Thursday, March 20, 2014

An independent Scotland beckons, as Yes campaign close the gap to just 5% in spectacular new Panelbase poll

The third Panelbase referendum poll of 2014 has been released in the last few minutes - and not to put too fine a point on it, it's a cracker.

There will be a referendum on an independent Scotland on the 18th of September. How do you intend to vote in response to the question: Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 40% (+3)
No 45% (-2)

With Don't Knows excluded, it works out as -

Yes 47% (+3)
No 53% (-3)

This poll is a landmark moment in practically countless ways. It shows the highest Yes vote to be recorded in any poll conducted by any pollster in referendum year so far. It marks the first time since last summer that Yes have broken through the psychological 40% barrier on the headline figures produced by any pollster (although tellingly the most recent poll from Survation showed Yes edging up to 39%). It shows the lowest No lead to be recorded by any pollster so far this year - and that includes the ICM poll that set the campaign alight back in January.

Most significantly, though, it's the final piece in the jigsaw that confirms beyond any reasonable doubt that the No lead has dipped since September. Until now, Panelbase were the one and only pollster that hadn't found any decrease in the No lead since the publication of the White Paper - which was very unexpected and mysterious given their reputation for producing Yes-friendly results. But now they have finally joined a consensus that even includes the extreme No-friendly outliers Ipsos-Mori. A 5% No lead is well below Panelbase's normal range of 8-13%, and if anything that range should have creeped up rather than down as a result of the recent methodological change. So unless it's an out-and-out rogue poll (which should only happen one time in every twenty) this breakthrough for Yes can't be dismissed as being "margin of error noise".

It's also worth pointing out that these numbers almost (but not quite) represent what American journalists traditionally refer to as a "statistical tie" - meaning a situation in which there is a greater than 5% chance that the side that appears to be in the lead is actually behind, due to the standard margin of error.

Ever since it became apparent that the No lead had fallen by an appreciable amount, I've seen some Yes supporters fretting that the pace of the trend across all pollsters isn't quite sufficient to get us to a 50%+ Yes vote on September 18th. I must say I think that misses the point - any really dramatic changes of opinion, if they occur, are likely to happen during the official campaign period that commences in late May. Look at the overnight Cleggasm, for example, or the SNP's dramatic advance in 2011. Neither of those occurred until voters properly switched on to the choice that lay ahead of them. The significance of a dip in the No lead at this stage is that it demonstrates that the mantra we've heard from unionist journalists and politicians is wrong - public opinion is plainly not set in stone, and if some No voters have been won over already, there is every chance that others will follow if they are exposed to the same arguments over the coming months.

It'll be fascinating to see how (and if) Blair McDougall reacts to this poll. In true Orwellian fashion, the anti-independence camp's embarrassment of a campaign chief treated the last Panelbase poll as an "un-poll" - it simply didn't exist in his eyes, presumably because it was commissioned by the hated SNP. (If you look at his comments about recent polling trends, you'll see they don't make any logical sense unless he is treating the last-but-one Panelbase poll as if it was the most recent one.) Well, this new one was commissioned by Newsnet Scotland, so I wonder if that will be considered better or worse in McDougall-world? He really ought to bear in mind that there's a downside as well as an upside to pretending that bad polls don't exist. Suppose for example that the next Panelbase poll for the Sunday Times shows an 8% No lead - in most people's eyes (and in reality) that would be a 3% increase. But to maintain his cherished fiction, Blair would have to say that the No lead had slumped by 4% since the last Panelbase poll. That would be a rather amusing moment.

* * *


This update of the Poll of Polls also represents a landmark for the pro-independence campaign, with Yes breaking through the 35% barrier on the headline figures for the first time. The 41.9% Yes vote when Don't Knows are excluded is also the highest recorded so far.

MEAN AVERAGE (not excluding Don't Knows) :

Yes 35.1% (+0.4)
No 48.7% (-0.3)

MEAN AVERAGE (excluding Don't Knows) :

Yes 41.9% (+0.4)
No 58.1% (-0.4)

MEDIAN AVERAGE (excluding Don't Knows) :

Yes 42.0% (n/c)
No 58.0% (n/c)

(The Poll of Polls is based on a rolling average of the most recent poll from each of the pollsters that have been active in the referendum campaign, and that adhere to British Polling Council rules. At present, there are seven - YouGov, TNS-BMRB, Angus Reid, Survation, Panelbase, Ipsos-Mori and ICM. Whenever a new poll is published, it replaces the last poll from the same company in the sample. Changes in the Poll of Polls are generally glacial in nature due to the fact that only a small portion of the sample is updated each time.)

Of course these figures are significantly influenced (some would say distorted) by the inclusion of extreme No-friendly outliers Ipsos-Mori in the sample. An alternative way of measuring the current state of play is to look at an average of the most recent figures from each of the four online pollsters that have conducted polls so far this year (Panelbase, YouGov, Survation and ICM), and unsurprisingly that shows a tighter race -

MEAN AVERAGE OF ONLINE POLLSTERS (not excluding Don't Knows) :

Yes 37.8% (+0.8)
No 48.8% (-0.5)


Yes 43.6% (+0.7)
No 56.4% (-0.7)


Yes 43.9% (+0.4)
No 56.1% (-0.4)


  1. James, It can't be a real poll as I didn't see any tweets from Better Together Blair this evening-of course maybe he is too busy being as sick as a parrot :-)

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  3. What will the polls show after people who have repeatedly said they want Devo Max, realise that their last hope, ie: Labours long awaited 'Devolution Report' has just tried to sell them a 'pig in a poke'?

    Just one more surge and we could be looking at parity, with the real campaign not even started!

  4. James I have been reading your posts for nigh on two year now. I swear I could detect a smile in your writing tonight.


  5. This is encouraging, but until I see evidence from other pollsters I'm very suspicious this is an outlier.

  6. Calum : We should certainly be careful about over-interpreting a single poll, although arguably the last Survation poll has already provided supporting evidence to some extent (the No lead falling from 8.9% to 8.3%, on top of what was a much bigger fall in the previous poll, even taking account of the methodological change).

    Another possibility is that the No lead in the last two Panelbase polls was a bit on the high side due to normal sampling variation, and that this one is finally showing the same fall in the No lead that is already factored into the numbers from other pollsters.

  7. Any thoughts on the effect, if any, of the preamble?

  8. The % of Labour voters now moving to Yes is about the same as Survation.

    I have been encouraged by the packed public meetings up and down the land. Is this now starting to be picked up in these polls?

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  10. All very encouraging. I had been a little concerned that the other pollsters were just converging to the flat trend that Panelbase was already showing. This offers some evidence that Panelbase was just being affected by some unfortunately no-friendly samples.

    Of course, it's not going to be a linear trend ultimately (even though it has been rather linear since last September) - we may well reach a tipping point when people really start to think about this during the campaign period. As Yes becomes more normalised then waverers will start to switch and it'll gather pace one way or the other.

  11. Certainly an encouraging poll James.

    You won't be surprised to learn that the racists and tory bigots on the stormfront lite site PoliticalBetting are somewhat upset.

    The Bangkok sex tourist SeanT is still making a massive fool of himself after he he wetting himself over Osbrowne's curency stupidity and predicting utter doom for Yes. Needless to say the posh twit is trying to rubbish the poll.

    Even more amusing, the Bet welching Moderator TSE is also clearly upset and is moderating use of the word "twit". So death threats and revealing a families details is fine for PB's far right lunatics but the word "twit" is a step too far.

    The moderation on PB is hilariously incompetent these days and the only possible reason Smithson keeps the biased tory bet welcher TSE on is that he doesn't have to pay him.

  12. Looking at the figures for the whole sample instead of just likely voters, the results are Yes: 38% (+4) No: 42% (-2). Pretty incredible.

    This reminds me that we haven't seen TNS in a while. They are the only pollster who haven't reported after the currency speech.

  13. And if the figures down to one decimal point that Scottish Skier gave earlier today are accurate, then with Don't Knows excluded the rounded numbers are Yes 48%, No 52%.

    Yes, I'll be on tenterhooks about TNS - they seem more important than other pollsters somehow, because they're the only one other than Ipsos-Mori that aren't reliant on a volunteer online panel, and yet unlike Ipsos-Mori their recent polls have shown Yes within (relative) striking distance. Filtered by certainty to vote, two of their last three polls were absolutely fantastic for Yes - right up there with Survation.

  14. Mick : I see that SeanT is still trying to set this up as a 'heads I win, tails you lose' scenario - as a self-styled Thatcherite outlaw he can't bear the thought of "losing" Scotland, and yet he's comforting himself with the thought of saying goodbye to Scottish Labour MPs. He may be disappointed about how limited the impact of that will be.

    He's also still valiantly spinning the line about "allegations that Panelbase have been infiltrated by Nats" - which was comprehensively debunked last year when Panelbase used another pollster's panel, and produced identical results.

  15. I've seen a site which lists the Labour offerings for devo and what stays with Westminster.

    It isn't even necessary to read it. Just look at the number of items on each side from the far side of the room.

    It isn't so much a pig in a poke as a piglet in a poke.