Thursday, September 16, 2021

Savanta ComRes poll suggests the rumours of the Alba Party's demise have been greatly exaggerated

A few years ago, I had a brief discussion on Twitter with the pollster Keiran Pedley (then with GfK NOP, now with Ipsos-Mori) about what I believed to be the unfair practice of polling firms failing to include one particular political party in the main menu of options that respondents are provided with, even though other parties of similar size are included.  He made the point that it wasn't about 'fairness' as such, but instead about what experience had shown to be the most accurate approach - if including that party in the main menu consistently led to an overestimate of their support, it was absolutely justified to exclude them. I'm not convinced it's quite as simple as that, because polls (absurdly) have a quasi-constitutional role these days - they're factored in to decisions about the airtime each party is entitled to, and they supposedly will determine whether or not Northern Ireland is allowed a referendum on its constitutional future.  When poll results are an integral part of the democratic process, it's arguable that poll methodology needs to be fair and even-handed as much as it needs to be accurate.

However, at least in the example I discussed with Mr Pedley, the pollsters were actually attempting to estimate support for the party in question.  If respondents indicated that they were planning to vote for "some other party", they were taken to a second menu of options in which the party was included.  A much greater problem occurs if respondents have no means at all of indicating their preference for a party - when all they can do is say "some other party" and it goes no further than that.  If decisions about airtime are made on the basis of such a poll, there's a gross unfairness, because no effort was made to measure the party's support.  And that, unfortunately, is the point we've reached with Panelbase polls of Holyrood voting intentions - the two that have been conducted since the election in May have not allowed respondents to express support for Alba in any form.  

I can't understand the rationale for that.  Although Alba didn't meet its own targets in May, it did secure 2% of the list vote, and for as long as any party is "troubling the scorer", so to speak, you'd think it's important to continue to know how well or badly it's doing.  Alba also of course has two Members of Parliament and a significant number of local councillors, which makes it of greater interest than most parties that receive 2% of the vote on their first outing.

All of this presents me with a bit of a dilemma, because I'm hoping to commission another Scot Goes Pop poll reasonably soon (funding permitting) and Panelbase would usually be my first choice - but I have a feeling they would want to maintain consistency by using the same question/answer format for Holyrood voting intentions in every poll they conduct, regardless of client.  However, I'll cross that bridge if and when I come to it.

On a more positive note, the Savanta ComRes poll published last Friday did include Alba as an option on the Holyrood list ballot, and 2% of respondents said they would vote for the party.  That will be a great disappointment to the Alba-haters who gloated at considerable length about the Opinium poll published the previous day which showed Alba on zero for the very first time - a result that was taken to mean that "the monster had been slayed" and that Alba could expect to receive negligible support from that point on.  The difference between the two polls is actually quite striking and hard to explain - in absolute terms, Opinium found only two Alba voters among their sample, while Savanta ComRes found seventeen.  Here are the full ComRes results...

Scottish Parliament constituency ballot:

SNP 48%
Conservatives 22%
Labour 20%
Liberal Democrats 7%

Scottish Parliament regional list ballot:

SNP 36%
Conservatives 23%
Labour 18%
Greens 13%
Liberal Democrats 7%
Alba 2%

Although that's very much in line with the results Alba were receiving during the election campaign, it's arguably a more credible finding now.  There was always a suspicion in the spring that Alba were being overestimated due to being a completely 'new entry', but now it's possible to weight respondents by their past history of actually voting for Alba.

There was also a Stack Data poll on independence last week, which seems to be the propaganda poll Gordon Brown has been wittering about.  Looking through the datasets, I'm struck by how the framers of the questions struggled to get the results they were hoping for.  In total, 53% of respondents want an independence referendum to be held by the end of 2024, and just 25% of respondents think that the passing of a decade since 2014 should be a "condition that has to be met" before holding a new referendum.  In fact, none of the proposed "conditions" managed to attract majority support.  The one that came closest was that the Scottish Government should be required to make clear which currency an independent Scotland would use - but even that was only backed by 45%. 

The most laughable "condition" suggested (which a mere 30% of respondents found reasonable) was that there should be no referendum until the UK has "had a chance to reform its own constitution to change how Westminster works and give Scotland more powers".  Forgive me for being harsh here, Gordon, but just how much more of "a chance" do you guys need?  Westminster has been in control of Scotland for the last three hundred and fourteen years, and could have reformed the constitution at any time.  You yourself, Gordon, were Prime Minister for three years between 2007 and 2010, and did practically nothing to boost devolution.

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Scot Goes Popcast: You can watch the full videos of my recent interviews with Yvonne Ridley and William Duguid HERE and HERE


  1. Great analysis, James.

  2. I did an Opinium poll yesterday, which asked for Westminster voting intention. "Some other party" did not trigger a second menu.

    Recently, more than once follow-up questions with Opinium have not corresponded to my answer to the trigger question. For instance, I said I had not had any problems with products purchased from any of a list of companies, but the next question began "you said you had had problems with... When was this?"

    So I do wonder whether I should have been presented with a second menu, but wasn't.

  3. This Alba voting intention demonstrates the need for “old-fashioned” campaigning methods, such as leafleting and street stalls. The internet is full of Alba supporters but only a few tens of thousands of voters get information on-line.

  4. James, I think it would be a good idea to list ALBA among the constituency candidates for the next HR election, as I do not anticipate - given what happened last time, that ALBA will contest the 2026 election as a list-only party.

    1. With any luck we'll be independent by then, but if not, it's inconceivable that Alba would be contesting constituency seats, because that would split the pro-indy vote.


    On this day of all days Sturgeon gives us another platitude that only numpties will lap up by telling us If we persuade and inspire more there is no doubt we will reach our independence destination SOON.

    She says this but does nothing to inspire or persuade anybody. Quite the opposite in fact. Can there ever have been a worse independence leader of a nation than Sturgeon. As Lord Foulkes would say - she is doing a great job of messing up any hope of independence and she is doing it deliberately.

  6. I agree James. ALBA contesting against the SNP in constituencies would be a massive mistake, splitting the pro-yes vote and letting a Unionist in.
    My worry is the folk saying Sturgeon and the SNP are as much the enemy as the unionists.
    I don't know if Independence for Scotland comes into that bracket.
    James, I hope you can bring your level-headedness to bear on the ALBA NEC.

    1. Crikey, Ramstam. I thought I had made my point of view crystal clear on this site. Hey I guess I must try harder in future.

      I know that the vast majority of SNP members and voters want independence but they are being led up the garden path by Sturgeon and her gang who will never deliver independence and do not want Independence.

      The SNP is now a British Devolution Party. Sturgeon herself just said she was British. Now I have NEVER called myself British. I am Scottish.

      Hopefully that is clear enough now for you Ramstam.

  7. Why not conduct your poll on the upcoming council elections. That may get around the consistency issue of a standard poll.


    Surprisingly this week there has not been the usual high level of numpty quotes for me to choose from. Are the numpties worried about being chosen as the weekly numpty. Am I getting the numpties to think before posting?

    Well anyway the well kent liar Skier rides to the rescue this afternoon and gives me an easy choice with this:

    " .....where yes parties have finally won a majority of votes in a national election and have agreed a supermajority coalition through pragmatic cooperation and concession. A now where we are on the cusp of Indy ........"

    Supermajority - 😂😂😂😂😂 can the guy who claims to be a data analyst count.

    Pragmatic cooperation - both votes SNP🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

    Concession - Salmond is not fit to be a politician says Sturgeon on multiple occasions🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

    On the cusp of Indy - well I suppose it makes a change from saying Indyref2 is next year🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

    Skier is a liar and a 🤡

    1. My favourite exchange of the weekend involving a 'petro-scientist':

      Mr Scientist: “Natural gas has a much lower carbon footprint than coal because, in the simplest terms, while the latter is pure carbon, the former is mostly hydrogen.“

      Bloke wi a Dug: “Natural gas isn’t “mostly hydrogen”; it’s mostly methane with small amounts of other alkanes (ethane, butane, propane etc..). “

      [Long silence]

    2. Bathman that is the danger of going full in with the SNP self ID approach. Skier self ids as some professional or other from day to day. But of course he doesn't have the knowledge to pull it off.

      There was this other numpty quote from the liar Skier- "We literally eat oil and gas."

      I don't know about Skier but I LITERALLY do NOT eat oil and gas. Personally, I prefer a nice bit of cod or a steak.

    3. It would appear Bathman you have upset the liar Skier as he temporarily turned the pages of WGD into a school chemistry notebook.

      More recently the poster indyref2yespleasenicola has got bored playing with his model warships and has decided to turn his wrath on people calling Britnats well Britnats actually. Poor guy seems to have forgotten that Kavanagh has written many an article saying they are not to be called unionists but Britnats.

      As ever comedy gold on WGD