Monday, August 29, 2022

No, support for independence among women has not "fallen 17% over the last few years" - it's actually increased markedly

A few weeks ago on Twitter, I was on the receiving end of what I think can reasonably be described as a mini-pile-on, simply because I was pointing out a self-evident truth: that it would be catastrophic to split the pro-independence vote in a plebiscite election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system. The bottom line, I think, is that there is a small but vocal group of people who are emotionally wedded to the idea of taking on the SNP about the gender identity issue at the next general election regardless of circumstances, and who now regard that battle as more important than independence, at least in the short-to-medium term.  To justify going ahead with a vote-splitting exercise that any serious person can see would significantly lessen the chances of success in a plebiscite election, they're working backwards to come up with reasons for supposedly believing that it's possible to have our cake and eat it, ie. that vote-splitting would somehow help the independence cause.  And chief among those reasons is that there are purportedly huge numbers of female voters out there (the implication is tens of thousands or possibly even hundreds of thousands) who are so angry about gender self-ID that they would never vote for SNP candidates in a plebiscite election, but might vote for another pro-independence party with gender critical views.  Thus, the suggestion is, the total vote for independence would markedly increase if pro-independence parties stood against each other.  (Incidentally, this approach might well cost the gender critical SNP MP Joanna Cherry her seat, because presumably she'd have a pro-self-ID Yes candidate splitting her vote in a constituency that in the past has been a very tight marginal.  That's an odd risk to take if you regard women's sex-based rights as the most important issue.)

To support the 'vote-splitting is good' interpretation, a dodgy-as-hell and weirdly specific claim was repeatedly made during the pile-on: namely that support for independence among women has fallen by 17% over the last few years, allegedly due to the gender identity issue.  And as you can see from the tweet at the top of the blogpost, that claim has been given yet another outing today.  It really ought to be blindingly obvious to everyone that it's utterly nonsensical, for the following reasons:

* There was a substantial gender gap in the first independence referendum, with men significantly more likely to vote Yes than women.  The failure of the Yes campaign to convince women in the same numbers as men is one of the principal reasons that Scotland is not already an independent country.  The "17% drop" claim invites us to believe that a gender gap that was already big has grown astronomically wider - which makes no sense in the context of a Yes vote that is actually now higher than it was in 2014.

* The Scot Goes Pop poll on the GRA issue last autumn found that self-ID was very unpopular among women, but also found that it was even more unpopular among men.  If it was really true that self-ID was causing support for independence to plummet among women, it therefore ought to be having the same or an even bigger effect on male support for indy.  Yet the "17% drop" claim instead invites us to believe that a fall in Yes support among women has somehow been offset by a massive increase in Yes support among men - because there would be no other way to explain the overall Yes vote holding up so well.

* If self-ID is impacting female support for independence, it ought to be having a similar or even bigger impact on female support for the SNP - because, after all, it's the SNP that is introducing self-ID, and that's happening under devolution, not independence.  And yet the SNP easily won last year's Holyrood election with a slight increase in their number of seats.

The reality is that the public resoundingly oppose gender self-ID, but by and large that's not affecting their voting choices - or not yet, anyway.  And, let's face it, if that wasn't the case, the SNP leadership wouldn't be risking a change in the law.  They may have fallen hopelessly under the spell of the new Stonewall ideology, but above all else they care about power, and they would be absolutely ruthless about ditching self-ID if their internal polling and/or focus groups showed that it could cost them the next election.  However, there are people who are clearly caught in a Twitter bubble and don't find the notion of self-ID causing a 17% drop in Yes support among women inherently implausible.  So let's knock it firmly on the head with some hard polling numbers.  

It's pretty much impossible to find women-only figures for every single independence poll that has been conducted since the first indyref, because they only appear in the detailed data tables, which are often hard to locate.  However, Panelbase are probably the most active pollster in Scotland and appear to have a fairly intact archive of datasets.  I've looked at three distinct periods of Panelbase polls - the last few months, five years ago (because sometimes the 17% claim specifically references "over the last five years"), and the period immediately after the indyref.  To my surprise, I found that Panelbase didn't conduct their first post-indyref poll using the standard independence question until April 2015.  (There was a Wings poll much earlier than that which attracted a lot of attention because it showed a Yes lead, but the question was non-standard.)

How women would vote in response to the question "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

April 2015: 

Yes 42.3%
No 57.7%

June/July 2015:

Yes 44.2%
No 55.8%

September 2015:

Yes 44.4%
No 55.6%


Yes 43.6%
No 56.4%


May 2017:

Yes 40.8%
No 59.2%

June 2017:

Yes 41.2%
No 58.8%

August/September 2017:

Yes 39.0%
No 61.0%


Yes 40.3%
No 59.7%


April 2022:

Yes 46.0%
No 54.0%

June/July 2022:

Yes 49.1%
No 50.9%

August 2022:

Yes 47.7%
No 52.3%


Yes 47.6%
No 52.4%

So the conclusion is unmistakeable - not only is the "17% drop" claim untrue, it's the polar opposite of the truth.  Support for independence among women is currently much higher than it was five years ago, and significantly higher than it was in the post-indyref period.  I suspect this will come as a disappointment to some people, but it really shouldn't - it's a good news story that actually gives us a decent chance of winning a mandate for independence next year or the year after.  And that (as opposed to spending all our time dreaming up imaginary reasons for thinking we're doomed to failure) is supposed to be our objective.

However strongly feelings are running on the gender identity issue (and I share those feelings, remember), I'd urge everyone to make their case based on real facts rather than Trump-style invented facts that pander to what people would like to be true or think ought to be true.  

*  *  *

We've already seen since Nicola Sturgeon's announcement that the overwhelmingly unionist mainstream media are attempting a 'shock and awe' campaign to try to kill off independence - and the misuse of polling is playing a key part in that.  If you'd like to balance things out with polling commissioned by a pro-independence outlet and which asks the questions we want to see asked, one way of doing that would be to help Scot Goes Pop's fundraising drive - see details below.

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  1. The issue signposts the wider problem, which is that a significant fraction of people in the indy movement have lost trust in, lost patience with, the SNP because of their marked dithering at what's supposed to be their number one priority. Plenty are sufficiently unsure now whether the SNP is actually out-and-out pro-indy, or whether they're just manipulating their position for political gain, or whether they're just incompetent at achieving independence, or whether they'd kind of like it generically some point way down the line, maybe, but actually here's a bunch of other things they'd much rather have and can achieve now whether you want it or not.

    People feeling this don't want to give the SNP their vote on a pro-independence basis alone because they're no longer confident the SNP aren't going to take that support and use it to justify other policies or positions. If there is a plebiscite election, and the SNP stand purely on independence grounds, are they going to claim post-election (win or lose) that those votes were also an endorsement of other areas of SNP policy? No-one seems to know, because beyond the general promise of a potential plebiscite, there's been little else about how the SNP see that working in practice. The vacuum continues.

    This is the problem in a nutshell with the SNP "gradualist" fantasy. It works on this utopic assumption that you can gather votes here and there slowly, over time, but once you've gathered them they're locked in and everyone always sticks unwaveringly to their position, not questioning the leadership, not questioning the hows and the whys and the waypoints, accepting individual losses as sacrifices in a larger battle, till you eventually achieve a critical mass and the goal just happens because you took enough people with you.

    The problem is, as we're seeing, it doesn't work neatly like that - you build a broad church with a common purpose and hold it together as best you can for a limited period of time. If you dither, if you look like you're just going to sit back and hope most of that church is just going to idly wait for you, if you decide to veer off in tangents on other things that only you're interested in, if you don't explain your plans and how you move forward, then the church breaks apart. People break off, look for another means of getting there, get frustrated with the whole thing, have time to see all the other areas where the leaders are failing. That is, unfortunately, where it appears the Yes movement is going now.

  2. Thanks James for this information. I had been concerned by the 17pc drop claims that appeared on WOS. I thought that this was going to be a difficult issue for us to deal with as I know so many gender critical women (actually all the women I know are against self ID). What we need now is unity and, importantly, direction - some positive leadership would be good.

    1. Is Wings the original source of the claim? I thought it had a 'Wings-type' feel to it (similar to the daft claim that indy support has literally flatlined for years) but I searched the site a few weeks ago and couldn't find any trace of it. I must have been using the wrong search terms.

    2. It's certainly where I read it first. Here is the link:

    3. Jeez, that's brazen. It's in exactly the same piece as the "flatlining" claim. He must know he's misleading people but he goes right ahead and does it anyway. As someone said to me recently, he could get a job in the Daily Mail tomorrow.

    4. Skier and his ski slope graph and Campbell and his pancake flat graph. Who to believe? 🤣🤣 I'll pass on both thank you very much.

    5. But you dont call him by his surname when you're on Wings do you Republic of Scotland?

    6. Anonymous - your post is mince. What should I call Campbell - our great leader - oh no that one is taken by all the WGD numpties when referring to the Britnat called Sturgeon. You have got to be a WGD numpty.
      Why are anonymous posters so concerned about who I am. Is that you mad liar Irish Skier?

  3. For what it's worth I have recently heard five, perhaps six, women in public loudly express their dislike for Sturgeon. I don't know if it's because of gender reform specifically but it reminds me of 2014 when some men seemed to be equally eager to express their dislike of Salmond in an equally unabashed manner. Either way it's a very lazy excuse to vote against independence if that's what they intend [intended] to do. Some people will do any but think.

    1. The reality is that independence is significantly more popular among women now than it was before Nicola Sturgeon became leader. How much she can personally take the credit for that, I don't know, but that's the position.

  4. A serious question for all serious independistas. Over time who will be more famous the Red Dwarf H or Scotlands very own H. One is a hologram and the other is anonymous.
    Answers on a postcard to Bute House, Edinburgh.