Tuesday, September 4, 2018

The case for an early independence referendum has already been made - it can't and mustn't depend on transitory opinion poll results

I'm more than a little troubled by Jason Michael's latest post on Random Public Journal.  Obviously I agree with him that now is the time for the SNP to go on the offensive against the British government, but we really must be careful not to put all our eggs in the basket of what is frankly a ropey interpretation of a single opinion poll.  Jason says that the Deltapoll survey conducted for the Best For Britain campaign shows that "52 per cent of Scots think self-determination is the best option for our nation’s future...this represents a seven-point swing in favour of independence since the 2014 referendum". That simply isn't true.  As I pointed out in my previous post, the main question on independence actually shows a 51-49 split in favour of No, although admittedly it was only the tiniest of tiny fractions away from being rounded up to a 50-50 dead heat.  So in fact the swing to Yes since 2014 implied by the poll is actually around 4 or 5 points.  That's a fabulous showing for Yes by most recent standards, but it's not quite an outright lead and it's not a 7 point swing.

There are also health warnings that need to be put on the poll.  Even the main question had a non-standard wording.  (It's not a wording that in any way contained a pro-independence slant, but nevertheless the question should really have been 'Should Scotland be an independent country?')  It appears from the datasets that the only political weighting in the poll was by recalled EU referendum vote.  It's not unheard of for pollsters to eschew political weighting, but it's certainly unusual - the majority of firms would have weighted by recalled indyref vote and recalled general election vote.  This is also Deltapoll's first foray into independence polling, which means there is no baseline to judge from.  In other words, there is no hard evidence in this poll of a recent surge for Yes.  The unusually good result may just be a 'house effect' generated by how the poll was conducted.  That doesn't necessarily mean the figures are wrong - as Scottish Skier pointed out in the previous thread, it's perfectly possible that weighting by recalled indyref vote is making other firms' results less accurate, not more so.  The fact that Ipsos-Mori (who don't weight politically) were a No-friendly firm before the indyref but are now more towards the Yes-friendly end of the spectrum might conceivably lend some weight to that theory.

But the bottom line is that if No-friendly firms like YouGov and Panelbase were to publish independence polls tomorrow, there's no reason to automatically think they'd show anything other than the type of No leads they usually show.  So if we get too wedded to a narrative of "a referendum is coming because the polls now show a Yes lead", we're just setting ourselves up for a fall in very short order.  The case for a referendum should not depend on whether Yes are currently at 43% or 47% or 49% or 52% - all of those are potential platforms for victory (or indeed for defeat).  I'm particularly aghast to see Jason unintentionally echoing the rhetoric of those who want to see the referendum kicked into the long grass by stating that Yes now need to use their current momentum (which may not even exist) to kick on and reach an utterly fantastical and unattainable target figure of 60% by the date of Brexit, which is less than seven months away. 

If we're serious about wanting an early referendum, we simply cannot afford to run away with ourselves and set unrealistic expectations of what the polls will show over the coming weeks and months.  If a significant swing to Yes occurs, it's much more likely to be after the referendum is called, and not before.

*  *  *

24 comments:

  1. The Indy Movement i.e.all yessers/AUOB/Greens etc. need something now. Anything.
    Getting told constantly now is not the time is pissing lots of people off.
    We've just had 2 weeks of Salmond bashing shite up to our eyeballs and a 52% poll might not seem like much but after the recent shitstorm it' s manna from heaven.
    Haven't you noticed the Yoonsphere? They're bricking it. Would the poll have been better at 42%?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh for the love of God, one of the very points I'm making is that it's NOT a "52% poll". If this narrative of "we're on our way to 60%" is allowed to take hold, what do you think the effect will be when the next YouGov poll puts Yes on 45% or whatever?

      Delete
    2. Anon: I've deleted your comment. You were getting to the point of spreading misinformation, which just isn't on. This isn't a "52% poll". The main independence question had Yes on 49% after rounding. So it's a 49% poll. That's a fact, not an opinion.

      Delete
    3. The banana boat is below the Erskine Bridge, on its way up the Clyde to Scottish Independence.

      At forty-nine per cent, the nails are shooglin.

      Delete
    4. Anonymous AKA The Hon. Cordelia Bracely-Dubois

      Delete
  2. I disagree. Sometimes the 'standard' question needs to change when circumstances change. I disagree that it was in invalid question or that it invalidates the results.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was a terrible question, and it's in the interests of all independence supporters to point that out. In my view it would usually slant the results towards No. I've lambasted that kind of question before, and I'm not going to be inconsistent now.

      Delete
    2. I suspect, given who commissioned the poll, that there was an intention to nudge it to No. You're quite right to lambast the question, but there's also no harm in taking quiet cheer from the result for the moment. I appreciate we need to see this confirmed by another poll or two before ordering the champagne though.

      Delete
    3. Rolfe, that I agree with, that more polling is needed. But I find asking 'How will you vote if Brexit happens?' to be a sensible question. Asking how would you vote now really doesn't have much to do with what is coming in the next few months.

      Delete
    4. That wasn't the question. The main independence question was "In a referendum on independence for Scotland held tomorrow, how would you vote?", and the two options were "For Scotland to remain as part of the United Kingdom" (50.6%) and "For Scotland to become an independent country" (49.4%). That is a non-standard question that would appear to be slanted towards No, and I can't understand why any of us would want to defend it.

      But what you're talking about is not the main independence question, but a hypothetical question that was asked as a supplementary. The results on that question cannot be regarded as reliable for the reasons I gave in my previous blogpost.

      Delete
    5. The question might well have hurt Yes, after all, it eludes to 'leaving the UK' which the bog standard question doesn't. We know that hurts Yes historically, most likely because it adds a negative perspective to the Yes answer. The old 'Do you want to leave the UK?' vs 'Would you like indy for Scotland?' thing. First sounds negative / suggests negative reasons for the decision, second sounds positive without such connotations.

      Delete
  3. Agree with this article, but have no problem with folk getting carried away, as long as we build a momentum to carry them past the next fickle poll.

    “If a significant swing to Yes occurs, it's much more likely to be after the referendum is called, and not before,” so the key is to get people behind a soon enough referendum.

    Small suggestion to those on Facebook:

    Please add a Yes to your profile picture - let’s get that momentum going!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Let us see a few polls with the question similar to 2014 but including all those groups eligible to vote as in 2014. The poll at the weekend did not include 16-17 year old's.

    ReplyDelete
  5. James, could you please explain what is meant by political weighting, and recalling?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Esther & Abi OfarimSeptember 4, 2018 at 9:25 PM

      Google it.

      Delete
    2. Basically, pollsters ask who you voted for at the last election. Most also ask about votes in the indyref and the EU referendum. The proportions are then tweaked (or "weighted") so that they get numbers that roughly equate to the real percentages for each side in those elections/referendums. It's supposed to provide more accurate reflections of real popular opinion but it can have problems because people seem to forget who they voted for or perhaps are embarrassed to admit they voted Tory, for example.

      Delete
    3. gdg - arselicking crawler. "Thanks Kenny. Woukd you like me to wash your windiws fir you? Then I'll bake you a cake and let you ride me." Tit.

      Delete
  6. Wonder if Eck and Gorgeous will walk out of the RT studio!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. GWC2 AKA The Hon. Cordelia Bracely-Dubois

      Delete
    2. Michelle 🐸 NegotiateSeptember 18, 2018 at 1:07 AM

      Bog off Little Miss Nonny Mouse. Squeek squeek.

      Delete
  7. GWC2 AKA The Hon. Cordelia Bracely-Dubois

    ReplyDelete
  8. Big Tam has joined the socialist Sputnik Three! Count de Money.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. GWC2 AKA The Hon. Cordelia Bracely-Dubois

      Delete