I've finally got round to listening to the package about the WoS/Panelbase poll that was broadcast on Good Morning Scotland yesterday. Based on what I'd read about it, I was slightly unprepared for the overwhelmingly patronising tone of the exchange between the presenter and Professor John Curtice - there were lots of references to naivety, inexperience, and how the website's agenda had got in the way of the framing of proper questions. Journalists from the mainstream media were completely absolved of any blame for imposing their partisan blackout on coverage of the poll, because they had probably been put off by all this naivety, inexperience, and the leading nature of questions about "surrendering powers" and such-like.
Now hang on a cotton pickin' minute here, guys. I can't be the only person who remembers how YouGov's findings on independence dramatically changed a few years ago when they suddenly altered the wording of the question, almost certainly at the behest of their anti-independence paymasters the Daily Telegraph, to "an independent country completely separate from the rest of the United Kingdom". Did journalists from other outlets impose a blackout on reporting of that poll because it had been so obviously commissioned by "naive and inexperienced" people who had allowed their agenda to get in the way of the framing of proper questions? Did John Curtice point out that the results had less credibility because of the leading nature of the question? No and no, you won't be surprised to hear.
Astonishingly, what we instead saw was Curtice's fellow psephologist Anthony King write an approving piece in the Telegraph itself about how the results actually had more credibility than previous polls, because respondents were too thick to understand what independence meant unless it was spelt out for them that it was all about "separation" (I'm paraphrasing, obviously, but that genuinely was the gist). OK, then, so if it's not only acceptable but actually preferable for pollsters to give respondents pejorative explanations of what the ramifications of a given constitutional option would be, how exactly does that differ from the Panelbase question accurately pointing out that an independent Scotland would have to "surrender" certain powers in order to join the UK?
Or is "surrender" pejorative and "separation" somehow not pejorative? Do psephologists and anti-independence journalists actually believe this guff? To this day, YouGov add a completely unnecessary "explanatory" preamble whenever they ask the referendum question, "clarifying" for respondents that the question they will shortly be asked is all about "leaving the United Kingdom". When is Professor Curtice going to denounce the lack of professionalism inherent in that approach, and point out that it detracts significantly from the credibility of the results?
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When I posted my Twitter exchange with Duncan Hothersall the other day, I forgot to add another one I had a few hours later with the anti-independence campaign's "National Campaign Organiser (Grassroots)", Rob Murray. It was much shorter, but it elicited what is possibly the most barking mad tweet I've ever seen, one that revelled in its own glorious illogicality to such an extent that it was almost a work of art.
Rob Murray : devo would end with Indy. Devo is a journey, 1 which should continue
Me : Independence is the obvious next step on the journey started with devo.
Rob Murray : don't be silly, independence is an end to moving forward where as Devo continues
Me : So what you're saying is that independence is "The End" and devolution is "The Neverending Story"? How sweet.
That was the best I could do given that my brain was hurting from trying to untangle what on earth Murray thought he was talking about (if anything), but Grassy Knollington came up with a better riposte.
Grassy Knollington : Better Together logic. Independence is bad because it stops the process of continuous devolution. #YouGottaLaugh