Monday, February 24, 2014

Norman Smith : I would say he's lost the plot, but did he ever have it?

The BBC's Norman Smith, he of the cringe-inducing "Sassenachs" monologue, continues in his fearless one-man quest to bring the standard of London media reporting of the independence referendum down to an even lower level. He tweeted this about an hour ago -

"Poll in today's Aberdeen Press and Journal gives huge lead for No campaign (65%) versus just 17% for independence"

Of course those numbers are mind-bogglingly implausible in the wake of four Scotland-wide polls by established pollsters in recent days showing very modest No leads of between 9% and 13% (and one of which put the No vote as low as 42%). So to say I smelled a rat would be to put it mildly, but to begin with I couldn't find any trace of the poll online. All I could do was post this reply -

"Norman, come on man : basic journalism. Who was it a poll of? Scotland-wide? Obviously not. Don't treat us like idiots."

Sure enough, it turns out to be a poll of "the north and north-east" only. But the numbers still aren't remotely credible even on that basis - there's no way a pollster like ICM would be finding Yes on 37% across Scotland if the figure in the north and north-east was even vaguely close to 17%. The Press & Journal give very little information about the poll's methodology on their website, but are billing it as the second poll of its type, following on from an earlier one in the spring of last year. That in itself should be enough to set alarm bells ringing about its credibility, because Professor Curtice and other analysts were unequivocal in treating the January 2014 poll conducted by ComRes in the Borders and Dumfries & Galloway as the first regional poll of this campaign, which implies that any poll in the north last spring was not regarded as serious. The P&J insist that their new poll is "an independent snapshot of public opinion", but in the absence of any hard information my best guess is that it's one of those "half-breed" polls - not quite a self-selecting voodoo poll, but not scientifically rigorous either. A rough equivalent would be the Scotpulse poll the other day that showed a dead heat between Yes and No across the country. You have to ask yourself this - why is Norman Smith trying to hoodwink people into thinking the P&J poll is something it's not, when it would presumably never even occur to him to give the Scotpulse poll the time of day?


  1. Thanks for investigating on our behalf James. Great work. The usual suspects are going bananas over at PB. My instinct is: let them get on with it. They are only fooling themselves.

    The more complacent the Brit nats become, the more likely that Scotland will win in September.

  2. Smell the desperation James ?

  3. Considering all 6 pollsters that have reported this year say the yes vote is between 39% - 45% among decided voters throughout the whole country, for it to be just 21% in the North of Scotland is pretty much impossible.....

    Looking at TNS's cross breaks since the White Paper for example, the figures for the North swing around wildly (probably due to the smaller sample size compared to the West and East cross breaks) but show the no lead ranging between 1% and 16% with a sample of over 250.

  4. For the life of me, I still can't work out which organisation (if any) actually conducted this "poll" - that information is notably absent from the BT post about it. Severin Carrell described the survey as "unorthodox", which probably speaks volumes.

  5. Nice to see the resident political racist rapist quoting blair mcliar and a voodoo poll from a local newspaper as evidence that Scotland is dead.

    No mention of cameron admitting to an extra 200,000,000,000 from the North Sea.

    They deserve everything they'll get this September.

  6. I'm tempted to say bravo to Mr Smith and that I hope they continue to report spectacular figures for the "no" campaign up to and including on the day before the poll.

    I'd say "yes" voters are more likely to go out and vote than "no" voters, in any case, but encouraging them to be complacent is all to the good.

    After a long day's work, going up the road to the polling station becomes all the more unattractive if you are convinced that you are going to win.

    "Who needs my vote?"

    The only danger is that "yes" supporters might be disheartened by continuing negative polls and think... What's the point in my voting? We're gonna lose anyway...