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

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Alba NEC election outcome

I'm really honoured to say that I've been elected as one of the eight ordinary members of the Alba Party's National Executive Committee.  The successful candidates are:

Female ballot: Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, Michelle Ferns, Denise Findlay, Suzanne Blackley

Male ballot: Roddy MacLeod, Josh Robertson, James Kelly, Hamish Vernal

Congratulations to all of the above, and commiserations to the many excellent candidates who weren't elected on this occasion.  I'd like to also thank the Alba members who nominated me, and the conference delegates who voted for me at the weekend.  I really appreciate it.  

I'll do my best to be one of the voices of the rank and file membership on the NEC.  On that subject, I noticed earlier today that two people had emailed me on Saturday with specific questions, but both messages ended up in my spam folder.  I'll try to reply later tonight (although in one case the answer may not be very helpful, because I'm a bit hazy on the subject matter).

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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

Fancy putting the Express in the dock for lying about Scottish independence polling? Here's your chance...

In order to justify throwing the book at Craig Murray, the presiding judge notoriously dreamed up the novel principle that us mere bloggers must be held to a different legal standard than 'proper' journalists, on the dubious grounds that the latter are bound by codes such as the IPSO Editors' Code of Practice - a voluntary set of rules that to the best of my knowledge has no legal underpinning whatsoever.  If that's the brave new world we're now living in, it's perhaps not too much to ask that the 'proper' journalists - even ones as controversial as David Leask - should be rigorously held to the code, Clause 1 of which states "the Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images...a significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published".

On Friday 10th September 2021, the Express website published an article by Dan Falvey entitled 'SNP President drops huge hint Sturgeon could backtrack on plan for referendum in two years'.  I have no idea whether it also appeared in the Express print edition, which you won't be surprised to hear I don't subscribe to - but that makes no difference because online articles also fall under the jurisdiction of both IPSO and the Editors' Code.  The article contained a blatantly inaccurate claim about Scottish independence polling, and yet four days later it still has not been corrected and no apology has been issued.  

Falvey ludicrously ignored the genuine polling evidence that had been published on Thursday and Friday by Opinium and ComRes showing a very even split in public opinion - Opinium had Yes ahead by 51-49, while ComRes had No ahead by 52-48.  Instead, he treated the propaganda poll commissioned by Scotland in Union, complete with its dodgy question about "leaving the United Kingdom", as if it was the only one that mattered.

Now, to be clear, there's no question that IPSO would let the Express get away with that part of the article - they would just mark it down as a form of "editorialising" that may have been selective with its facts, but was not strictly inaccurate.  However, there's one particular sentence in which the Express strayed into outright falsehood, and it's this: "Polls have shown a drop in support for independence over the past six months, with a "No" vote consistently now in the lead".  The words 'consistently' and 'now' preclude the possibility of a Yes lead in any current poll - and yet the Opinium poll published just one day before the article had Yes ahead.

If you have the time and patience to take on the Express through the IPSO complaints process, here's the online form you need.

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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

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Independence polling update

A couple of people asked what happened to my blogpost from last night. I realised when I woke up that it (unwittingly) contained misleading information, and I didn't have enough time to edit it, so I just took it down. Alas, the Stack Data poll turned out to show the complete opposite of what I thought - I was led astray by the unconventional way it was presented in a tweet. It in fact showed a 52-48 lead for No, which is a 2% swing to No since the last poll from the same firm. Today's new Panelbase poll also seems to show a 52-48 No advantage, which is unchanged from the previous Panelbase poll. 

Bear in mind that both the ComRes poll and the Opinium poll showed a 1% swing to Yes, so put all of the information from the last few days together and it looks essentially like a no change picture. 

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The most significant part of Alex Salmond's widely-acclaimed speech at the Alba conference was the announcement that Robin McAlpine will be penning the 'Wee Alba Book'. That's a huge coup that will surely win the party some new-found credibility with at least parts of the radical left. The oft-heard charge from the SNP and Green trendies that Alba is "conservative" or "right-wing" looks ever more absurd. In fact it looks barking mad.

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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