Friday, November 16, 2018

Rare GB-wide Panelbase poll has Labour and the Tories locked together at 40% apiece

This isn't strictly a Scot Goes Pop exclusive, because the figures were attached to the Scottish Independence Foundation press release that went out several hours ago.  But as far as I can see no media outlet, even on Twitter, has yet picked up on the fact that the new poll includes the first GB-wide voting intention figures from Panelbase since last year.

Westminster voting intentions (GB-wide, Panelbase):

Labour 40%
Conservatives 40%
Liberal Democrats 8%
SNP 4%
Greens 3%
Plaid Cymru 1%

Which is all very interesting, because of course most other polling firms have been showing a modest Conservative lead recently.  It may be that Panelbase's methodology, like Survation's, is closer to the Labour-friendly end of the spectrum.  (And, as we all remember, Survation's results were rubbished in the run-up to last year's election, but they ultimately turned out to be the most accurate.)

Christian Wright asked a question on the previous thread about the treatment of EU citizens in current polling, which was rather uncanny, because I was always planning to address that very point tonight.  At the weekend, when I saw the original datasets from Panelbase, I queried whether EU citizens and 16 and 17 year olds had been included in the sample - because it seemed to me if they had been, that in itself could be sufficient to explain why the Remain vote in Scotland had apparently risen slightly from 62% at the 2016 referendum to 64% now.  I didn't see Panelbase's response, but it was read out to me.  If I understood it correctly, they said that 16 and 17 year olds were excluded from the EU referendum question, but that they were relying upon a "how likely are you to vote?" question to screen EU citizens out.  That seemed to me to be a bit unsatisfactory, because it means that you'd need all EU citizens to be fully aware of their right to vote in Scottish elections, but not in Westminster elections or in any repeat EU referendum, to be sure that you're interviewing the right sample for each question.  It's highly likely, I would suggest, that some EU citizens are unclear about the likely legal position.  So they may, for example, be wrongly screening themselves out of indyref polling, but also wrongly including themselves in EU referendum polling.

Later, Panelbase agreed to recalculate the results in line with the concern I had raised.  To be perfectly honest, I was hearing about all of this second-hand, so I couldn't quite make sense of which particular concern they were addressing or exactly how they had addressed it.  Apparently the methodological tweak made no difference at all on the GB-wide numbers, and only a 1% difference on the Scottish numbers - but, again, I'm not quite clear about which question the 1% difference occurred on.

The important point here, of course, is that it seems intuitively likely that EU citizens have swung disproportionately from No to Yes on the independence question because of Brexit.  If independence polls aren't incorporating EU citizens correctly, it may be that there's a little something going on beneath the surface that the polls are currently unable to detect.

Here are the other numbers from the Panelbase poll...

Should Scotland be an independent country? (Scotland only):

Yes 45% (+1)
No 55% (-1)

Westminster voting intention (Scotland only):

SNP 37% (-1)
Conservatives 28% (+1)
Labour 25% (+1)
Liberal Democrats 7% (+1)
Greens 2% (n/c)
UKIP 2% (-1)

EU referendum vote (GB-wide):

Remain 53%
Leave 47%

EU referendum vote (Scotland only):

Remain 64% (+1)
Leave 36% (-1)

Holyrood constituency ballot:

SNP 39% (-2)
Conservatives 27% (+1)
Labour 24% (+3)
Liberal Democrats 6% (n/c)
Greens 3% (n/c)
UKIP 1% (-1)

Holyrood regional list ballot:

SNP 37% (+2)
Conservatives 26% (n/c)
Labour 22% (+2)
Greens 6% (-1)
Liberal Democrats 6% (-2)
UKIP 2% (n/c)

*  *  *

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Palpably pleasing Panelbase poll puts support for independence at eighteen month high

It's not very often that I'm given advance sight of a full-scale Scottish poll, so I was very grateful to the Scottish Independence Foundation for giving me a sneak peek a few days ago at the new Panelbase poll they've funded.  I was able to contribute some analysis for the press release they've just sent out.  Of most interest is the fact that support for independence is at its highest level in any Panelbase poll for eighteen months.

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 45% (+1)
No 55% (-1)

In normal circumstances, 45% would be a disappointing Yes showing, but it's high by recent Panelbase standards.  Paradoxically, what used to be the most Yes-friendly polling firm during the indyref is now very much on the No-friendly end of the spectrum.  Yes support has been hovering at 43% or 44% in Panelbase polls since the spring of 2017.  Obviously a small increase to 45% is not statistically significant and may be caused by random sampling variation, but the fact that this result is even possible gives considerable reassurance after a recent Survation poll that put Yes on an unusually low 45%.  (Survation's normal Yes range is a bit higher than Panelbase's.)  So it may well be that Panelbase are just randomly showing a slightly higher Yes vote than usual, and that Survation just randomly showed a slightly lower Yes vote than usual, and that in reality nothing much has changed at all.

Slightly embarrassingly, even though I've already seen the Westminster and Holyrood numbers, I can't actually post them just at the moment, because I'm on my mobile phone and I can't seem to open the Excel file properly!  However, from memory, the SNP are on 37% for Westminster, which is a statistically insignificant 1% down on the last Panelbase poll.  Although 37% is exactly what they received at last year's general election, their lead over both the Tories and Labour is slightly higher than it was in June 2017.  On a uniform swing, the 9-point lead over the Tories would be enough to win back Stirling, and the 12-point lead over Labour would be enough to win back four Labour seats.  North-East Fife would remain on a knife-edge between the SNP and Lib Dems, meaning that the SNP would end up with either 39 or 40 seats, up from the current 35.

On Holyrood voting intentions, the SNP are two points down on the constituency ballot since the last Panelbase poll, but two points up on the all-important list ballot.  I ran the numbers through a couple of seat projection models, and they both put the SNP on 57 seats (significantly better than the 52 seats projected by the Record from their recent Survation poll) and the Greens on 4 seats.  So the pro-independence parties would have 61 seats in combination - just 4 short of maintaining their overall majority.

*  *  *

New BOMBSHELL Scottish poll suggests Ruth Davidson could face ANGUISH in snap election

As you may remember, one of the points of confusion about Channel 4's recent Survation poll was a set of Scottish voting intention figures for Westminster, which eventually proved to be merely a subsample (albeit an unusually large one) that hadn't been correctly weighted.  However, Survation have now reweighted the results in line with Scottish target figures, and it turns out that the position for the SNP is as favourable as it originally appeared.

Scottish voting intentions for Westminster (Survation, 20th October - 2nd November):

SNP 40% (+4)
Conservatives 27% (n/c)
Labour 23% (-3) 
Liberal Democrats 7% (n/c)

The percentage changes listed above are measured from a Survation poll for the Daily Record that was conducted just slightly earlier (with a small amount of overlap between the fieldwork for the two polls).  I have a feeling Survation would probably argue that the Record and Channel 4 polls are not directly comparable because they were conducted slightly differently, but at the end of the day they're both online polls weighted to Scottish target figures.

The Record poll caused some concern by showing an unusually low SNP vote by Survation's normal standards.  Many of us wondered at the time if it was just a freakish result caused by random sampling variation, and the swift recovery in the new poll would tend to support that theory.  So the 4% gain for the SNP should really be seen as a reversion to the mean rather than as real progress - the last-but-one online Survation poll had the SNP on 41%, and the one before that had them on 42%.  Nevertheless, if replicated at a general election, the new figures would see the SNP making substantial seat gains, especially at Labour's expense.

*  *  *

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

We're about to see the difference between a real political party (the DUP) and a branch office (the Scottish Tories)

So there's a deal in principle between the UK government and the EU, but whether it will ever get through the various stages of ratification remains to be seen.  It seems likely that the text must incorporate another convoluted fudge on the Irish backstop, with Northern Ireland being treated differently from the rest of the UK in a way that drives a coach and horses through Theresa May's supposed red line, but with some sort of political commitment that the backstop can never come into play and therefore doesn't matter.  I suspect that won't be good enough for the DUP, and that in turn will put the Scottish Tories in a very awkward place.

After last year's general election, one of the political correspondents on TV (I think it may have been Faisal Islam, but correct me if I'm wrong) notoriously claimed that the Scottish Tories were now "technically the fourth largest party in the Commons".  That was nonsensical on all sorts of levels - even if you could somehow justify regarding branch offices as separate parties, Welsh Labour would still comfortably outnumber the Scottish Tories.  But to be charitable, maybe he misspoke and intended to say "effectively" rather than "technically"- ie. he believed that Ruth Davidson combined a certainty of purpose with a hold over her Westminster group, and that they would therefore act in practice like a distinct party.  If so, we're now about to be treated to yet another demonstration that he couldn't have been more wrong.  Mundell and Davidson will swiftly backtrack on their supposed threats to resign on the basis that a worthless political assurance can be treated as gospel, whereas Arlene Foster will see the situation as it actually is and will stand her ground.  And that's the difference between being a real party leader and a puppet.

A couple of other points.  We're now closer than ever before to the clarity on Brexit that Nicola Sturgeon was looking for before making an announcement on a second independence referendum.  It won't be clarity on the long-term shape of a post-Brexit economic relationship, but it could be clarity on where the UK will find itself on 30th March next year, which I presume is all she can realistically hope for.  Could we be just weeks away from the First Minister pressing for a Section 30 order once again?

And secondly, what happens if the DUP pull the plug and there's a snap general election?  Can the Scottish Tories fit both "No2Indyref2" and "No2EURef2" on their campaigns posters in the north-east?  If not, which message do they prioritise?  Decisions, decisions...

*  *  *

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

That Survation poll: a brief autopsy

In the end there was very little point in fleshing out last night's blogpost about the Survation mega-poll, because a lot of what had been reported about it on social media (and even in one or two newspaper articles) turned out to be fictional.  There was no direct independence question in the poll at all - the reported numbers of Yes 51.4%, No 48.6% were a silly confection, justified with logic of the "two plus two equals twenty-two" variety.  The irony is that we've seen in recent weeks that if you ask poll respondents how they would vote in an independence referendum if they assume that a hard Brexit is going ahead, you get a Yes vote in the low 50s anyway.  So I'm not entirely sure what the point of inventing fantasy results was.

The Westminster voting intention numbers that were mentioned on Twitter also turn out not to be what they first appeared - according to Survation, they are from a Scottish subsample that was not separately weighted.  So the apparent significant uptick in SNP support since the last full-scale Scottish poll from Survation cannot be regarded as meaningful.  The next proper poll may well show a boost of that sort, but we'll just have to wait and see.

The one and only piece of Scottish data in the poll that did turn out to be authentic is that 38% of respondents say that Brexit would make them more likely to support independence, and only 25% say that it would make them less likely to support independence.  And that, I would suggest, is plenty enough to be getting on with for now.

As far as the UK-wide figures from the poll are concerned, I have to say the People's Vote brigade are getting a bit carried away.  They've been pointing to maps showing there has been a swing to Remain almost everywhere, and saying it's "astonishing" and "extraordinary".  Hmmm.  Up to a point, Lord Copper.  If Survation are right, there has been a 6% swing from Leave to Remain since the 2016 referendum, which is not insignificant, but the Leave vote has scarcely fallen through the floor.  A mere 4% swing back in the opposite direction would see Leave draw level - and that sort of shift can happen in the blink of an eye in the heat of a referendum campaign.  And it's scarcely unprecedented in British politics for a national swing to be replicated to varying degrees in most localities (even assuming that localised figures from the poll based on very small subsamples can be regarded as remotely reliable).

*  *  *

Monday, November 5, 2018

Unionist chuntering heard all the way from Chichester after chipper Channel 4 poll gives massive boost to independence

I've been out enjoying Bonfire Night, so I wasn't watching Channel 4's big Brexit show, and I'm trying to make sense of the Scottish figures from their Survation mega-poll, based on the limited information available on Twitter.  Supposedly there are independence figures showing...

Yes 51.4%
No 48.6%

...but I have a sneaking suspicion that'll turn out to be a non-standard question asking respondents to take Brexit into account.  If so, that wouldn't be out of line with similar polls we've seen in recent months, although I certainly wouldn't diminish the significance of it in any way.

I've managed to track down the exact wording of another question in the poll...

From what you have seen and heard so far do you think that Brexit makes it more or less likely that you would vote to support an independent Scotland?

More likely: 38%
Less likely: 25%
Neither more nor less likely: 31%

Which bolsters the impression that Brexit has the potential to secure the small net swing that would be required to produce a Yes majority.

*  *  *

UPDATE: It has been suggested to me by several people that the 51.4% and 48.6% figures are not from a specific poll question at all, but are just extrapolations of what would happen if you adjusted the 2014 referendum result on the assumption that No voters who say Brexit makes them "more likely" to support independence have in fact switched to Yes, and vice versa.  If so, what we're being treated to this evening is the most ludicrous misreporting of a poll that you could ever wish to see.  I can only admire the impudence of whoever came up with the idea.

There are Westminster voting intention figures being quoted from the poll as well, but I think I'll wait to see whether those turn out to be genuine.  On the face of it they show a boost for the SNP.

*  *  *

New podcast

Just a quick note to let you know that myself and Peter A Bell are the guests on this week's edition of the Through a Scottish Prism podcast. Topics under discussion are the Budget, the prospects for a Brexit deal, the "anti-semitism" row concerning the Grouse Beater blog, and the timing of the second independence referendum. You can listen to the podcast HERE.

Friday, November 2, 2018

If a so-called People's Vote actually happened, what would be the consequences for independence?

After the events of a few months ago, it's refreshing to be able to get back to actually agreeing with Pete Wishart about something, and I do agree with him that there are dangers attached to the SNP's recent change of heart about a so-called "People's Vote". In fact I think what troubled me the most was Nicola Sturgeon's enthusiastic embrace of the dubious term "People's Vote", because in spite of her caveat that she would be seeking assurances that Scotland's voice would be respected in a second referendum, she also made clear that her support for a referendum was unconditional. It's obvious that the desired assurances will not be forthcoming and that any second referendum that could possibly command a majority in the House of Commons would be a straightforward UK-wide vote, exactly like the one that was held in June 2016. If it went ahead, what sort of hostage to fortune would we have just given? How could we denounce a second vote that overturned Scotland's wishes as a democratic outrage if the First Minister had warmly described the process in advance as a "People's Vote"?

There's also the problem of a precedent being set for Scottish independence: if the Leave vote of 2016 doesn't actually lead to Britain leaving the European Union because it's overturned by a second referendum before the result is implemented, why couldn't unionists attempt the same stunt after a future Yes vote in Scotland? However, as I pointed out to Labour MP Paul Sweeney recently, the precedent can't be set simply by SNP support for a referendum - it can only be set if a referendum is actually held, and it probably won't be, partly because of Labour's own stance. And there's the rub: the logic of the SNP's new strategy surely hinges entirely on the assumption that they are supporting something that will never come to pass. Which is fine, and probably justified, but it's a bit of a high-wire act all the same.

Peter Curran asked on Twitter recently what would happen to the plans for an indyref if the SNP's best efforts succeeded, and Britain remained in the EU, or there was an extremely soft Brexit. And the answer can only be that an indyref would be off the table at that point, because there would be no chance of success - Remain supporters in Scotland would breathe the biggest sigh of relief on record, look back on the chaos of the last two years, and refuse to countenance any constitutional upheaval (such as independence) for many, many years to come. But if a Hard Brexit actually happens, the opposite applies - independence in Europe will start to look like the antidote to the chaos.

During the 2016 EU referendum, the SNP leadership were often accused of secretly wanting a Leave vote to further the cause of independence. That was almost certainly an unjust charge - my impression is that they genuinely wanted the peace and quiet of a Remain vote, and would afterwards have looked to build towards an indyref at some point in the 2021-26 parliament. But once the Leave vote happened, it's probably fair to say that any potential overturning of that result started to look inconsistent with keeping the flame of independence burning bright. So, on paper, the SNP are now campaigning for something that is the polar opposite of being in their own best interests.

*  *  *

There is no such thing as...

What you are about to read are all genuine comments that have been posted on Twitter over the last 48 hours or so. You might be shocked at the contempt they display towards one particular gender, and I suspect you'll find the last three tweets bitterly ironic in the circumstances.

"Lord save us from female indy bloggers and their fan base. They are a constant reminder of the dangers of women with little insight believing it’s their duty to share their daft ramblings with the rest of us."

"I for one am grateful that another female Indy blogger has written a blog about a female Indy blogger who is *innocent* of all charges despite all evidence to the contrary. So that's all sorted. We are truly blessed with female bloggers. #femalebloggersunite"

"Recent Scottish politics has involved an awful lot of white women stating that they have never thought about an issue before but feel entirely qualified to talk about it with no research or insight on their huge platforms."

"Those particular women have a tendency to announce that they don't know anything about an issue but they're going to tell you what they think anyway."

"It doesn't mean that white women don't get to have opinions, but...they should at the very least attempt to research their topics..."

"I don’t think it is unreasonable to ask middle aged white women to shut up."

"I’ve always felt quote tweeting in the middle of a debate was a form of virtue signalling for attention for people who need validation from their followers...particularly employed by fragile female egos."

"Also: misogyny is not a thing."

"It’s extremely disrespectful to accuse confident men of ‘misogyny’."

"Misogyny is a made up idea."

So, yes, all of the above are genuine tweets. Except for a very few small details. When someone used the word "man" or "men", I replaced it with "woman" or "women". And when someone used the word "male", I replaced it with "female". And when someone used the word "misandry", I replaced it with "misogyny".

If the above tweets had been displaying contempt towards women rather than men, I can well understand the disbelief with which people would have encountered the fatuous claims that misogyny does not exist.

But as it happens the contempt was directed towards men. And yet "there is no such thing as misandry", apparently.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

You don't stamp out anti-semitism by stamping all over the innocent

The SNP's suspension of Grouse Beater is of special interest to me, because like him I'm a pro-independence blogger who also happens to be an ordinary member of the SNP.  Bloggers are self-evidently at far greater risk than the average person of having a statement cynically misconstrued, or even of being caught out making an honest slip, and it would be nice to think that a fair and transparent process would at least apply before the SNP takes drastic disciplinary action in such circumstances.  If that's not the case there's a danger that we would all begin to self-censor to avoid finding ourselves suspended.  It would obviously be unhealthy if membership of a political party became incompatible with freedom of speech.

I first became concerned about this problem many, many years ago when Jeff Breslin of SNP Tactical Voting (at the time the most popular SNP-supporting blog) revealed inside information about postal vote returns, not realising that he was technically breaking the law.  It was a totally honest mistake, and he very nobly resigned his SNP membership to avoid any damage to the party.  I was a bit shocked and depressed that SNP spokespeople were all too quick to distance themselves from Jeff and to portray him as an embarrassing wrongdoer who was no longer associated with the party.  In my opinion it would have been far more appropriate to pay tribute to the honourable actions of someone who (at least at the time) had done a lot of good for the party, albeit in an unofficial role.  But we were left in no doubt that, when push comes to shove, SNP bloggers are utterly expendable.

We've seen the same sad process play out over the last day or two, with a tweet from Humza Yousaf that very strongly implies that Grouse Beater is guilty of anti-semitism, and that action has been taken against him to "stamp out" anti-semitism within the SNP.  The actual position is that it remains to seen whether his blogpost will be deemed to be anti-semitic, and that for now he has merely been suspended pending an investigation.  It's troubling that this crucial point is being regarded in some quarters as a meaningless technicality, and that the suspension is perceived as a "punishment" for guilt that is already presumed.  It was precisely that mindset that led to Michelle Thomson's political career being unjustly ruined.

I must say that the version of Grouse Beater's blogpost that is currently online is manifestly not anti-semitic.  It can't possibly be, because it specifically praises Rhea Wolfson for her stance against anti-semitism.  I gather that may not be the original version of the post, and if the screenshot I've seen is accurate, the original wording is more ambiguous.  Some people have asked: "Well, if he didn't mean that, what could he have possibly meant?" To which there are several possible answers.  Assuming the worst possible interpretation doesn't seem to be consistent with the principle of 'innocent until proven guilty'.  It's also been asked: "What is the reference to Hitler doing there, then?  Are you saying it's totally random?  Hmmm?  Hmmm?"  The problem with that argument is that there are other seemingly random and elliptical references in the blogpost as well, such as to the film On The Waterfront.  But it seems that randomness and ambiguity don't need to be explained away if the worst possible motivation can't be ascribed to them.

What should happen from here is that the investigation should proceed, it should be fair and not have a predetermined outcome, and Grouse Beater's explanation of his intent in writing the controversial paragraph should be listened to and considered with the seriousness it warrants.  In the meantime, he should be given the respect he deserves by the SNP leadership, and not subjected to a premature kicking, no matter how politically expedient that would be.