Tuesday, June 17, 2014

New ComRes poll shows swing to independence in the Borders and Dumfries & Galloway

The political editor of ITV Border has just tweeted the results of a "south of Scotland" poll.  It's important to stress that this does not refer to the South of Scotland electoral region, but only to the much smaller area covered by ITV Border - ie. the Borders and Dumfries & Galloway, which between them cover just 5% of the Scottish population, and can reasonably be assumed to be the most anti-independence part of the country.

The rounded headline figures with Don't Knows excluded are Yes 30%, No 70%, which represents a small swing in favour of independence since the January poll when (on the unrounded numbers) Yes were on 28.7% and No were on 71.3%.  That does of course assume that the methodology was sufficiently similar this time around to make the two polls comparable - the January poll was conducted by ComRes, using telephone fieldwork.

Is there any way of extrapolating these numbers to get a sense of the national picture?  I know that might seem a bit of a redundant exercise given that we've just had several nationwide polls showing significant progress for Yes, but if this does turn out to be a ComRes telephone poll it's of special interest because we've had no ComRes national polls at all, and very few national telephone polls from any firm.  The only possible extrapolation method I can think of is to look at the regional differences exhibited in the 1997 devolution referendum, when the Yes vote in the Borders and Dumfries & Galloway was 12.7% lower than the national Yes vote.  On the second question about tax-varying powers, the Yes vote was 14% lower than nationally.  So if as a Peter Snow-esque "just a bit of fun" exercise we assume that the differential will be exactly the same this time (unlikely), that means this poll would imply a national Yes vote of about 43% or 44% - somewhat higher than suggested by Ipsos-Mori in the most recent nationwide telephone poll.

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UPDATE : Judging from the latest post by "Better Together"/"Non Merci", this was indeed another ComRes poll.  Curiously, the headline chosen by the No campaign is "Momentum is with the campaign for Scotland to stay in the UK" - which is a rather creative interpretation of a poll that shows a 1% increase in the Yes vote and a 1% decrease in the No vote.  Oh, how I'm going to miss my daily fix of McDougall Logic when this is all over...

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UPDATE II : There's a new (nationwide) YouGov referendum coming out overnight.  This will be the first poll to properly factor in any fallout from the Lally/Rowling nonsense.  As always, Twitter Kremlinology might offer the earliest clues as to what the poll shows.  I'm afraid Nat-Basher Extraordinaire Kevin Schofield was the first to mention it (although to be fair that may just be because it's in his paper!).

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UPDATE III : Judging from the retweets of Schofield's comment by assorted thuggish anti-independence campaign staffers, it's clear that they think they can spin this one in their favour.  It's worth bearing in mind, though, that the last YouGov poll in April showed the No lead at an all-time low for the firm of 14 points, so any increase tonight has to be seen in that light.  YouGov have consistently been one of the most No-friendly pollsters, and will seemingly be consolidating that status.

More amusingly, it's also worth bearing in mind that the No campaign have until now falsely claimed that the last YouGov poll was in the fact the poll conducted by Progressive Partnership showing a No lead of 20 points - they've been doing that so they could lie through their teeth and pretend that YouGov had shown a six point increase in the lead (in fact both the YouGov and Progressive polls showed a decrease in the No lead).  So if tonight's lead falls anywhere between 15 and 19 points, we can sit back and enjoy the spectacle of the No camp doing yet another "Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia" pivot, and suddenly discovering that the last comparable YouGov poll was the one showing a 14-point lead, thus allowing them to say that the No lead has increased in this one as well.  On Planet McDougall, EVERY poll shows "momentum for No" - it's the law!

I was also amused to spot Kevin Schofield almost biting someone's head off for accurately pointing out that the last YouGov poll for the Sun showed a 60-40 lead for No.  It's actually normal practice for a newspaper to make the comparison with the previous poll commissioned by themselves, even if the same polling company has conducted a poll for another client more recently.  So clearly Schofield is determined to make the comparison with the poll that gives the highest baseline figure for Yes, in order to push the "momentum for No" spin.  He's nothing if not transparent.


  1. Current = t-92.

    @2011 t-69
    41 Lab
    32 SNP
    15 Con
    8 Lib

    SNP took the lead at ~t-36.

    Big win only very likely according to polls by t-10.

  2. Sunshine on CrieffJune 17, 2014 at 11:24 PM

    Sorry for being a bit of a plank...

    but what does the above mean?

  3. I think it means the number of days to go to referendum date. A bit like the NASA countdown!!

  4. Two things.

    If you're going to compare this poll with the 1997 referendum the "most anti-independence part of the country" would be Orkney.

    Secondly, with regards to the area "just" being 5% of Scotland's population this seems to be a talking down of the D&G and the Borders which people here are all too used to from the central belt and Holyrood and is no way to encourage people over to a yes vote.

    Yes it is important to note that this poll is in no way indicative of the national picture, however it would be good to see pro-independence people take up the challenge of winning a majority of Yes in the South of Scotland.

    Getting the SNP government to promise more devolution to local areas (like they have done for the islands) would be a good start.

  5. I wasn't in any way talking down the Borders and D&G - the 5% thing is simply a hard-headed statistical point, and I was also emphasising that the area covered by this poll accounts for less than half the population of the South of Scotland electoral region (in spite of the poll being repeatedly billed as a "south of Scotland poll").

    I have a horrible feeling that it's only a matter of time before someone says I'm being sexist or anti-English for pointing out that women and English-born people are being over-represented in certain polls, but again, that's simply a statistical observation.

    I'm not writing off the Yes campaign's chances of making substantial progress in the Borders and D&G, and your suggestion of how to do that is a good one. But "progress" is what it will be - realistically the Yes vote is bound to be at least somewhat lower than the national average.

  6. Sorry, to clarify...

    We're just over 90 days from the referendum (t-91).

    At this stage in 2011, pollsters were still concluding a stonking win for labour. Yougov got the above 41 Lab / 32 SNP 69 days out for example. Their next poll at t-45 still had Labour ahead.

    Of course they were not alone in this. It was only by ~36 days out that an SNP win started to show up as possible / level pegging was starting to occur.

    Only really 10 days out did it look like it could potentially turn into a very big win for the SNP.

    Doesn't mean this will happen again, but there's a lot of signs it might. Everything bar Y/N points to a Yes. Was similar in 2011; lots of evidence that the the SNP should have been ahead yet for some reason labour were...

  7. The tactic I can see is Better Together No Thanks are abandoning those areas that are very pro-indy and concentrating on conflating the areas that are pro-union. For instance make a big deal that the 'South of Scotland' is pro-union (regardless of population or sample size) to advertise to the rest of Scotland that the trend is moving in the unionists favour.

    False advertising basically, but they try to back it with half-truth figures.

    No doubt we will see headlines of 'South Scotland backs the union' by the compliant media, but of course that is the point, generate big headlines. This is not to reflect public opinion but to try and change it, so we know their campaign must be failing.

  8. The reason it is repeatedly "billed" as a "South of Scotland" poll despite not conforming to the boundaries of the South of Scotland Scottish Parliament region is because it was commissioned for a television programme for Scottish viewers of ITV Border (which covers Cumbria, Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders).

    The problem ITV Border has it that Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders are two very distinct areas with very distinct identities (neither region likes to be confused with each other despite our similarities), so what binds both areas together so that they can be summarised more succinctly than the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway?

    The two regions are the most southerly in Scotland, with no exceptions, and therefore are often referred to as the 'South of Scotland'.

    I hope this clarifies, if you are puzzled further I would prescribe a viewing of 'Representing Border' (which looks at the issues from Holyrood and Westminster that matter to the South of Scotland), every single edition made is online to view at leisure and they provide a very balanced view of things, http://www.itv.com/news/border/topic/representing-border/