Many thanks to Stuart Dickson for pointing me in the direction of the full datasets for the remarkable poll that has, for the time being at least, turned the independence referendum campaign on its head. Last night I expressed a small amount of concern that the SNP's lead on European voting intentions in the poll seemed improbably high, which I thought might cast some slight doubt on the credibility of the referendum findings. However, I'm delighted to report that the datasets have entirely set my mind to rest on that point. The only real question mark anyone had raised about the poll's methodology related to the upscaling of the small number of 16-24 year old respondents, among whom there was a huge swing towards Yes. But as Oldnat pointed out on last night's thread, if a disproportionately 'Nat-heavy' sample of young people was responsible for the Yes surge, you would expect that to be reflected in huge support among that group for the SNP. As it turns out, the opposite is the case - 16-24 year olds may be the part of the poll's sample most likely to vote for independence, but they're also the least likely to vote SNP...
SNP support by age group -
16-24 year olds : 36%
25-44 year olds : 47%
45-64 year olds : 44%
65+ year olds : 38%
So there's nothing suspicious at all about the SNP's handsome lead, which in fact is derived from the responses of older age groups for which there were no sampling problems. It's admittedly still a very surprising finding, but my theory is that the order of questions in the poll may have had something to do with it (European voting intention was only the ninth question asked, and was immediately preceded by a question asking people to recollect how they voted in the 2011 Holyrood election).
As for the referendum voting intentions of young people in this poll, the truth is that no-one should be startled by them - at 44% Yes, 33% No they're in line with the finding from the most recent YouGov poll that 18-24 year olds were breaking disproportionately for Yes. If anything, a more reasonable concern might be that the traditional sampling problems among young voters led to an underestimation of the Yes vote in the last ICM poll in September (the Yes figure for 16-24 year olds in that poll was absurdly low). If that was the case, then it might cast doubt on just how big the swing to Yes has been over the last four months, but what it wouldn't do is cast any particular doubt on the headline figures that ICM are showing right now - ie. a No lead that stands at just 7%.
What really seems to be going on is that voters of all ages are gradually learning to decouple their party political preferences from their referendum voting intention. The Yes campaign still don't seem to be making much headway among Tories (if Wealthy Nation do the trick on that front it could yet prove decisive), but among Labour and Liberal Democrat voters the progress is extraordinary. When undecideds are excluded, no fewer than 28% of people who voted Labour in 2011 are planning to vote for independence, as are 26% of people who voted Liberal Democrat. And remember that both of those parties were at historically low levels of support in 2011, so these are the true core voters who are being won over by the Yes campaign. By contrast, in spite of the fact that the SNP were way, way above their core support when they secured their 2011 landslide, a mere 16% of their voters are currently planning to vote No.
In no small measure, it may well be that we have the likes of Sir Charles Gray and Dennis Canavan to thank for this breakthrough. We can only imagine what the impact will be if a few more senior Labour people are now emboldened to declare for Yes.
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Would it be possible for journalists (and Blair McDougall) to stop inventing their own poll numbers?
Blair McDougall discussing the ICM poll on Scotland Tonight : "Every poll has shown Yes at between 25% and 33%." Even if we're charitable and assume the implied missing words were "until this one", he's still talking utter tripe. No fewer than ELEVEN polls last year showed the Yes campaign at a higher level of support than 33% - and that includes two polls from Ipsos-Mori, generally the least favourable pollster for Yes. The highest Yes figure of all was in fact 44%.
Ian Dunt (yes, him again) writing on politics.co.uk : "The ICM poll is something of an outlier, however. Most surveys put support for independence at around 29%." WHAT? Where in God's name does that number come from? Even when undecideds are not excluded, the average Yes vote at present is 33.8%. Five of the six BPC pollsters showed a Yes vote of over 30% in their most recent poll (and even if the non-BPC Progressive Scottish Opinion is taken into account, it's five out of seven). Has Dunt just plucked the number 29 out of thin air because he likes the sound of it? Answers on a postcard...
Last but not least, although I didn't see Question Time last week, I was told on Twitter that David Dimbleby lied through his teeth yet again by claiming polls were showing a 2-1 majority against independence, and that (almost as unforgivably) none of the panel bothered to correct him. This just ain't on - not even Dimblebys have the right to unilaterally decide that undecided voters are really No voters in denial. Not only should he immediately stop peddling this falsehood, he should apologise for having grossly misled his viewers for so long. And even if he is genuinely unaware that he's been reciting fictional numbers, the fact that he didn't even bother to check speaks to an almost unbelievable lack of professionalism on his part.