A new Panelbase poll has finally been released - I'm not sure yet whether it's the one that we heard about people being interviewed for ten days ago, or whether that was an unpublished internal poll. Either way, tonight's results are reasonably encouraging for Yes.
Should Scotland be an independent country?
Yes 41% (-2)
No 48% (+2)
With Don't Knows excluded, it works out as...
Yes 46% (-2)
No 54% (+2)
The percentage changes listed above are from the last Panelbase poll, which was commissioned by Yes Scotland. But it's important to stress that tonight's results are unlikely to be directly comparable to that poll, because the new poll was commissioned by the Sunday Times, and Panelbase use a slightly different question for their Sunday Times series. It's not a biased question by any means, but there is now quite strong circumstantial evidence that it tends to produce a slightly higher No lead. You don't have to take my word for it - Anthony Wells (no friend to the Yes campaign) has commented on the phenomenon as well. If we compare tonight's numbers with the last directly comparable Panelbase poll, this is how they look -
Yes 41% (+1)
No 48% (+1)
And with Don't Knows excluded...
Yes 46% (n/c)
No 54% (n/c)
So no change in the overall headline gap, but with the Yes vote hitting a new record high for the Sunday Times series. It's also only the second time that the No lead has been as low as seven points.
I almost feel quite sorry for Blair McDougall tonight - he finds himself openly 'gloating' about the No vote being ahead by only seven points in what John Curtice would call an "independently-commissioned poll", even though only three such polls in the entire campaign so far have been worse for No (the two most recent Survation polls and the ICM poll on Easter Sunday). How the mighty have fallen.
As for what this means for the overall trend, there's good news and bad news. It further increases the likelihood that the YouGov polls a few weeks ago were just showing margin of error 'noise', as opposed to a real increase in the No lead. On the other hand, it also slightly decreases the likelihood that the most recent TNS poll was picking up a genuinely big decrease in the No lead. It leaves us looking at a relatively static position, albeit with the possibility that both campaigns have been picking up a little support as Don't Knows are squeezed (the pollsters are split on whether that is happening or not).
Crucially, however, this is all before the Commonwealth Games - I'm not sure yet what Panelbase's fieldwork dates were, but they almost certainly will have been mostly or wholly before the start of Scotland's extraordinary gold rush. There's a very strong suspicion that the No lead was significantly boosted in the summer of 2012 as a direct result of Team GB's success in the London Olympics, and if that's true there must be at least a theoretical chance of Team Scotland's success working the same magic for Yes now. On the other hand, the impact may be diluted by the BBC's rather political choice to place the entire Commonwealth Games within a "British" frame, with viewers being invited (or should I say instructed) to view the distinction between the "Home Nations" teams as a mere formality. So I genuinely have no idea whether there'll be a Games bounce for Yes or not - we'll just have to wait and see.
Talking of the Commonwealth Games, I've got an early morning ticket booked for tomorrow, with a long journey to get to the venue, so I'll have to cut this short (mainly because I got distracted by an exchange on Twitter with the drongo wing of Blair McDougall's Trolling Army.) I'll post a Poll of Polls update when I get home tomorrow.