Wednesday, January 9, 2019

YouGov and the mystery of the missing Scottish subsample

The remarkably well-resourced "People's Vote" campaign decided, for some reason, to commission a ridiculously enormous GB-wide YouGov poll of 25,537 respondents over the course of Christmas and New Year.  One possibility is that it was really a sequence of daily polls for private consumption, which were later aggregated for publication.  It shows Labour dropping to an unusually low 34%, six points behind the Tories.  In normal circumstances you'd say "it's just one poll, we have to wait for more information", but the reality is that this is the equivalent of an average of more than ten polls conducted over a span of two weeks, so it has to be taken very seriously.  The only saving grace for Labour is that polls taken over Christmas sometimes produce weird results which are later reversed, but there's certainly no guarantee that will prove to be the case on this occasion.

Oddly, and in a complete departure from normal YouGov practice, figures from the Scottish subsample are not provided in the datasets.  Even more oddly, the figures from the London subsample are there, which simply serves to make the omission even more blatant.  At first glance it almost looks like an accidental error, with the non-London subsamples being chopped off from the edge of the page.  But if it was an honest mistake, it's one that YouGov have now had plenty of opportunity to rectify.  So it seems more likely that the People's Vote campaign requested that the Scottish numbers should be withheld.

Although the SNP have pledged their support for a People's Vote, the campaign is presumably still very much under the control of "centrists" and "moderates" in the three main London-based parties.  You can certainly see why it might not be in the interests of such people to publish a Scottish subsample of a size equivalent to a full-scale poll, if by any chance it shows a handsome SNP lead.  And one of the obvious purposes of the poll is to put pressure on the Corbyn leadership by demonstrating that in the hypothetical scenario of a Brexit deal going through with Tory and Labour support, Labour would then lose a huge chunk of its voters to the Liberal Democrats.  If it shows those Labour votes would in Scotland actually be lost to the SNP rather than to the Lib Dems, that may be an inconvenient detail that the People's Vote campaign would rather we didn't hear about.  It's perfectly possible that's the case, because the SNP and Plaid Cymru have a combined GB-wide vote of 5% on the hypothetical question about a Brexit deal passing with Labour support, compared to 4% on the standard voting intention question.

This is all supposition, but what we do know for sure is that the SNP have been doing startlingly well in YouGov subsamples over the last few weeks.  The sequence of SNP results since mid-November has been 40 - 46 - 44 - 41 - 43 - 45.  That's the longest sustained run of 40+ results for a very long time.  There's only been one full-scale Scottish poll during that period (a Panelbase poll showing no change in SNP support at Westminster level), so it's difficult to be sure that the SNP have genuinely been performing better of late.  But if they have, what impact will the resolution of the Alex Salmond case have?  In the very short term, it might be a mildly negative impact, because anything that gives the impression of internal disunity is generally frowned upon by voters.  In the longer-term, though, I suspect the effect will be the complete opposite.  We still need to wait for the outcome of the police investigation, but if this proves to be the start of Alex Salmond's reintegration into the SNP, possibly with a view to him standing as an MP or MSP once again, that can only be a good thing from an electoral point of view.  The SNP is unlikely to be truly at ease with itself until the man who led it for almost one-quarter of its entire existence to date is back in the fold.  And that would certainly put a definitive end to controversial journalist David Leask's bizarre attempts to open up a rift between what he calls "the real SNP" and "alt-Nats" (the latter, incredibly, referring in part to the former First Minister and those most supportive of him).

*  *  *

I was interviewed on Radio Sputnik yesterday about the increasing likelihood of Nicola Sturgeon setting out a prospective timetable for a second independence referendum quite soon.  You can listen to the interview HERE.

*  *  *

Scot Goes Pop fundraiser: If you'd like to help this blog keep going strong over what could be an epic few months, just a reminder that last year's fundraiser is still very much open for donations, and hasn't reached the target figure yet.

1 comment:

  1. The PV campaign is under the diirect control of Labour, particularly Blairite Labour 'big beasts' who have sought to exclude the LDs from the campaign events wherever possible.

    Although a lifelong supporter of Indy for Scotland, I am a LD member in Devon (to defeat the ToryFilth) here. I have been fighting the Labour supporters of Devon for Europe who have attacked us for pointing out PV exclusion of the party.

    PV is a political vehicle for Labour. It has switched its priorities recently from Stopping Brexit to backing Corbyn's attempts at getting elected. I suspect the Scottish subsample would have been extremely damaging for Labour and would have been used as a scare tactic in Devon to ensure voters backed the ToryFilth here.