Monday, March 27, 2023

EXCLUSIVE SCOT GOES POP / FIND OUT NOW POLL: The Greens leaving government in protest would have very little net effect on public support for the SNP

The SNP leadership ballot is closing right now, so it's high time for me to rush out one particular finding from the Scot Goes Pop / Find Out Now poll, because a Humza win will render it totally academic in the blink of an eye.

Scot Goes Pop / Find Out Now poll (1st-9th March 2023, sample size 1266):

Imagine that either Ash Regan or Kate Forbes win the SNP leadership election, and as a result the SNP stop trying to change the law to allow people to change their legal gender by self-declaration. Imagine also that the Scottish Green Party's ministers then resign from the Scottish Government in protest. In those circumstances, do you think you would be more likely or less likely to vote SNP in future elections?

More likely: 13%
Less likely: 17%
No difference: 54%

The remaining 16% of the sample didn't offer an answer.  So if by any chance Kate Forbes wins, these numbers would offer considerable reassurance that any subsequent Green flounce out of government would not bring the roof down on SNP support - it would make no difference at all to the voting choices of a substantial majority of the public, and among the minority of voters whose thinking might be influenced, the 17% who would be less likely to vote SNP would be largely offset by the 13% who would be more likely to vote SNP.  And, in any case, the four-point gap between 17% and 13% does not quite reach the level of statistical significance, given the standard margin of error in any poll.

Asking voters whether they prefer Kate Forbes to Humza Yousaf, or simply whether they'd be more likely to vote SNP if the gender reforms were ditched, would have been 'motherhood and apple pie' questions - it's fairly obvious what the results would have been.  But Yousaf  backers could have pointed out that such questions don't take account of the real world consequences of a Forbes win - and, after all, the SNP-Green coalition was extremely popular among independence supporters when it was first sealed.  So the question asked in this poll was an attempt at being fairer by getting respondents to consider all the relevant points in the round. Even when they do that, it appears that support for the SNP is almost unaffected (on a net basis).

As I've pointed out myself in the past, there is a health warning that has to be placed on 'more likely'/'less likely' results, because there are respondents out there who hate the SNP enough that they'll always want to give the most negative answer, and so will say X or Y hypothesis would make them "less likely to vote SNP" even though there would have been a 100% chance of them voting against the SNP anyway.  In this poll, we also have to take account of the fact that Green supporters will have had a good reason to be rather animated about the scenario painted in the question, and they'll therefore account for a non-trivial part of the small gap between "more likely" and "less likely".  But among people who actually voted SNP in the 2019 general election, the results are broadly in line with the wider public - 14% say "more likely", 20% say "less likely" and 55% say "no difference".  The 15% of Tory voters who say they would be more likely to vote SNP after a Green flounce slightly outcount the 13% who say they would be less likely, and interestingly there's a 15%-15% split among Liberal Democrat voters, which arguably adds to the weight of evidence from other polls that Lib Dem voters are not as keen on gender self-ID as the Lib Dem leadership are.

There's a significant divide between the age groups, as you'd probably expect on a question like this, with every age group from 45 upwards showing slightly more people choosing the "more likely" option than the "less likely" option.

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Thoughts on Yousaf's status as heavy favourite on the betting markets

I've forbidden discussion in the comments section of this blog about movements in betting prices while the ballot was underway, just in case the Yousaf campaign were trying to manipulate our perception of the race by getting large bets placed, but I'll now give my thoughts on the subject.  I always wince when I hear people trot out the cliché that "the bookies rarely get it wrong, they know exactly what's going on", because at least as far as politics is concerned, I've lost count of the number of times that both conventional betting odds and the betting markets have got it hopelessly wrong.  The classic example was the 2007 Holyrood election, when the markets over-reacted to Labour's better-than-expected showing in the early results.  During the closing hours of the count, Labour were overwhelming favourites on the markets to win most seats, even though you'd only have had to turn on a TV set in Scotland to hear Brian Taylor explain that informal tallies at the count showed the SNP were likely to end up with a one seat advantage, which is exactly what transpired.  So that gives the lie to the idea - as someone tried to post here the other day - that if there was free money available to people who knew Humza was likely to lose, they'd have been bound to take it and thus shift the odds in Forbes' favour.  Not everyone is this world thinks like a gambler or a 'sports trader' - there are situations where the truth is hidden in plain sight and yet the markets are oblivious to it.

Nevertheless, the timing of some of the moves towards Humza on the markets did worry me to some extent.  There was a really sharp move towards him on the day the ballot opened, which had the feel of people who had live access to the early data cashing in.  I did see a betting expert claim that the movement was probably due to Humza being endorsed by Stephen Flynn and John Swinney, but that didn't ring true to me, because those events occurred 24-48 hours before the price started to shift.  Additionally, just after we heard there was a YouGov poll of SNP members in the field, there was another sudden tightening in Humza's odds, and that trend was never reversed.  That pattern could have been consistent with the employees of a polling company taking advantage of special knowledge, although of course it could also have been caused by something entirely different with the timing being just a coincidence.  There's also a phenomenon that I've observed before, whereby clueless punters see large bets being placed and assume wrongly that the people placing them 'must' have inside knowledge, so follow their example and a snowball effect is created out of thin air.  Cynical actors can also engineer that snowball effect to create the impression that their candidate is winning - backers of Chris Huhne famously managed to install him as betting favourite when he was standing against Menzies Campbell for the Lib Dem leadership, even though in retrospect it's obvious that the much better known Campbell should have been favourite all along.

There's been another big move towards Humza on the markets this morning and he's now the heaviest favourite he's ever been, which is hard to square with the publicly available information.  Is that genuine inside knowledge, or one of the other possibilities I've just described?  We'll soon find out.

UPDATE, 12.55pm: Since I wrote the above, Yousaf's odds have lengthened somewhat and Forbes' odds have come in a bit, and I can't see any obvious explanation for that either.  Is everybody just guessing?

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Recently I've published results from TWO new Scot Goes Pop opinion polls - an opportunity to commission a second poll suddenly arose, so I made a snap decision to go ahead.  However, as you'll appreciate, polls are very expensive, so if anyone feels able to make a contribution, here are the options...

The simplest donation method is a direct Paypal payment. My Paypal email address is:

If you wish, you can add a note saying "for the fundraiser", although even if you don't do that, it'll be fairly obvious what the payment is for.

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  1. I think it would be more likely to hurt the Greens at the next Scottish election. They got a lot of 'second preference' votes in the North East of Scotland in 2021 from SNP supporters - including myself and some other family members. As things currently stand they won't get them next time round!

  2. "future elections" was perhaps too vague. Tactical considerations in Westminster elections are very different from the more open Holyrood list.

  3. Well I had my moment there of thinking ‘ it’s going to be Kate Forbes’!
    But no.
    Weird voters.

  4. Oh well, Humza it is. Nothing much to do now except hope that he makes a decent job of it. He deserves a fair chance to change many of our minds.

    And if not let’s hope that he quickly makes a David Moyes of it and we then get an Erik ten Hag to replace him.

  5. Yousef wins - I hope my presentiment that he'd lead us to indy is not just a fantasy. It's up to him to establish himself - the current polls are now past tense if he can build a strong message.

  6. Glad the evangelist isn't the winner - too young, too Christian, too Sturgeon.