Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Why Alex Massie is wrong

Alex Massie has a new post up at the Spectator website, weighing up the respective merits of the YouGov and Panelbase polls, and concluding to everyone's amazement that YouGov are probably closer to the mark. Alas, some of the points he makes are just plain factually wrong, so I felt moved to leave the following response in the comments section -

"There was much chuntering and whispering and people asking if YouGov could be trusted. Had they asked the same question as will be posed in the independence referendum itself? (Yes they had)."

Er, no, Alex, they hadn't. This, in fact, was the tortuous and leading question that YouGov asked -

"If there was a referendum tomorrow on Scotland leaving the United Kingdom and becoming an Independent Country and this was the question, how would you vote? Should Scotland be an independent country?"

Now, then. I can absolutely promise you that voters will not be faced in September 2014 with a ballot paper that reads as follows -

"This is a referendum about leaving the comforting warmth of the United Kingdom, and being cast adrift in the North Atlantic without food, shelter or warmth. But please note that the official question in this referendum is "Should Scotland be an independent country?" Now have a very, very careful think and tell us how you want to vote."

Moving on -

"So, if pushed, I would guess that YouGov’s poll is considerably more likely (though not certain) to be more accurate than Panelbase’s. It is certainly more in line with the findings reported by other pollsters. It is Panelbase versus the field."

Er, no, Alex, it is not. The most recent Angus Reid poll showed a relatively modest No lead of thirteen points, which is slightly closer to Panelbase's one-point Yes lead than it is to YouGov's thirty-point No lead. More to the point, however, it is far closer to the more typical Panelbase figures showing a 4-10% No lead than it is to the figures from the unionist-friendly camp of pollsters (TNS-BMRB, Ipsos-Mori and YouGov).

"But taken as a whole I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suspect that this [Panelbase] is a poll nudging people towards affirming support for independence."

And what in heaven's name do you think YouGov's ludicrous preamble was nudging people towards? Studied neutrality?


  1. What has happened to Alex Massie? He used to be the most interesting and thoughtful right-leaning commentator out there (probably in the whole of the UK, not just Scotland).

  2. Aye. Been getting more and more disappointing all year, but that piece was a sudden nosedive. Don't think I can justify a link any more.