After hearing the results of the poll on childcare that was commissioned by the anti-independence campaign, we've been waiting with bated breath to discover just how leading the question was, and it certainly hasn't disappointed. Here it is in all its glory...
"When Alex Salmond and the Scottish Government launched their White Paper on independence one of the main reasons they offered for voting to become independent from the United Kingdom was that childcare could be improved. However, Alex Salmond is already responsible for provision of childcare which is devolved to the Scottish Parliament.
Which of the following best reflects your view?"
Now, I fully appreciate that YouGov is a commercial organisation, and must to some extent follow the bidding of its paying clients. But as a member of the British Polling Council, it presumably also prides itself on having standards that place it above being a cowboy operation or an out-and-out push poller. There must, therefore, be some kind of threshold of acceptability, below which a proposed question is so ludicrously misleading and biased that they will refuse to put it to their panel, because they know as polling professionals that the results will be literally meaningless. Quite honestly, if the above question meets that basic threshold (and YouGov clearly feel it does) then I can't even begin to imagine what question would fail to do so.
What do you want to bet that most members of the YouGov panel will have encountered that question and thought to themselves : "But there must be a reason why the Scottish Government say that they need independence to improve the provision of childcare. It might be a good reason, it might be a bad reason, but I'd like to judge that for myself." Yet at no point was that reason provided, and as such the respondents cannot be considered to have been offering an informed opinion. Instead, they were simply presented with a supposedly factual statement that "Alex Salmond" already has all the necessary powers to improve childcare, and were then absurdly invited to choose between two options, one of which flatly contradicted that initial statement : "Alex Salmond and the Scottish Government need Scottish voters to vote for independence in the referendum before they can deliver better childcare." I can only salute the 22% of respondents who were sufficiently well-informed to choose that option anyway - and indeed the 14% who were smart enough to realise they weren't being supplied with enough information, and who said they didn't know. What YouGov have connived in is the rough equivalent of this...
"It has just been scientifically proven that the Moon is composed of a substance called jegspickle trelusplaut. Which of the following best reflects your view?
a) The Moon is composed of jegspickle trelusplaut.
b) The Moon is not composed of jegspickle trelusplaut.
c) The Moon is disguised as Luisa Zissman and is currently living in the Big Brother house."
And is also not a million miles from something like this...
"Alex Salmond could give you a free wok, but says he won't. Do you think he should change his mind and give you a free wok?"
Another gem from the same poll is a question that tries to lead people into saying that anyone who is not absolutely sure of their opinion in the referendum should "vote for Scotland to remain in the UK". In spite of the anti-independence campaign's best efforts with the wording, a healthy 43% of respondents refuse to play along with their little game - of whom 15% choose the option saying that voters who aren't absolutely sure of their opinion shouldn't vote in the referendum at all, which is proof positive that if you ask a stupid question you get a stupid answer! The fact that such a question was even dreamt up in the first place is testament to the No campaign's astonishing poverty of ambition, and to their entitlement complex - they clearly don't expect to win the argument, but don't think they should need to, because they feel that the referendum should somehow function like a court case where the jury is supposed to acquit on the basis of "reasonable doubt" even if they're 90% sure that the defendant is guilty.
Let's imagine the question had been phrased slightly differently. How about -
"Do you think voters who aren't 100% sure of their opinion on independence should vote in the way they are most inclined, or do you think they should vote against independence regardless of their own inclination?"
What do you think the answer would have been then?
Yeah. So do I.