Kenny "Devo or Death" Farquharson is full of beans this morning about a new full-scale Scottish poll that his publication has commissioned from YouGov, and which he says shows that "Nicola Sturgeon would lose her pro-independence majority". My first reaction was that if that's the angle he had chosen, the results of the poll must be pretty good for the SNP, because if there was any danger of the SNP actually losing power that would have been the first thing he'd have mentioned. And so it has proved. A kind payer of the Murdoch Levy has sent me the full results, and just like the full-scale Scottish polls from Survation and Panelbase in September, they show the SNP with an absolutely enormous double-digit lead in Scottish Parliament voting intentions - something that surely nobody would have predicted during July or August.
Liberal Democrats 5%
Regional list vote:
Liberal Democrats 6%
Remarkably, in spite of Farquharson's triumphalism about the supposed loss of the pro-independence majority, the Times' own seat projection shows that the pro-indy parties between them would win 61 seats on the basis of this poll - just FOUR short of a majority. Which begs a rather awkward question for the unionist media - if the propaganda they've been feeding us over the last few months is correct, why would there seemingly be a fighting chance of the pro-indy majority being re-elected, even if there was a Scottish Parliament election as soon as tomorrow?
This poll follows in the footsteps of the Panelbase and Survation polls in that at the point of publication there doesn't appear (correct me if I'm wrong) to be any sign of Westminster voting intention numbers, even though it seems hard to believe a Westminster question wasn't asked. In the case of Panelbase, the Sunday Times withheld the Westminster results for a week and then gave them only a cursory mention. In the case of Survation, the Daily Mail decided not to report them at all, and the only reason we ever found out about them was because they were quietly revealed on Survation's own website. In both cases, a unionist newspaper was playing a very cynical game - focussing all the attention on the Holyrood numbers because they showed a decrease in SNP support from an extremely high base in May 2016, and ignoring Westminster numbers which inconveniently (and very unexpectedly) showed the SNP gaining support from a slightly more modest base in June 2017. Is exactly the same thing being done with the YouGov poll? I don't know, but I doubt if any of us will faint with amazement if that turns out to be the case.
The use of this blatant propaganda technique is why we've got every right to be angry about the following nonsense on the YouGov poll from Keiran Pedley, a pollster and analyst who I believe I'm right in saying is open about his support for the Labour party -
"SNP poll rating in Scotland continues to fall like a slowly deflating balloon"
Well, of course you can pretend to believe that's what happening when your fellow travellers in the media are intentionally giving the public only one half of the polling story. If this was anyone else but Pedley, I'd give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he was speaking from ignorance, but as a polling expert he presumably knows perfectly well that both post-election Westminster polls have shown an increase in the SNP vote, and an increase in the SNP lead over both Labour and the Tories. It's really sad to see him giving people such a misleading impression, and I can only conclude that he's probably doing it deliberately.
Let's stay for a moment on the subject of dubious claims that have been made about the YouGov poll on Twitter. I can't locate the tweet, but I spotted someone suggesting earlier that Nicola Sturgeon was projected to be left with "even fewer" seats than she currently has. Er, what? "Even"?! The SNP currently has 63 seats out of 129 in the Scottish Parliament - that's 49% of the total. How many other countries in western Europe can you think of that use proportional representation voting systems and have a party with 49% or more of the seats? Yeah, exactly. The SNP had an absolutely phenomenal performance last year by any normal standards, and today's poll suggests they stand to suffer only relatively modest seat losses (six, to be exact) from that high.
As a rearguard defence against people who were quite reasonably pointing out that 42% of the constituency vote for the SNP and a 17-point lead is an extremely good performance, Kenny Farquharson tried this line -
"Dear Scottish Twitter peeps, it's the regional vote that determines shape of Holyrood parly, not constituency vote. SNP polling 35% on list."
Well, of course there's some truth in that - under the Additional Member System the overall composition of parliament is supposed to be broadly determined by the list vote. But it seems an odd point to make in this particular context, when your own newspaper's seat projection is saying that the SNP would win 44% of the seats - a considerably higher number than 35%. What's happening here is that the SNP are benefitting from the wrinkles that Labour so carefully built into the system in the late 1990s - if a party (expected to be Labour itself) has a big enough lead on the constituency vote, it effectively overwhelms the list vote and gives that party a hefty 'winner's bonus'. The SNP are hitting a particularly sweet spot because the unionist vote in the constituencies is split down the middle, allowing them to do even better in terms of seats than would normally be possible with 42% of the vote. It's certainly arguable that the SNP are extremely fortunate that a Labour wheeze is backfiring so comprehensively, but there's no point sticking your head in the sand and pretending it isn't even happening.
Like Survation, YouGov have found an increase in support for independence, but unlike Survation that increase does not look particularly significant: Yes 44% (+1), No 56% (-1). Amusingly, the Times use percentage changes from the referendum result itself in an attempt to make it look as if support for independence has dropped slightly!
Respondents were asked three different ways about the principle of whether an early independence referendum should be held. The most favourable results are on the question of whether a referendum should be held after Britain leaves the EU, where there is almost (not quite) a statistical tie - 38% say yes, 45% say no. Those results are markedly better than when the same question was asked in April. Certainly no evidence there for the media's belief that interest in independence and a referendum has fallen away since the election.
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