Friday, November 16, 2018

Rare GB-wide Panelbase poll has Labour and the Tories locked together at 40% apiece

This isn't strictly a Scot Goes Pop exclusive, because the figures were attached to the Scottish Independence Foundation press release that went out several hours ago.  But as far as I can see no media outlet, even on Twitter, has yet picked up on the fact that the new poll includes the first GB-wide voting intention figures from Panelbase since last year.

Westminster voting intentions (GB-wide, Panelbase):

Labour 40%
Conservatives 40%
Liberal Democrats 8%
SNP 4%
Greens 3%
Plaid Cymru 1%

Which is all very interesting, because of course most other polling firms have been showing a modest Conservative lead recently.  It may be that Panelbase's methodology, like Survation's, is closer to the Labour-friendly end of the spectrum.  (And, as we all remember, Survation's results were rubbished in the run-up to last year's election, but they ultimately turned out to be the most accurate.)

Christian Wright asked a question on the previous thread about the treatment of EU citizens in current polling, which was rather uncanny, because I was always planning to address that very point tonight.  At the weekend, when I saw the original datasets from Panelbase, I queried whether EU citizens and 16 and 17 year olds had been included in the sample - because it seemed to me if they had been, that in itself could be sufficient to explain why the Remain vote in Scotland had apparently risen slightly from 62% at the 2016 referendum to 64% now.  I didn't see Panelbase's response, but it was read out to me.  If I understood it correctly, they said that 16 and 17 year olds were excluded from the EU referendum question, but that they were relying upon a "how likely are you to vote?" question to screen EU citizens out.  That seemed to me to be a bit unsatisfactory, because it means that you'd need all EU citizens to be fully aware of their right to vote in Scottish elections, but not in Westminster elections or in any repeat EU referendum, to be sure that you're interviewing the right sample for each question.  It's highly likely, I would suggest, that some EU citizens are unclear about the likely legal position.  So they may, for example, be wrongly screening themselves out of indyref polling, but also wrongly including themselves in EU referendum polling.

Later, Panelbase agreed to recalculate the results in line with the concern I had raised.  To be perfectly honest, I was hearing about all of this second-hand, so I couldn't quite make sense of which particular concern they were addressing or exactly how they had addressed it.  Apparently the methodological tweak made no difference at all on the GB-wide numbers, and only a 1% difference on the Scottish numbers - but, again, I'm not quite clear about which question the 1% difference occurred on.

The important point here, of course, is that it seems intuitively likely that EU citizens have swung disproportionately from No to Yes on the independence question because of Brexit.  If independence polls aren't incorporating EU citizens correctly, it may be that there's a little something going on beneath the surface that the polls are currently unable to detect.

Here are the other numbers from the Panelbase poll...

Should Scotland be an independent country? (Scotland only):

Yes 45% (+1)
No 55% (-1)

Westminster voting intention (Scotland only):

SNP 37% (-1)
Conservatives 28% (+1)
Labour 25% (+1)
Liberal Democrats 7% (+1)
Greens 2% (n/c)
UKIP 2% (-1)

EU referendum vote (GB-wide):

Remain 53%
Leave 47%

EU referendum vote (Scotland only):

Remain 64% (+1)
Leave 36% (-1)

Holyrood constituency ballot:

SNP 39% (-2)
Conservatives 27% (+1)
Labour 24% (+3)
Liberal Democrats 6% (n/c)
Greens 3% (n/c)
UKIP 1% (-1)

Holyrood regional list ballot:

SNP 37% (+2)
Conservatives 26% (n/c)
Labour 22% (+2)
Greens 6% (-1)
Liberal Democrats 6% (-2)
UKIP 2% (n/c)

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Thursday, November 15, 2018

Palpably pleasing Panelbase poll puts support for independence at eighteen month high

It's not very often that I'm given advance sight of a full-scale Scottish poll, so I was very grateful to the Scottish Independence Foundation for giving me a sneak peek a few days ago at the new Panelbase poll they've funded.  I was able to contribute some analysis for the press release they've just sent out.  Of most interest is the fact that support for independence is at its highest level in any Panelbase poll for eighteen months.

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 45% (+1)
No 55% (-1)

In normal circumstances, 45% would be a disappointing Yes showing, but it's high by recent Panelbase standards.  Paradoxically, what used to be the most Yes-friendly polling firm during the indyref is now very much on the No-friendly end of the spectrum.  Yes support has been hovering at 43% or 44% in Panelbase polls since the spring of 2017.  Obviously a small increase to 45% is not statistically significant and may be caused by random sampling variation, but the fact that this result is even possible gives considerable reassurance after a recent Survation poll that put Yes on an unusually low 45%.  (Survation's normal Yes range is a bit higher than Panelbase's.)  So it may well be that Panelbase are just randomly showing a slightly higher Yes vote than usual, and that Survation just randomly showed a slightly lower Yes vote than usual, and that in reality nothing much has changed at all.

Slightly embarrassingly, even though I've already seen the Westminster and Holyrood numbers, I can't actually post them just at the moment, because I'm on my mobile phone and I can't seem to open the Excel file properly!  However, from memory, the SNP are on 37% for Westminster, which is a statistically insignificant 1% down on the last Panelbase poll.  Although 37% is exactly what they received at last year's general election, their lead over both the Tories and Labour is slightly higher than it was in June 2017.  On a uniform swing, the 9-point lead over the Tories would be enough to win back Stirling, and the 12-point lead over Labour would be enough to win back four Labour seats.  North-East Fife would remain on a knife-edge between the SNP and Lib Dems, meaning that the SNP would end up with either 39 or 40 seats, up from the current 35.

On Holyrood voting intentions, the SNP are two points down on the constituency ballot since the last Panelbase poll, but two points up on the all-important list ballot.  I ran the numbers through a couple of seat projection models, and they both put the SNP on 57 seats (significantly better than the 52 seats projected by the Record from their recent Survation poll) and the Greens on 4 seats.  So the pro-independence parties would have 61 seats in combination - just 4 short of maintaining their overall majority.

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New BOMBSHELL Scottish poll suggests Ruth Davidson could face ANGUISH in snap election

As you may remember, one of the points of confusion about Channel 4's recent Survation poll was a set of Scottish voting intention figures for Westminster, which eventually proved to be merely a subsample (albeit an unusually large one) that hadn't been correctly weighted.  However, Survation have now reweighted the results in line with Scottish target figures, and it turns out that the position for the SNP is as favourable as it originally appeared.

Scottish voting intentions for Westminster (Survation, 20th October - 2nd November):

SNP 40% (+4)
Conservatives 27% (n/c)
Labour 23% (-3) 
Liberal Democrats 7% (n/c)

The percentage changes listed above are measured from a Survation poll for the Daily Record that was conducted just slightly earlier (with a small amount of overlap between the fieldwork for the two polls).  I have a feeling Survation would probably argue that the Record and Channel 4 polls are not directly comparable because they were conducted slightly differently, but at the end of the day they're both online polls weighted to Scottish target figures.

The Record poll caused some concern by showing an unusually low SNP vote by Survation's normal standards.  Many of us wondered at the time if it was just a freakish result caused by random sampling variation, and the swift recovery in the new poll would tend to support that theory.  So the 4% gain for the SNP should really be seen as a reversion to the mean rather than as real progress - the last-but-one online Survation poll had the SNP on 41%, and the one before that had them on 42%.  Nevertheless, if replicated at a general election, the new figures would see the SNP making substantial seat gains, especially at Labour's expense.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

We're about to see the difference between a real political party (the DUP) and a branch office (the Scottish Tories)

So there's a deal in principle between the UK government and the EU, but whether it will ever get through the various stages of ratification remains to be seen.  It seems likely that the text must incorporate another convoluted fudge on the Irish backstop, with Northern Ireland being treated differently from the rest of the UK in a way that drives a coach and horses through Theresa May's supposed red line, but with some sort of political commitment that the backstop can never come into play and therefore doesn't matter.  I suspect that won't be good enough for the DUP, and that in turn will put the Scottish Tories in a very awkward place.

After last year's general election, one of the political correspondents on TV (I think it may have been Faisal Islam, but correct me if I'm wrong) notoriously claimed that the Scottish Tories were now "technically the fourth largest party in the Commons".  That was nonsensical on all sorts of levels - even if you could somehow justify regarding branch offices as separate parties, Welsh Labour would still comfortably outnumber the Scottish Tories.  But to be charitable, maybe he misspoke and intended to say "effectively" rather than "technically"- ie. he believed that Ruth Davidson combined a certainty of purpose with a hold over her Westminster group, and that they would therefore act in practice like a distinct party.  If so, we're now about to be treated to yet another demonstration that he couldn't have been more wrong.  Mundell and Davidson will swiftly backtrack on their supposed threats to resign on the basis that a worthless political assurance can be treated as gospel, whereas Arlene Foster will see the situation as it actually is and will stand her ground.  And that's the difference between being a real party leader and a puppet.

A couple of other points.  We're now closer than ever before to the clarity on Brexit that Nicola Sturgeon was looking for before making an announcement on a second independence referendum.  It won't be clarity on the long-term shape of a post-Brexit economic relationship, but it could be clarity on where the UK will find itself on 30th March next year, which I presume is all she can realistically hope for.  Could we be just weeks away from the First Minister pressing for a Section 30 order once again?

And secondly, what happens if the DUP pull the plug and there's a snap general election?  Can the Scottish Tories fit both "No2Indyref2" and "No2EURef2" on their campaigns posters in the north-east?  If not, which message do they prioritise?  Decisions, decisions...

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