Saturday, April 11, 2015

Clarity on Trident

Craig Murray has asked for clarity on whether the SNP would withdraw support for a minority Labour government if it joined forces with the Tories in the Commons to force through the renewal of Trident.  I think the SNP have been pretty clear, actually - the scrapping of Trident would be an absolute condition for a confidence-and-supply arrangement, and without it Labour would have to go it alone and seek support on a vote-by-vote basis.  That would mean looking to right-wing parties like the Tories, UKIP and Lib Dems to get things through that the SNP would never support (such as Trident), and it would mean looking to the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens to get things through that the Tories would never support (such as an increase in the top rate of tax).

But there has been a very strong indication that the SNP would not do anything to bring about an early election, which implies that Labour would not be 'punished' in a confidence vote for the renewal of Trident.  And if you think about it, that's perfectly rational - an early election would have absolutely no prospect of producing an anti-Trident majority in parliament, so nothing would be gained by bringing a Labour government down.  (And much might be lost, if the arithmetic after a new election was less favourable.)

That's not to say that the SNP are powerless to do anything about Trident in a hung parliament, though.  As I've speculated before, Labour may quickly be worn down by trying to survive day-to-day on a vote-by-vote basis, and the security of the formal deal they originally shunned might start to look very attractive after a few months - particularly if the opinion polls were suggesting that they would lose a snap election.  If the SNP's red lines for a deal hadn't shifted by then, Trident's days would be numbered.

Incidentally, I don't follow Duncan Hothersall on Twitter anymore (mainly because he seemed to block me for a while, which automatically deleted me from his followers' list), so I'd be curious to know what logical gymnastics he's been partaking in over the last few months to square his own views on Trident with continued support for Labour.  During the referendum, he repeatedly told us he wasn't interested in simply shifting the location of Britain's nuclear weapons, but instead wanted to abolish them altogether.  Well, we now have the SNP asking for a mandate to go to the UK parliament and abolish Trident altogether, while Labour are asking for a mandate to go to the UK parliament and spend billions of pounds renewing Trident.

Why is Duncan voting Labour?  Does he even know?

Friday, April 10, 2015

61% of voters in Scotland want the SNP to demand full Devo Max in post-election negotiations - so what on earth are Labour wittering about?

Yet more results from the YouGov poll have now been released - the reason for the time-lag is that there was more than one client.  The finding that leaps out at me the most is this one...

If there is a hung Parliament and the SNP hold the balance of power, do you think they should or should not request each of the following in exchange for supporting a Westminster government?

Greatly expanded devolution to Scotland, including all powers except defence and foreign policy?

Should ask for this : 61%
Should not ask for this : 29%

For the avoidance of doubt, the above results come from all respondents, regardless of how they plan to vote in May. No fewer than 89% of people currently planning to vote SNP (ie. the people that Labour are theoretically trying to win back) want Nicola Sturgeon to demand full Devo Max, and only 6% don't.

To state the bleedin' obvious, Devo Max or "all powers except defence and foreign policy" implies Full Fiscal Autonomy. In fact it implies a hell of a lot more as well, but Full Fiscal Autonomy is an indispensable part of the package. This is something that people overwhelmingly want. So how have Labour managed to convince themselves that opposing it tooth and nail is such a brilliant tactic? Has Blair McDougall's computer malfunctioned again?  It's bad enough that they seem to have forgotten that it's Yes voters they need to win back rather than No voters. But they're probably also managing to repel a fair number of No voters, a substantial chunk of whom want Devo Max as well.

In my naivety I had thought that Labour's strategy would be rational. I was genuinely worried that they might attempt more Vow-style bribery, and that some people might fall for it again.  I thought the approach would be to tempt Yes voters with a little of what they fancy, rather than screaming at them that they're idiots for wanting it.

I'm really sorry about this - I know they say you should never interrupt your enemy when he's making a mistake. But there comes a point where the level of stupidity is so offensive to basic human decency that you just have to speak out.

Extraordinary from the YouGov poll - the SNP would have led by 24% even WITHOUT the new turnout filter

A number of us wondered last night if the sharp increase in the SNP's lead was a sign that YouGov had introduced a turnout filter in their full-scale Scottish polls, just as they did earlier this week in their Britain-wide polls.  It turns out that they have indeed introduced a filter, but the SNP surge was not a sign of it - because the voting intention numbers for both the SNP and Labour would have been exactly the same without it.  I can't spot any other methodological change that has been made - there's no sign of the "weighting by voting intention in January/February" that's been brought in for Britain-wide polls.

What that means is that it's possible to make a reasonably meaningful comparison between the headline numbers in this poll and previous YouGov polls - albeit with one important caveat, namely that weighting by recalled referendum vote was brought in earlier this year.  In this poll, that's helping the SNP slightly, because people who recall voting Yes have been weighted up from 432 to 458, and people who recall voting No have been weighted down from 584 to 560.  Paradoxically, though, in the early post-referendum polls, there were too many Yes voters in the sample - so if weighting by recalled referendum vote had been applied consistently throughout, the reported increase in the SNP lead since October would almost certainly have been even bigger.

My namesake James has made a reasonable point on the previous thread about an error of logic that YouGov seem to be making - they've sharply upweighted respondents who were born outside the UK to count as a full 9% of the sample.  It seems highly unlikely that as many as 9% of those eligible to vote in Scotland in this election were born overseas, because the rules are not the same as the ones that applied for the referendum, in which all EU citizens resident here were permitted to vote.  To be eligible to vote in a general election, you need to be a UK, Commonwealth or Irish citizen (which excludes 24 of the 28 EU countries, and most importantly Poland).  If YouGov are indeed getting it wrong on that point, it may be leading to a very slight overestimation of the SNP lead, because the small subsample of voters from overseas has the SNP ahead of Labour by a bigger margin of 49% to 10%.  The Tories are in second place on 21%.

I must stress, though, that country of birth weighting is vitally important, because without it there would be far too many English-born people in the sample, which would of course lead to the SNP lead being underestimated.  Among Scottish-born respondents, the SNP are ahead by 50% to 25%, but among respondents born elsewhere in the UK, Labour are actually narrowly in the lead by 30% to 28% (and the Tories aren't far behind on 25%).

Has Nicola Sturgeon succeeded in eradicating the gender gap?  There isn't really one in this poll - the SNP lead by 50% to 24% among men, and by 49% to 25% among women.  And there's also terrible news for London journalists who love to write headlines about how young people are "too cool for separatism" - a mind-boggling 61% of respondents aged 18-24 are planning to vote SNP, which is a much bigger share than the party is scoring among any other age group.  But even among over-60s (by far the most problematical group for the Yes campaign), the SNP enjoy a commanding lead over Labour of 21%.

Possibly the funniest detail in the datasets is that Willie Rennie was regarded as by far the worst performer in the STV leaders' debate by even the tiny number of respondents who are planning to vote Liberal Democrat in May!  Among that group, 28% thought Nicola Sturgeon was best, compared to just 6% for Rennie.  Among the much bigger group of respondents who actually voted Lib Dem back in 2010, the gap is unsurprisingly much bigger - with Sturgeon favoured by 42%, and Rennie by 3%.

The stubborn refusal of voters in the real world to do the bidding of unionist journalists by recognising the "obvious truth" that Jim Murphy won the debate is also reflected in the net approval ratings for various leaders -

Nicola Sturgeon:  +48
Jim Murphy:  -18
David Cameron:  -25
Ed Miliband:  -46
Nick Clegg:  -54

Last but not least, there are voting intention figures for next year's Scottish Parliament election - and because that contest is still a fair distance away, no turnout filter has been applied.  In line with the Westminster numbers, the SNP's lead has increased on the constituency ballot, although that's only because Labour have slipped.  It's pretty much steady-as-she-goes on the regional list ballot, apart from the fact that the Greens have dropped back even further, and are now only barely ahead of the Lib Dems.

Scottish Parliament constituency ballot :

SNP 49% (n/c)
Labour 24% (-3)
Conservatives 16% (+2)
Liberal Democrats 5% (n/c)
Greens 3% (n/c)
UKIP 2% (n/c)

Scottish Parliament regional list ballot :

SNP 42% (-1)
Labour 24% (-1)
Conservatives 16% (+1)
Greens 6% (-2)
Liberal Democrats 5% (n/c)
SSP 3% (+1)
UKIP 2% (n/c)

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Historic YouGov poll sees SNP surge out of sight as the smearing of Nicola backfires catastrophically on Labour

I'm not sure mere words are sufficient to convey the enormity of the full-scale Scottish poll that has just been released by YouGov, with less than a month to go until general election day.

Scottish voting intentions for the May 2015 UK general election (YouGov, 8th-9th April) :

SNP 49% (+3)
Labour 25% (-4)
Conservatives 18% (+2)
Liberal Democrats 4% (+1)
UKIP 2% (n/c)
Greens 1% (-1)

There's an oddity here, because earlier today YouGov released a new 'nowcast' seats projection for the election, and in the commentary it was stated that the only significant trend that had been detected anywhere in Britain over the last week was a "very slight softening" of the SNP vote.  So when it was reported earlier today that the new full-scale poll was "newsworthy", we assumed (OK, I assumed - not all of you did!) that we must be looking at a reduction in the SNP lead.

However, there isn't a direct contradiction, because the nowcast is based on different (and unpublished) survey data.  The full-scale poll is more up-to-date, so it could be that it's picking up a trend that the nowcast hasn't caught up with yet.  Or there may have been a methodological change that boosted the SNP in the full-scale poll - most probably the introduction of a likelihood to vote filter - which we'll find out about when the datasets are released. 

Or, of course, margin of error effects could be at play, in which case the truth is probably somewhere between the full-scale poll and the nowcast.  That would imply a relatively unchanged position - which would be absolutely fine, because it would still leave the SNP with a gigantic lead!  Even the nowcast suggested that the SNP remained on course to win almost every parliamentary seat in Scotland.

Until we find out whether there has been any methodological change, it's difficult to make observations about the long-term trend with any confidence.  But if we were to assume for the sake of argument that it's possible to make a direct comparison between the headline numbers of this poll and previous YouGov polls, the conclusion would be that we're looking at the first strong evidence of the SNP lead having increased further since the latter half of October.  The first post-referendum YouGov poll put the lead at 16% - and an increase to 24% can't easily be explained by normal sampling variation (although it's not completely impossible).  The SNP's own vote has increased from 43% to 49% since the autumn, which would also be very difficult to dismiss as margin of error noise.  The position is less conclusive in respect of the Labour vote, which started out as 27% in the autumn, and has only varied within a narrower range of 25% to 29%.

Respondents to the new poll were asked who they thought won the first Scottish leaders' debate on Tuesday night (ie. the one on STV).  It won't be any surprise to most non-journalists to learn that Nicola Sturgeon emerged as the landslide victor -

Nicola Sturgeon 56%
Ruth Davidson 14%
Jim Murphy 13%
Willie Rennie 1%

However, we can rest assured that the creepy Cult of Murphy in the press pack are reeling in disbelief at the sight of these figures, so comprehensively had they convinced themselves that their Messiah trounced Ms Sturgeon on Tuesday.  Yes, guys, he was a distant third - behind even the leader of the Scottish Tories.

I mentioned last night my amusement at the antics of Ross Clark of the Spectator, who was so dismayed by the absence of instant polls after Tuesday's debate that he decided to invent some and declare Jim Murphy the winner of them.  But that pales into insignificance in comparison with this tweet from Iain Martin just after the debate finished, which is surely destined to go down in history as the finest ever display of comically un-self-aware Murphy devotion -

"Twitter full of desperate Nats saying Sturgeon won debate.  It's that cult thing again.  Even when leader loses, claim victory. Creepy."

Iain was last seen barricading himself into a quiet pantry, and is expected to emerge in a few weeks.

I've no idea why he's feeling so chastened, though.  Surely the explanation for this poll is obvious - 56% of the entire population of Scotland are "desperate" members of the Sturgeon "cult"!  A whole nation of brainwashed zombies!  Now that really is creepy, Iain.  Creepy on stilts.

SNP lead by 14% in the second subsample to be wholly conducted after the 'Frenchgate' smear

The Scottish subsample from today's Britain-wide YouGov poll, conducted yesterday and the day before, shows : SNP 42%, Labour 28%, Conservatives 18%, Liberal Democrats 6%, UKIP 4%, Greens 2%.  This is the kind of result that would have looked entirely typical until the methodological change that YouGov introduced yesterday, but it's now a touch harder to interpret.

For the first time that I can remember in a long, long time, the political weighting in a GB-wide YouGov poll has seen the SNP vote scaled up in real terms - only by a small amount, but it's still a very different story from the routine downweighting we've been used to.  Unlike yesterday, though, the new likelihood to vote filter hasn't boosted the SNP - with or without it, they lead by 42% to 28%.

It really is quite frustrating that the mists of a methodological adjustment have descended at exactly the moment we are searching to see if anything fundamental has changed.  But we'll shortly have more clarity, because a full-scale Scottish poll from YouGov is coming very soon, possibly tonight, possibly tomorrow.  It's very difficult to know what to expect from it - taking account of the new methodology in the GB-wide polls, the subsample figures might be pointing to a small reduction in the SNP's enormous lead, or they might just as easily be pointing to no change at all.  We'll see.

The Scottish leaders' debates demonstrate why "rules" shouldn't be considered a dirty word

I've heard one or two people (mostly from south of the border, oddly enough) suggest that the two Scottish leaders' debates this week were somehow superior to the "sterile" Britain-wide debate in Salford last week.  Now it's true that the Salford debate had its limitations - you had four members of the audience asking elementary questions and being treated like little Gods for the next thirty minutes.

"Thank you Jonny for your question, it's such an important one for hard-working families and for our whole country.  And you're absolutely right, Jonny, I agree with you so much, Jonny, and I pay homage and tribute to myself for recognising that Jonny is so right.  I remember your name, Jonny, it's been twenty seconds since you asked your question, but I still remember your name, and I want you to know, Jonny, that even though I will have to stop speaking soon and give someone else a go, and even though it will probably be five whole minutes before I get a chance to speak again, when I do get that chance again, Jonny, I will be calling you Jonny, because I will remember your name even then.  That's how important your question is to me, Jonny, and I want to thank you for all you've done for our country tonight."

But I think that was a price worth paying for all seven leaders being given a relatively equal chance, not being talked over (for the most part), and not being unfairly advantaged by one-sided applause or jeering (for the most part).  That's where the Scottish debates have fallen short - they haven't always allowed the arguments to be fairly put and fairly tested.  Viewers thankfully have a strong sense of justice, and the coordinated attempts to shout Nicola Sturgeon down tonight will have angered a lot of neutrals - however, that effect would have been even more devastating for Jim Murphy if he hadn't been partly let off the hook by the distorting "social proof" of an army of Labour partisans in the audience making their presence felt.

If you can guarantee that the audience will be politically balanced, then fine - allowing them to intervene has an enriching effect.  But the lesson of tonight is that providing such a guarantee may be utterly impossible.  I defy anyone to suggest that anything even approaching 45% of the audience in Aberdeen were Yes voters.  As Gillian Martin hinted at on Twitter, it may not be the BBC's fault in this case - Labour may simply have cynically organised people to pose as neutrals and supporters of other parties when they filled in their application forms.  (And the fact that there are enough Labour zealots out there to pull that stunt off puts a rather different complexion on the hoary old myth about nationalist infiltration of polling panels.)

The presence of Hugh Pennington as an "ordinary member of the audience" when he has been a household name for two decades, and when he appeared in a Better Together ad only last year, raises a few question marks to say the least.  There are also strong rumours on social media that the young woman in last night's audience who claimed to have been won over on the spot by Jim Murphy may in fact be a long-standing Labour activist.

I'm glad to say that Nicola kept her cool throughout (perhaps learning from the head-to-head with Johann Lamont last year) and emerged with enormous credit and dignity.  She was the clear winner tonight, just as she was last night - but of course it remains to be seen whether the creepy journalistic cult of Murphy will take advantage of the absence of instant polls, and insist once again that the Earth is flat.

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As a particularly barking mad illustration of the above point, Ross Clark wrote the following a few hours ago at the Spectator -

"Having impressed a UK-wide audience in the seven-leader ITV debate last week, [Sturgeon's] reception at the Scottish version was far more muted, with some instant polls suggesting a narrow victory for Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy."

Hmmm. There were no instant polls, and yet Murphy seemingly managed to win some of them. See what I mean about a cult?

Still, it appears his "victory" in these non-existent "polls" was only "narrow", so at least his fan club in the press are keepin' it real.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Dramatic BBC poll shows huge support for a new independence referendum within the next FIVE years - and most voters want far more powers for the Scottish Parliament than is on offer from either Cameron or Miliband

The BBC have released details of a Scottish 'political priorities' poll they commissioned from Ipsos-Mori.  It's disappointing to have to say this, but the way the results have been presented is very misleading.  The finding that leaps out at me is that a whopping 32% of respondents give an independence referendum within the next five years a 10/10 rating - ie. they think it is "very important" that it should happen.  The only policy positions that are rated "very important" by a slightly higher number of people are -

* Give the Scottish Parliament full control of income tax (34%)
* Give the Scottish Parliament full control of welfare benefits (35%)
* Give the Scottish Parliament the power to increase benefits and old age pensions (38%)
* Guarantee that old age pensions will rise over the next five years (37%)
* Stop energy companies from increasing prices for 20 months (41%)
* Increase the minimum wage for those aged 21 and over from £6.50 to £7.85 an hour (43%)
* Stop immigrants from the rest of the EU claiming benefits until they have been in the UK for at least four years (33%)
* Ensure authorities cannot access personal data unless an individual is suspected of taking part in an illegal activity (36%)

So of the eight policy positions that are even more wildly popular than an early independence referendum, three involve giving vastly more powers to the Scottish Parliament (and certainly more than are on offer from any of the London parties).  That does not look to me like a self-government genie that has been forced back into its bottle.

There are no less than thirteen policy positions that are rated by fewer people as "very important" than a second independence referendum within the next five years.  They are -

* Impose a limit on the number of people coming to live in the UK (29%)
* Hold a referendum to ask people whether they wish to stay in or leave the EU (27%)
* Increase the amount spent on the armed forces (20%)
* Give the Scottish Parliament control of all areas of policy apart from foreign affairs and defence (28%)
* Bring the railways into public ownership (23%)
* Increase spending on public services even if that means the deficit doesn't get eliminated by the end of the next parliament in 2020 (13%)
* Eliminate the deficit by the end of the next parliament in 2020 even if that means reduced spending on public services (4%)
* Reduce the amount the government borrows by cutting spending rather than by increasing taxes (10%)
* Put a cap on the total amount of welfare benefits paid to a household (19%)
* Increase the top rate of tax to 50p in the pound for those earning more than £150,000 a year (26%)
* Charge better-off older people for some things which are currently free to all older people (10%)
* Renew and upgrade Trident, Britain's nuclear deterrent (8%)
* Reduce taxes even if that means cutting public services (3%)

There is also one policy that is rated very important by exactly the same proportion of respondents (32%) as an early second independence referendum - namely a mansion tax.

Of course it's not just the respondents that gave a 10/10 (very important) rating to the various policies who count.  As we've discussed before in relation to ICM, polls that use a scale of 1-10 are extremely problematical, because in practice most people who want to give an "exact middle" rating will generally tend to give a 5 - even though technically that is on the lower end of the scale.  Like ICM and Professor Curtice, Ipsos-Mori seem to have mistaken their respondents for statisticians, and are assuming that everyone realised that 6 is as close to the middle of the scale as 5.  This, for example, is how they summarise the results on the referendum issue -

Hold another referendum on independence within the next five years :

7-10 (High priority) : 48%
5-6 (Medium priority) : 10%
1-4 (Low priority) : 42%

But if you group the results in the way that real people actually approach a 1-10 scale, this is how they look -

6-10 (High priority) : 51%
5 (Medium priority) : 7%
1-4 (Low priority) : 42%

There are a couple of other problems with the way the poll is being presented (particularly by the BBC, but to some extent also by Ipsos-Mori themselves).  The first is that it isn't being sufficiently flagged up that the rider of "within the next five years" was added to the independence referendum issue, but only to a small minority of the other policy positions that were put to respondents.  In other words, it had to clear a higher hurdle - we know from other polls that there are plenty of people out there who regard an independence referendum as a priority within ten years, but not within five. And yet in this poll those people will have been misleadingly grouped within the "low priority" category.  In particular, it's impossible to make a fair comparison between the results relating to a second independence referendum and those relating to an EU referendum, because the "five years" rider was added to one but not to the other.

The other problem is that the BBC are only reporting the average rating that all respondents give to each policy position - which leaves a second independence referendum within five years with a rating of 5.6, lower than most other policies.  But this only comes about because opinions on the subject are so polarised - no fewer than 31% of respondents give it a 1/10 rating (ie, "it should never happen"), thereby pulling the average way down.  In a democracy, what really matters is whether a majority of people want something to happen - the strength of feeling among the minority who don't want it to happen is certainly of interest, but it doesn't negate the majority view.

What is less controversial about the reporting of the poll is that support for more powers for the Scottish Parliament is absolutely overwhelming, and goes way beyond the Smith Commission proposals.  Even using Ipsos-Mori's dubious definition of what constitutes a high priority rating (anything between 7 and 10 on the 1-10 scale), a massive 57% of respondents give high priority to full-blown Devo Max, ie. the transfer of all powers apart from foreign affairs and defence.  Needless to say there is even stronger support for specific powers to be devolved, rising to a peak of 69% of respondents who give high priority to Holyrood being given the power to increase benefits and old age pensions.

I'm sure a few eyebrows will be wryly raised at a BBC poll that omits a specific question on how high a priority the devolution of broadcasting is, although to be fair that issue is technically covered by the Devo Max question - ie. 57% of respondents implicitly give high priority to regulation of the BBC and other broadcasters being transferred to the Scottish Parliament.

Je suis désolé, Monsieur Jackanory, but the SNP's showing in the first post-Easter YouGov subsample suggests the "Frenchgate" smear may not have had the desired effect

After a wait of several days, we at last have the first Scottish subsample from a GB-wide poll to have been entirely conducted after the Telegraph's smearing of Nicola Sturgeon (the previous two were only partly conducted after the crucial moment on Friday night).  The new YouGov poll is bang up-to-date, with fieldwork conducted yesterday and the day before, and the Scottish subsample shows :

SNP 43%, Labour 33%, Conservatives 12%, UKIP 6%, Liberal Democrats 4%, Greens 2%

Labour's share is admittedly at the extreme upper end of their normal range, but there's no reason to suppose that they've taken any votes back from the SNP, who at 43% are polling normally and strongly.  Unfortunately, though, it's much more difficult than before to interpret the meaning of 'normal', because YouGov have quietly revised their methodology for GB-wide polls, and the SNP are no longer being weighted down - which always used to happen as a matter of routine.  (The political weighting is now based on voting intention from a few weeks ago, rather than on antiquated party ID target figures derived from 2010.  Likelihood to vote is also being taken into account, which modestly boosts the SNP from 41% to 43%.)

So we're going to need a few more subsamples to get a clearer picture - but, as of yet, there's still no cause for alarm.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Scottish Labour's entire election strategy, RIP

Jim Murphy is a mumbler, so correct me if I misheard him, but I'm pretty sure that he promised at the end of the STV debate that Labour would vote against a Tory Queen's Speech.  If we can take him at his word, then it means that Nicola Sturgeon has been right all along when she's said this -

"If there are more SNP and Labour MPs than there are Tory MPs, we can lock the Tories out of power even if they're the largest single party."

And it means that Jim Murphy has been plain wrong all along when he's said this -

"The largest party gets to form the government."

End of story.  Scottish Labour have just destroyed their whole election strategy, but in truth they had no choice.  The contradiction at the heart of it was so laughably obvious that it just wasn't sustainable - not even with the help of a lovestruck press who think Murphy is the Messiah.

And judging from Bernard Ponsonby's bizarre summary of the press room's verdict on the debate, they really do still think he's the Messiah - in defiance of all the evidence.  Murphy didn't have a meltdown, but he was clearly third-best out of four tonight - and with all due respect, that's not the place where you expect to find a Messiah.

Bottom of the heap was of course Willie Rennie, but he can at least console himself by reflecting on his unintentional comic genius.  He told a member of the audience that the Lib Dems' achievement in government was mainly to stop the Tories being quite as evil as they otherwise would have been (wouldn't it have been a better idea not to put them in power in the first place?) - plus of course "all the other great things" that the coalition have done.  I'm sure we can all agree that those great things are so obvious he didn't even need to waste our time by naming them - and thankfully he didn't.

Above all else, let's not forget his gaffe of the century at the very end...

"Vote for everything.  Vote Lib Dem."

Send it victorious! Happy and glorious! Long to reassure and calm us! God save our bi-weekly Populus subsample!

It's just our flippin' luck that the smearing of Nicola Sturgeon occurred at the start of the Easter weekend, which was the only point between early January and the general election when we'd have to wait several days for proper polling data to come through.  Or, as a Labour supporter put it on Twitter last night -


Quite so.  We do, however, finally have a second Scottish subsample from a GB-wide poll that was conducted partly after "Frenchgate".  Populus' fieldwork started on April 2nd (the day of the leaders' debate) and finished yesterday, and the subsample shows : SNP 45%, Labour 27%, Conservatives 14%, Liberal Democrats 11%, UKIP 2%, Greens 1%.

Those numbers are entirely typical of what Populus have been showing since their big methodological change at the start of the year.  The YouGov subsample conducted on Friday and Saturday also showed entirely normal results.  So as of yet we have no reason whatever to suppose that the SNP's position has been damaged in any way, although to say that with real confidence we'll need a few subsamples that were conducted wholly after the smearing commenced, or more ideally, a bang-up-to-date full-scale Scottish poll.

Monday, April 6, 2015

SNP lead by a commanding 17% in deeply gratifying new YouGov poll

A new full-scale YouGov poll has appeared in today's Scottish Sun...

Scottish voting intentions for the May 2015 UK general election (YouGov, 26th-31st March) :

SNP 46% (n/c)
Labour 29% (+2)
Conservatives 16% (-2)
Liberal Democrats 3% (-1)

In respect of the SNP lead, this looks like yet another 'no change' poll - the gap of 17% is firmly within the narrow range of 16-21% that YouGov have reported since the referendum.  To be fair, though, Labour's own share of 29% is higher than the 27% they've received in all four previous YouGov polls.  That could still easily be a meaningless margin-of-error effect, but if you were being ultra-generous, you might interpret it as Labour's vote strengthening very slightly, perhaps due to tactical voting from Tory supporters.  As you can see, there's no evidence at all that they're winning anyone back from the SNP.

The fieldwork dates mean this poll does not take us closer to finding out whether the smearing of Nicola Sturgeon has had any effect on the state of public opinion.  It's a bit hard to understand why the poll was held back for several days - OK, no-one could have predicted what happened in the interim (well, apart from the out of control civil service), but everyone knew the debate was coming up on April 2nd, so commissioning a poll before that and waiting to publish it afterwards seems a bit odd.

The independence question was also asked -

Should Scotland be an independent country? (Don't Knows not excluded) :

Yes 46% (+1)
No 48% (n/c)

I haven't seen the figures with Don't Knows excluded yet, but it looks like they'll most probably be Yes 49% (n/c), No 51% (n/c).

In real terms, this may well be the best showing for Yes in any YouGov poll since the referendum.  Although Yes were reported to be in an outright lead by the first two post-referendum polls, that was under a different methodology (ie. without weighting by recalled referendum vote).  If those polls had used the new methodology, it looks as if they would have shown Yes on roughly 48% with Don't Knows excluded.  So the new poll is a continuation of the well-established pattern of the Yes vote having increased markedly since the referendum, and it may even be that it has crept up still further since the start of this year.

Not that you'd be aware of that if you follow the Twitter account of good old Mike Smithson.  Naturally, he's pretending that the methodological change never happened, and that the Yes vote has slipped over the last few weeks.  Great to see Smithson spending Easter Monday doing what he does best - misleading the Westminster bubble about Scottish politics.  (By the way, he's also done what he does best by blocking me on Twitter since I last checked - I'm quite sure he'd block me from using the whole internet if he could.)

*  *  *

While we await the appearance of the full YouGov datasets (although that may not be until tomorrow), here's another random photo.  I went on a long Easter walk yesterday, and saw plenty of wildlife, including lambs and rabbits.  But I wasn't expecting to see this in my own back garden when I got back -

Incidentally, what I also spotted on the way back was a couple of Yes posters in windows that have gone back up.  I'm 99% certain they haven't been there continuously since September.

The fix that Labour have got themselves into

What Labour were (effectively) saying before Nicola Sturgeon was smeared by the Tory press : "There are two things that are MORE IMPORTANT than getting the Tories out of office.  The first is our ability to blackmail the Scottish people into voting against the SNP, by making them believe that only the largest single party can form a government.  The second is our need to be seen by Middle England to be refusing to work with the SNP.  If it is necessary to quietly help the Tories back into power in order to avoid working with the SNP, or to maintain our ability to blackmail the Scots, that will be a price worth paying.  We therefore reserve the right to abstain on a Tory Queen's Speech after the election, rather than vote against it."

What Labour were (effectively) saying after Nicola Sturgeon was smeared by the Tory press : "Boo!  Hiss!  Nasty Nicola!  Sturgeon the Snake!  There is NOTHING MORE IMPORTANT than getting the Tories out of office!  Anyone who takes a different view has BETRAYED THE PEOPLE OF SCOTLAND!"

Nicola Sturgeon : "Thankyou for changing your mind, Labour, and for agreeing with me that there is NOTHING MORE IMPORTANT than getting the Tories out of office.  In the light of your change of heart, will you now confirm that you will vote with the SNP to stop the Tories getting back into power, regardless of circumstances?  Because if you don't, you will have BETRAYED THE PEOPLE OF SCOTLAND.  That's right, isn't it?"

Labour : "Er..."

Sunday, April 5, 2015

SNP poll strongly in first YouGov subsample to have been partly conducted since Labour entered an alliance with the Tory press

There's no getting away from it - the civil service's latest sinister attempt to undermine Scottish democracy is a big moment in the campaign, and we can't rule out the possibility that it will have a significant impact on the polls (either positive or negative for the SNP) until we see hard evidence to the contrary.  Today's GB-wide YouGov poll is the first to have been partly conducted since Simon Johnson made his unpromising debut as a fiction writer (the fieldwork took place on Friday and Saturday), and the Scottish subsample shows -

SNP 44%, Labour 31%, Conservatives 16%, Liberal Democrats 6%, Greens 1%, UKIP 1%

Labour's 31% is at the upper end of their normal range, but 44% is higher than average for the SNP as well, and the 13% gap between the two parties is entirely typical.  It's very early days, and we need much more information, but there's certainly no cause for alarm so far.