I can now reveal the first results of the Panelbase poll commissioned by this blog, with the very generous help of readers via the crowdfunder. First up are the headline independence numbers, which show a clear Yes majority.
Should Scotland be an independent country? (Panelbase poll for Scot Goes Pop, 28th-31st January 2020):
Yes 52% (+5)
No 48% (-5)
(Note: Before the exclusion of Don't Knows, the figures are Yes 49%, No 46%, Don't Know 6%)
That’s the best result for Yes in any poll conducted by a member firm of the British Polling Council since the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum in the summer of 2016. It’s a particularly remarkable result for a poll conducted by Panelbase, which was one of two pollsters (the other was YouGov) that in 2017 and 2018 frequently reported a Yes vote that was a little below the 45% achieved in the 2014 referendum. It’s possible that part of the reason for the turnaround is that Panelbase have now (in common, presumably, with most other firms) replaced weighting by 2017 past vote with weighting by 2019 past vote.
That means the two political weightings now applied by Panelbase are 2014 indyref vote, and 2019 general election vote. The former is still leading to a very sharp downweighting of respondents who voted Yes in the indyref – the 469 Yes voters in the unweighted sample have been scaled down to 405. There is actually quite a significant downweighting of SNP voters from the 2019 election as well, but it’s nowhere near as big an adjustment as in the last Panelbase poll that used 2017 past vote weighting. So I would guess (and it can only be a guess) that part of the swing to Yes in the poll reflects a genuine change in public opinion, and part of it can be explained by the methodological revision, which will have corrected what may have been a small but significant underestimate of the Yes vote in polls published last year.
The fieldwork was conducted entirely in the days leading up to Brexit – so it remains to be seen what impact the reality of leaving the EU will have. It could be that it will push Yes higher, although the counter-argument is that the minimal change during the transitional period could lead to a false sense of security and people saying “ah, that’s not so bad, then”.
This poll differs from YouGov’s numbers last week in suggesting that support for independence is somewhat higher among men than among women. It also suggests a significantly higher Yes support among Labour voters than YouGov reported – and if it’s true that more than one-third of the rump Labour vote in the 2019 election want Scotland to be an independent country, Richard Leonard’s headache has just got even worse. It means that Labour could have even further to fall in Scotland if they follow the ultra-unionist path advocated by certain candidates in the party’s leadership and deputy leadership elections.
Respondents who voted Labour in December 2019:
Don't Know 11%
And now to the Scottish Parliament voting intention numbers, which if anything are even more sensational.
Scottish Parliament constituency ballot:
SNP 50% (+7)
Conservatives 26% (n/c)
Labour 14% (-5)
Liberal Democrats 7% (-1)
Greens 3% (+1)
Scottish Parliament regional list ballot:
SNP 47% (+9)
Conservatives 25% (-1)
Labour 14% (-4)
Greens 7% (+1)
Liberal Democrats 7% (-2)
In recent years it’s been pretty common for Panelbase polls to suggest that the pro-independence parties might fall slightly short of a majority of seats in the 2021 election. But this poll could scarcely be more different, because the figures would almost certainly translate into a single-party overall majority for the SNP. One projection model suggests the SNP would have 67 seats, with all other parties in combination on 62. The SNP and Greens combined would push pro-indy representation up to 74 seats, leaving the unionist parties with just 55. And of course one thing that leaps out straight away is that pro-independence parties have an absolute majority of the popular vote on both ballots, which in theory leaves open the possibility of using the 2021 election to seek an outright mandate for independence itself – an idea that many people in the SNP have touted, but which so far Nicola Sturgeon doesn’t appear attracted to.
Full seats projection: SNP 67 (+4), Conservatives 32 (+1), Labour 17 (-7), Greens 7 (+1), Liberal Democrats 6 (+1)
* * *
Now that there have been three post-election polls on independence (from Survation, YouGov and Panelbase respectively), it's possible to produce a rough-and-ready 'poll of polls', and of course it's a very simple calculation. The three average out as: Yes 51%, No 49%.
There are several more questions to come from the Panelbase poll, and some of the results are pretty incredible. I had fairly modest expectations about one of the questions in particular, and my jaw dropped to the floor when I saw the outcome this morning. The remaining results will be released gradually over the coming days - if you'd like to be the first to know about them, you can follow me on Twitter HERE.