Sunday, February 16, 2014

Do a majority of men already support independence?

As far as I'm aware, this is the first Sunday for a few weeks that hasn't seen the publication of a referendum poll (although there is a GB-wide poll on the currency issue, which I'll come to later).  This gives us the opportunity to take stock of an interesting facet of recent polling that hasn't been commented on to any great extent.  I was having another look at the Panelbase datasets from last week - and, first of all, a big well done to Calum Findlay for revealing the text of Panelbase's 'secret preamble' in a comment on this blog, because it appears that the criticisms over a lack of transparency have now been heeded and the datasets have been updated to include the full wording of the question.  (Of course that still doesn't resolve the more fundamental problem of the subtle No-friendly bias in the question, but a greater degree of openness about methodology is still to be commended on its own merits.)  But what really leapt out at me is that Panelbase are showing that Yes have a clear lead among men -

As you may know, the Scottish government intends to hold a referendum this year on Scotland becoming a country independent from the rest of the United Kingdom.  The question on the ballot is expected to be as below.  How would you vote in this referendum?  Should Scotland be an independent country? 

Yes 47%
No 43%

Perhaps these figures haven't been remarked upon because they aren't actually unusual for Panelbase, but they led me to refresh my memory about the state of play other pollsters are showing in respect of male voters.  It's true that Panelbase are alone in showing a Yes lead, but the gap is extremely tight with a couple of other companies - including most surprisingly YouGov, which puts Yes at 44% and No at 47%.

Across the seven BPC pollsters that have conducted referendum polls so far, this is what a Poll of Polls restricted to men would be showing...

MEAN AVERAGE (not excluding Don't Knows) :

Yes 41.0%
No 45.6%

MEAN AVERAGE (excluding Don't Knows) :

Yes 47.3%
No 52.7%

So Yes are not all that far away from holding an outright lead among men, and given what Panelbase are showing, the possibility can't be wholly excluded that they already do.  It's generally the negative side of the gender gap that is commented upon (ie. that Yes are doing less well among women), but the positives shouldn't be entirely overlooked.  If one of the factors that perhaps suppresses the Yes vote is the slightly 'taboo' nature of admitting to support for independence, then at least we have one gender that has a good chance of breaking free of those shackles, thus increasing the likelihood of a snowball effect.  Even in this day and age, the majority of people are 'homosocial' (ie. most or all of their friends are the same gender as themselves), and it must be hoped that in male-dominated settings there are an ever-increasing number of conversations about independence going on, and that undecided men are gradually realising that the jump to Yes will put them in good and plentiful company.

*  *  *

The YouGov currency poll shows that yet another chasm has opened up between public opinion in Scotland and the rest of the UK -

If Scotland votes to become an independent country, it would then need to negotiate independence arrangements with the rest of the United Kingdom before becoming independent in 2016.  If Scotland did become independent, would you support or oppose an independent Scotland continuing to use the pound as their currency?


Support 64%
Oppose 22%


Support 23%
Oppose 58%

(To use David Aaronovitch's favourite word, note YouGov's blatant 'othering' of Scotland in a GB-wide poll with the use of the word 'their' in the question.)

This seems to reinforce the point that The Economist made on Friday - the level of disagreement, divergence and bitterness that has emerged between Scotland and the rest of the UK, whipped up by London politicians (and ironically contributed to by The Economist themselves with their notorious 'Skintland' cover) has left the Union in a near-irreparable state.  We know from a Panelbase poll just a few weeks ago that English voters were overwhelmingly supportive of Scotland retaining the pound when they were reminded of their own self-interest in preserving a monetary union with a country that is their second-biggest export market.  So the radically different figures from YouGov can only be the result of the anti-Scottish rhetoric we've heard from Osborne, Balls and Alexander this week, and indeed from the London media.

The widening chasm between Scotland and the rest of the UK is all your own handiwork, chaps.  Good luck with that love-bombing campaign now.


  1. James, I have noted men’s support for independence for quite some time, and have been pleased about the increase in support amongst women that is unfolding in the post white-paper polls. However, I think that the crucial moment is upon us. Will women be George Osborne’s currency veto drive speak to women’s uncertainties over independence and confirm them as no voters; or will his threatening demeanour alienate them from the Union and drive them toward supporting independence?

    My instinct reaction to Osborne’s Edinburgh speech was somewhat aggressive, but I have been much impressed by the calm and reasonable tone that the SNP/Yes campaign have adopted in their replies to the Unionist position. I have no doubt that this approach and tone is directly targeted at female voters and is intended to contrast with Osborne’s hectoring and aggressive demeanour.

    That said, I still think that the SNP/Yes campaign needs to set out a forensic analysis of the consequences of the Unionist decision and the advantages of, perhaps, a Hong Kong style currency arrangement (always my preferred option).

  2. Good article James, I have noticed some people feel that Alex Claiming that Scotland is being 'bullied' is the wrong terminology,as it makes us look weak.
    I don't agree, as I think this is the perfect terminology to attract women to support the SNP. Women don't like bullies and they themselves have often felt bullied by men in past or even present relationships, so when a man is described as bullying, women become very wary of that person.

    If I remember correctly, of the 5% who recently moved to Yes, 3% were women. I commented about this at the time, as I felt it was the most important point about the poll.
    I think we will see more and more women moving towards Yes, until we eventually have parity, at that point Yes will be way ahead in the polls.

  3. Patrick : To the extent that it's been the No side suggesting that the references to bullying constitute "whining", I'm not sure how they can keep a straight face after Better Together's very own "blow the whistle on the bullies" campaign (which was the rough equivalent of Nigel Farage spearheading a "shop a Europhobe" drive).