You might remember that when this blog commissioned its third Panelbase poll last autumn, I had a bit of a dilemma, because I wanted to find out about public attitudes to the Internal Market Bill's impact on devolution, but I knew there was no point in simply asking "do you approve of the Internal Market Bill?" Most people weren't in any position to judge whether they approved of it, because the mainstream media hadn't bothered informing them about it. So I had little choice but to ask lengthier questions that summarised some of the effects of the Bill. I kept everything straightforward and factual, but this still led to a prolonged meltdown from a number of unionist trolls on Twitter about what was supposedly the most "shockingly biased" poll they had ever seen. Curiously, though, those people have had nothing to say so far about a Panelbase poll that is currently being carried out, and which contains a couple of questions that by any standards must be considered several billion times more biased and leading than anything I've ever come up with. In fact they may well be the most brazenly biased questions I've ever seen asked in a bona fide political poll.
Should Scotland turn its back on the Rest of the UK in a future referendum, would it be reasonable for the Rest of the UK to reduce its footprint in Scotland and (immediately after the referendum) start reducing investment and employment in Scotland. Shipbuilding, Civil Service, etc.
Do you consider the SNP contingent of MPs in Westminster to be...
Representative of the Scottish character
Make no mistake, these were not questions commissioned by the UK Government, or by the Conservative party, or by some well-funded anti-indy think tank. Leaving aside the bias, the first question just has a hopelessly amateurish feel about it. There isn't even a question mark at the end of the question, and the "shipbuilding, civil service, etc" part along with the bit in brackets seem to have been shoved in as an afterthought, making the whole thing very disjointed and difficult to follow. I actually saw a chap on Twitter fantasising a few weeks ago about the possibility of blackmailing the people of Scotland into staying in the UK by telling us in advance that all UK government funding (ie. our own tax revenues) would be withdrawn in the transitional period between a Yes vote and independence day. I wish I could remember who that was, because that might well be a pretty strong clue as to who is behind these poll questions.
As for the second question, can you imagine the outrage if a pro-indy client commissioned a poll asking if the Tories are "representative of the Scottish character"? Even the notion that there is such a thing as "the Scottish character" that people are expected to measure up to would be considered racist. It reminds me of the night before the independence referendum in September 2014, when Neil Oliver went on Newsnight and informed viewers that the proposition put forward by the Yes campaign was "fundamentally un-Scottish", whatever the hell that was supposed to mean. Saying that people are un-Scottish simply because they oppose independence would have been deemed disgraceful and appalling, but somehow saying the same thing about people simply because they support independence is fine and barely merits a shrug.
Incidentally, both questions are "forced choice", ie. there's no "Don't Know" option. So on the second question, respondents will either have to answer that SNP MPs are "representative of the Scottish character" or "an embarrassment". The only way to avoid giving one of those two answers will be to abandon the poll altogether. I suspect that's going to backfire on whoever commissioned the question, because people who don't know or don't have a strong view are probably more likely to gravitate towards "representative of the Scottish character" as the more reasonable, restrained answer. Only frothing unionists would regard "an embarrassment" as the default response. So I'm pretty confident there'll be a clear majority for "representative of the Scottish character", which almost certainly means this particular result will never see the light of day.
A couple of other questions from the poll were also screenshotted on Twitter -
Considering the extreme differences in styles between them, who would be the better negotiator for Scotland post an Independence vote?
Do you agree with Ms Sturgeon's statement from September 19th 2016 that "Independence transcends Brexit, oil, National Wealth, and all political fads and trends"?
Although oddly worded, those questions aren't so biased, so I can't work out whether they were commissioned by the same client. My first thought was that the Salmond/Sturgeon question might have been commissioned by Wings, but on closer inspection I don't think so. Whatever else might be said about him, Stuart is a highly literate wordsmith, and he would be unlikely to come up with an ugly formulation such as "post an Independence vote".
There are also apparently a number of questions about the SSP, leading some people to express confusion about why the SSP would commission a poll containing unionist-skewed questions. There's no mystery about that - it'll simply be a composite poll with questions commissioned by two or more very different clients.
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A few days ago, I mentioned on Twitter a passing thought I'd had about starting a Scot Goes Pop podcast, and I was very surprised by how positive the reaction was. I might consider it once the forthcoming poll is completed. Of course to make it worthwhile I'd need to invite guests to take part, so do you have any thoughts about who you'd most like to hear from? (Ideally people who'd be likely to agree to do it!)
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I have an analysis piece at The National
about yesterday's remarkable Savanta ComRes poll showing a Yes vote of 57% - you can read it HERE