A rather odd new referendum poll from Survation is out, conducted among women only, who of course tend to be somewhat less likely to be Yes voters than men. However, it's still possible to work out the trend from the last Survation poll which was conducted immediately after the leaders' debate, and that trend is favourable for Yes. So if there ever was a significant post-debate boost for No (it may well have been an illusion caused by normal sampling variation), it appears to be fading fast.
Should Scotland be an independent country? (Women only)
Yes 34% (+1)
No 50% (-2)
With Don't Knows excluded, that works out as...
Yes 40% (+1)
No 60% (-1)
Those changes would be consistent with a No lead of about 10% or so among the population as a whole, which was fairly standard for Survation during the spring. With undecideds excluded, that would equate to roughly Yes 44% or 45%, and No 56% or 55%.
This poll was commissioned by the Daily Record, and it appears to have completely replaced their normal monthly referendum poll, which on the face of it rather defeats the purpose of having an ongoing monthly series. The logic may be that there have been two very recent full-scale Survation polls in the Daily Mail, which would render a third one redundant, thus offering an opportunity to do something a little different. But why a female-only poll in particular? I know there are many people in both the Yes and No camps who will welcome a focus on women's views, but given that this is an anti-independence newspaper we're talking about, I find it hard not to be cynical about the motivations for this. I suspect it may be a cunning wheeze to hoodwink the Record's readers into thinking that the No lead is wider than it really is.
Certainly every time we see one of these 'special' polls, it always conveniently seems to be among a No-friendly demographic. I believe this is the second female-only poll, and there was also a Populus poll of over-50s a few months ago. And let's not forget those two bizarre full-scale ComRes telephone polls that were confined to the Borders and Dumfries & Galloway - a particularly No-friendly part of Scotland containing just 5% of the national population. I've got a suggestion for next time - how about a poll of low-income male Glaswegians, aged between 25 and 44?
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As Scottish Skier pointed out a few hours ago, TNS-BMRB have followed in the footsteps of Survation and YouGov by producing a poll that has a slightly lower No lead in the raw unweighted data than it does in the weighted results for publication. It really is extraordinarily unusual for three polls in a row to show this pattern, because Yes are generally weighted up rather than down. It may of course just be pure coincidence, but there could also be something interesting going on beneath the surface which might point to the Yes vote being underestimated in these recent polls. In the case of the TNS poll, part of the explanation seems to be that the No lead is much bigger among people who say they didn't vote in 2011 than it is among the whole sample, which doesn't usually happen. The responses of those non-voters have been significantly upweighted in the overall results, in line with TNS-BMRB's highly questionable weighting procedure. Also, people who recall voting for minor parties in 2011 have broken heavily for Yes this month, and they have been subject to an extreme downweighting, from 33 real respondents to only 6 'virtual' respondents.
I predicted last night that simply stripping out the small number of respondents who say they are certain not to vote in the referendum would be sufficient to increase the Yes vote by an appreciable amount, and so it has proved - it actually trims the No lead by a full 2.6%. Here are the figures for each level of likelihood to vote, with Don't Knows excluded...
Whole sample (equivalent to 100% turnout) :
Yes 41.6% (-2.0)
No 58.4% (+2.0)
Whole sample excluding only definite non-voters (equivalent to 93% turnout) :
Yes 42.9% (-1.4)
No 57.1% (+1.4)
Respondents who say they are certain or very likely to vote (equivalent to 79% turnout) :
Yes 44.6% (-0.4)
No 55.4% (+0.4)
Respondents who say they are certain to vote (equivalent to 71% turnout) :
Yes 45.2% (+0.6)
No 54.8% (-0.6)
The last set of figures represent the narrowest gap of the campaign so far in a TNS poll.
You probably don't need me to point out that the Yes vote gets higher as the assumed turnout gets lower. And I don't want to alarm anyone in the No campaign (much), but a 71% or 79% turnout does sound a hell of a lot more plausible than a 93% or a 100% turnout.