A new Survation poll is out tonight, and it has more or less crushed the fantasy that there has been any movement back to No of late. The Yes campaign remains on the all-time high of 47% that it first reached two months ago -
Should Scotland be an independent country?
Yes 47% (n/c)
No 53% (n/c)
When Don't Knows are taken into account, the figures are -
Yes 40% (-1)
No 46% (n/c)
However, even that minor percentage change is misleading, because on the unrounded numbers Yes and No are both down by a trivial amount - Yes by 0.7%, and No by 0.1%. In other words, there is no change of any statistical significance whatsoever, and the fact that the No campaign have rushed out their customary glossy graphic about "No Thanks extending lead" may well be what the word "desperate" was invented for.
Unlike last weekend's Panelbase poll, Survation have made no methodological changes (none have been announced at any rate), and therefore tonight's figures are directly comparable with previous Survation polls. However, for my money this poll may actually be slightly more encouraging for the Yes campaign than the previous two polls from the same firm, even though on the face of it the results are identical. When I saw the datasets for those last two polls, my heart immediately sank, because there was a very simple way in which it could be argued that the heady heights that Yes had reached were illusory. In both cases, the most Yes-friendly age group was 16-24 year olds, and they had been upweighted to an extreme degree, meaning that any error in the voting intention figures for that group caused by random sampling variation would have been magnified in the overall results. But in tonight's poll, although 16-24 year olds have again been dramatically upweighted from 45 real respondents to 130 'virtual' respondents, that doesn't matter as much, because they're now only the fourth most Yes-friendly age group - or, to put it another way, the third most No-friendly age group. So this is in fact the first ever Survation poll to put Yes as high as 47% without there being anything weird going on due to age-related weightings.
Unfortunately, there is still one caveat - as Alistair Davidson points out in the comments section below, respondents from the South of Scotland have been upweighted two-fold, and that means what is almost certainly a highly inaccurate breakdown of Yes 50%, No 39% for the region has been magnified. However, that problem will have been at least partly offset by the more modest upweighting of a dubiously big No lead in Mid-Scotland and Fife. The best evidence that Yes have not been artificially flattered in this poll can be found in the raw unweighted numbers, which are very similar to the published results. That was not the case last month - indeed in last month's poll there was a sharp fall in the unweighted Yes vote, which led me to have a nagging doubt at the back at my mind as to whether Survation's weighting procedure was masking real slippage for Yes. Thankfully, we can now relax on that score.
Survation's own commentary on the poll suggests that there has been no Commonwealth Games boost for Yes - which is absurdly premature. Come to think of it, a few of you might recall some chap at the Spectator getting terribly excited by the first post-White Paper poll failing to show much movement, when in retrospect it's blindingly clear that the White Paper produced a significant pro-Yes swing. As I explained above, it's possible that in an underlying sense this new poll is better for Yes than the two previous Survation polls, which if true could mean that polls from other companies will show a swing on their headline numbers. But it's also possible that the impact of the Games will not be felt immediately - the referendum campaign has been put on pause to some extent over the last ten days, and it will only be when it restarts that we'll see whether the greater confidence generated by Glasgow's time in the sun will lead people to be more receptive to the case for independence. And the final point to make is that Survation's own supplementary question on the issue contradicts their own conclusion to some extent - 12% of undecided voters say the Games have made them more likely to vote Yes, compared to 4% of undecideds who are more likely to vote No. True, that's only a small advantage for Yes - but then No are only defending a very small lead.
There's also a question asking who people expect to win the Salmond v Darling debate, with 37% plumping for the First Minister, and only 11% for David Cameron's stand-in. Survation claim that this "falls short of a ringing endorsement" for Salmond - which could be an extremely good thing. "Winning" a debate is to a large extent a question of exceeding expectations, and if as many as 63% of the population don't realise that Salmond is a better debater than Darling, that'll make it a hell of a lot easier to exceed expectations.
* * *
Swing required for 1 out of 6 pollsters to show Yes in the lead or level : 3.0%
Swing required for 2 out of 6 pollsters to show Yes in the lead or level : 3.5%
Swing required for 3 out of 6 pollsters to show Yes in the lead or level : 4.5%
Swing required for 4 out of 6 pollsters to show Yes in the lead or level : 5.5%
* * *
SCOT GOES POP POLL OF POLLS
I didn't get round to posting an update of the Poll of Polls after last weekend's Panelbase poll, so this update takes account of both Panelbase and Survation. The slight increase in the No lead should therefore be taken with a heavy dose of salt, because it may well be caused by Panelbase's big methodological changes. Ironically, of course, the Survation and Panelbase results will actually increase the Yes vote in other Polls of Polls, which mostly use variants on the Curtice method.
MEAN AVERAGE (excluding Don't Knows) :
Yes 43.1% (-0.5)
No 56.9% (+0.5)
MEAN AVERAGE (not excluding Don't Knows) :
Yes 36.3% (-0.5)
No 48.0% (+0.3)
MEDIAN AVERAGE (excluding Don't Knows) :
Yes 43.4% (n/c)
No 56.6% (n/c)
(The Poll of Polls is based on a rolling average of the most recent poll from each of the pollsters that have been active in the referendum campaign since September 2013, and that adhere to British Polling Council rules. At present, there are six - YouGov, TNS-BMRB, Survation, Panelbase, Ipsos-Mori and ICM. Whenever a new poll is published, it replaces the last poll from the same company in the sample. Changes in the Poll of Polls are generally glacial in nature due to the fact that only a small portion of the sample is updated each time.)