Sunday, January 15, 2012

Cameron's blunder in numbers : dramatic ICM poll puts independence just three points behind

If there was any lingering doubt that the UK government's brazen interference in an exercise in Scottish self-determination was going to have any other effect but to bolster support for full independence, these figures will remove it -

Do you approve or disapprove of Scotland becoming independent?

Approve 40%
Disapprove 43%

Would Scotland be better or worse off if independent?

Better off 38%
Worse off 41%

The sample size was 501, which is not ideal, but high enough to be statistically credible.

On both questions, this is what the Americans would call a 'statistical tie', because the lead is within the margin of error. With delicious irony, the poll was commissioned by the Telegraph, one of the bastions of the London media myth that "poll after poll shows that Scotland has no interest in independence". All the same, you have to admire the sheer imaginative breadth of their attempts today to convince both themselves and their readers that this poll is anything other than a devastating blow to their cherished belief-system -

"Today's poll provides a series of setbacks for Mr Salmond, who favours a "three question" referendum in which Scots are offered the choice of full independence, the status quo, or a "devolution max" option in which all powers other than foreign policy and defence are handed to the parliament in Edinburgh.

Offered this precise choice by ICM, more Scots go for the status quo (37 per cent) than the other two options, both of which win 26 per cent support."

Er, no. The proposal for including Devo Max on the ballot paper is not for a "first past the post" question with three options, allowing one option to win even though it is opposed by a clear majority. There would instead be a dedicated Yes/No question on Devo Max, in which virtually all independence supporters could naturally be expected to vote Yes. On these figures, therefore, Devo Max would be handsomely approved, by a margin of 52% to 37%. Even if a small number of independence supporters quixotically voted No, we'd still be talking in the region of a 50-40 split.

"Most Scots admit their nation would be worse off after independence (41 per cent) than better off (38 per cent)"

Given the relentless pumping of the establishment/media myth that Scotland is subsidised (ironically exemplified by the smuggling of the word 'admit' into that very sentence!), the unionist side have got serious problems if all they've got to show for their decades of effort is a mere four out of ten Scots accepting "the truth"...

* * *

Housekeeping Note : The mysterious problem with the font in the comments section still hasn't resolved itself, so for the time being I'm going to switch to a pop-up form. If anyone has difficulties loading it, let me know by email (see "Profile/Contact" in the sidebar) and I'll switch back again.


  1. Even more strongly: the poll absolutely does *not* show support for Independence 3 points behind.

    With a sample size of 501 and therefore a Margin of Error of +/-4.38%, it shows Pro and Anti Independence *exactly the same* as the margins on the 2 numbers overlap.

    This means that - in the wider nation that the poll represents - the Approve figure could be above 43% and the Disapprove figure below 40%. In this situation, you cannot draw any conclusion that either side is above the other.

  2. Ah, I realise now you saw this. Apologies.

    Perhaps you could change your headline..?

  3. I understand the point you're making, Martin, but in the past when independence or the SNP have been two or three points ahead in an opinion poll I've been shouting that from the rooftops, so I want to maintain a consistent use of language!