What a difference a poll makes

Or does it?

Today, Scotland on Sunday has the first exclusively Scottish poll on support for independence and anyone expecting a filip from last week’s SNP conference will be disappointed/relieved (delete as appropriate) that there isn’t one.

The YouGov survey found that 34% of Scots support independence, 52% are against, and a meagre 15% have yet to make up their minds or won’t vote.  The poll also showed a gender split with only 27% of women in favour, compared to 42% of men, and a wide range of opinion across the age-groups.  Those aged 25 – 39 and who are over 60 are least likely to support independence, with less than a third doing so in both age-groups.

Have we learned much?  Yes and no.

It tells us that the SNP has a long way to go if it is to win its prize and that no matter how upbeat the conference, how detailed the roadmap, there is a case to be made and activists need to get out there and start converting.

It also tells us that well over a third of supporters in the bag at the start of a long and winding road is a very good place to be.  It’s a small increase since the election in May, but support is travelling in the right direction.

More worryingly, despite Opposition parties being rudderless and leaderless, and to all intents and purposes, clueless, this has little impact on independence support.  In fact, the Unionists can take heart, that despite their ineptitude so far in the debate, a majority of people are on their side.  Of course, what the poll doesn’t tell us – because it wasn’t asked presumably – is how many of the naysayers are opposed to any constitutional change and how many want some change, just not full independence.

And it bursts one of the SNP’s bubbles, as well as demonstrating, again, the sophistication of the Scottish electorate.  Just because we like you, and you have the best leader, the best team, the best record and we think you are by far and away the best current choice for government, that doesn’t mean that, by default, we will trust you on this big issue.  Supporting the SNP on independence is not a given, something members and supporters need to bear in mind.

Also of concern to the SNP must be the small rump of don’t knows.  Opinion appears to have polarised which makes the conversion to yes harder to achieve.  A bigger, soft pool of don’t knows would be more heartening this far out from a referendum.  Moreover, achieving a straight switch is harder than persuading a soft underbelly of undecideds.  The road to the referendum is going to be long and hard.

And then there’s women.  We know they are traditionally more conservative on the issue of constitutional change but this is a big gap in opinion.  The SNP will have to think long and hard to ensure the campaign for a yes vote resonates with women voters and given the other demographic data, the party will also have to be clever at how it targets its message at women of different ages and circumstances.

Similarly, it needs to do more to convince pensioners – because they will come out and vote in a referendum – and also 25 – 39 year olds.  This is young family territory, and also generally those who are starting to assume some of life’s great responsibilities.  It is when staying in work, or getting a promotion becomes more important, when mortgage and marriage tends to feature, and bairns are born.  This group of voters will need to be persuaded that its precarious existence on making ends meet is not going to be threatened by change.

And really, this is the message for the SNP and its supporters:  get out there and make the case.  Slow and steady will win this race, building gradually.  But the case still has to be made.  Ignore the sideshow of how many questions and what they might ask and whether they will be straight or curvy or whatever.  It’s all irrelevant.  The most important thing is to encourage people to vote for change, and that won’t be because the question is “just right”.

People will choose to vote yes, no matter what the question says, if they believe that change is possible, and indeed, necessary to meet some of their ambitions for themselves, their families and their futures.  That is the important bit.

And therein lies the challenge.  Ignore all the froth about the question, the process and the timing.  What matters is getting out there and promoting the positive case for independence.  This level of support at the start of the journey is heartening and incrementally, the poll shows small gains being made since May.

But more than anything else, it indicates that the SNP isn’t going to win this referendum just because it calls it:  the Scottish people are more canny than that.

10 thoughts on “What a difference a poll makes

  1. So how many people took part in this poll? Roughly 170 people were said to have participated in the last one, this figure was publicised and made public knowledge because it bucked the trend of a unionist media reporting unionist support for one of their polls.

    A poll was reported last week when it reached the 10,000 mark, (that’s 10,000 participants) which had those in favour of Scots taking on the responsibility of independence, i.e: pro independence 45%, maintain Westminster rule 42%.
    If they’d have left it til this week to analyse it they’d have found a poll of 20,000 people with a heavier support for an independent Scotland. That’s 20,000 people not a hundred or two!

    What a difference a WEEK makes in regards to polls.

  2. My least favourite cliché of recent years is “the sophistication of the Scottish electorate”, which is based on their Einsteinian ability to vote differently at Scottish elections from UK ones. The English electorate somehow accomplish this stunning feat too, as can be seen by comparing Euro, local and Westminster results. “Not being anomalously daft” would be a better descriptor.

  3. Pingback: Iain Gray and Cybernatery | BaffieBox

  4. I remember before the last Scottish election Mr Brewer Newsnicht and his Professor in residence Curtice consoling each other over a poll that showed the SNP 10 points clear of Labour. It was decided that it was just a rogue poll and there was nothing to worry about as Labour would sail home and dry.
    Yes there is lots of work to do, but with the prospect of a new Labour leader in Holyrood, who could be Johann Lamont, the SNP must be relishing the challenge. Her last outing in the hot seat was not very impressive as she brought forward a fabricated rape case, and has yet to acknowledge and apologise for that. Because the MSM ignored it does not mean it has gone away. She has done no favours for the victims of rape in general, and the cause of women in politics in particular. A quite disgraceful display of negative bitchy dishonesty.
    If the blogosphere is any guide to what is what, and Iain Grays latest whinging about cybernattery seems to suggest it might be, then we could be about to witness a massive turnout and a huge vote for independence that will send shock waves round the planet. Iain Grays bitter and twisted farewell speech was quite disgraceful. You would think that he like so many others can only see cybernat comments on the forums. “How dare these independence supporters have opinions that challenge our divine right to rule, don’t they know who we are.” Ah yes we do.
    I listened also to Margaret Currans speech at their one day conference. The poor women has become a parody of herself. I described her speech today in the Scotsman forum as listening to a dentists drill from the waiting room whilst reading the Sunday Post. Perhaps that should have been, whilst being beaten with a rolled up copy of the Sunday Post.

  5. I do YouGov polls,and I’ve yet to be offered to complete one on independence. However, on every poll that asks who you voted for at the last general election, they have “SNP/Plaid Cymru” as a joint option, with every question from there on in concentrating solely on the three Westminster parties. That includes referring to “the government”, as if there is only one government in the UK. They’re incredibly Engand-centric. The fact that they’re apparently asking a straight “yes/no” on independence – despite the fact the current debate is about how people would vote in a multi-option referendum – smacks of them being completely out-of-touch with the current situation in Scotland.

    As Dave says, there is simply no way that enough people in Scotland oppose independence to lead to a 52% win for the “no” side in a referendum.

  6. Sorry Allan

    It is every other poll. They all have, and have had for at least the last year, both the pros and the antis somewhere in the 30% to 40% area and very close.
    YouGov’s record in Scottish polls is appalling.
    Judging by what I hear in the streets I think we would be very close to winning an independence vote the moment. But that is a soft position which would be seriously threatened in a referendum campaign at this moment.
    But there is no way now that over 50% of our population oppose independence

  7. Ever the optimist, I don’t see the fuzzy picture presented by the various polls as being particularly bad news for supporters of independence. If we add them all together, shake well and look at what we get, I’d say that they are telling us that people are relaxed about most aspects of independence. There’s only a few areas – perhaps macroeconomic policy, defence, foreign policy and Europe – that separate “devomax” from the real deal, so if those arguments can be won … From that perspective, the endless arguments over GERS and such things as Michael Moore’s voodoo £41 bn debt claims are probably not addressing the real areas of concern.

    It’s worth listening to Michael Keating being interviewed on Newsweek yesterday while it is still available. If you don’t pay close attention, you’ll be left with the impression that we should be worried about being booted out of Europe. In fact, Keating says that “there would be absolutely no question of taking Scotland out of the Single Market” (at about 24:00 in). So rather than arguing about if and how the EU might or might not grandfather Scotland in to full EU membership, the SNP should concentrate on the important bit. Whatever the EU do or don’t do, you and I will be able to travel just as we do today and businesses will be able to trade just as they do today.

    Defence is a fairly important issue. Not because there is any clear and present danger to an independent Scotland lurking out there – you have to be very imaginative to come up with any sort of credible miitary threat – but because it represents a significant part of government expenditure. With over 5% of expenditure going on defence, there are only three areas – social protection, health and education – where government spending is higher. Defence, as the likes of Lord West with his “not bloody Denmark” ouburst make clear, is an area where the UK spends large amounts by international standards. And it is beyond dispute – the National Audit Office and Westminster committees say so – that it is not well spent.

    The charming Ian Davidson is unlikely to be the only Unionist politician or pundit who believes defence to be a weak spot. Davidson has a bee in his bonnet about shipbuilding as he’s demonstrated in discussions on the BBC and STV. Apparently he believes that shipbuilding in Scotland is safe within the Union. History suggests otherwise and this belief is open to attack on several fronts.

    First, given the absolute priority given to Trident the only shipyard in the UK with a guaranteed future is Barrow since it is the sole builder of submarines. As a result, the MoD’s plans for surface ship orders over the coming decade are not sufficient to keep all yards in work. One or more will close with Scotstoun being rumoured to be at the top of the list. So shipbuilding in Scotland does not have anything like a secure future today.

    Secondly, the UK government displays relatively little interest in having such work as there is carried out in the UK. The recent PFI contract with Serco Denholm to provide a fleet of tugs and tenders for the Royal Navy resulted in a bonanza of orders, but those orders went to shipyards in the Netherlands. The government could have insisted on things being done differently. That’s not a unique event. The next announcement of shipbuilding contracts expected from the MoD is for tankers for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. These are relatvely cheap items as they are essentially big empty hulls, and the basic rule of shipbuilding is that “steel is cheap and air is free”. Rumour has it that the orders will be placed with Korean shipyards, thus saving a trivial amount compared to the cost of having them built on the Clyde, the Tyne, the Tees or the Mersey.

    That takes us neatly to point three. The SNP appear to be under the illusion that there is no end of useful defence equipment to be divided up in the event of independence. This is simply not true, especially of ships. If the SNP imagine an independent Scotland having something resembling a navy, whether on bargain basement Irish levels or more capable Danish ones or something else, that would require substantial orders for ships. If those ships were built in Scotland my impression is that they would represent a more secure future for Scotland’s four (five if Scotstoun dodges the bullet) shipbuilders than the MoD’s vague and over-optimistic plans can provide. I am quite sure that this would repay more careful analysis than my back of a fag packet guesstimates.

    I could go on, but this is already quite long enough.

  8. So… we have had two polls (not every other poll Dave) with 1% leads for independence with (possibly) as much as 20% in the don’t know bracket. Now we have a poll with an 18% lead for staying within the union with 15% in the don’t know bracket, which more or less fits in with the previous pattern.

    I think people already knew that the SNP still had a lot of work to do to… ah… “seal the deal”. Anyone who thought that the SNP had cracked it with 1% leads in two polls must be seriously deluded. It’s not really the setback that most pro-Unionists would claim it is, as really the SNP haven’t really started the pre-campaign campaign – and I think many people were not enamoured with “Suprime-court-gate” either.

    As for the pro-Union camp. Apart from the two polls that they fell behind, I think that this is the lowest polling figure that they have had – I may stand corrected on this but has support for the Union not been running in the mid-high 50’s?

    For both parties, the job is not done. But as my post from last week points out, once the cuts kick in and the realisation that Balls position on those cuts is exactly the same as Osborne’s, then the sound of penny’s dropping may well be heard accross Scotland.

  9. Aha. The usual suspect pops up again with a phony poll.
    YouGov is the organisation which started last year’s campaign by taking a poll in which they had found a significant SNP lead and by “weighting” turned it into a substantial Labour lead.
    (It then apologised for using the wrong methodoloy – as it did following a similar distortion before the Westminster election, but of course the press did not give any serious coverage to the apology).
    On the day before the May election YouGove posted a small but steadily diminishing SNP lead.
    Can I repeat that?
    On the day before the May election YouGov posted a small but steadily diminishing SNP lead.
    (Given big licks, of course, by Prof Curtice and others on the telly). Made no difference to the result.

    This poll today, which is completely different from every other poll, is utter bollocks.
    YouGov is completely bent
    I have no idea why the SNP doesn’t publicly take YouGov apart.

  10. I think it also shows that it was one poll.

    I never take any poll results on their own with any great seriousness.

    But I know very well that there are many Scots who think that they are not capable of running their own affairs without the help of a world power, England. The intellect and vision of people like David Cameron and George Osborn just can’t, they feel, be matched by Scottish people.

    It’s a shame that so many Scots over the centuries have been brow beaten in to believing that they are too pathetic, too small, too stupid and too poor, to run their own country, when countries like Malta, Luxembourg and Iceland do a fine job with the population of Edinburgh or Glasgow. And Scotland could have been one of the worlds richest nations had not successive English governments lied to us about our oil wealth for fear of losing it for themselves.

    Maybe one day they will come to believe that we shall find in our midst a person who is as clever as Margaret Thatcher or John Major, with the skill and talent for running a country. Maybe of course it is because they believe, as Michael Moore recently proposed, that it is the undoubted truth that Scotland would not be able to wage war in Afghanistan, or Iraq , or Libya, never mind all three, killing people all over the world. A strange boast for a Liberal, I thought.

    We shall see what the next polls say.

    But as the other parties are fond of saying when a poll doesn’t go their way. There is only one real poll.

    And as a truly democratic nation and party, we shall see what the outcome of that poll is.

    The Scottish government will stand by what the Scots want.

    Clearly unlike the English government who think that the brains of David Cameron and Willie Hague are superior to those of the British people.

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