A week has passed since the last full-scale referendum poll was released, but we should certainly hold on to our hats, because at the very least a new ICM referendum poll is on its way - which probably means it will appear in Scotland on Sunday at the weekend. The reason I know is that someone whose wife took part in the poll yesterday very kindly sent me screenshots of all the questions (apart from the routine demographic questions at the start).
The big news is that the absurd introductory "comfort" question from last month is still there, but it's been moved to the very end of the question sequence where it can't do any harm. It would be interesting to know whether ICM have reflected on their blunder from last month and realised it may well have distorted the results on the main referendum question, or whether it was always part of the plan to do a "split test" to see if the results are the same regardless of the order in which the questions are asked. If the latter is the case, I must say it seems extremely unprofessional of ICM to have compromised the integrity of a high-profile published poll simply to enable them to conduct some speculative testing - it's a bit like a football stadium using the middle of a World Cup match as an opportunity for a fire drill.
If we learned anything from last month's experience, it's that we should be extremely cautious about the headline results of any new ICM poll until we find out whether any other methodological changes have been surreptitiously made - and that might not become clear until a day or two later. For a third month in a row, ICM have asked for people's country of birth, so it'll also be important to see whether it remains the case that Scottish-born respondents are significantly under-represented in the weighted sample, and English-born respondents are significantly over-represented. And will the bizarre under-representation of male respondents in the last poll have been corrected? All of these factors played a role in suppressing the reported Yes vote in last month's headline figures.
The standard supplementary questions about the economy, equality, pensions and the future of devolution are asked, but there are also a few additional questions -
* Respondents are asked to assess how risky they think it would be to choose independence or to remain in the UK, on a scale of 1 to 5.
* Respondents are asked to agree or disagree with a series of six statements, one of which indulges the bee Martin Boon has in his bonnet about the possibility that people might think they'd be seen as unpatriotic if it was known they were voting No. (In my view a much more interesting question would be whether some people feel blackmailed by their employers to vote No.)
* Respondents are asked the question that comes up with tedious predictability every four years - do they want England to do well or badly at the World Cup? This is about as pointless as asking people how much they've given to charity in the last year, or how many sexual partners they've had in their life - in many cases they'll have given the answer they feel casts them in the best light, rather than telling the truth.