Thursday, December 5, 2013

Support for independence increases, as new TNS-BMRB poll shows lowest lead for the No campaign in almost two years

There's an encouraging new poll out tonight from TNS-BMRB, which essentially backs up the trend suggested by the PSO poll the other day of a small swing to the pro-independence campaign since the publication of last week's White Paper. Here are the full figures -

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 26% (+1)
No 42% (-1)

What's particularly significant is that this is now the third TNS-BMRB poll in a row to show a shrinking lead for the No campaign. In the late September/early October poll, the lead dropped from 22 points to 19. In the late October poll, it dropped from 19 points to 18. And now it has dropped from 18 points to 16.

Like the proverbial broken record, John Curtice and certain others have reacted to every single recent poll, regardless of whether it shows a static position or a small swing in favour of independence, with a "no change" narrative - the suggestion being that any apparent setback for the No campaign is merely an illusion caused by margin of error "noise". I'll be fascinated to see if he tries the same line when his analysis of this poll is released (presumably in the morning), because frankly I don't see how he can sustain it this time. It's quite true that, on their own, any of the changes in the last three TNS polls can be plausibly dismissed as "margin of error stuff", but taken together they add up to something more important - a clear six-point drop in the No lead over the last three months.

I noted last time round that the No lead had dropped to its lowest level in a TNS-BMRB poll since early 2012, and for obvious reasons the same thing has just happened again. And if anything, the news is even better if we turn our attention to the figures for those respondents who say they are certain to vote in the referendum, with the Yes vote back above 30%, and the No lead dropping by three points -

Yes 31% (+2)
No 46% (-1)

Oh, and yes. Just like last time, the first clue I had that this was a good poll for the pro-independence campaign came from what Blair McDougall didn't say in his tweet about it. In amongst all the complacent, self-congratulatory waffle, there wasn't the slightest trace of any mention of the Yes vote having fallen or the No vote having risen, so it was fairly obvious that the opposite had happened!

* * *


And now, drumroll please. It's only a couple of days since I unveiled the Poll of Polls, and already I can announce its first post-White Paper update. Just to reiterate, the Poll of Polls is based on a rolling average of six polls - the most recent one from each of the British Polling Council members that have been running referendum polls (TNS-BMRB, Panelbase, ICM, Ipsos-Mori, YouGov and Angus Reid). The update simply replaces the last TNS-BMRB poll with the new one.

MEAN AVERAGE (not excluding Don't Knows) :

Yes 32.2% (+0.2)
No 49.3% (-0.2)

MEAN AVERAGE (excluding Don't Knows) :

Yes 39.5% (+0.2)
No 60.5% (-0.2)

MEDIAN AVERAGE (excluding Don't Knows) :

Yes 38.9% (+0.1)
No 61.1% (-0.1)

Obviously with only one-sixth of the sample having changed, the movement in the figures is glacial in nature. But if the No campaign had been entertaining any hopes of getting themselves above the psychologically-important 50% threshold on the headline numbers, they've suffered a blow tonight.

* * *

UPDATE : John Curtice's analysis is now out, and to be fair he has indeed changed the record somewhat. He also notes that the fieldwork for the TNS poll largely took place before the release of the White Paper, which leaves open the possibility of an even bigger shift of opinion since then.


  1. I'm glad that the polls dictate how the No campaign feel. Even when the polls are against us until the very last moment, the No campaign will still be as stagnant as ever!

  2. You'll see that Professor Curtice now acknowledges the trend - He says Yes was at 39% in February. What he doesn't say is what No was at then. As you imply, the important thing is the gap between the two.

  3. If we look back to October 2012 for this polling firm, the No figure was 53%. Interesting.

    Pity Jimmy Halliday is no longer with us, we would have a good discussion about these polls.

  4. I believe this poll was taken BEFORE the White Paper James.

  5. Ah, you did mention that at the end James - sorry, missed that. I agree that it's good news. :)

  6. David : Professor Curtice's 39% figure for February isn't from the headline figures. It's taken from a recalculation with the Don't Knows excluded. A few months ago, TNS reported a dramatic increase in the number of Don't Knows, with both the Yes and No votes dropping sharply as a result. (The most likely explanation is a change in the way the question was posed, although that can't explain the continued drift from No to Don't Know since then.) That change has produced some statistical quirks. With the Don't Knows excluded, No had a 22-point lead in February (No 61%, Yes 39%), which is slightly lower than the 24-point lead with Don't Knows excluded in this poll (No 62%, Yes 38%). But on the headline figures, the lead in this poll is three points lower than it was in February (16 rather than 19). The last time the headline lead was lower in a TNS poll was in early 2012, when it stood at just 8.

    Incidentally, the peak lead for the No side with TNS came with a poll in October 2012, and on any measure the lead is significantly lower now. On the headline figures, the lead has dropped from 25 then to 16 now, and with Don't Knows excluded it has dropped from 30 then to 24 now.

  7. Looking at all the previous polls over the past few years, this is the lowest NO since August 2011! (Also by TNS)

    As far as the question goes, up until August they asked "How would you vote if the referendum was tomorrow?"

    Now they ask "How do you intend to vote in response to the question: Should Scotland be an independent country?"

    I'm guessing the question change is where the undecided voters came from. September is when they started using past votes to weigh results too, which is when the no vote dropped from 47% - 44%.