidson or the Liberal Democrats' Willie Rennie



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