Thursday, November 22, 2018

Here's why the Scotland in Union propaganda poll should not be included in any list of independence polls

A few hours ago, I was bemused to be contacted on Twitter by graph-wielding unionist uber-troll Steve Sayers, who I'm quite sure I blocked a year or two back in a successful bid to free up an extra three hours of leisure time per day.  Presumably he must have cunningly set up a new account at some point, and we're all going to have to block him all over again.  Anyway, he presented me with a graph (gasp!) which purported to track a decline in support for independence over the last few years, and which needless to say depended for its impact on the inclusion of a poll which had absolutely no business being there - ie. Tuesday's propaganda poll from Scotland in Union, which was portrayed in some quarters as an independence poll but was no such thing.

After "discussing" this point with Steve for a little while, it suddenly occurred to me that I'd better check Wikipedia's list of independence polls, just to reassure myself that nobody had been mad enough to add the SiU poll.  I wish I hadn't bothered, because sure enough it was there.  (The words "non-standard question" had been added in the notes section, as if that made the whole thing OK.)  Let me try to explain why it shouldn't be there, and why it should undoubtedly be removed, if such a thing can be achieved without triggering a destructive edit war.

As I pointed out in my original post about the poll, Survation online polling using the standard independence question typically produces a Yes vote in the mid-to-high 40s.  The last one was published less than a month ago and had Yes on 45%, which was actually a touch on the low side, probably due to random sampling variation.  It is phenomenally improbable that there has been a genuine 5-point slump since then, especially given that last week's Panelbase poll suggested that support for independence was holding up and perhaps even increasing.  The overwhelming likelihood is that the atypical result instead came about purely because of the usage of the ridiculous question, "Should Scotland remain in the United Kingdom or leave the United Kingdom?", which bears no resemblance to the question asked in normal independence polls.

There have been at least two suggestions made about why the remain / leave question would produce such a radically different result.  One is that some respondents may not actually know what "the United Kingdom" is and may wrongly assume that "leaving the United Kingdom" is tantamount to abandoning the monarchy.  The second suggestion is that the words "Remain and "Leave" are now so strongly associated with the EU debate that a minority of respondents may have not read the question correctly, and wrongly assumed that by selecting the "Remain" option they were indicating a desire for Britain to remain in the EU.  I gather there is anecdotal evidence that one respondent almost did exactly that.  Personally I think the monarchy is the more plausible explanation, because there have been similar findings in polls that predated the EU referendum.  But it may well be a bit of both.

Now, I know some people will raise the objection that the possibility that respondents may have misunderstood the question does not in itself invalidate a poll.  After all, there are a lot of very stupid people out there, and some of them are probably even capable of misunderstanding the question "Should Scotland be an independent country?"  But the problem with the Scotland in Union poll goes a lot further than that, because even on the literal meaning of the question it is quite simply not a poll about independence.  It's no exaggeration to say that respondents would have had to read something into the wording of the question that was not actually there if they were to understand that it was intended to be an independence poll.

To put it in a nutshell, "leaving the UK" is not synonymous with "becoming an independent country".  There are several possible outcomes if a territory leaves a sovereign state, of which independence is only one.  Others are that the territory can become an integral part of a different state, or can become a dependency of either the existing sovereign state or another state, or can become an associated state (see the relationship of the Cook Islands to New Zealand).  Now, it's arguably pretty likely that most respondents would correctly infer that "leaving" probably means "independence" in our own case, but I don't see how Scotland in Union can have their cake and eat it on this point.  If no allowance can be made for respondents incorrectly interpreting the question, the basic premise can only be that people were answering the question that was actually in front of them, without making any additional assumptions.  Polls can't depend on respondents being mind-readers - that would be ridiculous.

That being the case, this was not an independence poll.  It's not inconceivable that a poll containing the pejorative words "leave the UK" could be regarded as a genuine independence poll (albeit that would be highly unsatisfactory), but only if there were additional explanatory words, ie. "leave the UK to become an independent country".  There is no such clarification in the Scotland in Union poll, and it should therefore be removed from Wikipedia's list of independence polls.

My strong suspicion is that it only ever found its way onto the list because of the spurious credibility given to it by the Scotsman's front page story.  It's unlikely that a similar propaganda poll run by a pro-independence organisation would ever make the list.  This is the problem with the lack of plurality in our mainstream media - it distorts our sense of reality.

*  *  *

27 comments:

  1. Its not really surprising is it, that if you ask a different question you get a somewhat different set of results? For instance had their question provoked apparently stronger support for independence than the standard Yes/No question, what do you think is the likelihood that the poll would have seen the light of day? Vanishingly small, or nil?
    However, with that said, one issue that you didn't seem to cover, is what would the question be in the event of indyref2? I suspect that the domain assumption would be - "same as last time"? And that would have been my view. BUT, if you go back to 2014, while the Yes/No question was approved by the Electoral Commission (though I think there was a tweak?) there has been a view in Unionist circles that it was biased by predisposing the electorate to Yes (we like to say Yes).
    Now clearly this was not the view of the Electoral Commission, but there has been comment in SIU circles to the effect that their poll "demonstrates" (in their minds at least) the truth of that claim and that the question as posed in their poll should be the question put to the electorate in any subsequent referendum.
    Now, I take all the points you have made about interpretation, and the link to the EU poll etc, but that would not prevent them seeking to lobby the Electoral Commission next time round (if indeed it is the route we end up taking) to change the question to something which, as they see it, is more advantageous to the view they hope comes out on top.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The question "Should Scotland remain in the United Kingdom or leave the United Kingdom?" would self-evidently never be approved by the Electoral Commission for the reason I gave above - "leave the United Kingdom" does not mean the same thing as "become an independent country". This is a complete non-starter.

      Delete
    2. You may be right James, but that is not to say that they wont try.

      Delete
    3. Who cares if they try? The Electoral Commission chose "Should Scotland be an independent country?" for its clarity. There is no way that Scotland can become independent without leaving the UK. But there are several ways that Scotland could leave the UK without becoming independent. If you asked "Should Northern Ireland leave the UK?", few people would think that was a question about Northern Ireland becoming an independent country.

      The 2014 question was approved because it was clear. The SiU question would never be approved because of amibiguity.

      Delete
    4. I agree with you about the clarity of the original question, but we need to remember two things if they do try.
      First, if the referendum has been agreed with WM, they will have the ear of those down there, not us. Even if you/we are right, if they can get an advantage they will be tempted.
      Secondly, and continuing from that, many of the arguments they put up in 2014 were pure guff, but were treated seriously by the BBC and their fellow travellers in the msm. Will the detailed points that we might make to rebut their argument make it through that fog?
      Basically, while agreeing with the argument in your blog, I suspect they might try this one, and it would be better if we were prepared for it.

      Delete
    5. Look, if the Electoral Commission try to argue that the 2014 question was not suitable, they'll have to explain why they proposed it in the first place (the wording was their own suggestion, not anyone else's).

      Frankly, you're raising a non-issue.

      Delete
    6. James I would indeed be raising a non-issue if I was arguing, or suggesting or even implying, that the "Electoral Commission [might] try to argue that the 2014 question was not suitable". Its not them I am talking about - its such as SIU and/or whatever replaces BT that I am thinking about. It has been discussed in those circles already - why did they pay Survation to do the work?

      Delete
    7. SIU and pals might well claim that the 2014 question wasn't suitable, but if the EC don't agree with them, why would it matter?

      Delete
  2. muddling up Remain / Leave with Yes / No invalidates the poll immediately. For the last two years its been the former in regard to EU referendum, with independence being Yes / No. The obfuscation is deliberate no doubt about that at all.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  4. If you do not understand Yes, No, Leave or Remain then you have wasted taxpayers money on your education.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. GWC AKA The Hon. Cordelia Bracely-Dubois of the 77th (Manky Shirt, Self Funded) Auxiliaries and its ultra-right-wing screams.
      Poor, tormented, xenophobic Cordelia.
      So much impotent rage.
      So very funny.

      Delete
  5. Said it elsewhere. There's something fishy about the balance of reported Yes/No votes from 2014.

    ReplyDelete
  6. The referendum shoud be on leaving the nation of Great Britian, not the U.K. Scotland would still be in a United Kingdom until the people decided otherwise.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Remain/Leave is not a valid option anyway as Scotland will not be leaving the UK it will be dissolving the UK. There is no UK without Scotland.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly. THE UK VOTED TO LEAVE THE CORRUPT EU and the million Scots who voted to leave helped carrt the day.

      Delete
    2. GWC AKA The Hon. Cordelia Bracely-Dubois of the 77th (Manky Shirt, Self Funded) Auxiliaries and its ultra-right-wing screams.
      Poor, tormented, xenophobic Cordelia and its loathing of democracy.
      So much impotent rage.
      So very funny.

      Delete
  8. It is well worth pointing out that Steve Sayers is a man in his 60s who took an upskirt picture of a teenage girl at a music festival and published it without her knowledge or consent.

    Do not give this person the oxygen of publicity without pointing out this enlightening fact about the content of his character.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Was she Knickerless?

      Delete
    2. GWC AKA The Hon. Cordelia Bracely-Dubois of the 77th (Manky Shirt, Self Funded) Auxiliaries and its ultra-right-wing screams.
      Poor, tormented, xenophobic Cordelia.
      So much impotent rage.
      So very funny.

      Delete
  9. The corollary of the electoral commission changing the question for those reasons would be that it would invalidate their 2014 question and thus the poll.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Scotland leaving the UK implies that there would be a UK remaining afterwards. This will not be the case.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Simple solution. Redo the poll with the proper question but pools are really only good for propping up the washin'.

    ReplyDelete
  12. The union media and their M.S.P. & M.P. pals, scour the voting-slips [post-elections] under the aim of party research.

    Then they pinpoint, all the unionists for their telephone and computer polls, with a few token Scottish Independent folk tagged on.

    The unionist agenda to deceive, is then set very easily.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Wish you a very 26 January Happy Republic Day 2019 to all of you. January 26 is our Republic Day. We celebrate this day every year. In 1950, our India became a sovereign democratic republic and it had its own constitution.
    Source: https://www.26januaryhappyrepublicday.in/

    ReplyDelete