The First Minister told the press briefing that the SNP is “firmly on course to win the next election, while our opponents remain adrift”.
She added: “The longer any leader is in office, the more opinions about them become fixed and very hard to change, and that matters.
“Individual polls come and go, but I am firmly of the view that there is now majority support for independence in Scotland.
“But that support needs to be solidified and it needs to grow further if our independent Scotland is to have the best possible foundation.
“To achieve that, we must reach across the divide in Scottish politics and my judgment now is that a new leader would be better able to do this.
“Someone whom the mind of almost everyone in the country is not already made up, for better or worse. Someone who is not subject to quite the same polarized opinions, fair or unfair, as I now am.”