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.
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