A couple of people have asked me to say something about the results of the Radical Independence mass canvass on Sunday, which were as follows -
Should Scotland be an independent country?
And with Don't Knows excluded, it worked out as...
Believe it or not, I've only been canvassed once in my life, and that was way back during the 2003 Holyrood election campaign. A man came to the door without bearing any party colours, and asked a series of studiously neutral questions that didn't give away his affiliation. (The only possible clue was when he asked "and how would you vote if there wasn't a nationalist candidate in this constituency?" - an SNP canvasser would probably have been less likely to use the word 'nationalist'.) It was only after he'd got the treasure trove of information that he'd been looking for that he announced he was from the Labour party, at which point I was of course mildly annoyed with myself for having played ball. I may have saved them a bit of cash that would otherwise have been spent on a lost cause address!
It's not hard to see how that kind of 'blindfolded' canvassing operation can produce results that are at least as useful as any published opinion poll. But I don't get the impression that the Radical Independence canvass worked in that way - voting intentions seem to have been recorded after the canvassers identified themselves as Yes supporters and made their pitch. Of course it's great news if people were converted to Yes on the spot, but it does mean that the voting intention figures can't be considered representative of other people who weren't canvassed. The only way to wholly square that circle would be to canvass every single adult in Scotland - and the numbers from Sunday illustrate what a gargantuan exercise that would be. An impressive 8317 people were reached - but that's still only roughly 0.2% of the voting age population.
It's also likely that some people won't have told the truth because they didn't want to cause offence or disappointment to the Yes people on their doorsteps - that would be most likely to manifest itself as No voters pretending to be Don't Knows, but there may also have been some people presenting themselves as more certain for Yes than they really are. It's also the case that Radical Independence were mainly canvassing in lower-income areas where you'd expect the Yes vote to be higher than the national average anyway.
So when you take all those factors together, probably the best way of putting it is that it would have been quite worrying if the results of the mass canvass hadn't shown a Yes lead - but thankfully they did.