Saturday, January 23, 2021

Scot Goes Pop / Survation poll: Nightmare on Ross Street as Tories face third place in Holyrood election - while pro-independence parties are on course to win 62% of seats

So in case you missed the video earlier (I thought I'd do something slightly different this time for the fun of it), here are the final results from the Scot Goes Pop / Survation poll - the Holyrood voting intention numbers.

Scottish Parliament constituency voting intentions (Scot Goes Pop / Survation poll, 11th - 13th January 2021):

SNP 51% (-2)
Conservatives 19% (-1)
Labour 19% (-1)
Liberal Democrats 9% (+3)

Scottish Parliament regional list voting intentions:

SNP 40% (-1)
Labour 19% (-1)
Conservatives 17% (-1)
Greens 11% (+1)
Liberal Democrats 8% (+1)

Seats projection (with changes from the 2016 election): SNP 69 (+6), Labour 23 (-1), Conservatives 19 (-12), Greens 11 (+5), Liberal Democrats 7 (+2)

This is the third Survation poll in a row to put the Tories in third place on the list - and the one prior to that had them in joint second place with Labour.  However, there's no sign of Labour making even the kind of modest recovery hinted at by the Westminster numbers from this poll - they're actually slightly down on both Holyrood ballots, and are facing a small reduction in their number of seats.  They're only in second place by default because the Tories are doing so badly.  

Another key difference with the Westminster results is that the SNP vote isn't down by as much.  A two point drop on the constituency ballot, and a one point drop on the list, could well just be margin of error 'noise'.

65 seats is of course the target for an overall majority, so the SNP's projected 69 seats would put them well over the top.  And the SNP and Greens in combination are projected to have 80 seats - meaning that pro-independence parties would have an extraordinary 62% of seats in the parliament.

Meanwhile, tonight has brought word of the twentieth poll in a row to show a pro-independence majority (or nineteenth in a row if you exclude one that asked a non-standard question).

Should Scotland be an independent country? (Panelbase)

Yes 52% (-4)
No 48% (+4)

The percentage changes are from the most recent Panelbase poll, which was the one I commissioned in November, and which put Yes on an all-time high for Panelbase of 56%. The four-point drop for Yes needs to be seen in that context - after a record-breaking result it's not unexpected to see a reversion to the mean in the next poll.  That said, the last four Panelbase polls have all shown Yes on between 54% and 56%, so tonight's 52% may indicate a genuine reduction (with one possible explanation being the Sturgeon/Salmond controversy).  On the other hand, if the true Yes vote had remained static on around 54%, the occasional result two points higher or lower than that would be totally normal due to the margin of error.  As ever, we'll just have to await more information from more polls.

UPDATE: Someone on the previous thread suggested that Panelbase may have asked a non-standard question this time, which would obviously render the percentage changes meaningless.  But I'm not sure whether that's really what happened, or whether the Sunday Times gave a misleading impression with their summary of the results.

Video Exclusive: the Scottish Parliament voting intention numbers from the Scot Goes Pop / Survation poll

Friday, January 22, 2021

Scot Goes Pop / Survation poll reveals that the Scottish public want to be represented by Team Scotland, and not Team GB, at the Olympic Games

The biggest significance of the arrival of 2021 has of course been Brexit, which is why no fewer than five of the questions in this blog's exclusive start-of-year Survation poll have been related to the EU.  But this is also (at least in theory) Olympic year, so I thought it might be a good moment to ask a population - used to seeing Scotland compete as a nation in its own right in football, rugby, cricket, curling and many other sports - how they feel about the fact that there is still no Team Scotland at the Olympic Games.  Previous polls over the years on this subject have shown wildly contradictory results, probably due to differences in question wording.  But I defy anyone to say that the following question isn't neutral.  My original proposed question was significantly revised by Survation, and what we ended up with is scrupulously even-handed.  In fact, if anything it might very slightly favour the 'Team GB' option, because it reminds respondents that British representation is the status quo, and many people do tend to revert to the status quo as a default if they have no strong feelings on a subject.

Currently, Scottish athletes represent Scotland at the Commonwealth Games, and Great Britain at the Olympic Games.  Do you think Scottish athletes should represent Scotland or Great Britain at the Olympic Games?

Scotland: 47%
Great Britain: 42%

With Don't Knows excluded, it works out as - 

Scotland: 53%
Great Britain: 47%

I do sometimes think that the British Olympic Association are their own worst enemies.  If they would just chill out a bit and allow people to feel that Scottish athletes do represent Scotland as well as Great Britain, if only informally, the demand for change might not be quite so great.  But on past form their reaction to a poll result like this is more likely to be to double down on saltire bans and the like.

Curiously, there's a huge majority for Team Scotland among women, and a small majority for Team GB among men.  That really doesn't make any sense in view of what we know about national identity among the genders, and probably helps to explain the fact that men were significantly more pro-No on the independence question in this poll.  It looks like random sampling variation led to there being a disproportionate number of female respondents who strongly identify as Scottish.

Indeed, the detailed figures in the datasets look more like a map of Scotland's identity wars than anything else.  A thumping 72% of SNP voters want a Team Scotland (although it would be interesting to know more about the reasoning of the 17% who prefer GB), whereas voters for all three unionist parties want the status quo.  The narrowest majority - 55% to 35% - is among Labour voters, and I suspect that margin would have been even tighter a few years ago, before the party lost much of its traditional support base to the SNP.  The rump Labour vote these days has a very different and much more British nationalist character.

In general it seems to be that the older or more affluent you are, the more British you feel.  Obviously being Yes or No on independence is a very strong predictor of Olympic team preference, but interestingly that isn't really the case for Remainers and Leavers.  Remain voters lean a bit more towards Scotland, and Leave voters a bit more towards GB, but the difference isn't massive.

*  *  *

I've had three pieces in The National this week about other questions in the poll - you can read them HERE, HERE and HERE.

*  *  *

There's still one more result to come - the belated Holyrood voting intention numbers.  If you'd like to be the first to know when the results are published, you can follow me on Twitter HERE

VIDEO: Preview of Friday's question in the Scot Goes Pop poll

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Scot Goes Pop / Survation poll: A majority of Scottish voters think it "should be a priority" for the Scottish Government to regain our European citizenship rights and access to Erasmus - and Labour/the Lib Dems should act on the basis that Scotland voted to remain in the EU

At 11pm on Hogmanay, the people of Scotland (with the exception of the minority lucky enough to hold citizenship of an EU state) lost our automatic right to live, work and study in other European countries.  With a single bong of Big Ben, our horizons shrunk dramatically - they used to stretch as far as Athens, or Warsaw, or the Algarve, but now the Scilly Isles is about as exotic as it gets.  This has happened in spite of the fact that we resoundingly voted to remain full members of the EU.  It has happened in spite of the fact that our elected parliament repeatedly withheld legislative consent for laws that paved the way for an utterly unwanted Hard Brexit.  It has happened in spite of the fact that the anti-indepedence campaign in the 2014 referendum promised us that voting No would guarantee our European citizenship.  It is, not to put too fine a point on it, completely outrageous.

And yet now all three unionist parties tell us that we must "move on" and not try to regain what we've lost through no choice or fault of our own.  The SNP are repeatedly lectured about how they should abandon constitutional "obsessions" that would ultimately, let's not forget, have the enormous tangible benefit for people of restoring their full EU citizenship rights.  And yet the Tories just somehow know that the voters don't care about any of that, and would rather the Scottish Government concentrated on more mundane matters.

But is that actually true? There's only one way to find out...

As a result of the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020, British people have lost their rights as EU citizens.  Do you think it should be a priority for the Scottish Government to regain these rights for the people of Scotland, such as being able to live and work in any EU country?  (Scot Goes Pop / Survation poll, 11th-13th January 2021):

Yes 52%
No 30%

There's a fairly solid desire to get EU citizenship rights back across most demographic and political groups - the main exceptions are Leave voters (albeit they don't reject the idea by as much as might be expected), Tory voters, and, weirdly, Liberal Democrat voters - who you'd expect to be strongly pro-European, and yet don't seem to be too fussed about getting their EU citizenship back.  However, that may just be a freakish finding caused by the small number of Lib Dem voters in the sample.

At the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December, the UK Government chose to withdraw from the Erasmus programme, which has given university students the opportunity to study in other European countries.  Do you think it should be a priority for the Scottish Government to regain access to the Erasmus programme for Scottish students?

Yes 52%
No 29%

You'll be relieved to hear that Lib Dem voters do at least want to rejoin Erasmus! And among Leave voters it's a startlingly close result - not far off being a dead heat.  Unsurprisingly, it's the two youngest age groups, the ones who stand to suffer the most from Westminster's decision, that are keenest on making Erasmus a priority.  

Now that Brexit has been completed, what attitude do you think Labour and the Liberal Democrats should take to Scotland's relationship with the EU?

They should seek to regain EU citizenship rights for the people of Scotland, on the basis that Scotland voted to remain in the EU: 44%

They should accept Brexit, on the basis that the UK voted to leave the EU: 41%

This is a complex result, partly because it's so close, but also because Labour's and the Liberal Democrats' own voters take the opposite view from the sample as a whole, and think Brexit should be accepted.  But Labour are never going to win much on the basis of their current vote, and if they have any real ambition at all to get back into the game, they'll need to win back some of the voters they lost to the SNP in 2015.  And it looks like most of those people want Labour to change course and push back against Brexit.  No fewer than 70% of SNP voters take that view.  Sir Keir Starmer may have just put up another needless (and massive) obstacle to repairing his relationship with former Labour voters in Scotland.

* * *

There are more questions to come from the poll, including (belatedly) the Holyrood voting intention numbers.  If you'd like to be the first to know when the results are published, you can follow me on Twitter HERE.  

Video preview of Thursday night's installment of the Scot Goes Pop / Survation poll

A reply to the agenda-driven attempts to undermine the poll result showing a majority for "Plan B"

On Tuesday night, I published the result of a question from the Scot Goes Pop / Survation poll showing that voters are in favour of the so-called Plan B option to use this year's Holyrood election to seek an outright mandate for independence.  Here is a reminder of the question and the result.

The UK Government has stated that it will seek to prevent a Scottish independence referendum taking place for several decades, regardless of whether Scottish voters elect a Scottish Government committed to holding a referendum.  In view of this stance, do you think pro-independence parties, such as the SNP and the Scottish Greens, should or should not include an outright independence pledge in their manifestos for this year's scheduled Scottish Parliament election, to give people the opportunity to vote for or against independence?  (Scot Goes Pop / Survation poll, 11th-13th January 2021): 

Should: 45%
Should not: 36%

With Don't Knows excluded -

Should: 55%
Should not: 45%

Some people obviously felt quite threatened by these numbers, because practically within seconds there was a sustained attempt to discredit the wording of the question.  It's possible that a minority of people may have been raising objections in good faith, but there's no doubt at all that the majority of the criticisms had an agenda behind them.  They were being made by people who are known to have a dogmatic view that an election cannot under any circumstances be legitimately used to gain an indy mandate.  The most prolonged exchange I had was with Cameron Archibald, who notoriously let himself down very badly a couple of weeks ago by calling Joanna Cherry MP a "deceitful moron", simply because she argued that a plebiscitary election is a legitimate option that has a clear precedent in the UK's own history.  So there's no secret at all about where Cameron is coming from on this, and the idea that he was just innocently offering textual quibbles about the question should thus be taken with a heavy dose of salt.

Of course Cameron's real problem with Joanna Cherry is her stance on the trans issue.  And this is something I've noticed in recent weeks - isn't it odd how completely unconnected issues can become irrationally linked in people's minds, especially when tribal loyalties are involved? Even though there is no possible connection between trans rights and a plebiscitary election on independence, Cameron probably feels on some level that he is defending the former by scathingly attacking the latter.  That's because his allies on the trans issue just happen to be mostly opposed to a plebiscitary election, and his 'enemies' just happen to be mostly in favour of one.  

I had thought about writing a follow-up blogpost on Tuesday night to rebut some of the criticisms of the question, but I decided against it, on the basis that it might lend credibility to what were mostly bogus and politically motivated objections.  However, the fact that there's still chatter about the question after two days demonstrates once again that it's possible to mess with people's heads if you're really determined.  If you have enough friends who can insist loudly enough that there's a problem with something, and even if you take a scattergun and contradictory approach to identifying what the problem supposedly is, people will eventually start doubting themselves and think there must be at least some truth in what you're saying.  It's a bit like the "doesn't she look tired?" snowball effect in Doctor Who.

So the time has come to knock this nonsense firmly on the head.  The main criticism I had anticipated with the Plan B question was its wordiness - but that was pretty much unavoidable, because the concept of Plan B and the reasons for thinking it may be necessary are not familiar to most voters.  Unless you put the issue in context, you won't get meaningful answers from respondents.  An empty question will produce an empty result.  I also expected one or two people might suggest that the question is leading on the basis that "opportunity" is a word with positive connotations - although I thought that would be a bit of stretch.

But no, those weren't the main criticisms.  Instead, the absurd line of attack was that the term "outright independence pledge" was somehow "vague" or "unclear". It got to the point where Cameron was repeatedly asking me to explain what it meant - although I have no information on whether he managed to maintain a straight face while doing so.  Eventually I said to him in exasperation: "Cameron, if I asked you what 'spade' means, how would you reply?" The point being that I literally cannot think of any simpler or clearer way of expressing the concept of "outright independence pledge" - it's already the most straightforward language available, which is why I used it.  An independence pledge is a pledge of independence.  'Outright' means that the pledge is for independence itself, rather than just for a referendum.

Someone claimed in all apparent seriousness to have read the question and to have concluded it was about a pledge of a referendum.  Answers on a postcard, folks, if you have any ideas as to how "outright independence pledge" can even conceivably imply such a thing - it plainly can't.  The same person then asked me "why didn't you just ask whether the Holyrood election should be used as a national plebiscitary vote?", as if that would somehow have been a much simpler question.  I didn't know whether to laugh or cry - I doubt if 90% of voters would have the first idea of what a 'national plebiscitary vote' actually is.

Another suggestion that has been made, and this is perhaps not intended quite so vexatiously, is that the question could simply imply that the SNP should beef up the language about independence in their manifesto as compared to previous elections, without going the whole hog of a Plan B.  But that fundamentally misunderstands what the SNP have been doing in elections since the start of devolution two decades ago.  They haven't been making lukewarm manifesto pledges about independence that can now be strengthened.  The reality is that they haven't been pledging independence at all - merely a referendum.  When SNP spokespeople, all the way up to the leader, were asked during election campaigns whether a vote for the SNP was a vote for independence, the reply was absolutely explicit: "No, it's a vote for an SNP government and a referendum". Making an outright manifesto pledge of independence would be a radical departure for the SNP, and it would be the first time that a vote for the SNP has directly been a vote for independence since the 1997 UK general election.  If the SNP had won the 1997 election in Scotland, they would have claimed a mandate to negotiate independence.  That's exactly what Plan B is now.

The final point I'd make is that commissioning a poll from Survation is a slightly different experience from commissioning one from Panelbase, because they're more likely to change the wording of the client's suggested questions (with the agreement of the client, of course). They changed this question slightly, and one of the other questions in the poll was actually changed quite radically.  That suggests to me that they were probably satisfied that the approved wording of the Plan B question was clear and was not going to be confusing for respondents.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Scot Goes Pop / Survation poll reveals the Scottish public's damning verdict on the Brexit deal: the UK Government "prioritised English interests over Scottish interests", and came back with a "bad deal" for the Scottish fishing industry

Judging from their jubilant reaction on Christmas Eve, the Scottish Tories clearly thought they were going to be rewarded by the electorate for the last-gasp averting of No Deal.  But the obvious problem with that belief was that Boris Johnson had ended up selling the Scottish fishing industry down the river to get his deal, just as Edward Heath had done five decades earlier to get into the Common Market in the first place.  The Tories tried to overcome that snag by putting a positive gloss on the fishing concessions, but was anyone in Scotland buying that?  I decided to use our new Survation poll to find out.

To secure the post-Brexit trade deal with the EU, the UK Government agreed to allow EU boats to continue fishing in UK waters for the next five and a half years.  Do you think this is a good deal or a bad deal for the Scottish fishing industry?  (Scot Goes Pop / Survation poll, 11th-13th January 2021):

A good deal: 21%
A bad deal: 48%

With Don't Knows excluded -

A good deal: 31%
A bad deal: 69%

Damning stuff, although what would really worry me if I was the Tories is the reaction of their own voters - 38% of whom say the deal is bad, with only 35% saying it's good.  It's not hard to imagine that those negative sentiments may be particularly magnified among traditional Tory supporters in coastal communities, in which case the party will have a fight on its hands in May in its two key target seats of Banffshire & Buchan Coast and Moray.  (Both are currently held by the SNP, but the Tories won the equivalent Westminster seats in both 2017 and 2019.)

Tellingly, Leave voters from the 2016 EU referendum are almost as strong in their denunciation of the deal (49% say it's bad) as Remain voters (54%). As we know, there are plenty of Leave voters who backed independence in 2014, and if those people become convinced that Scotland has been shafted by a Hard Brexit, it could be a significant turning-point.

It's probably not a coincidence that the three regions most opposed to the deal are the Highlands & Islands (55%), Mid-Scotland & Fife (54%), and the North-East (51%).

During negotiations on the post-Brexit trade deal with the EU, do you think the UK Government gave greater priority to Scottish interests or to English interests?

Scottish interests: 13%
English interests: 53%
Both equally: 24%

I don't see how the Tories can have any complaints about this result - if respondents hadn't felt very strongly about the subject, "both equally" was there as a nice, safe, neutral option, and that would have been the majority outcome.  Instead, an absolute majority plumped for "English interests", so there's clearly a lot of anger out there.  The only difference on this question is that Tory voters are more forgiving - 61% of them very charitably say that British negotiators were even-handed between English interests and Scottish interests.  But among Leave voters, there's a slim plurality who say that English interests were prioritised.  Even No voters from 2014 take the same view - 46% say "English interests", which slightly outnumbers the combined total for "Scottish interests" (5%) and "both equally" (39%).

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There are still lots more questions to come from the poll, including (belatedly) the Holyrood voting intention numbers.  If you'd like to be the first to know when the results are published, you can follow me on Twitter HERE.  

VIDEO: Preview of Wednesday night's installment of the Scot Goes Pop poll

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Scot Goes Pop / Survation poll: Sensation as Scottish voters give their backing to the McEleny/MacNeil plan to use *this year's* Holyrood election to secure an outright independence mandate

Every time I've crowdfunded a poll, by far the most requested question has been on the subject of a 'Plan B' to secure an independence mandate if a Section 30 order is never granted.  To avoid duplication, I've taken a different angle for the question each time, and it might be worth starting this post with a reminder of the results from the previous three polls (all conducted by Panelbase) - 

January 2020: By a margin of 50% to 39%, respondents said the Scottish Parliament should legislate for an independence referendum in the absence of a Section 30 order, and then allow the courts to decide whether it can take place.

June 2020: By a margin of 49% to 29%, respondents said pro-independence parties should consider using an election at some point in the future to double as an independence referendum.

November 2020: By a margin of 63% to 37%, respondents backed the general principle of a Plan B being used at some point over the coming five-year Holyrood term if the UK Government remains intransigent.

The June question was in principle fairly similar to what Chris McEleny and Angus MacNeil MP are proposing, but it wasn't quite as specific, because of course they don't just want to use an election to obtain an indy mandate at some point in the future - they essentially want to do it right now, in the Holyrood election that is only a matter of weeks away.  So as I'd already covered pretty much every other angle in previous polls, I thought I might as well throw in the kitchen sink this time, and use our new Survation poll to ask about the specific McEleny/MacNeil plan.  I was fully expecting this to be the first occasion on which we'd got a negative result on a Plan B question, because I thought that voters would think that we shouldn't rush our fences, and that we should at least go through the motions of making one last push for an agreed referendum before moving on to Plan B.  But I was wrong.

The UK Government has stated that it will seek to prevent a Scottish independence referendum taking place for several decades, regardless of whether Scottish voters elect a Scottish Government committed to holding a referendum.  In view of this stance, do you think pro-independence parties, such as the SNP and the Scottish Greens, should or should not include an outright independence pledge in their manifestos for this year's scheduled Scottish Parliament election, to give people the opportunity to vote for or against independence?  (Scot Goes Pop / Survation poll, 11th-13th January 2021): 

Should: 45%
Should not: 36%

With Don't Knows excluded, it works out as -

Should: 55%
Should not: 45%

I'd suggest this result poses a major problem for the Pete Wisharts of this world, who base at least part of their opposition to Plan B on the assumption that voters are intrinsically hostile to any way forward that does not involve the express permission of the UK Government, and that the SNP would thus pay a heavy electoral price for flirting with the idea.  But that's a difficult argument to maintain when voters have given the thumbs-up to what is just about the most 'extreme' variant of Plan B - ie. abandoning Plan A right away and going for an outright indy mandate in just four months from now.  SNP voters from the 2019 general election are behind the McEleny/MacNeil plan by the overwhelming margin of 74% to 10%, as are Yes voters from 2014 by a margin of 75% to 12%.  Unionists are naturally opposed on the whole, although substantial minorities of Labour voters (31%), Liberal Democrats voters (26%) and Leave voters (35%) are in favour.  

My own thinking is that once every option for a referendum is closed off, a plebiscitary election should not just be considered a possibility, but should become a default certainty.  However, we will not reach the point of every option having been exhausted until we've legislated for a referendum and the courts have adjudicated upon it - and that can't happen this side of the 2021 election.  On the other hand, Chris McEleny and Angus MacNeil do have a very good point in the sense that if we spurn the opportunity of using this election to gain a mandate, when will the next opportunity come?  We surely can't just twiddle our thumbs until the 2026 Holyrood vote.  In theory, we could easily engineer an early Holyrood election in 2022 or 2023, but there are strong grounds for thinking the current leadership are far too cautious to ever do that.  The only other possibility is the 2024 Westminster election, but I've always thought it would be a big mistake to try to use the 'away fixture' of a UK general election, during which the media would be shoving Britain-wide issues down our throats, to seek an indy mandate.  

*  *  *

There are still lots more questions to come from the poll, most of them Brexit-themed.  If you'd like to be the first to know when the results are published, you can follow me on Twitter HERE.  

Scot Goes Pop / Survation poll: SNP on course to win 55 of the 59 Scottish seats at Westminster, with the Tories slipping into a deep hole that could finish Douglas Ross' leadership

As I mentioned in the preview video earlier, I was planning to put out both the Holyrood and Westminster voting intention numbers from our new poll today.  However, I later spotted a small problem with the Holyrood tables which Survation are now in the process of resolving, so in the meantime I'll give you the Westminster numbers, which are nothing short of a horror show for Mr Douglas Ross Esquire.

Scottish voting intentions for the next UK general election (Scot Goes Pop / Survation poll, 11th-13th January 2021):

SNP 48% (-3)
Labour 23% (+2)
Conservatives 19% (-1)
Liberal Democrats 7% (+1)

Seats projection, with changes from the 2019 election: SNP 55 (+7), Conservatives 2 (-4), Labour 1 (n/c), Liberal Democrats 1 (-3)

In fairness, 19% is not the Tories' lowest ebb recently - they fell as low as 18% in polls from both Survation and JL Partners in the mid-autumn.  However, what is new is the four-point lead that Labour have opened up over their main unionist rivals - they haven't had an advantage as big as that since exactly three years ago, when they were still basking in the afterglow of Jeremy Corbyn's moral victory in the 2017 general election.  

I am seriously beginning to wonder if Douglas Ross is heading for the same fate that befell Jim Murphy in 2015 - ie. only lasting a few months as leader before a single unimaginably bad election finishes him off.  I don't think the Tories are even close to being psychologically ready for a return to third place - it just wasn't on the radar until very recently.  Even when they lost more than half their seats in the 2019 general election, they were still comfortably clear of Labour in terms of both seats and the popular vote.

It would be completely nuts to call the SNP's 48% vote share a poor result, given that it's three points better than they achieved in their 2019 landslide victory.  However, it's their first sub-50 result in any Westminster poll since last March.  Time will tell if that's just a little blip caused by sampling variation - although in the long run it's very difficult for any party to maintain support at quite such a high level.  

Independence supporters often give over-65s a bad rap for being the only age group that is solidly No.  But it's worth making the point that even they would elect an SNP majority if they were the only people allowed to vote.  Voting intentions among over-65s are: SNP 37%, Conservatives 26%, Labour 23%, Liberal Democrats 14%. As was the case for Yes on the independence question, the SNP's best age group is 25-34 year olds, where they enjoy phenomenal 63% support, with the Tories on just 7%.

*  *  *

There's still lots more to come from the poll, including a big result tonight on whether the SNP and Greens should use the coming Holyrood election as a de facto referendum on independence.  If you'd like to be the first to know, you can follow me on Twitter HERE.  

VIDEO PREVIEW of upcoming questions in the new Scot Goes Pop poll

Monday, January 18, 2021

Sigh. No, the Scot Goes Pop / Survation poll does not mean that Nicola Sturgeon has a "man problem".

There's a rather, for want of a better word, daft post on Wings Over Scotland tonight (ironically tagged with the word "psephology"!) which tries to paint the finding in the new Scot Goes Pop poll that women back Yes by 55% to 45% as some kind of bad news story, on the basis that it must somehow mean that Nicola Sturgeon has a "man problem".  It's true that I mentioned in my own post that men break for No in the poll by 53% to 47% and that I didn't offer any further comment on that - clearly I should always provide footnotes for the benefit of passing numpties.  Allow me to explain.

As a general rule, any subsample, even a subsample comprising half of a poll's respondents, is not going to be anything like as reliable as the full poll.  The full sample will be correctly weighted to demographic and political target numbers, but that isn't necessarily going to be the case for every individual subgroup, so you'd expect a degree of random fluctuation among those.  A No lead among men in an individual poll shouldn't, therefore, be treated as gospel.  Stuart would have more of a point if a succession of polls had repeatedly shown the same thing about male voters, but as he may or may not know (has he bothered to check?), that isn't the case at all.  In fact, this should be pretty obvious even just from a common sense point of view.  It would have been extremely improbable for Yes to have ever built up such a sustained lead if Nicola Sturgeon had been repelling male voters while she had been attracting female voters - the two trends would have cancelled each other out and No would have stayed in the lead.  In the real world, the general picture across most polls is that men have remained pro-Yes while women have been converted to independence in significant numbers.  The Survation poll doesn't disprove that or establish a new trend - the figures for men are probably just caused by meaningless sampling variation.

When I pointed out a couple of weeks ago that Stuart was actively campaigning to bring Nicola Sturgeon down, he angrily denied it, and yet here we have a post that paints the 19th Yes majority poll in a row as bad news, and then attempts to 'blame' Ms Sturgeon for it!  And all on the basis of a very silly false premise.

It's getting almost comical now.

Exclusive Scot Goes Pop / Survation poll is the NINETEENTH IN A ROW to show a pro-independence majority

So as I mentioned a couple of times here and on Twitter, I ran into a slight hitch with the new Scot Goes Pop poll - I had initially been hoping to stick with Panelbase, who conducted all three of our polls last year, but for contractual reasons they weren't able to do it on the timescale I was hoping for. After mulling it over a bit, I decided to contact other firms in the hope of getting a quick result, and I ended up going with Survation - a pollster with a fantastic pedigree, most notably because they were pretty much the only firm to call the 2017 general election correctly. 

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.  

VIDEO PREVIEW: The new Scot Goes Pop poll on independence will be released today