There's still no clarity on whether yesterday's YouGov poll showed a 50/50 split on independence after Don't Knows are excluded, or whether (as some newspapers claim) it was Yes 49%, No 51%. Neither do we yet know whether 16 and 17 year olds were interviewed for the poll. I checked the What Scotland Thinks
website, which often has access to information that isn't otherwise in the public domain, and it states that only over-18s were polled - which, if true, would cast doubt on the headline numbers and might suggest that Yes have been slightly underestimated. But a commenter on this blog's previous thread pointed out that there is a discrepancy in the datasets between the total number of respondents and the combined total of respondents from all of the listed age groups. The most logical explanation is that there are also respondents from an additional age group, which would obviously have to be 16 and 17 year olds.
What I can say for certain, though, is that a Scotsman
article about the poll (which has been online for five days because the results on some of the supplementary questions were released early) contains a series of extraordinarily wild inaccuracies. It's tempting to call them lies, although I suspect they're probably inadvertent blunders caused by either sloppiness or wishful thinking, or possibly by a blend of both. The writer seems to have allowed himself to be duped by a propaganda press release, or perhaps he just didn't bother to read it carefully enough. This is one of the offending segments -
"Half of Scots (50 per cent) blame the SNP for the divisions, according to the findings. The prospect of a second referendum is blamed by 41 per cent of respondents, while 26 per cent say everyone bears some responsibility."
Not only is that untrue, it's not even within light-years of the truth. The YouGov datasets make abundantly clear that only respondents who said that Scotland is divided (57% of the sample) were asked the follow-up question about "blame". That means only around 28% or 29% of Scots "blame the SNP for divisions" - not 50% as the Scotsman
claim. The prospect of a second independence referendum is actually "blamed" by around 23% of the sample - not 41% as the Scotsman
claim. And only around 15% say everyone is "responsible" - not 26% as the Scotsman
Even the headline of the piece is misleading, to put it charitably. It states: "Half of Scots believe independence and Brexit division will last generation, finds poll"
. Er, nope. It's not half of Scots, but just under half of the portion of the sample who think the country is divided. The correct figure for the whole sample is therefore around 26%.
That's misreporting on a truly colossal scale, and there's absolutely no excuse for it. But on past form, a correction and apology is probably extremely unlikely.
In case you're wondering about the story behind this poll, the datasets imply it was commissioned by Hanbury Strategy, which is described on Powerbase
as "a Conservative-led lobbying firm set up by ex-David Cameron adviser Ameet Gill and Brexit campaigner and former British Bankers' Association director, Paul Stephenson in September 2016. In June 2017, it hired Lizzie Loudon, former press secretary to the Prime Minister, Theresa May"
. Strangely, though, when Gordon Brown fronted the release of some of the results a few days ago, it was reported as being a poll for the think-tank Our Scottish Future. It's pretty clear that it was intended to be an anti-independence propaganda poll of some description, which might explain some of the oddities about it - the non-standard question wording, the highly unorthodox question sequence, and perhaps also the ambiguity over the headline results with Don't Knows excluded.