Thursday, December 19, 2013

Dramatic new TNS-BMRB poll shows the pro-independence campaign closing the gap for the FOURTH time in a row

Just as I was about to go to bed safe in the apparent knowledge that the day's only polling "news" was the Herald's farcical attempts to portray the vastly inferior popularity ratings of the No campaign's leaders as some kind of bad news story for the Yes side (!), I heard the exciting news on Twitter of a new TNS-BMRB poll of referendum voting intentions in tomorrow's edition of the paper.  Here are the full headline figures (not excluding Don't Knows) -

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 27% (+1)
No 41% (-1)

The No lead with TNS-BMRB has now almost halved since it stood at a peak of 25 points in the autumn of last year.  This is also the fourth successive poll from the company to show a drop in the No lead - in the late September/early October poll the lead fell from 22 points to 19, in the late October poll it fell from 19 points to 18, in late November it fell from 18 points to 16, and now it has fallen from 16 points to 14.  It's the second TNS-BMRB poll in a row to find the Yes campaign increasing its raw level of support.  And it's the fifth poll out of five published by all polling companies since the publication of the White Paper to show a drop in the No lead.  Over to you, oh wise London media - try spinning that little lot as "essentially a no change position"!

The significance of the Yes campaign's advance becomes even more stark when the Don't Knows are stripped out of the equation, with the lead closing by a full 4%, and with Yes reaching the psychological 40% mark...

Yes 40% (+2)
No 60% (-2)

Remarkably, TNS-BMRB have just jumped from fifth place to third in the rankings for the most favourable pollster for the Yes campaign when Don't Knows are excluded, although that's largely because the figures from ICM, YouGov and TNS-BMRB are all tightly bunched together.

Hopefully I'll have more to say about this poll when the full datasets are made available.

*  *  *


Now we turn to the fourth update of this blog's Poll of Polls - and I'm delighted to say that it's the fourth out of four to show an increase in support for the pro-independence campaign!  Just to reiterate, the Poll of Polls is based on a rolling average of six polls - the most recent one from each of the six referendum pollsters that adhere to the British Polling Council's rules (Panelbase, YouGov, Ipsos-Mori, ICM, Angus Reid and TNS-BMRB). If any other BPC pollsters enter the fray at some point, they'll be taken into account as well. This update simply replaces the last TNS-BMRB poll with the new one, and therefore only one-sixth of the sample has changed.

MEAN AVERAGE (not excluding Don't Knows) :

Yes 33.0% (+0.2)
No 48.8% (-0.2)

MEAN AVERAGE (excluding Don't Knows) :

Yes 40.3% (+0.2)
No 59.7% (-0.2)

MEDIAN AVERAGE (excluding Don't Knows) :

Yes 39.6% (+0.4)
No 60.4% (-0.4)

Those of you who have been following the Poll of Polls closely from the start will have noticed that the Yes vote has now increased by a full 1% on the headline figures since the publication of the White Paper - and that's in spite of the fact that only three of the six pollsters have updated their numbers since then. Over the same period, the overall No lead has slipped from 17.5% to 15.8%.

The median average is the most affected by the new TNS-BMRB poll. Last time around, the median was calculated as the mid-point between ICM and YouGov, as the third and fourth most favourable pollsters for the Yes campaign. This time it's the mid-point between TNS-BMRB and ICM, with the latter having slipped from third to fourth.


  1. Is this rate of rise enough?

    Or do you envisage the rate increasing as the BBC is forced to be evenhanded and the rest of the press, at least to an extent, follow that lead for fear of looking out of step?

  2. Personally I think it certainly is enough, simply because I don't believe the absolute figures as opposed to the trends. I think the Y/N gap is only a few points now.

  3. James, I took the liberty of calculating your Poll of Polls dataset back to start of Sept which gives 12 data point.

    Shows a gradual increase in Yes, reduction in No.

    Over that period (3.5 months) Yes up from 30.6 to 33.0, No down from 51.4 to 48.8.

    If that trend continues for next 7 months then go into the final 6 weeks with Yes = 37.8 and No = 43.7.

    Few comments on that :
    1. The % of people engaged in the debate is still low, as that rises then the drift from Yes to No would increase.

    2. There is a tipping point, when the tightening polls remove one of the key reasons for people not moving to Yes, which is the belief that Yes cannot win. I think that kicks in when the gap narrows to less than 10% consistently.

    3. The Angus Reid and ICM polls date back to August and Sept, When these are updated then should give the Poll of Polls a further boost assuming they are in line with everyone elses trends.

    One cloud on the horizon however, looking back to earlier in 2013 there was a reduction in Yes % through the early part of the year. That could be Project Fear having an impact, which has then worn off as people have become immune to it.

    Every poll adding another piece to the jigsaw now. Lets see what the next few weeks brings.

  4. Tris : I don't think there's going to be a steady trend - the movement towards Yes will stall at times, it will go into reverse at other times. But as we saw in both 2010 and 2011, any really big shifts in opinion (if they happen at all) are likely to happen during the official campaign period when there is saturation coverage, and when the broadcasters are legally obliged to be fairer. I'm not sure whether other forms of media will follow the broadcasters' lead, though. But we can certainly hope!

  5. Ivan, thanks for that - I was thinking of calculating the Poll of Polls retrospectively, but I was worried that I might lose the will to live! It's an interesting question whether the polls themselves are sufficient to inhibit people from voting one way or the other - they probably are in a general election where people are thinking to themselves "well, the Lib Dems can't win, so what's the point in voting for them", but in a single-question referendum it's not as clear that will be the case. But there may be a snowball effect if it gets to the point where there's a lot of reporting of a shift towards Yes.

  6. This rate of increase in yes and decrease in no is certainly thoughts a couple of weeks ago

  7. James

    Don't underestimate the effective low Polling numbers for Yes has on people's voting intentions.

    Its a very easy get-out clause for lazy voters, and I hear it all the time.

    First reaction is 'Yes have no chance of winning so what's the point in even thinking about the issues'

    You've then got to convince them its tighter than they think before you can even start to discuss the issues with them.

    Also, I'll email you the calcs I did on the Poll of Polls for reference - no point in both of us doing the same work.