Friday, December 16, 2022

What will happen to Labour's GB-wide poll lead if the bafflingly strong Reform UK vote starts to return to the Tories?

I was beginning to wonder a couple of days ago if Labour's GB-wide lead was melting away. A survey from Deltapoll stood out in particular...

GB-wide voting intentions for the next UK general election (Deltapoll, 9th-12th December 2022):

Labour 45% (-3)
Conservatives 32% (+4)
Liberal Democrats 8% (-2)
Greens 6% (+2)
Reform UK 4% (-)
SNP 3% (-1)
UKIP 1% (-)

Scottish subsample: SNP 40%, Labour 36%, Liberal Democrats 12%, Conservatives 12%

(Note: Unusually, the Wikipedia list of polls seems to have the result of this poll wrong, at least in part - the above numbers are taken direct from the Deltapoll data tables.)

That certainly does not look like a decisive Labour lead with eighteen months or longer still to go until a general election, bearing in mind that an unpopular government will often enjoy a swing back in its favour as polling day approaches.  At around the same time as the Deltapoll survey, there were also polls from Kantar, Savanta, Omnisis and Redfield & Wilton which showed Labour leads that were a bit less commanding than we were seeing a few weeks ago.

But now we're suddenly seeing more polls with really awful numbers for the Tories - for example, the following from YouGov...

GB-wide voting intentions for the next UK general election (YouGov, 14th-15th December 2022):

Labour 48% (-)
Conservatives 23% (-1)
Reform UK 9% (+1)
Liberal Democrats 8% (-1)
SNP 5% (+1)
Greens 5% (-1)
Plaid Cymru 1% (-1)

Scottish subsample: SNP 46%, Labour 27%, Conservatives 12%, Liberal Democrats 7%, Reform UK 5%, Plaid Cymru 1%

(Before anyone asks, no I don't know why Plaid Cymru have 1% of the Scottish vote.  Possibly a Welsh person on holiday.)

Perhaps the new Tory dip is caused by minds being concentrated by the nurses' strike in England, or perhaps the appearance of ebbs and flows is just an illusion caused by sampling variation.  Either way, what does occur to me is that the hole the Tories are in is only as deep as it is because of the current baffling strength of the Reform UK vote.  We have to assume that most Reform UK voters would still choose the Tories over Labour, so if those voters 'go home' in the same way that Brexit Party voters returned to the Tories as the 2019 election approached, the Labour lead could be cut quite drastically.

I know some people will argue that any such effect could be offset by Green voters drifting to Labour, which is true to an extent, but the difference is that the Greens are a much more established and familiar part of the political furniture.  I do wonder just how committed some of these supposed Reform UK voters truly are.  Is it really credible to think a relatively new party led by Richard "who?" Tice is ahead of the Liberal Democrats?

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The latest issue of iScot arrived through my letterbox today - as always, it's absolutely beautiful, and it contains a column from me about the royals' supposed lives of "duty and service".  A pro-independence print magazine is a fantastic asset for our movement - if you'd like to subscribe, or just to find out more, please click HERE.

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Thursday, December 15, 2022

To put it in the style of a Daily Mail headline: "So why WAS Stuart Campbell so eager to give Brit Nat newspapers a helpful story?"

The story of the apparently missing £600,000 from the earmarked fund for an independence referendum campaign was obviously damaging for the SNP and its leadership, but it was nevertheless in the interests of Yes supporters to pursue, because it was about ensuring that money intended to help win independence is actually spent on that purpose, rather than on any unrelated purpose.  But the story about Peter Murrell personally lending a large sum of money to the SNP, which has dominated the headlines of several media outlets and seems to have been completely generated from scratch by Stuart Campbell, is in a wholly different category because as things stand there's no particular reason to assume anything untoward has happened - it's all just innuendo, a "questions are being asked" story.  There was no noble journalistic intent in Campbell setting this story in train - it was just a malicious attempt to damage the SNP and the Sturgeon leadership for its own sake.

When I ask the people who still earnestly claim that Campbell is some sort of "independence supporter" how on earth this sort of stunt is supposed to help the cause of independence, they tell me it's very simple.  Ms Sturgeon is a hindrance not a help to independence, they say, and therefore anything that harms her is good for independence.  To which I don't know whether to laugh or cry.  Unless you actually have the means to bring Ms Sturgeon down and get her replaced as SNP leader very speedily, then all you're doing is chipping away at the credibility of the independence movement and the independence campaign as currently constituted - and indeed as it will probably still be constituted if and when a plebiscite election occurs.  Is there the remotest prospect of Campbell's stunt removing Ms Sturgeon from office?  No of course there isn't.  Is it particularly likely that anything at all Campbell can do will contribute to her stepping down earlier than she wishes?  No of course it isn't.  He's been chucking everything he can think of at the head of the independence movement for several years now, and it's all been completely ineffective.  Therefore, by definition, he's harming the cause he nominally claims to still support.  All he's doing is throwing unionists a lifeline at the precise moment we should be keeping them on the ropes and pressing home the Yes majority in all recent polls.

A commenter said on the previous thread (and I paraphrase) that he doesn't think Campbell is actively opposed to independence - it's simply that Campbell is single-mindedly driven by his anti-SNP agenda and is past the point of caring what effect his attempts to harm the SNP will have on the prospects for independence.  I think that's about right.  The front page of the Mail today is the grotesque but entirely natural end point for a man who, due to his own vanity and petty grudges, has in effect become an enemy of independence. It's hard to see any way back for him from this.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Beware the Herald's reporting of a "new" independence poll - the fieldwork is actually several weeks out of date (although it still shows a small Yes lead)

A Scot Goes Pop reader has alerted me to the fact that the Herald is reporting a "new" YouGov poll on independence.  I'll give you the results for the sake of completeness, but the crucial point here is that the fieldwork took place weeks ago, between the 22nd and 25th of November, which means it predates the run of four polls since the Supreme Court ruling showing a clear pro-independence majority.  The Herald's report says that the fieldwork "took in" the moment of the Supreme Court ruling on the 23rd, which is true, but it must always be remembered that most respondents to online polls reply to the interview request as soon as they receive it.  So the bulk of this poll is likely to have been carried out on the 22nd, before anyone knew that the Supreme Court was going to rule that Scotland is a prisoner in a non-voluntary union.

Should Scotland be an independent country? (YouGov / Scottish Election Survey, 22nd-25th November 2022)

Yes 50.2%
No 49.8%

It's extremely unusual in this day and age for polls to be rounded to one decimal place, but I'm just giving you the results exactly as the Herald have published them.  They even give percentage changes rounded to one decimal place from the previous poll for the Scottish Election Study, showing a 2.6% boost for Yes since August.

Obviously rounded to whole numbers this is a 50/50 result, but before Don't Knows are excluded, Yes have a slim lead of 43% to 42%.  So it's in the eye of the beholder whether this is a Yes-majority poll or not.   If you take the view that it is, it means we now have six polls in a row, with fieldwork stretching all the way back to mid-October, showing a pro-independence majority.

The emphasis the Herald are placing on supposedly poor voting intention results from the poll for the SNP really is a complete red herring, given we have a much more up-to-date poll from YouGov that is more favourable to the SNP.

UPDATE: Having done some more checking, it turns out to my surprise that only around one-third of the fieldwork for the poll was completed before the Supreme Court ruling.  However, there are two caveats to put on that.  Firstly, some of the respondents who took part after the ruling will have done so just afterwards and may not have caught up with the news yet.  And secondly, the 'before and after' results have been published from the poll, which show - as expected - that the Yes vote did indeed rise immediately after the ruling.  Among the one-third of respondents who took part before the ruling, there was a No lead of three points (after weighting but before the exclusion of Don't Knows), compared to a Yes lead of two points among the two-thirds of respondents who took part after the ruling.  There's an astoundingly biased and disingenuous write-up of the poll on the Scottish Election Study website which dismisses the difference between the two sections of the sample as statistically insignificant, and concludes that any impact from the court judgement on public opinion must have been extremely minor.  This conveniently ignores the elephant in the room - namely that we've had another four polls since this one, all of which pretty conclusively confirm that Yes has received a significant boost as a result of the ruling.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2022

The media have been fibbing to us again over the last 24 hours: in fact, the YouGov poll does NOT show the public oppose a de facto referendum - it was instead a ridiculous question about Rhodesian-style UDI

On the previous thread, a commenter said that every time he'd heard a media outlet mention the new YouGov poll today, they had been at pains to downplay the headline result on independence (showing a 53% Yes vote) and had instead tried to divert our focus towards the alleged finding that the Scottish public "oppose" the de facto referendum plan.  But as far as I can see, no such finding exists.  There doesn't seem to be any sign of the YouGov data tables yet, but the What Scotland Thinks website does have an extensive list of results from the poll, and the only one that relates to a de facto referendum is in response to a question worded as follows:

"Would you support or oppose the Scottish Government declaring Scotland independent without a referendum if the SNP – and other parties supporting Independence – gain more than 50% of the vote at the next General Election?"

That's a question about Rhodesian-style UDI, not about the principle of a de facto referendum.  There is not even a shred of a suggestion from the SNP that they would declare independence unilaterally if they won 50%+ of the popular vote in a de facto referendum - instead they would use the mandate as leverage to pressurise the UK government into negotiating an agreed independence settlement.  (Some cynics think they wouldn't even go that far, and instead would revert to the broken record of begging for a Section 30 order that everyone knows will never be granted.)

It's difficult not to reach the conclusion that either YouGov or their client (more likely the latter in this case) deliberately asked a leading question about UDI to obtain a negative result, and did so with the full intention of misrepresenting that negative result as being about the principle of using an election as a de facto referendum.  It really is a pretty brazen stunt, even by the normal standards of the Brit Nat propagandists in the media.

What they're rather less keen to mention is that the poll shows that a clear majority (51% to 38%) want an indyref within the next five years, and that an almost identical majority (51% to 39%) think the Scottish Parliament should have the power to call an indyref without the consent of Westminster.

I also see from the What Scotland Thinks site that there are Holyrood voting intention numbers in the YouGov poll, which are markedly better for the SNP than the Westminster numbers -

Scottish Parliament constituency ballot:

SNP 50% (+1)
Labour 25% (-1)
Conservatives 13% (-)
Liberal Democrats 7% (-1)

Scottish Parliament regional list ballot:

SNP 40% (+2)
Labour 24% (-)
Conservatives 13% (-1)
Greens 11% (-1)
Liberal Democrats 6% (-2)

Seats projection: SNP 67 (+3), Labour 31 (+9), Conservatives 15 (-16), Greens 11 (+3), Liberal Democrats 5 (+1)


So a clear majority for pro-indy parties on the popular vote for the list ballot, and probably on the constituency ballot too once we discover the breakdown for "other parties".  It looks like Labour's surge may have stalled before they even came close to seriously threatening the SNP in the Holyrood arena. Incidentally, there's 8% support for "other parties" on the Westminster ballot, so it's possible that pro-indy parties are closer to 50% for a Westminster plebiscite election than we initially assumed.  In theory they could even be on 51% if the Greens have all 8% for the "others", but obviously that's very unlikely.

I hear on the grapevine that Panelbase currently have a Scottish poll in the field, so as long as it's not a private poll (always a real possibility) we may have at least one more independence poll before the end of the year.  That keeps open the scenario that the average Yes vote in this calendar year may yet exceed 50%.  The poll apparently has a lot of questions about the trans issue and about Alba, and yet I'm told Alba are not offered as an option on the main voting intention questions.  If I was going to hazard a guess, I would say that this is perhaps a multi-client survey with the questions about gender and Alba coming from Stuart Campbell and/or Alba itself, and with the voting intention questions coming from another client, possibly the Sunday Times.

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The earth shakes as support for independence rockets to 53% with traditionally No-friendly pollster YouGov - the FIFTH poll in a row to show a pro-indy majority

The situation is becoming increasingly desperate for the unionist ultras who have been frantically trying to hold the line that there has been no backlash in Scotland against the Supreme Court ruling, that there isn't a very clear pro-independence majority as a result, and that any polls that might suggest otherwise can be safely disregarded.  The problem with dismissing the recent Ipsos poll as an outlier caused by bias or a conspiracy is that you then need every other poll from every other firm to show something totally different.  Instead, the opposite has happened - every other firm has corroborated Ipsos' findings.  We now have four polls from four different firms since the Supreme Court ruling, and all four show a Yes majority.  Not one even has the Yes vote below 52%.  OK, it was possible to raise one or two question marks about Find Out Now given their lack of a track record in Scotland - but how do you dismiss this new Yes majority from YouGov, a traditionally No-friendly firm that has been regularly polling in Scotland for a couple of decades?

Should Scotland be an independent country? (YouGov, 6th-9th December 2022)

Yes 53% (+4)
No 47% (-4)

By the way, just to clear up any potential confusion - there have been four consecutive Yes-majority polls since the court judgement, but the final poll before that landmark event also showed a pro-indy majority (albeit that poll used a non-standard question).  So that's why the title of this blogpost refers to a fifth poll in a row.  

Particularly encouraging here are the fieldwork dates - respondents were interviewed entirely after the Ipsos poll closed, and well after the Redfield & Wilton poll ended. There was some overlap with the fieldwork for Find Out Now, but YouGov didn't start their interviews until Find Out Now had been underway for some five days.  So although it's still far too premature to say the Yes bounce won't turn out to be temporary, it's certainly proving to be more than a one-week wonder.

As I predicted at the time of the Ipsos poll, it looks like online firms will only corroborate the Ipsos independence findings, and not the Ipsos finding that the SNP are on course for an absolute majority of the popular vote at the Westminster general election - which of course is crucial, because it's the general election that the SNP are planning to use as a de facto independence referendum.  If headline Yes support doesn't translate to the vote that is actually going to be used, it won't do us much good.

Scottish voting intentions for the next UK general election:

SNP 43% (-2)
Labour 29% (-2)
Conservatives 14% (+2)

So far I can't find the numbers for the smaller parties, and obviously if there's a Green percentage that will be critical, because Green votes would also count as pro-indy votes.  However it does look unlikely that there is a majority for pro-indy parties in Westminster voting intentions as of this moment - if YouGov's methodology is correct and Ipsos' methodology is wrong, which are two big ifs.  In normal circumstances, though, I would say these figures are extremely heartening, because they may indicate that the SNP have come through the worst of the Labour surge with a substantial lead intact, which puts them on course for another landslide in terms of seats.  It's certainly a lot healthier a lead than some of the polling subsamples have been suggesting of late.

The Times' write-up of the poll predictably places a lot of emphasis on the findings of supplementary questions which supposedly show a lack of enthusiasm for an early referendum within Nicola Sturgeon's preferred timescale, and for a de facto referendum.  I'd advise taking those results with a heavy dose of salt, because for reasons that are not entirely clear, YouGov always seem to show markedly lower support for a referendum than other firms.  It must be some sort of YouGov 'house effect', but whether it's mostly to do with question wording, or with the composition of the YouGov panel, is hard to say.

And now, drumroll please, here's the moment you've all been waiting for.  What does a fifth consecutive pro-indy majority mean for the average Yes vote across all polls in 2022?  The latest update is below.

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:  49.7%

So 2022 now shows the second highest pro-independence support of any calendar year in history, and is genuinely within touching distance of joining 2020 as one of only two years in which there has been an outright pro-independence majority.  It just depends on whether there are more polls to come over the final three weeks of the year, and obviously also on whether the trend of Yes-majority polls continues.

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Sunday, December 11, 2022

Make no mistake: if the SNP leadership do not use an election as a de facto referendum by the end of 2024, they will be guilty of a screeching U-turn and of a betrayal of promises to the independence movement

In the hours after I posted the above tweet, a few people claimed that Stephen Flynn's words had been misconstrued, but I've read the interview and unfortunately that's not the case at all.  He's clearly suggesting there might be alternatives to the plan of using the next Westminster election as a de facto independence referendum - which would be fine if he was referring to the overwhelmingly sensible alternative option of using an early Holyrood election at some point in 2023, but that's the one option he explicitly rules out.  He pejoratively dismisses the idea as "collapsing Holyrood in a cost of living crisis which I think would be utterly absurd".  That's a complete nonsense, by the way - if there was a Holyrood election scheduled for next year, nobody would describe that as "the scheduled collapse of Holyrood" and nobody would suggest that democracy should be suspended just because we're in the middle of a cost of living crisis.

But nevertheless, that's the daft spin he's putting on it, which logically means the alternatives he's referring to are reduced to just two: a) abandoning the idea of a de facto referendum altogether, which in the light of the Supreme Court ruling is tantamount to abandoning support for independence itself, or b) twiddling our thumbs for the next three and a half years until the next scheduled Holyrood election comes around in May 2026.  Either of those would be a total betrayal of solemn commitments made by Nicola Sturgeon to SNP members and to the wider independence movement.  Using the 2024 Westminster election as a de facto referendum is sub-optimal for reasons that have been well-rehearsed, but if for self-interested reasons the SNP are determined to rule out an early Holyrood election, then Westminster 2024 it will have to be.  Apart from the breach of faith that waiting any longer would entail, the idea that we would wait an entire decade after the 2016 EU referendum to give people a choice on independence is self-evidently crazy and strategically inept.

It's impossible to escape the conclusion that career interests are distorting the SNP's decision-making at every turn.  SNP Westminster MPs are worried that unionist tactical voting in a 2024 plebiscite election could cost them their seats, while SNP Holyrood MSPs who thought they were safe in office until 2026 are horrified by the thought of "unnecessarily" facing election before then.  Guys, it's supposed to be independence before personal interests, not the other way around.  Maybe that should be number one in any AIM indy pledge, ahead of all the "transphobia" stuff.

Incidentally, as far as I can see the Herald are just plain wrong in claiming that the Alba Party want the 2026 Holyrood election to be used as a plebiscite. I'm no longer on the Alba NEC, so I can't tell you definitively what the position is, but everything I've heard suggests that Alba are calling for an early Holyrood election well before 2026.

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Yet more very serious lies about Scottish independence polling - and they really are flat-out lies - have been printed in the Express today

Eighteen months ago, the Scottish media was not as bad as it is now. I know some of you will be itching to take issue with that claim, but let me give you one killer fact that puts the matter beyond all dispute: eighteen months ago, the "Scottish" Daily Express website did not yet exist.  People on the unionist side sometimes accuse The National of being a "comic" or a "fanzine" but they must know that the Express abomination is the Brit Nat version of everything they accuse The National of being, multiplied by about forty-three thousand.  

The website insists on never referring to independence as anything other than "Scexit" - and if that's supposed to be pejorative it's somewhat ironic, given the key role of the Express and other like-minded anti-EU newspapers in bringing Brexit about.  But rather like Mrs Thatcher's determination to get the term "Community Charge" off the ground through sheer repetition, it's doomed to failure. The site also pumps out almost daily misinformation about opinion polls, and treats random ultra-unionist trolls on Twitter as if they were Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporters.

The latter two practices have come together today in an article that is almost exquisitely excruciating - it's like the pinnacle of a new art-form.  It reports breathlessly on an "Ipsos Mori bias accusation row", which actually amounts to nothing more than a prolonged temper tantrum on Twitter from Brit Nat uber-zoomer "The Majority", who is grandiosely referred to as a "group".  In an attempt to lend credibility to The Majority as a non-idiot, it suggests Ben Page of Ipsos had "agreed to investigate" his accusations of bias - although in reality all Page was actually doing was humouring the guy and using a polite form of words to indicate that he needed a moment to draw breath before explaining why the claims were garbage.  

Embarrassingly, the final 40% or so of the Express article gives over the floor entirely to an extended, unchallenged rant-quote from The Majority, which contains multiple factual inaccuracies. The most grievous falsehood is this: 

"Combined with the fact that NO OTHER POLLSTER has ever polled Scottish independence greater than 50% AND that Ipsos polls have the highest of all polling results on Scottish 'independence, we can, with no margin of error, confidently say that their credibility is ZERO."

You might be puzzled as to how he thinks he can get away with the claim that no pollster other than Ipsos has ever reported a pro-indy figure of higher than 50%, given that we can all remember Yes-majority polls from the likes of Panelbase and Survation (and indeed from Find Out Now only yesterday!).  I personally have commissioned no fewer than four non-Ipsos polls with Yes majorities - three from Panelbase and one from Survation.

What he's actually talking about is the Yes figure before Don't Knows are excluded, but even on that basis his claim is indisputably false.  Here are a few examples of Yes having more than 50% in non-Ipsos polls with Don't Knows left in -  

Find Out Now, 1st-8th December 2022: Yes 51%, No 43%, Don't Know 6%

Hanbury Strategy, 12th February-1st March 2021: Yes 52%, No 41%, Don't Know 7%

Panelbase, 5th-11th November 2020: Yes 51%, No 40%, Don't Know 8%

JL Partners, 17th-21st September 2020: Yes 51%, No 40%, Don't Know 7%

Panelbase, 12th-18th August 2020: Yes 51%, No 42%, Don't Know 7%

Additionally, the Express allows The Majority to make this claim unchallenged - 

"[The Ipsos poll is] based on a sample that uses 50% SNP + 4% Greens + 1% Alba = 55% when, combined, those parties have never had over 50% of the vote."

You're way ahead of me here - in the 2015 Westminster general election, the combined SNP + Green vote was 51.3%, and in the 2021 Scottish Parliament list ballot, the combined SNP + Green + Alba vote was 50.1%.  So another flat-out lie from The Majority.

A few days ago, in relation to another Express article, I suggested that readers might want to consider lodging a complaint with the press regulator.  In this case, it's debatable whether there's any point, given the use of quote marks as an alibi.  But you may still wish to ponder whether that's a sufficient excuse, given that there's no disclaimer that the claims being made are untrue or at least haven't been fact-checked, which will leave most readers with the impression that they are both true and unanswerable.

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