However, after the poll was commissioned, I started to become a bit nervous, for two reasons. Firstly, Survation were somewhat less favourable for Yes than Panelbase were last year, and their final poll of 2020 was particularly tight - with Don't Knows included it was practically a dead heat (Yes 44%, No 42%), which means that just the slightest of swings could have brought to an end the long sequence of eighteen Yes-majority polls in a row. And a small drop is something that can very easily happen simply due to random sampling variation. Secondly, by unfortunate coincidence the fieldwork got underway just after the Alex Salmond / Nicola Sturgeon controversy broke. So I genuinely thought there was a risk of ending up with a narrow No lead or a 50 / 50 split.
I'm thrilled to say that hasn't happened. Welcome to the nineteenth poll in a row that says Scotland wants to be an independent country.
Should Scotland be an independent country?
Yes 51% (-1)
No 49% (+1)
(Survation poll for Scot Goes Pop, conducted 11th-13th January 2021. Fieldwork was online, with 1020 respondents interviewed. Before Don't Knows are excluded, the figures are Yes 45% (+1), No 43% (+1), Don't Know 12% (-2).)
In the overall scheme of things I'm not concerned about the narrowness of the result - the likelihood is that it's simply a case of different firms producing slightly different results due to methodological factors. Panelbase, ComRes and Ipsos-Mori seem to be the Yes-friendly firms these days, with Survation and YouGov a touch more favourable for No. But the bottom line is that all firms, whether Yes-friendly or No-friendly, are as of this moment united in saying that Yes are ahead. And with a very recent Savanta ComRes poll putting Yes on a heady 57%, there's no reason to assume that the lead is necessarily a narrow one.
As for the 1% drop in Yes support in today's poll, that's not statistically significant, so it's wrong to jump to the conclusion that the Salmond/Sturgeon episode has had an impact - the change may well just be meaningless margin of error "noise". Indeed, with Don't Knows included there's no swing to No at all - a 2% Yes lead from December remains intact, and there's even been a 1% increase in the Yes vote. However, I believe there are two more polls in the field at the moment, so when we have those we'll have a better idea of the trend. My own guess is that public opinion has remained pretty static recently.
A few nuggets from the datasets:
* The traditional gender gap has been completely reversed. There's a big Yes lead among women of 55% to 45%, while men break 53% to 47% for No. I would imagine the Sturgeon factor has played a big part in turning the female vote around.
* The best age group for Yes is 25-34 year olds, who break in favour of independence by the astonishing margin of 78-22. The anti-indy campaign had better hope the old adage about people becoming more conservative as they get older is true. If it isn't, independence is virtually inevitable sooner or later.
* Survation provide a regional breakdown in their datasets, and unsurprisingly the most pro-indy region is Glasgow (59% to 41%). Next best are the Highlands & Islands (56% to 44%). The best region for No is, of course, the South, with figures of 43% Yes, 57% No.
* Here's a factor that may go a long way towards explaining why Survation are less favourable to Yes than Panelbase - they've found that only 24% of Labour voters are pro-Yes. Panelbase typically find a much higher figure than that.
* 54% of Remain voters would back independence, along with a surprisingly healthy 38% of Leave voters.
There's a lot more to come from the poll - Holyrood voting intentions, Westminster voting intentions, and no fewer than seven supplementary questions, some with pretty sensational results. (A lot of them are Brexit-themed, as you'd expect.) If you'd like to be the first to know, you can follow me on Twitter HERE.