Friday, November 25, 2022

WINGS-WATCH: I've calculated the average yearly support for independence, using every single opinion poll conducted since January 2016, to once and for all debunk Stuart Campbell's cynical fib that the Yes vote "has been static on 47% for the last six years"

I'll be absolutely blunt about this - I'm hopping mad that this post has proved necessary at this particular moment.  Although I was under no illusions when I took on the Wings-Watch fact-checking service that I was likely to be called into action fairly frequently, I would have hoped that on the day of the Supreme Court ruling, of all days, those who self-identify as independence supporters might have been united in simply condemning the London authorities for their crackdown on Scottish democracy, and in preparing for the crucial plebiscite election campaign ahead.  But, alas, Stuart Campbell instead chose yet again to attempt to drain the morale of Yes campaigners with an obscenely misleading graph which dishonestly purported to show that public backing for independence has continuously remained static at 47% since 2016.  His agenda in doing this can be described as anti-Sturgeon, or anti-SNP, or 'revenge for no support in the Dugdale case' or 'revenge for gender self-ID'.  But whatever his precise motives, they've got absolutely zilch to do with the furtherance of the cause of independence.

In order to create the false impression of constant 47% support for Yes over the last six years, Mr Campbell appears to have cherry-picked just five polls from the well over 100 that have been conducted during that period.  His criteria for the cherry-picking was simply: a) any polls conducted in the same month of any given year, and b) any polls that happened to show Yes on 47%.  He wasn't remotely bothered about finding five polls that were comparable with each other, because he admits in the small print that they were conducted by no fewer than three different polling companies - Panelbase, Survation and BMG.  Absurdly, he leaves out 2018 and 2020 altogether, simply because he couldn't find any polls in April of those years with Yes on 47%!  If it wasn't so cynical, it would actually be downright comical.

The intention, of course, is to give the impression that the five polls are typical and representative of independence polling in each year, and that Yes support has indeed been genuinely static.  But nothing could be further from the truth.  For any Wings Over Scotland followers who are actually interested in being acquainted with real facts (as opposed to only hearing distortions and lies intended to buttress a propaganda narrative that they may well be only too happy to believe), feel free to read on for a veritable feast of real numbers, presented honestly.

Let's start with the yearly figures for independence support from the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey.  Although these tend to differ significantly from Yes support in conventional binary-choice independence polling, they're extremely relevant in this particular context, because in another misleading and inaccurate post about polling a few days ago, Mr Campbell used the result from the 2007 Social Attitudes Survey as his baseline figure for indy support in the year that Alex Salmond became First Minister.  He then proceeded to make an utterly bogus comparison between that number and later Yes support in conventional polling.

Yearly support for Scottish independence in the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey:

2014:  33%

2016 (a):  39%

2016 (b):  46%

2018:  45%

2020:  51%

2021:  52%

(Note: There's been an increasing tendency for Wings-supporting trolls to drop silly hints that they think I am making numbers up, so feel free to check the above figures for yourself on John Curtice's What Scotland Thinks website.)

So that tells a rather different story from a graph suggesting Yes support has been stuck on 47% for the last six years, does it not?  With one minor exception, there has been a consistent year-on-year increase in support for independence since 2014, which was the last survey conducted when Alex Salmond was still SNP leader.  And what's more, the cumulative increase over those years has been nothing short of dramatic - a huge jump from just 33% in 2014 to 52% in the most recent survey from last year.

Now let's turn to conventional polling on independence.  The figures below are the yearly average percentage shares for Yes, after Don't Knows are excluded, from every single poll conducted in each calendar year since 2016. (I chose 2016 as the start date because that's when Mr Campbell's dodgy graph begins.)  This has been a mammoth task that has taken me aaaaaaaages, so I hope you appreciate my dedication to my Wings-Watch fact-checking vocation.

Average yearly support for independence in conventional opinion polling:

2016:  47.7%

2017:  45.3%

2018:  45.5%
2019:  47.6%

2020:  53.0%

2021:  49.6%

2022:  49.0%

This is obviously a much more complex pattern than the one suggested by the Social Attitudes Survey, but it's nevertheless completely inconsistent with Mr Campbell's false claims of a static picture.  Of particular note is the speedy and steep climb from approximately 45% (essentially identical to the 2014 referendum result) in both 2017 and 2018 to the outright majority territory of 53% in 2020.  Although support has since slipped back, it still remains significantly higher than it was in 2017 and 2018, and even a little higher than it was in 2016.  In case you're wondering, the reason why independence support was a touch higher than might be expected in 2016 is that the EU referendum occurred that year, leading to a short-lived purple patch for Yes in the summer.

I should stress, incidentally, that I haven't included last night's extraordinary Find Out Now poll in the 2022 average, simply because the question asked was so radically different from the norm, and therefore it's debatable whether it really counts as an 'independence poll'.  Including it would make a significant difference, because the implied Yes lead is around 20% or 22% with Don't Knows excluded.

My plea to Wings readers is simply to be aware that when Mr Campbell cites independence-related polling, he's almost always either fibbing to you or deliberately misleading you with selective or non-comparable data.  It's only by bearing that in mind that it's possible to really make sense of what his posts are actually about.

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  1. James, I have never accepted Campbell's flat line graph and to be honest I have no idea why he feels the need to reinforce the point he is making - namely that Sturgeon is a time waster - with this nonsense. I agree with his overall point (as I have posted before) that Sturgeon is a time waster. Similarly I have never accepted Skier's ski slope graph that just says if we do nothing independence will just fall in to our lap.

  2. The Rev tell porkies? I'm shocked I tell ye !

  3. As James has previously reported on - Mhairi Hunter Sturgeons bampot pal is still saying the UK GE de facto referendum will be nothing more than some sort of vote to get the UK to agree to a further vote. Just how does this reassure people like me that it is not all just another con to get people to vote SNP to get their MPs more time at the Westminster trough and more years of the Westminster short money.
    Not only that she is denying that the Scot parliament can be dissolved to hold a de facto refrerendum as we need more independence supporting MPs. Now that last point really really pisses me off - remember Both Votes SNP. Sick sick sick of Sturgeon and her gang. They are either incompetent idiots or working against independence. Either way they should not be in charge of Scotland's future.

    1. " No briefings from your outriders that you're really still looking for a Section 30 order." This is what James said on Wed morning.

      It's like looking for a pot of gold (gold standard) at the end of a rainbow. A never ending journey.

  4. Dear IfS .... You may wish to contemplate on the very substantial proposition that you are indeed...delusional.

    1. Anonymite - some evidence please. Or I will take it you are just another anonymous abusive poster hiding amongst the anonymous crowd like the coward you will be. Evidence or abusive coward your choice.

    2. Anonymite I will give you examples of delusional behaviour - WGD numpties who think Sturgeon has been a spectacular success, she's played a blinder, a great strategy, a masterstroke. Totally delusional numpties. Sturgeon is a great politician because any other politician would be long gone. Definition of great in this instance is being able to hold on to power for so long. A bit like Putin. Both not very great for their populace but boy can they both con the people that they are the best they can get.

  5. A month ago I wrote to my MP Kirsten Oswald SNP MP. No reply. Is this acceptable? When I wrote to her predecessor the Tory MP Masterton I got a reasonably prompt reply but with blatant lies in the content. What to do with these useless politicians?
    If Alba are not standing in my constituency do I vote for someone who has not got the courtesy to reply to her constituent or just not vote at all especially if I think the de facto referendum is just another Sturgeon time wasting con trick.

  6. I agree a pleb is likely a con and think it definitely is if it's SNP only and not a Yes Alliance. If it's done at WM then I think it has the potential to destroy the Yes movement as we'd likely lose jeopardising future UN recognition from any future Holyrood pleb. Knowing this in advance would be an act of total SNP cynicism which was actually omitted in the recent James vs Craig debate on the matter and is definitely a reason for Alba to stand at WM in the absence of a Yes alliance. But we shouldn't be dong it there anyway.

    Another problem happens if they make holyrood a pleb but still insist on both votes SNP. This fractures the movement making defeat more likely. Obviously we again vote Alba so that's easy but again it would be an act of cynicism that means we'd lose our independence as we wouldn't get UN recognition at a future date (you've lost twice already).

    Bottom line is it needs to be holyrood and it needs to be a yes alliance. Any deviation from either and Alba should stand.

  7. To the person who tried to dismiss the trends in the annual polling averages as meaningless because there's a roughly 3% standard margin of error in polls: nope, you're completely incorrect about that. The standard margin of error applies only to *individual* polls, and the issue should be mostly eliminated by averaging large numbers of polls over time - unless of course the polling methodology is going awry. Here's a link to a blogpost I wrote in 2016 exploring the issue in more depth (ironically it came about due to other false claims from Stuart Campbell, although in that case he was probably just deeply mistaken, rather than intentionally pushing false information) -

  8. Nicely done James. Has Campbell been 'compromised'? Certainly looks like it from where I'm seated.

  9. Just a quick reply (not that it's deserved) to two comments which will not be published because they're abusive and/or grossly insulting.

    You both rely on rubbishing the Social Attutudes Survey numbers - well, that leaves you with a major problem, because Mr Campbell used the Social Attitudes Survey result from 2007 as his baseline figure for independence support at the point Alex Salmond became First Minister - that's the only reason he was able to quote a figure as low as mid-20s. If you're saying the Social Attitudes Survey is somehow bogus, or produces bogus results, you've just totally obliterated Mr Campbell's own argument.

    I was deeply tickled that one of you thought you had a "gotcha" moment when you pointed out that the Social Attitudes Survey is not binary-choice and that there is more than one anti-independence option presented to respondents. Er, I don't know how to break the news to you, mate, but that makes it *harder* to dismiss a pro-indy vote of 52%, not *easier*. Multi-option questions generally produce *lower* results for indy support, not *higher* - which is exactly why the indy figure in 2014 was just 33%, in the same year that 45% voted Yes in an independence referendum.