Saturday, November 14, 2020

Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll: More than three-quarters of voters expect the Tories to take more powers away from the Scottish Parliament or abolish it completely - and if that happens, almost 70% will be "more likely" to support independence

Last night's results from the Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll suggested that voters think the removal of powers from the Scottish Parliament that is currently underway is in breach of "The Vow" that was so pivotal to the No side in winning the 2014 indyref.  But what of the future?  Do voters have confidence that the UK Government will nobly draw a line after the current power-grab and leave Holyrood in peace after that?  Unsurprisingly, the answer is no.

If Scotland does not become an independent country over the next ten years, and if the Conservatives remain in power at Westminster, which of the following three outcomes do you think is most likely?

The UK Conservative government will substantially increase the Scottish Parliament's powers: 23%

The UK Conservative government will substantially reduce the Scottish Parliament's powers: 55%

The UK Government will abolish the Scottish Parliament altogether: 22%


What ought to be of greatest concern to unionist strategists is that the fears over the future of devolution very much extend to the coalition of support that delivered the No vote in 2014, presumably including many voters who were swayed by the bogus assurances that the Scottish Parliament was permanent and would become much more powerful.  74% of Labour voters, 77% of Liberal Democrat voters, 67% of No voters from 2014, and 59% of people who are currently minded to vote No again, expect that Holyrood will be diminished or abolished over the coming decade. 

To me, this speaks to the strategic blunder that the Conservatives made in abandoning the so-called "respect agenda" under Ruth Davidson's leadership.  Having spent years trying to convince voters that Tory rule was not a threat to the Scottish Parliament, they suddenly noticed that devolution - or at least devolution under SNP control - was unpopular with a militant core of unionist support, and that it was therefore possible to win a few extra Tory seats by reverting to the old anti-devo or devo-sceptic posture.  But they've lost sight of the fact that the militant core of unionism is only a minority of the Scottish population, and that the pro-devolution majority are listening to the rhetoric as well.  

If the UK Conservative government substantially reduces the powers of the Scottish Parliament or abolishes the Scottish Parliament altogether, would you be more likely or less likely to support Scotland becoming an independent country?

More likely: 69%
Less likely: 31%

Once again, it's not just the Yes die-hards who are saying they would be more likely to back independence in that scenario - so are 71% of Labour voters, 59% of Liberal Democrat voters, 50% of people who voted No six years ago, 32% of those who would currently vote No, and even 27% of Conservative voters.  

Put these results together, and what have you got?  Voters believe the UK Government is likely to follow a course of action - either abolition of Holyrood or a further significant power-grab - that would clearly make a bigger Yes majority much more attainable.  That expectation may be all that is really needed, if Yes campaigners can constantly remind voters of the ongoing threat to devolution and point to the power-grab in the Internal Market Bill as an example of what may be yet to come.

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There's still more to come from the poll over the coming days - if you'd like to be the first to know, you can follow me on Twitter HERE.

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You can read my piece in The National on last night's results HERE.

VIDEO: Preview of Saturday night's questions in the Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll

Friday, November 13, 2020

Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll: Two-thirds of voters say the Internal Market BIll breaches The Vow - and demand a referendum on whether the Westminster power-grab should go ahead

You might remember that when I first floated the idea of crowdfunding another poll, my plan was to test public reactions to the Westminster power-grab that is currently underway due to the Internal Market Bill.  As it turned out, Progress Scotland had only just conducted a poll that covered the Internal Market Bill extensively, and so at that point I expected to move on to other topics instead.  However, the questions asked in the Progress Scotland poll effectively tested reactions to what people already knew about the Internal Market Bill, which obviously in most cases won't have been very much, because the mainstream media haven't exactly been falling over themselves to keep the public informed about the power-grab.  The respondents who did have a view were mostly hostile to the Bill, but there were an awful lot of people who just didn't know.  I came to the conclusion that there would be value in posing a question that briefly summarises the effect of the Bill on the devolution settlement, thus allowing us to see how people react when they're actually in the know.  I also decided to ask about the democratic principle of whether the Scottish people should get to decide in a referendum whether or not powers are removed from the Scottish Parliament - which seems to me important given that those powers are currently there because of the landslide in favour of the devolution settlement recorded in the 1997 referendum.

The UK Government is currently seeking to pass the Internal Market Bill.  The House of Lords Constitution Committee has stated that the Bill would change the current powers of the Scottish Parliament by allowing the UK Government to override laws passed in Edinburgh, by imposing new restrictions on the Scottish Government in relation to goods and services, and by removing powers from the Scottish Government on state aid.  Do you think these reductions in the Scottish Parliament's powers should only take effect if the Scottish people agree to them in a referendum?

Yes 66%
No 34%

There have been some complaints about the question wording, but I would urge everyone to read the Lords committee report and then judge for themselves whether the summary contained in the question is fair.  I would strongly contend that it is.

Support for a referendum on the power-grab cuts across the partisan divide - 87% of SNP voters, 67% of Labour voters, 49% of Liberal Democrat voters, and even 33% of Conservative voters are in favour.  Indeed, exactly half of people who voted No in the 2014 indyref think there should be a referendum before the powers are removed.

I also asked a follow-up question about whether respondents think the power-grab is consistent with the Vow that was published on the front page of the Daily Record in the week of the indyref -

Before the 2014 independence referendum, the three largest anti-independence parties issued a "Vow" promising that the Scottish Parliament is permanent.  If the changes to the Scottish Parliament's powers proposed by the Internal Market Bill take effect without the Scottish people agreeing to them in a new referendum, do you think the Vow will have been kept or broken?

The Vow will have been kept: 37%
The Vow will have been broken: 63%

The notorious unionist troll Steve Sayers loudly complained on Twitter that this question was illegitimate, on the grounds that the "permanence" part of the Vow had supposedly been honoured with wording inserted into the Scotland Act.  But the whole point is that this is a matter of interpretation - can an institution be said to be "permanent" just because it remains in existence in some form, or is it actually necessary for its existing powers to be maintained in full?  Respondents were free to express either view, and unfortunately for Sayers their interpretation of the Vow clearly differs from his.  Again, substantial numbers of non-SNP voters agree that the Vow is being betrayed - including 57% of Labour voters, 56% of Liberal Democrat voters, 34% of Conservative voters, and a remarkable 52% of No voters from 2014.

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There's still lots more to come from the poll over the coming days - if you'd like to be the first to know, you can follow me on Twitter HERE.

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You can read my piece in The National on yesterday's headline voting intention numbers HERE.

VIDEO: Preview of tonight's questions in the Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll: History made again as the pro-independence vote rises to 56% - the highest ever in a Panelbase poll, and in any online poll conducted by a BPC-affiliated firm

I seem to have set expectations sky-high with my video teaser this morning, so I hope you're all happy with this outcome - Yes have hit 56% in our latest exclusive Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll, and that's an all-time high in Panelbase polling. 

Should Scotland be an independent country? (Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll)

Yes 56% (+1) 
No 44% (-1)  

(Before Don't Knows are excluded, the figures are Yes 51%, No 40%. The fieldwork was conducted between the 5th and 11th of November, and 1020 respondents were interviewed. Percentage changes are measured from the most recent Panelbase poll, which was commissioned by Business for Scotland in August.) 

It's been obvious from social media, and also from one or two posters on the comments section of this blog, that unionists have been frantically looking for some signs of hope that the Yes majority might be narrowing slightly as the autumn wears on, and as they've continued chipping away at Nicola Sturgeon over her handling of the pandemic. They certainly won't find any such hope in this poll. Technically a 1% increase isn't statistically significant and might potentially be explained by margin of error 'noise', but anything outside a polling firm's normal range ought to make us sit up and take notice, however small the movement needed to get there. This is the eighth Panelbase poll in this calendar year, and the sequence of results for Yes is 52-49-50-52-54-54-55-56. That does not look like a Yes vote that has started to drift downwards after peaking in the summer. Quite the reverse. And it also shouldn't be forgotten that until relatively recently Panelbase were actually on the No-friendly end of the spectrum, and for several years regularly showed the Yes vote hovering in the lowly 43-45% range. We've come a long, long way since then. 

This is a landmark poll in quite a few ways - 

* It's the highest ever Yes vote in a Panelbase poll. 

* It's the highest ever Yes vote in a poll conducted online by any British Polling Council-affiliated firm. 

* It's the joint-highest ever Yes vote in any sort of credible online poll (it's only equalled by the recent JL Partners poll). 

* It's the joint second-highest Yes vote in any credible poll conducted by any firm (only surpassed by last month's famous Ipsos-Mori poll, which of course was conducted by telephone). 

Drilling into the details, we see a now-familiar pattern. Yes command the support of a very impressive 42% of people who voted Labour in 2019, and 28% of people who voted Liberal Democrat - the latter can probably be explained by the impossibility of Scotland rejoining the EU if it remains part of the UK. Almost one-quarter (23%) of No voters from the 2014 referendum are now in the Yes column, whereas only 8% of Yes voters have moved in the opposite direction. And the gender gap of days gone by has essentially vanished - 56% of men and 55% of women support independence. 

We also have voting intention numbers for both Westminster and Holyrood. The SNP remain in an utterly commanding position, although understandably the figures don't quite match the almost absurd heights that were recorded when Panelbase last asked these questions for the Sunday Times in the early summer.

Scottish voting intentions for Westminster: 

SNP 50% (-3) 
Conservatives 21% (n/c) 
Labour 20% (+1) 
Liberal Democrats 5% (-1) 
Greens 2% (n/a) 

Westminster seats projection (with changes from 2019): SNP 56 (+8), Conservatives 2 (-4), Labour 1 (n/c), Liberal Democrats 0 (-4) 

Scottish Parliament constituency ballot: 

SNP 53% (-2) 
Conservatives 21% (+1) 
Labour 18% (+3) 
Liberal Democrats 5% (-1) 
Greens 3% (n/c) 

Scottish Parliament regional list ballot: 

SNP 46% (-4) 
Conservatives 20% (+2) 
Labour 17% (+2) 
Greens 8% (n/c) 
Liberal Democrats 6% (n/c)  

Scottish Parliament seats projection (with changes from 2016): SNP 71 (+8), Conservatives 25 (-6), Labour 19 (-5), Greens 9 (+3), Liberal Democrats 5 (n/c) 

So in contrast to the recent Survation poll, the Tories are clinging on to second place, but it's reasonable to suggest they're now in some danger of ceding their position as the largest opposition party next May. 

A few days ago, you might have seen a rather amusing meltdown from several hard-core unionists on Twitter, who had taken this poll and were angrily brandishing screenshots of the 'shockingly biased' supplementary questions (most of which were written by me, but Panelbase also added on a few questions for a different client). I'm totally comfortable with the wording of those questions, which you'll be seeing over the coming days, but for now what I'd say is this: regardless of your opinion of those questions, it makes literally no difference whatsoever to the credibility of the headline Yes/No results, because Panelbase - like all reputable pollsters - always ask the main voting intention questions before any of the other questions. So respondents cannot be skewed or influenced in any way.

You may have seen that, just by chance, YouGov conducted an independence poll with almost identical fieldwork dates, and showed a slightly different result, with the Yes vote dipping a little from 53% to 51%.  The fact that we have two polls conducted at the same time, with both showing minor margin of error changes in different directions, suggests to me that the situation on the ground has remained pretty steady since Yes reached its new high watermark during the summer.  So as enjoyable as it is watching the likes of Andrew Bowie 'celebrating' a poll showing a Yes majority, they're probably barking up the wrong tree.

There are plenty more results to come from the Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll - if you'd like to be the first to hear about them, you can follow me on Twitter HERE.

VIDEO PREVIEW: Scot Goes Pop poll on independence incoming

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Who is still betting on Trump to win an election he's already lost?

Just a quick update on my earlier post about the inexplicable fact that the betting markets were still implying that Donald Trump had a 5% chance of winning an election he's already lost.  I would have expected common sense to kick in at some point, but incredibly it's gone the other way - at the time of writing, Trump is now implied to have around a 9% chance of winning.  Which begs the question, who on earth is placing these obviously doomed bets on Trump, and why are they doing it?

Someone suggested on Twitter that it might simply be that people who successfully bet on Biden are closing out their position, which effectively counts as bets on Trump.  That's technically a possibility, but it doesn't really make sense, because any such phenomenon will have been balanced out (perhaps more than balanced out) by people who placed pre-election bets on Trump and now think it's Christmas because they were somehow able to retrieve some of their stake by cashing out long after the election result was known.  

It must be that there are an awful lot of true believers out there who actually accept the fairy-tales about industrial-scale fraud and who think the Supreme Court will overturn the election results in three, four or five states and that Trump will be inaugurated for a second term in January.  When people are behaving as irrationally as that on betting markets, there's a golden opportunity to cash in.  To pretty much remove any risk, the thing to do would be to place a lay bet against Trump (as opposed to a positive bet for Biden), and that will cover any unlikely scenario in which something happens to Biden.  All you'd need is for Trump not to be declared winner of the election, which he won't be, and you'll have locked in a 9% profit.  I'm still not tempted to do it, simply because a huge stake would be required to get a half-decent return.  But this is just about the closest thing you'll ever see to free money.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Return of the Poll of Polls shows an average Yes vote of almost 55%

Long term readers of the blog will recall that in the run-up to the 2014 indyref, I regularly updated the Scot Goes Pop Poll of Polls, which differed from other Polls of Polls in one key respect - it only included the most recent poll from each individual polling firm.  Because there were such wide disparities between the No-friendly and Yes-friendly firms, it seemed obvious to me that you'd get wildly misleading trends if you went back and forth from a sample that was 75% comprised of YouGov polls to one that was 75% comprised of ICM or Panelbase polls.  I eliminated that problem by ensuring the balance between firms remained exactly the same in each update.

Since 2014, it's rarely been feasible to apply the same method, because there usually haven't been enough independence polls from a broad enough range of pollsters.  But for obvious reasons, the last few weeks have seen a flurry of polls, and they've come from no fewer than six different firms - two of which (Savanta ComRes and JL Partners) had never polled on independence before.  Here's what the average of the most recent poll of each of the six shows...


Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 54.8%  
No 45.2%

There's no longer the chasm between Yes-friendly and No-friendly firms that we used to see a few years ago.  But for what it's worth, the most No-friendly firms at the moment are YouGov and Savanta ComRes (both of which have Yes on 53%) and the most Yes-friendly firm is Ipsos-Mori (which has Yes on 58%).  Curiously, Survation are currently closer (54%) to the No-friendly end of the spectrum, even though we've always tended to regard them as a relatively Yes-friendly firm.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Why don't the media hold the Tories accountable for *their* past statements on when and how a second independence referendum can be held?

We all know why the claims that the 2014 indyref was a "once in a generation" vote are bogus. The words were not contained or implied in the Edinburgh Agreement, and whenever Alex Salmond used them, he was always at pains to point out that he was only expressing a "personal view" about likely timescales, rather than making a commitment that the SNP would be bound to for decades to come. Indeed, on one occasion when Jeremy Paxman pressed him to go further, he pointed out that no government can bind its successors, and added "don't be daft". And as no less a person than Professor John Curtice pointed out just the other day, it's also not possible for an SNP leader to bind the electorate - it's up to voters to decide how often they want to have referendums, and their democratic rights cannot be curtailed by a personal opinion that one particular politician happened to hold six years ago. 

But even if it wasn't a lie to say that the SNP closed off any possibility of a second indyref for the next twenty years and that they aren't allowed to change their minds, it's reasonable to ask: why aren't the Tories held to the same standard? Here are clear statements that Tory politicians have made since 2014 - 

* Ruth Davidson, in her capacity as Scottish Conservative leader, said that it would be constitutionally improper for Westminster to block an independence referendum if pro-independence parties won a majority of seats in a Holyrood election on a manfesto commitment to hold a vote. 

* Alister Jack, in his capacity as Secretary of State for Scotland, said that the 2021 Scottish Parliament election would determine whether a second independence referendum is held. Just to leave us in no doubt about what he was getting at and the full implications of it, he specified (absurdly) that only an overall single-party majority for the SNP would be deemed a trigger for a referendum, and that a combined majority for different pro-independence parties would not be sufficient.

Why wasn't it the end of history when the Tories made those statements? Why do the media allow them to continue making up the rules as they go on, without holding them accountable for crystal-clear undertakings they have already given? Why, in a nutshell, is it only SNP politicians who aren't allowed to change their minds? 

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Talking of glaring contradictions, I was bemused by this summary of Pete Wishart's reasoning for rejecting a 'Plan B' - 

"SNP critics of Plan B argue the strategy of holding out for a Section 30 order is working with support for independence at record levels. They contend if the PM is not going to grant a Section 30 he is unlikely to enter independence talks." 

The same is true in reverse, surely - if you believe that the PM is unlikely to enter independence talks even if there is a mandate for independence, it's also phenomenally improbable that he will grant a Section 30 order simply because there is a mandate for a referendum and a pro-indy majority in the polls. That makes the case for Plan B unanswerable - if you're conceding that you're going to be facing a brick wall of intransigence in Downing Street, you'll plainly be much better equipped if you have an outright mandate for independence in your pocket, rather than merely a 79th mandate for a referendum. 

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Sunday, November 8, 2020

I'm not tempted, but just for your consideration...