So just a quick postscript to the previous post about the ludicrous misreporting of the independence figures from the Progress Scotland poll. I was taking a peek at Conservative Home yesterday, and I stumbled across an article from the chap who mans their Colonial Desk (ie. he writes an occasional round-up of what might loosely be described as "news" from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland so that no-one else has to acknowledge the existence of a UK beyond England). Towards the bottom of the piece was a mention of a mysterious poll that purportedly shows a "collapse" in support for Scottish independence - and yes, it turns out that I was far too generous to the Sun newspaper the other day, because at the time I was only aware of an article in which they had falsely claimed that the poll shows a "drop" in Yes support. Thanks to ConHome, I now realise there was another one that really did claim the poll shows a "dramatic collapse" for Yes.
The reality, as you'll recall, is that the Progress Scotland poll asked about independence in a completely new way, meaning there are no baseline figures to measure trends from. It's literally impossible to tell from the poll whether support for independence has gone up, down, or stayed static. Claiming a "dramatic collapse" on that basis is rather akin to saying that Neil Armstrong was much fatter than the previous man to have walked on the moon. But our plucky ConHome correspondent wasn't about to let troublesome things like facts get in his way - oh no, he was perfectly content to accept the Sun's outlandish claims as genuine, and gleefully seized upon the poll as proof that the "fragile Union" narrative is actually a "myth". You reach the stage where all you can do is point and laugh at these people. If the only comfort blanket they've got is a tabloid newspaper telling porkies about an opinion poll, they're really not in a good place. It's no more or less risible than Anas Sarwar brandishing his famous "top secret document" prop when all else failed.
Someone called "CMac11" left a comment on the previous blogpost and effortlessly solved the mystery of why the question format used by Progress Scotland appeared to produce lower support for independence than what we're used to from more conventional polling. He/she pointed out that no fewer than 17% of Yes voters in the poll rated themselves as ten on a scale of zero to ten, which supposedly indicated that they "completely support Scotland staying part of the UK". Self-evidently, that is an utterly implausible figure. In the whole five years since the independence referendum, I've met literally one single person who has converted from being a Yes voter in 2014 to being a committed Brit Nat now, and he only made that journey because of an idiosyncratic obsession with the named person scheme. Much more likely is that people who are no longer sure about indy would place themselves somewhere in the middle of the zero-to-ten scale. We can see how improbable a swing from one extreme to the other is from the fact that just 3% of No voters placed themselves at zero on the scale, meaning that they "completely support Scotland becoming independent".
Normally we can only speculate about the causes of seemingly illogical poll results, but this is an exception. It's blindingly obvious what's happened here. A significant minority of Yes voters clearly misread the question and thought they were indicating total support for independence (rather than total opposition) by rating themselves as ten on the scale. Why did only Yes voters make that mistake? Because it's natural to think that the higher end of the scale is intended to represent the maximum support for your own preferred position. No voters who made that assumption were correct, while Yes voters who made the same assumption were wrong. If the figures are adjusted on the reasonable assumption that approximately 14% of Yes voters mistakenly rated themselves as ten on the scale, that in itself would mean the poll underestimated support for independence by around 5% - enough to take us into roughly the same territory as the conventional polls.
So it's not just that it's impossible to compare this poll with previous independence polls and detect a trend. The poll itself is also an outright dud - albeit only in respect of the key question on support for indy, where something appears to have gone very badly wrong by complete accident. The next time you see a journalist or unionist politician point to this dud poll as proof that their "precious Union" is safe, do please try to keep a straight face.