April 8, 2021

Private Polling

Scottish Elections: Salmond & Sturgeon Partnership of Convenience?

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With the Holyrood Elections on 4th May 2021 less than a month away, we will be increasing our (private) smartphone polling efforts as we draw closer to the date. The recent launch of the Alba Party by the former (SNP) First Minister, Alex Salmond, so close to the election date has altered the polling arithmetics and increased uncertainty. The addition of another pro-independence party gives Salmond some bargaining power to influence the SNP‘s constituency election outcome – depending in which elections the Alba Party decides to run in.

In our preliminary analysis, we identified 9 constituency seats with a high likelihood of being won by the SNP6 of which are currently held by Conservative Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) since the 2016 elections. In our poll last month we identified Scottish Labour fast snatching votes from the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats (LD) following the announcement of Anas Sarwar as Party Leader. This is now being reflected in some recent public polls, and we believe this trend to have continued in the past few days.

Despite the positive news on the UK vaccine roll out program, we assess the Tory (Conservative) government of Boris Johnson to be at a high risk of losing more votes than currently projected in press reports. We will be updating our latest polls and seat projections in the next couple of days.

Please contact us if you are interested in learning more about our private polling services and offerings.



Holywood electoral system crash course

There are a total of 129 seats in the Scottish Parliament:

  • 73 are constituency seats which are won in a first-past-the-post (FPP) voting system similar to the UK general elections.
  • The electorate has two votes: i) one for a constituency candidate, and ii) a second for a political party.
  • 56 regional seats are split evenly across 8 regions. Each region has 7 seats allocated in proportion to the votes received by each party – similar to the German electoral system.


This hybrid electoral system ensures the major parties receive close to proportionate representation in the Scottish Parliament. For example, in the 2016 Holyrood elections the 129 seats were allocated as follows:

Scottish Elections: Salmond & Sturgeon Partnership of Convenience? 1

63 SNP (59 Constituency, 4 Regional) 
31 Conservative (24 Regional, 7 Constituency) 
24 Labour (21 Regional, 3 Constituency) 
6 Green (all Regional) 
5 Liberal Democrat (4 Constituency, 1 Regional)

In 2016, the majority (59) of the constituency seats were won by the SNP, whilst all but 4 of the 56 regional seats went to the other parties.


Constituency seats most at risk for pro-Union parties

The SNP is widely expected to do better than the 2016 elections in the constituency elections, provided Alba do not contend in marginal constituencies. We identified the following constituency seats to be at a significant risk of being won by the SNP:

Constituency Region 2016 Outcome
Aberdeenshire West North East Scotland Conservative
Ayr South Scotland Conservative
Dumbarton West Scotland Labour
Dumfriesshire South Scotland Conservative
East Lothian South Scotland Labour
Eastwood West Scotland Conservative
Edinburgh Central Lothian Conservative
Edinburgh Southern Lothian Labour
Edinburgh Western Lothian Lib Dem
Galloway & West Dumfries South Scotland Conservative


What do young Scottish voters make of Salmond’s new Alba Party?

As mentioned in our previous updates, we believe the key to predicting the outcome of an eventual second Scottish Independence referendum is to better understand the under 30 year old voters. Little is known about the voting history of this group, and many will be voting for the first time. Moreover, younger voters are significantly under represented in public opinion surveys due to the difficulty in reaching them. This is the case both for traditional and tech enabled polling methods such as ours.

Scottish Elections: Salmond & Sturgeon Partnership of Convenience? 2
Source: Speevr smartphone polls of 801 respondents in Scotland under 25 years old conducted from 03-Apr-21 to 07-Apr-21


Our polls may be the most extensive elections survey conducted on this demographic group. Alex Salmond’s new launched Alba Party has over 4% of the votes amongst the 801 Scottish under 25 year old voters surveyed. There is a large gender divide in the headline figure with 5.7% of males and only 2.5% of females.

For comparison, here are our previous polls for all voter groups:

Scottish Elections: Salmond & Sturgeon Partnership of Convenience? 3
Source: Speevr smartphone polls of over 1500 respondents in Scotland

Under 25s on Scottish Independence

Scottish Elections: Salmond & Sturgeon Partnership of Convenience? 4
Source: Speevr Smartphone Polls


Update on #ScottishIndependence TikTok Campaign

Meanwhile, the #ScottishIndependence campaign on TikTok continues to increase in viewership at a steady approximate rate of 100K impression a day. We believe this is a sponsor ad campaign which has run been running for several months. TikTok is where younger voters can be reached without the scrutiny of the mainstream social media platforms such as Facebook.

Scottish Elections: Salmond & Sturgeon Partnership of Convenience? 5


Biden’s nominees would bring diversity to the Fed—if they’re confirmed

President Biden has announced his roster to fill key vacancies on the Federal Reserve’s 7-seat Board of Governors. If confirmed by the Senate, Biden’s nominees would advance his economic agenda at the central bank. They would diversify the ranks of economic policymakers and likely tighten supervision of Wall Street.

Sarah A. Binder

Senior Fellow – Governance Studies



Mark Spindel

Chief Investment Officer, Potomac River Capital LLC

These nominations follow in the wake of Biden’s decisions late last year to reappoint Jerome Powell to a second term as Fed chair and to elevate Lael Brainard as second in command. Powell and Brainard already serve as confirmed governors, but the Senate will also need to approve their four-year leadership posts. If the Senate confirms all five, Biden’s Fed appointees would reverse the heavy GOP-tilt of the Board engineered by the Trump administration.  
Here’s what you need to know.
Diversity counts
Biden has nominated two Black economists, Michigan State’s Lisa Cook and Davidson College’s Phillip Jefferson, to seats on the Board. He has also named former Fed governor and Treasury official, Sarah Bloom Raskin, as the Fed’s vice chair of supervision, a position Congress created in the wake of the global financial crisis as the Fed’s top banking cop.
These appointments help to diversify the Fed’s almost exclusively white ranks. Since Congress revamped the Federal Reserve Act in 1935, creating the 7-seat Board of Governors, 82 people have served on the Board. Just three of them were Black men, and ten of them were white women. And while Biden’s nominations augment the Fed’s racial diversity, confirming Cook, Brainard, and Raskin would expand the number of women governors by just one, since both Raskin and Brainard already have Board service under their belts. Notably though, this would be the first Board with a majority (four) of seven seats filled by women governors.
Rough waters ahead?
Observers expect a broad swath of Senate Republicans to vote to confirm Powell, a Republican, to a second term as chair. However, it remains to be seen how many, if any, Republicans will vote to confirm the other four nominees. Of course, Senate Democrats—if they stick together—can confirm all four without any GOP support, since Democrats banned nomination filibusters back in 2013.
Like most Congressional decisions, Fed confirmation votes are more contentious today than they were even 15 years ago, before the global financial crisis. The figure below shows shrinking Senate support on final confirmation votes for Fed nominations since the Reagan administration. Of those nominees considered on the Senate floor between 1982 and 2011, only one, Alice Rivlin, received less than 94% of the vote. The most dramatic contests came in 2020: The GOP-led Senate rejected Trump’s nominee, Judy Shelton, by a vote of 47-50, and just barely confirmed another Trump nominee, Christopher Waller. Four other Trump picks never even made it to a floor vote.

Nor can Biden count on filling the Board swiftly. Prior to the financial crisis, nominees waited about three months on average for confirmation. After the crisis, the wait time ballooned closer to eight months. The Senate took nearly ten months to confirm Waller, a record delay for the contemporary Senate’s handling of Fed nominees. Even with Democrats in control this year, Republicans have found ways to slow down the Senate.
Beware partisan crosshairs
Decades of rising partisanship are seeping into senators’ views of the Fed, often turning otherwise low profile Board nominations into politically charged votes. At the same time, public attention to the Fed has grown with its expanding imprint on the economy.   
The central bank has played an outsized role in stemming the economic damage caused by the global financial crisis in 2007-08 and the global Coronavirus pandemic in 2020-21. And with interest rates near zero, central bankers need to use more creative and often contentious tools to manage the US economy. Critics from both sides of the partisan aisle blame the Fed for either doing too much—or too little—to stem an array of old and new problems.
Add in rising expectations that the Fed will hike interest rates early this year to combat inflation and a hot economy, these nominees will face questions at the core of central banking—how fast and how soon to take away the punchbowl. Raising the price of money is never easy, but this Board could find tightening especially difficult given the addition of Biden’s governors committed to the Fed’s goal of a stronger and more racially inclusive labor market. 
The parties also disagree about whether the Fed can or should do more to combat climate change, especially in light of Congress’s own tentative steps. Democrats want the Fed to use its supervisory powers to force banks to address climate risk in their lending decisions; Republicans think such policies fall outside the Fed’s mandate. Partisans also contest whether the Fed should do more to redress racial economic inequities.
Presidents use appointments to advance their agendas. The Fed is no exception, despite the myth that central banks like the Fed are “independent.” But given the often partisan Senate confirmation process, Democrats will likely need to hang together to get Biden’s picks over the finish line.

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