Thursday, February 12, 2015

Housekeeping note about Facebook

Apologies to anyone who has tried to contact me on Facebook over the last few months.  I went on the site about an hour ago in an attempt to contact a friend who I've lost touch with, and realised that the last time I logged in was before the referendum!  I know it must look like I post there almost every day, but it's all rigged up automatically via Twitter and Networked Blogs.

By the way, I don't want to tempt fate, but it's just possible I may have finally solved the intensely irritating problem of preview posts on the Scot Goes Pop Facebook page always displaying the words "No Image, Invalid URL".  We'll soon find out - this post will serve as a test!

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UPDATE (6.10am) : This morning's Scottish subsample figures from YouGov are SNP 51%, Labour 22%, Conservatives 13%, Liberal Democrats 10%, UKIP 2%, Greens 1%.  I haven't been keeping track of record highs and lows in individual subsamples, but there can't have been many GB-wide YouGov polls since the referendum to have shown better figures for the SNP than that.  And it's happened in spite of the familiar downweighting of respondents who say they identify most closely with the SNP (in this case 54 SNP and Plaid identifiers were downweighted to count as only 30).

SNP and Plaid Cymru overtake the Liberal Democrats across Britain in dizzying new Ipsos-Mori poll

The Evening Standard have revealed that their new Britain-wide Ipsos-Mori poll puts the SNP and Plaid Cymru ahead of the Liberal Democrats for the first time ever.  I haven't been able to track down the full set of figures yet, but the Lib Dems are on 6%, and the SNP/Plaid are said to be just slightly ahead - so that implies 7%, or perhaps 6% with the Lib Dems behind on the unrounded numbers.

UPDATE : And it's the better of those two possibilities - the combined vote share for the SNP and Plaid is 6.7%, which is rounded up to 7%.  Even the SNP on their own are on 5.8%, which is rounded up to 6%.  Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats have slumped to just 6.3% (rounded down to 6%), in spite of their GB-wide status.

Here are the full figures...

Britain-wide voting intentions (Ipsos-Mori, 8th-10th February) :

Labour 36% (+2)
Conservatives 34% (+1)
UKIP 9% (-2)
SNP/Plaid Cymru 7% (+3)
Greens 7% (-1)
Liberal Democrats 6% (-2)

You might be wondering if the SNP must have roughly two-thirds of the vote in the Scottish subsample, given that Scotland makes up less than 9% of the GB population.  Not quite - they're actually on 56% in the subsample.  The reason for the apparent contradiction is that Ipsos-Mori's headline figures are filtered by certainty to vote, meaning that it's possible for respondents in Scotland to make up a disproportionate share of the overall sample.  Having said that, even among all respondents who named a party, the SNP are on 5.2% of the Britain-wide vote, and the SNP and Plaid in combination are on 6.0%.

It wasn't all that long ago that the conventional wisdom about UKIP was that their support came primarily from "Tories on holiday" who would melt away and return to the Cammo fold when the general election came into view.  At some point our perception flipped and we started thinking of UKIP as an entrenched electoral force that seemed to be heading for third place in the general election popular vote.  This poll calls that revised view into question.  OK, it's probably a bit freakish that UKIP have fallen to single figures, and Ipsos-Mori's methodology is likely to have had a hand in that.  But the general trajectory for the party has not been upwards of late.  Given that the Liberal Democrats are likely to make a modest recovery from their present dire state, it's starting to look perfectly possible that UKIP will not be able to hold on for third place in the popular vote.  It's also getting harder to see how they can hope to win more than a tiny handful of seats, which would leave them well behind both the SNP and the Lib Dems.  The only factor that might yet change things is Farage's participation in the TV debates (if they go ahead), but he would have to play an absolute blinder.

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Today's update of the Poll of Polls is based on seven Scottish subsamples from GB-wide polls - four from YouGov, one from Populus, one from Ashcroft and one from Ipsos-Mori.

Scottish voting intentions for the May 2015 UK general election :

SNP 44.6% (+2.4)
Labour 27.0% (+1.0)
Conservatives 17.7% (-1.5)
Greens 3.4% (+0.4)
Liberal Democrats 3.4% (-2.1)
UKIP 3.0% (n/c)

(The Poll of Polls uses the Scottish subsamples from all GB-wide polls that have been conducted entirely within the last seven days and for which datasets have been provided, and also all full-scale Scottish polls that have been conducted at least partly within the last seven days. Full-scale polls are given ten times the weighting of subsamples.)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Ah, so THAT'S what Gregg McClymont's signature looks like

Here are two facts -

Fact 1 : I received a letter today from Gregg McClymont, my local Labour MP.  In spite of being an anti-SNP propaganda letter, it was printed on House of Commons paper and was sent in a House of Commons envelope, and so was presumably paid for with public money.  In the five years that he has been my MP, I had never previously heard from Gregg McClymont.

Fact 2 : One week ago, an Ashcroft constituency poll of Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East was published, showing that Gregg McClymont is on course for a crushing defeat at the hands of the SNP in May.  Unless something changes over the next three months, his nascent career as a Labour frontbencher is about to be abruptly and unexpectedly snuffed out.

These two facts are, of course, entirely unrelated.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

More on the TNS-BMRB poll

I've been reading through some of the comments on UK Polling Report about the new TNS poll, and Roger Mexico (who has occasionally posted here) is largely dismissing the concerns over the unusual weighting procedure that was used.  He's a very intelligent guy, so it's not completely impossible that something is going over my head, but on the face of it his argument seems full of holes to me -

* He points out that the Ashcroft constituency polls used 2010 vote recall weighting only, which ought to be even worse than the combination of 2010 and 2011 vote recall that TNS used - and yet Ashcroft still painted a devastating picture for Labour.  But so what?  Without the dubious downweighting of the SNP vote, the Ashcroft polls would have been even worse for Labour (in all likelihood the SNP would have been ahead in Glasgow North-East along with the other fifteen seats surveyed), and who is to say that wouldn't have been a more accurate finding?  Simply saying "crikey, these numbers look quite bad enough as they are" is scarcely a guarantee of accuracy.

* He claims that we "know" SNP supporters are more eager to respond to polls than others, which will lead to them being over-represented in Ipsos-Mori polls, due to Ipsos-Mori being the only firm that doesn't weight by vote recall at all.  Therefore, at least some of TNS-BMRB's downweighting of the SNP based on vote recall is entirely justified.  But do we really "know" that?  Isn't the "eager nationalist" theory rather contradicted by Ipsos-Mori's status as one of the two most No-friendly pollsters throughout most of the long referendum campaign?  If anything, it looks like the opposite phenomenon may have been occurring for a prolonged period.

* He suggests that TNS-BMRB's decision to ask for both 2010 and 2011 vote may make people's recollection of how they voted more accurate, thus removing the objection to 2010 weighting.  That notion is extremely speculative, but even if it was true, it would only work if the 2011 recall question was asked first.  If people's recollections of 2010 are faulty, the problem is hardly going to be rectified by a different question that is asked afterwards.  As it turns out, the TNS datasets clearly show the 2011 question was not asked first.

*  In dismissing the complaint that there is no way of telling from the TNS datasets what impact the 2010 weighting has had, he claims that "equivalent" information is given - and then points to numbers showing that the SNP and Labour were downweighted by roughly the same amount from their vote shares among the raw unweighted sample.  Frankly, that's a complete red herring.  Throughout the referendum, TNS were more often than not producing Labour-heavy raw samples.  It's quite possible that normal demographic weightings (and indeed 2011 vote recall weighting) boosted the SNP in this poll, but that was completely offset by distorted 2010 vote recall weighting.  There's no way of knowing that for sure, though, because as far as I can see the information simply isn't available in the datasets - neither in literal nor in "equivalent" form.

Tumultuous TNS-BMRB poll suggests the SNP are on course for a second overall majority in the Scottish Parliament

Although the new TNS poll shows a somewhat lower SNP lead in Westminster voting intentions than other firms have been reporting of late (albeit still enough to win the party two-thirds of the seats), the Scottish Parliament voting intention figures for the 2016 election have a much more familiar look to them.  Admittedly, even on those, Labour have a higher reported vote share on the constituency ballot than other firms have been suggesting, but that wouldn't be enough to stop the SNP defying the PR voting system by powering to a second successive overall majority.

Constituency ballot :

SNP 47%
Labour 31%
Conservatives 13%
Liberal Democrats 4%

Regional list ballot :

SNP 44%
Labour 26%
Conservatives 13%
Greens 9%
Liberal Democrats 6%
SSP 1%

Now that the datasets have been published, we also have partial answers to the questions I posed last night - did TNS foolishly use 2010 recalled vote weighting (which we know is far less reliable than 2011 weighting), and is that the explanation for their Westminster figures being out of step with other pollsters?  Horror of horrors, they DID use 2010 weighting, although they used 2011 weighting as well, which at least would have diluted the distortion caused.  Nevertheless, it seems likely that this is at least part of the explanation for TNS showing a lower SNP lead than other firms - it probably can't explain all of the huge disparity with the 28-point lead suggested by Ipsos-Mori, but it might well explain all of the more modest disparity with other firms.  The reason I'm having to use words like 'probably' and 'might well' is that there doesn't seem to be enough information in the datasets to make the calculation.  All we have is an explanatory note at the top which reveals that 2010 weighting was used.

And there is another puzzle.  Unlike the eccentric Panelbase poll in early October, TNS have used exactly the same weightings for both their Westminster and Holyrood voting intention questions.  So the foolishness of using 2010 weighting can't explain the failure of TNS to replicate the finding of other firms that the traditional big difference between voting patterns for the two parliaments has more or less vanished.  The explanation must lie elsewhere - perhaps in the face-to-face data collection method, or perhaps in the way TNS pose the questions.

Curiously, the Herald chose to headline the predicted turnout figures from the poll, rather than the voting intention numbers.  I don't think there's any great surprise that many referendum voters are planning to give the general election a miss - after all, recent local council by-elections haven't really shown any 'referendum effect' in their turnouts.  However, opinion polls haven't tended to be great guides in respect of turnout, so it's still perfectly possible (likely even) that Scotland will have a markedly higher turnout than the rest of the UK in May.

Monday, February 9, 2015

New TNS-BMRB poll gives the SNP a 10% lead - but the fieldwork dates overlap with the polls that gave the SNP much bigger leads, so there's no "narrowing of the gap"

A new full-scale Scottish poll is out tonight from TNS-BMRB...

Scottish voting intentions for the May 2015 general election (TNS-BMRB, 14th January - 2nd February) :

SNP 41%
Labour 31%
Conservatives 16%
Greens 6%
Liberal Democrats 4%

Although this poll shows a smaller SNP lead than recent polls from other companies, it's important to stress that this categorically does NOT constitute "a narrowing of the gap" (as a Labour troll is already trying to have us believe on Twitter).  We haven't previously had a full-scale Scottish poll from TNS-BMRB since the referendum, so we don't have any baseline numbers to work from.  It's quite possible that a marginally better showing for Labour is simply an in-built "house effect" of TNS-BMRB's unusual methodology, in much the same way that they were consistently one of the most No-friendly firms during the referendum (until the Great Convergence at the very end).

The only poll this isn't different from is the last Panelbase poll, which in fact was completely identical in as much as it had the SNP on 41% and Labour on 31%.  But the afterlife of that result ought to teach us an important lesson, because we later found out that Panelbase had used a dodgy methodology - they had asked a leading question immediately before the main voting intention question.  Could something similar have happened here?  It's unlikely that TNS would use an unusual question sequence, but there's always the perennial issue of past vote weighting to consider.  For their later referendum polls, they did use the more reliable 2011 weighting, but not until they were coaxed into it after one of their polls produced an obviously skewed result.  Is there a chance they will have foolishly thought to themselves "this is a Westminster poll, so we need to revert to Westminster weightings"?  Let's hope not, but it shouldn't be forgotten that Panelbase did make that mistake in October, and we therefore can't know for sure until we see the datasets.

[UPDATE, 11.45am : Shockingly, it turns out that TNS have indeed used 2010 weighting.  Although they diluted the effect by using 2011 weighting as well, this may partly explain them showing a lower SNP lead than other firms.  More details in a fresh post HERE.]

Assuming that there isn't any issue with the weighting procedures, the most likely explanation is simply the fact that TNS are the only firm that still use the old-fashioned face-to-face approach.  As Calum Findlay points out in the comments section below, this method has produced unusually favourable results for Labour in recent Britain-wide polls, and it could be that the same is happening in Scotland - albeit that's still only enough to put Labour a "mere" 10% behind in Scotland, as opposed to the outright leads they've enjoyed in the Britain-wide TNS polls.  To put it in perspective, if tonight's numbers were accurate, the Electoral Calculus predictor suggests that the SNP would win 38 of the 59 Scottish seats at Westminster - an enormous gain of 32 seats.  Labour would be cut in half from 41 to 20, and the Liberal Democrats would be completely wiped out (albeit we know in reality they're likely to hold Orkney & Shetland due to the special political environment in that part of the world).

UPDATE : Now this is crucial - I've just seen a claim on Twitter that the fieldwork dates for the poll ran from mid-January through to 2nd February.  That's not unusual for TNS, who as a result of their face-to-face methodology often produce polls that are already well out-of-date by the time of publication.  It means the poll partly overlaps with the fieldwork for the Ipsos-Mori poll which gave the SNP an enormous 28% lead, and it wholly overlaps with the YouGov poll that gave the SNP a 21% lead.  (In fact, the YouGov poll should really be considered more recent than TNS, because it was entirely conducted towards the tail-end of the long TNS fieldwork.)  There's also considerable overlap with the sensational Ashcroft constituency polling that put the SNP in such a commanding position.  All of this makes it literally impossible that we're looking at a "narrowing of the gap" (as David Maddox of the Scotsman has now, to his eternal shame, joined the Labour trolls in claiming).  The lower SNP lead must, as stated above, be a house effect of the TNS methodology - unless of course this is an out-and-out rogue poll, but that's much less likely.

As we always used to say during the referendum campaign, when different firms are contradicting each other by light-years, there's no way of knowing for sure who is closest to the truth.  So to a limited extent Labour might be justified in taking some comfort from this poll, in spite of the fact that there has been no narrowing.  If the TNS methodology is exactly right, a 10-point deficit with three months to go would leave them with a fighting chance of winning more seats than the SNP, because the electoral system works in their favour if they are only slightly behind on the popular vote.  However, they would still require a very significant swing to whittle the SNP's lead down sufficiently, so the challenge would still be formidable.  And more to the point, even if we assume that the more SNP-friendly pollsters are getting something terribly wrong, it's very hard to believe that both YouGov and Ipsos-Mori would be showing SNP leads of over 20 points if the real gap was only 10.  So, in truth, all tonight's poll does is slightly increase the chances that the real position is somewhere in between the two extremes - which would suggest Labour have a huge deficit in the mid-to-high teens.  In normal circumstances, that gap would be considered utterly insurmountable, and I'm struggling to see why we shouldn't reach that conclusion in this case.

And isn't it curious that I've just referred to YouGov and Ipsos-Mori as "SNP-friendly pollsters"?  There seems to be no real correlation at all between which firms were favourable to the Yes campaign, and which are favourable to the SNP now.

Yes-friendly pollsters in the referendum campaign :


SNP-friendly pollsters after the referendum :


No-friendly pollsters in the referendum campaign :


Labour-friendly pollsters after the referendum :


Although whether Panelbase should really be in the latter list is open to question, because they've produced three post-referendum polls, all using different methodologies, and all with very different results.  ICM have only conducted one post-referendum poll with a reasonably middling result, so it's too early to say where they're going to slot in.

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It feels very peculiar to receive the results of a new full-scale Scottish poll, and yet to exclude it from the subsequent Poll of Polls update.  But the rules I laid down in the autumn for the Poll of Polls are very clear - full-scale polls are included if the fieldwork was at least partly conducted within the last seven days.  I'm writing this in the early hours of the 10th, and both the TNS and YouGov polls were concluded on the 2nd.  So they're both out, and instead we revert to an update based on the Scottish subsamples from GB-wide polls conducted entirely within the last seven days - three from YouGov, two from Populus and one from Ashcroft.

Scottish voting intentions for the May 2015 UK general election :

SNP 42.2% (-3.4)
Labour 26.0% (-0.5)
Conservatives 19.2% (+3.0)
Liberal Democrats 5.5% (+0.6)
Greens 3.0% (-0.3)
UKIP 3.0% (-0.8)

(The Poll of Polls uses the Scottish subsamples from all GB-wide polls that have been conducted entirely within the last seven days and for which datasets have been provided, and also all full-scale Scottish polls that have been conducted at least partly within the last seven days. Full-scale polls are given ten times the weighting of subsamples.)

All over the country, proud socialists are saying No Thanks to the "Yes for the Red Tories" campaign

As Pete Wishart pointed out the other day, the ground-breaking "three Ms" comedy trio (McDougall, Murphy & McTernan) have been outdoing themselves lately with their side-splitting 'Reasons to Vote Labour' series.  So far we've had...

* Vote Labour Because Football

* Vote Labour Because Patriotism

* Vote Labour To Get Exactly 1000 More Of Everything Than The Other Guy Promises You

* Vote Yes To The Party Of No

* Vote Labour Because We're Unionists In A Non-Unionist Sort Of Way

* Vote Labour Because We've Just Dreamed Up An Imaginary "Rule" Stating That The Largest Single Party Gets To Form A Government

The next one, I must assume, will be 'Vote Labour Because If We're Not The Largest Single Party, Ed Miliband Will Only Get To Be David Cameron's Deputy In The Tory-Labour Coalition Government We Keep Refusing To Rule Out'.

Go on, Jim.  That one's a sure-fire winner!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Allan Massie and the Mail on Sunday tell a direct lie about Alex Salmond

I've just been reading through the barking mad Allan Massie piece in the Mail on Sunday that RevStu linked to this morning.  Apparently, thanks to the SNP, we're now living in communist East Germany, or North Korea, or somewhere.  Tucked in at the end is this claim -

"Actually the SNP’s intentions in Westminster are absolutely clear...They hope to exasperate the English to such an extent that eventually they will tell the Scots to clear out – even though 55 per cent of us voted to remain part of the United Kingdom. As Salmond, defeated in September but hoping to return to the Commons as an MP, charmingly put it, he hopes ‘to hold England’s feet to the fire’."

The juxtaposition of the words "as Salmond charmingly put it" with the quotation marks around the words "to hold England's feet to the fire" convey to the reader that Salmond used those exact words. But, of course, he didn't. Massie is lying - either that or the Mail employee who edited his article is lying. The feet-to-the-fire line was used endlessly in the weeks after the referendum by several leading SNP politicians (to such an extent that it started to grate on me), but it was always in reference to "the London parties" or "Westminster" or "the UK government", and never, ever "England".

It's official : the London media establishment are so scared of us that they're quite prepared to tell Big Lies in an attempt to defeat us. Hmmm. Doesn't that behaviour remind you of a certain totalitarian regime?