My new Scottish research finds independence in the balance

By Lord Ashcroft

Events that change the world sometimes have little apparent effect on politics. At first glance, this is the case with the covid pandemic and the scene in Scotland, according to my latest research.

The independence debate continues to sit on a knife-edge. In my 2,000-sample survey, the 51-49 margin for staying in the UK amounts to a statistical dead heat. To the frustration of many voters on all sides who would rather talk about something else, the question still dominates the agenda: nearly as many people say they will use their votes next week to prevent a new referendum as to try and secure one.

Not only does the SNP maintain its clear lead in the Holyrood elections, its support is more intense: those naming the nationalists as their most likely choice put their chances of actually turning out to vote for them higher than those of other parties’ potential backers.

Nicola Sturgeon herself is more dominant than ever. As her newly appointed rivals (and the perennial Willie Rennie) struggle to make an impression, the First Minister’s handling of the pandemic has enhanced her standing even among her critics. Many praise the clarity of her daily briefings and draw a contrast with Boris Johnson (whom many Scots cannot quite believe has become Prime Minister), even if the more cynical praise “her commitment to being on TV every day,” as one focus group participant archly put it (more…)

Reunited Nation? American politics beyond the 2020 election

By Lord Ashcroft

Joe Biden’s inauguration today will be greeted with a huge sigh of relief by millions in America and around the world. The moment crowns the victory not just of Biden, but of the institutions of American democracy that many still fear are under threat. After a fortnight of extraordinary drama that saw the storming of the Capitol building and a second impeachment for an outgoing President, it would be easy to lose sight of the bigger picture – the movements that brought American politics to where it is, and their effect in the election that feels as though it took place not just eleven short weeks ago but in another age.

If the 2016 election that sent Trump to the White House will stand as one of the defining political events of our time, its successor last year was in many ways at least as remarkable: the supposedly unpopular President winning more votes than any previous Republican, losing only to the candidate with the most votes ever. This week I am publishing my analysis, based on four years of research throughout the US as well extensive polling and focus groups during the 2020 campaign. The research both helps to explain what happened and why, and gives some clues about what we can expect in the next chapter of American politics. Here are some of the key points (more…)

Trump is gone but Trumpism lives on: Hopes of a new age of unity under Joe Biden are surely forlorn

By Lord Ashcroft

This article was first published in the Mail on Sunday.

When Joe Biden takes the oath of office this week he will go down in history: having won more votes than any previous candidate, he will become the oldest person ever to become the country’s Commander in Chief. He will also be perhaps the first President to fulfil his mandate on the day of his inauguration.

For millions of Americans, Biden had one job – to remove Donald Trump from the White House – and he will complete this mission by lunch time on Wednesday. Much of the country will sigh with relief as the twice-impeached Trump leaves Washington to await the Senate’s verdict on charges of high crimes and misdemeanours, and its decision on whether he will be allowed to run for office again.

President Biden’s problems will begin with whatever he decides to do for an encore (more…)