For the seventh Scot Goes Pop opinion poll of voters in Scotland, I commissioned a different polling company from the two I've commissioned before. Find Out Now are relative newcomers to political polling, but they're full members of the British Polling Council, and I believe this is already the fourth Scottish independence poll they've conducted. And given the challenging circumstances we currently find ourselves in, I would suggest the results are just a little bit sensational.
Should Scotland be an independent country? (Scot Goes Pop / Find Out Now, 1st - 9th March 2023)
Before the exclusion of Don't Knows, the results are Yes 50%, No 46%, Don't Know 4%. The sample is made up of 1266 respondents, and Find Out Now weighted the results to be representative of the Scottish population. 16 and 17 year olds were included in the sample - these were sourced from an external panel, because Find Out Now's own panel is comprised of over-18s.
There may be a philosophical argument to be had over whether these results are directly comparable with the January poll from Find Out Now, which had Yes on 54% and No 46%, because I believe in the previous poll the political weightings were applied by an external website, whereas on this occasion Find Out Now did them in-house. However, as far as I know they were done in exactly the same way for both polls, so it shouldn't have made any real difference. What theoretically could have made a difference is the very slight rewording of the question's preamble - the previous poll referred to a "legally-binding" referendum. I didn't ask for those words to be included in the new poll, because they're not standard and I doubt if they really add anything.
I don't think this result should be taken as a signal that, against all expectations, the rather lively SNP leadership election has proved to be a boon for the Yes vote - we have to remember that the results of the January poll from Find Out Now were also a bit different from those of other firms at the time, so there may well be methodological factors at play here (ie. a 'house effect'). Nevertheless, the fact that the Yes vote has held up so well between January and March should perhaps cast some doubt over whether polls showing a really big swing to No (such as the recent Redfield & Wilton poll) are leading us astray. There are certainly now much stronger grounds for hoping or even expecting that if other firms show a No lead in the coming days or weeks, it may be a small No lead rather than a large one.
And, as I always point out, when one or two firms are showing different results from "the pack", it's a great mistake to assume that "the pack" must be the ones who are right. In fact, quite often the reverse is true. Remember, for example, that Survation were pointing to a hung parliament in 2017 while the vast majority of firms were forecasting an absolute Tory majority, and almost everyone expected Survation to end up with egg on their faces. Instead, they ended up being lauded as the only accurate polling firm in the UK.
I can only speculate as to why Find Out Now are showing better results for Yes than many other firms, but one possible explanation is that their political weightings are done in reference to the 2019 general election result and the 2016 EU referendum result. Those more recent reference-points seem to me to make a hell of a lot more sense than going back nine years and weighting results to how people recollect voting in the 2014 independence referendum, with all the dangers that entails of false recall. Ipsos, one of the UK's most prestigious polling firms, also do not weight by 2014 vote (partly, I believe, because of the risk of false recall) and they too have a track record in recent years of tending to show better results for Yes than many other firms. I've said this before and I'll say it again - I would not in any way rule out the possibility that Ipsos (and Find Out Now) are getting it right and other firms are getting it wrong. It could be the case that we have for years had a totally false impression of the state of play on independence voting intentions due to a dubious shared assumption on the part of most pollsters, and that Yes are actually in a much stronger position than we realise. That would be concerning given the bizarre new consensus between the UK government and certain SNP politicians such as Humza Yousaf that polls can always be assumed to be super-accurate and that Scotland cannot make a move towards independence until the polls show some sort of stable Yes supermajority (which for all we know may already have existed on the ground for quite some time).
Some people may look at the fieldwork dates for this poll and feel tempted to think they offer reassurance that the recent heat in the leadership contest has not had a harmful effect. In actual fact, the vast majority of responses came in on 1st March, and the remainder of the fieldwork period was all about filling the quotas for the hard-to-reach demographic groups (such as 16-24 year olds). One of the really nice bonuses of commissioning Find Out Now is that I was able to watch the raw results come through in real time - I had to treat those early numbers with a heavy dose of salt, of course, because weightings can make a decisive difference, but one insight I did gain was into the type of people who are most likely to respond to this sort of poll (at least as far as the Find Out Now panel is concerned). SNP voters, women, over-35s, and higher-income people all seemed to come through in disproportionate numbers, and thus will have been downweighted in the final results.
Here are a few random nuggets from the data tables -
* Exactly one-quarter of Labour voters from 2019 would now vote Yes to independence.
* There's no real gender divide anymore, and in fact the Yes lead is very slightly bigger among women (Yes 50%, No 45% before the exclusion of Don't Knows).
* All age groups below 45 show a Yes lead, and the strongest Yes lead of all is among 25-34 year olds (Yes 71%, No 23%). The tightest result is among 45-54 year olds, who break for No by 53% to 47%.
* All social class groupings show a very similar Yes lead with the sole exception of the highest-earning "ABs", who have No ahead by a whopping 64% to 32%.
* I have a sort of prejudice which means that I never take regional subsamples particularly seriously, but for what it's worth the highest support for independence appears to be in Glasgow: Yes 56%, No 39%.
And I have one other result from the poll for you tonight, which will make good reading for both Ash Regan and those of you who are already nostalgic for Nicola Sturgeon's good sense in planning a de facto independence referendum - a policy that both Humza Yousaf and Kate Forbes seemingly want to unceremoniously ditch.
It is unlikely there will be another referendum on Scottish independence soon, because the UK Supreme Court has
ruled that the UK Government's permission would be required. Suppose the SNP, and other pro-independence
parties, make a commitment in their election manifestos to negotiate a settlement with the UK Government so that
Scotland becomes an independent country. If pro-independence parties win more than 50% of the vote in Scotland
on that manifesto commitment, do you agree or disagree that they will have a democratic mandate to negotiate
an independence settlement with the UK Government?
Don't Know / Prefer Not To Say: 37%
With Don't Knows removed, that works out at roughly 52% for 'Agree' and 48% for 'Disagree'. However, arguably much more to the point are the results among SNP voters.
SNP voters only:
Don't Know / Prefer Not To Say: 26%
After Don't Knows are stripped out, that's a whopping 93% for 'Agree' and only 7% for 'Disagree'. So essentially almost all SNP voters with an opinion agree that it is democratically legitimate for Scotland to become independent in a similar way that Ireland did - ie. by using a scheduled election to organise a democratic event for ourselves, and then by demanding that London respect the outcome. They do not appear to buy into the Westminster narrative that a democratic decision is only a 'real' democratic decision if the UK government give advance permission for it to be taken, and they may well be somewhat bemused and disturbed that the two frontrunners for the SNP leadership are running up the white flag and embracing that narrative. It's not really consistent with democratic self-determination, is it?
As for the closeness of the result on this question among the whole population, I have a sneaking suspicion that even if you asked No voters whether a 60% majority for Yes in a legally-binding referendum would constitute a mandate for negotiating an independence settlement, many of them would still angrily resist the idea. The blame for that must lie at the door of unionist politicians who have spent the last few years undermining public adherence to basic democratic principles, and gradually radicalising supporters by getting them to believe that it is somehow illegitimate to pursue certain political objectives peacefully by means of the ballot box. More responsible unionist voices need to have a long, hard think about how to repair that damage.
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I've written an analysis piece for The National's website about the poll - it can be read HERE
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This, believe it or not, is merely the first of TWO Scot Goes Pop polls you'll be seeing over the next day or two - 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...
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