Saturday, February 22, 2014

New Panelbase poll shows the pro-independence campaign closing the gap

We know that there will be at least two referendum polls tonight, and the headline figures from the first one have now been released. Panelbase of course bucked what seemed to be a universal trend a couple of weeks ago by showing a slight increase in the No lead, but that has been reversed tonight, no doubt courtesy of the Yes campaign's greatest asset, Mr George Gideon Oliver Osborne.

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 37% (n/c)
No 47% (-2)

(UPDATE, 10.40am : Panelbase's Ivor Knox has let me know that this poll used a different preamble to the firm's previous referendum polls.  The new wording is very much in line with ICM, and strikes me as being impeccably neutral.  It reads : "There will be a referendum on an independent Scotland on the 18th of September.  How do you intend to vote in response to the question : Should Scotland be an independent country?"  So assuming this wording is maintained in future polls, we no longer have to worry about the results being slightly distorted.

UPDATE II : OK, this is getting very complicated - I now realise that the new poll was commissioned by the SNP, which means that the neutral preamble was probably used at their request, and that there is a big danger of the subtly biased wording being reinstated in future polls for the Sunday Times.)

With undecideds excluded, the figures work out as -

Yes 44% (+1)
No 56% (-1)

We'll have to wait and see whether what I'm about to say still holds true when the ICM poll emerges later tonight, but as things stand Panelbase remain the only pollster to show that the No lead is slightly higher than in their final pre-White Paper poll.  Whether we should worry about that is highly doubtful given the clear evidence from several other pollsters (especially TNS-BMRB) that Yes have closed the gap since the autumn.

In trying to make sense of this poll, we also have to take account of Panelbase's relatively recent methodological change, which boosted the weighting of older voters in the sample.  The last time I mentioned this issue, I suggested that it might be responsible for artificially boosting the No lead by up to 4% - that was based on my recollection that John Curtice had stated that the change might be expected to decrease the Yes vote "by a point or two", which presumably meant that it also ought to have increased the No vote by a similar amount.  I later checked and discovered that I had got the quote wrong - Curtice had actually said that the Yes vote ought to have fallen by "a point or so".  But it's still reasonable to assume that this means the No vote would be similarly affected, which implies that we have to adjust the overall No lead by 2% in order to make a fair comparison with earlier Panelbase polls.  The company's No leads during the campaign so far (excluding the SNP-commissioned poll) have ranged from 8% to 13% - which if adjusted to take account of the new methodology works out as 10% to 15%.  In other words, the No lead in this new poll falls within Panelbase's "normal" range - but is at the absolute bottom end of it.

And now, while we await the ICM figures, let's have a little bit of light relief, straight from the celebrated "who needs satire when you have the London media?" collection.  A couple of hours ago, the Sunday Express published yet another of those virtually pointless pan-UK polls about the referendum.  A picture of Alex Salmond was given this caption: "The exclusive research is a resounding rejection of Alex Salmond's independence bid." But just below the picture, a 'minor detail' from the poll's results was revealed -

"The poll results among Scots only showed that of the 188 questioned, 52 per cent indicated they supported independence – 34 per cent 'strongly', and 18 per cent 'somewhat'.

Only 24 per cent supported the idea of the rest of the union having a say."

Translation : To the very limited extent that the poll interviewed people who actually have a vote in the referendum, it found that such people supported Alex Salmond's position (as opposed to "resoundingly rejecting" it), thus driving a coach and horses through the whole premise of the article! I think in your shoes I might have been tempted to keep that part quiet, guys...

* * *

UPDATE : The new ICM poll is now out, and it shows a No lead that is exactly equidistant between the wildly diverging previous two ICM polls from September and January respectively. This almost certainly means that there were sampling issues in the extraordinary January poll, leading to an overstatement of the swing to Yes since the early autumn, which has nevertheless clearly been substantial. Once undecideds are taken out of the equation, the Yes campaign have actually retained the bulk of the gains that they appeared to make in January. In other words, you can basically discount pretty much every syllable of the Scotland on Sunday spin, which attempts to transform the mundanity of normal sampling variation into a fabulously implausible narrative of a mega-slump for No in January being followed by a surge in February.  That version of events is simply not borne out by any other pollster.

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 37% (n/c)
No 49% (+5)

With undecideds excluded, the figures come out as...

Yes 43% (-3)
No 57% (+3)

John Curtice has in fact just revealed that ICM have made a modest (but perhaps significant) methodological change since their last poll, suggesting that a direct comparison with this one may not even be meaningful at all. The bottom line is that ICM - regarded by many as the "gold standard" of UK pollsters - are continuing to show a significantly lower No lead than the likes of YouGov and Ipsos-Mori, and are far more in line with Yes-friendly pollsters such as Panelbase (and indeed Survation under their new methodology, who are at least for now the most Yes-friendly of the lot).

* * *


Although the two polls tonight show diverging trends, one curiosity is that they both show a static Yes vote on the headline figures, meaning that the pro-independence campaign remain at their highest level of support since the Poll of Polls started in early December.

MEAN AVERAGE (not excluding Don't Knows) :

Yes 34.7% (n/c)
No 48.7% (+0.4)

MEAN AVERAGE (excluding Don't Knows) :

Yes 41.6% (-0.2)
No 58.4% (+0.2)

MEDIAN AVERAGE (excluding Don't Knows) :

Yes 42.0% (n/c)
No 58.0% (n/c)

(The Poll of Polls is based on a rolling average of the most recent poll from each of the pollsters that have been active in the referendum campaign, and that adhere to British Polling Council rules. At present, there are seven - Angus Reid, YouGov, TNS-BMRB, Survation, Panelbase, Ipsos-Mori and ICM. Whenever a new poll is published, it replaces the last poll from the same company in the sample. Changes in the Poll of Polls are generally glacial in nature due to the fact that only a small portion of the sample is updated each time.)

To put the trend over recent weeks into perspective, the No lead has fallen from 17.5% to 14% on the headline figures since the Poll of Polls started. That may be a slight underestimate of the true decline in the lead, given that Angus Reid are still represented in the sample by an old poll from last summer. (At some point, I may have to stop taking Angus Reid into account, but hopefully they'll return to the fray soon.)

The reason why the median average is unchanged is that ICM and Panelbase both remain on the Yes-friendly end of the spectrum. The current ranking of the pollsters in order of their favourability to Yes is as follows -

1) Survation
2) Panelbase
3) ICM
4) Angus Reid
6) YouGov
7) Ipsos-Mori

Only the bottom two are not showing a Yes vote of above 40% when undecideds are excluded.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Cunning Scolympians narrowly avoid 'God Save the Queen' moment

It's the age-old curse of the Scolympian - obviously you want to do well, but terrifying dangers lie in store for anyone who gets greedy and tries to do a bit TOO well.  As Andy Murray discovered two years ago, if you go the whole hog and win gold you're likely to have to put up with this sort of thing being said about you -

"He's touched the Union Jack! Astonishing! Look at the flag! Look at Murray! You see? No distance at all between the two! The Murray shoulder is in ACTUAL CONTACT with OUR flag! He's one of us!

He's singing the anthem! Oh my God! He's actually singing OUR anthem! OK, he's sort of mumbling it...but that'll do! He's one of us! No doubt about it!

He even knows the WORDS to the anthem! Well, he knows some of the words, anyway. At least seven of them. But nobody else knows the words to the anthem either, so that means...he's one of us! Irrefutable proof!

And he hasn't produced a claymore, started screaming "Death to the English" and attacked the Duchess of Cambridge! That's what we all expected him to do...but he hasn't! Incredible! True Brit!

Gosh, how that boy has MATURED..."

So ideally what you're looking for is that sweet spot of winning the highest-value medal available that doesn't come as part of a "God Save the Queen really does have to be played" package. Through no fault of his own, David Murdoch has already heard quite a bit of that tune in the past, so no wonder he went to such extraordinary lengths today to avoid a repeat.

Job done, boys. Here's to Pyeongchang in 2018 - and let's make sure that any gold medal then will only come attached to the saltire and Flower of Scotland.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

More from Survation and TNS-BMRB

I've been having a look through the newly-released Survation and TNS-BMRB datasets, and here are a few bullet-points -

* Survation have joined Panelbase in showing that Yes have an outright lead among male voters.  TNS-BMRB still show a narrow No lead, but even so, we now have two out of seven BPC pollsters suggesting that one gender is already backing independence.  TNS-BMRB actually show that the No vote is almost identical among men and women, suggesting that the real difference between the genders is that there are fewer women in the Yes column, and more women in the undecided column.  Although Survation suggest that the No vote is a few points higher among female voters, there is again the suggestion that women are far more likely to be undecided at this stage.

* Remember how the one caveat that was raised about the sensational ICM poll a few weeks ago concerned the radical upweighting of the responses of young voters, who happened to be the most pro-independence part of the overall sample?  Well, almost exactly the opposite has happened in the Survation poll, with the very small sample of 16-24 year old voters proving to be the least favourable to independence other than over-65s, and with that sample being massively upweighted from 59 actual people to 138 'virtual' people.  So if sampling problems have in any way distorted the results of this poll, it's more likely to have led to a slight understatement of the Yes vote than of the No vote - in other words it's conceivable that Yes should be a touch higher than 45%.

* Although Survation have broadly come into line with Panelbase and ICM in respect of the weighting procedure, they haven't done so in respect of the question, which still asks how people would vote if the referendum was held "today".  It's widely theorised that this wording has the effect of artificially increasing the No vote, although admittedly there is no hard evidence of that.

* Survation show a significant increase in the SNP lead over Labour in Holyrood voting intentions, although the apparent shift in opinion may be largely illusory due to the introduction of a new methodology.

Scottish Parliament constituency ballot :

SNP 44% (+6)
Labour 31% (-5)
Conservatives 13% (+1)
Liberal Democrats 6% (-3)

Scottish Parliament regional list ballot : 

SNP 41%
Labour 28%
Conservatives 13%
Liberal Democrats 8%

So a gap has opened up between ICM, Panelbase and Survation in one camp who are all showing a substantial SNP lead, and YouGov and Ipsos-Mori in the other camp who are suggesting that the race is very tight.  The question of who is getting it right is vitally important, because the first camp also happens to be showing the most Yes-friendly referendum figures at the moment.  One doubt that will be lingering in some people's minds is this - is it realistic to think that the SNP have such a commanding nationwide lead when there was a significant pro-Labour swing in the Cowdenbeath by-election last month?  Answer : Yes, it's perfectly plausible, because by-elections often exist in their own little bubbles (Glenrothes 2008 being one classic example).  But it's certainly a reasonable doubt to raise, and we may have to wait until the European elections to get a stronger clue.

Pro-independence campaign make huge breakthrough in new Survation poll

As far as I can gather, there may be as many as three new referendum polls out tonight, although we only have figures for two so far.  Let's start with Survation's second contribution to this campaign, which shows the No camp's lead being cut by more than half -

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 38% (+6)
No 47% (-5)

The fieldwork is bang up to date (the first two days of this week), so the figures will take full account of any backlash against George Osborne's ill-judged intervention on the currency issue.  However, before we all get too carried away, it should be remembered that we can't make a truly like-for-like comparison with the last Survation poll, because John Curtice was so scathing of the methodology that Damian Lyons-Lowe (to his great credit) more or less immediately committed himself to making a significant change, which we can assume has now been implemented. Even allowing for that, though, it still seems likely that there has been substantial movement to Yes.

UPDATE (11.40am) : Survation have confirmed the change in methodology, and that they are now weighting by recalled Holyrood vote from 2011 rather than recalled Westminster vote from 2010.  However, even on a direct comparison between the raw unweighted figures in the last poll and in this one, the No lead has slumped by some 4.3%, suggesting that there has been a significant backlash against the Osborne speech.  The methodology change should of course be warmly welcomed, as it means that the Yes vote will no longer be understated by a misconceived weighting procedure.  It's interesting that Survation make the point that YouGov have still not come wholly into line with this best practice.

This is how the picture looks with Don't Knows excluded -

Yes 45% (+7)
No 55% (-7)

Next up is TNS-BMRB's second published poll of the year (although mysteriously they've added a previously unheard-of one from early January to their trends graphic), which is somewhat less significant because the fieldwork was conducted well before Osborne's foray north. The headline figures show a static picture since the most recent poll, indicating that the Yes campaign have retained all of the extraordinary gains they've made over the last few months (the No lead has gradually fallen from 22 points to 13 since the late summer/early autumn) -

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 29% (n/c)
No 42% (n/c)

With undecideds excluded, it works out as -

Yes 41% (n/c)
No 59% (n/c)

The real excitement, though, lies in the figures that only include respondents who are certain to vote. On this measure, the No lead has now slumped to single figures for the first time since TNS-BMRB introduced their monthly survey -

Yes 35% (+3)
No 44% (-5)

With undecideds excluded, it's -

Yes 44% (+4)
No 56% (-4)

And just to reiterate - this is progress that was made before Osborne even opened his mouth!

I started this post by saying I thought there may be three new polls out tonight - that was largely based on a tweet from a BBC journalist who claimed that there was a poll in the Daily Mail showing the No lead dropping from 12 to 9. As I write this I'm beginning to think he was probably getting mixed up, because the only pollster that had previously shown the No lead on 12 was Panelbase, and of course it's the Sunday Times that use Panelbase, not the Daily Mail. So it looks like we may have only two polls tonight, but I think that will do us quite nicely to be getting on with!

* * *


As you'd expect, the pro-independence campaign's spectacular advance in the Survation poll has helped Yes reach its best ever position in the Poll of Polls. This is the tenth time the figures have been updated, and the seventh update to show a swing towards Yes (two showed a swing to No, and one an unchanged position).

MEAN AVERAGE (not excluding Don't Knows) :

Yes 34.7% (+0.8)
No 48.3% (-0.7)

MEAN AVERAGE (excluding Don't Knows) :

Yes 41.8% (+0.9)
No 58.2% (-0.9)

MEDIAN AVERAGE (excluding Don't Knows) :

Yes 42.0% (+1.2)
No 58.0% (-1.2)

(The Poll of Polls is based on a rolling average of the most recent poll from each of the pollsters that have been active in the referendum campaign, and that adhere to British Polling Council rules. At present, there are seven - Angus Reid, YouGov, TNS-BMRB, Survation, Panelbase, Ipsos-Mori and ICM. Whenever a new poll is published, it replaces the last poll from the same company in the sample. Changes in the Poll of Polls are generally glacial in nature due to the fact that only a small portion of the sample is updated each time.)

For the very first time since the Poll of Polls started, the median average now shows a marginally smaller gap than the mean average does. This is caused by Survation rocketing up the rankings from having previously been the second-least favourable pollster for Yes to now being the second-most favourable. For the time being, Panelbase have slipped to being only the third-most favourable for Yes - so much for it being "Panelbase versus the field", as Alex Massie used to say!

On the headline figures, the No lead has fallen to just 13.6%, meaning that Yes require a swing of 6.8% to draw level.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

It's Silver for the Scolympians! (At least.)

Well, it's probably high time that I lived up to my billing as a curling obsessive by writing something about the dramatic events in Sochi.  It's weird how it all turns out - I said at the start of the competition that maybe Murdoch and his men's team could nick a medal, but that Eve Muirhead's rink would go in as slight favourites for gold on the women's side.  I think they certainly warranted the tag as favourites in spite of Canada being represented by the formidable Jennifer Jones rink, but I now gather that Canada were the marginal favourites in the actual betting.  Either way, though, the GB women certainly looked a better bet for gold than the men, and the way events have unfolded is a reverse of 1998 and 2002, when it was the men who started out as the great prospects, but it was the women who came through to make the semis.  We're in a much better position this time, of course, because both teams may yet win medals, but at the very least the men are going to end up with a better colour.

As for any marginal political impact, it's hard to say.  After Murdoch's incredible winning shot against Norway yesterday, I saw an Englishman tweet that "there has never been a better time for Alex Salmond to make the case for independence", which is certainly perfectly logical.  If Scotland was independent, quite literally the only difference would be that Murdoch's team would be claiming a medal for Team Scotland rather than Team GB.  There are no problems in terms of funding or resources - not only are the players all Scottish, all the curling facilities are in Scotland, and as one of our top sports any Scottish funding body would be pumping money into curling like crazy.  All the same, if the gold is secured on Friday, we can still look forward to the familiar contortions of logic from the London media as they arrive at the predictable conclusion that "this is a wonderful day for the union and a hammerblow for Alex Salmond".  (Another one?!)  But right now I think that would be a small price to pay for witnessing one of the all-time great Scolympic moments.

I also remember making the observation a few months ago that if Muirhead's rink won the gold and Scotland voted for independence seven months later, the last ever Olympic gold for Team GB would probably be claimed by an all-Scottish team in a sport with Scottish origins that is barely even played in the rest of the UK.  Well, Muirhead isn't going to pull off that feat, but Murdoch just might.  Wouldn't that be a delicious irony?

Wisdom on Wednesday : Remember what sparked the devo passion?

"We should never forget that many in our party supported the introduction of a Scottish Assembly in the 70s as a 'tactic' to stem the nationalist tide. 'Tactics' have a way of not turning out as we expect."

Lifelong socialist and Home Ruler (and now pro-independence campaigner) John McAllion, in his parting shot upon resigning as Scottish Labour's constitutional spokesperson in the 1990s, reminding us that the party's supposed ardour for devolution - even when visible at all - is often not what it appears.

*  *  *

You may already have seen this, but Labour for Independence are running an Indiegogo fundraiser HERE, with a target of £5000.  I know we've been spoilt for choice recently with pro-independence causes to donate to, but this strikes me as being one of the most important to date.

*  *  *

John Rentoul had a rather sweet moment last night when, in a frantic attempt to bolster the waning credibility of his endless sneering about how Yes can't possibly win the referendum, he linked to the initial results of a self-selecting prediction poll at...yup, you've guessed it, Political Betting, a south-of-England site composed 75%+ of English Tories and UKIP supporters (and which of course has a long track record of banning pro-independence Scottish posters).  It would be a bit like me claiming that independence is inevitable because the readers of Newsnet Scotland seem rather confident at the moment.

Rentoul must have been slightly alarmed to see that the most popular prediction was a Yes vote of 40%-49.99%, though.  A bit close for comfort, surely, and if that's what even the southern Brit Nats are saying...

However, one or two die-hards are keeping the faith.  This is how my old sparring partner Fitalass (aka Aberdeenshire Tory activist ChristinaD) responded to Rentoul's tweet -

"Voted 20/30% in poll, as a Scot voting, I genuinely believe that the SNP simple were not prepared for Indy Ref"

Best of luck with that one, Christina. You might remember that when the delightful chaps at Political Betting finally banned me for life for doing...well, it's a bit of a mystery what I actually did but I'm sure it must have been dreadful, the first thing that happened was that I had southern Tory poster John O follow me over here in a state of some concern, wanting to be reassured that our three PB recorded bets on the referendum outcome wouldn't be affected by my banning. You see, the poor guy honestly thought that he'd taken advantage of my 'fanaticism' (anyone who wants their country to govern itself is naturally a fanatic, unless that country is the UK) to pressure me into three bets that he couldn't possibly lose. They were -

* £50 that "children" (ie. 16 and 17 year olds) will not have a vote.
* £50 that the Yes vote will be lower than 43.75%.
* £100 that No will win.

As you can see, I'm already £50 to the good, and even if the referendum was tomorrow I'd have an excellent chance of breaking even. In his heart of hearts he must be getting very, very jittery about losing the whole £200.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

YouGov use 100% neutral wording in a referendum poll for the first time ever - but was it for internal consumption only?

I know many of you like to be kept abreast of the latest intelligence on what the pollsters are up to, so I thought it might be a good idea to repost this little exchange from a couple of threads ago -

TheeForsakenOne : Thought you might be interested. Just did a YouGov poll. Amongst the many many questions it asked the following about Independence:

"As you may know, a referendum on independence will be held in Scotland on 18th September 2014. Voters will be asked, "Should Scotland be an independent country?" Do you think you will vote "Yes" or "No"?

"Will vote "Yes"

"Will vote "No"
"Will not vote"
"Don't know"

TheeForsakenOne : Sorry for double post. I can't edit my other one.

A second odder question is asked later on: "Now, on a scale from 1 (should definitely stay in the union) to 7 (should definitely become independent), which number best reflects your own position on what Scotland should do?"

Me : That's fascinating. On the actual voting intention question, it's the first time YouGov have used wording that I would describe as 100% neutral - even the reference to "tomorrow" has gone, with respondents instead being asked how they will vote on the actual referendum date (in line with ICM, TNS-BMRB and Panelbase).

Unfortunately, though, the way you describe it has the feel of either a 'testing' poll not intended for publication, or an internal poll for one of the campaigns or political parties. So we can't be at all confident that the new neutral wording is here to stay - but it certainly means that YouGov have no more excuses left if they go back to their bad old habits.

Patrick Roden : Yes, the 1-7 line shows that whoever commissioned the poll, wants to know how soft their own, or the other sides vote is.

The SNP already use this type of system using the doorstep conversations and they have a very clear idea of how soft votes are, so I doubt it will be from the Yes side of the campaign.

Perhaps BT have done a few similar internal polls, so this explains is why they are so panicked?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Do the funky Gideon

Ah, George Gideon Oliver Osborne, bless his little heart. He may have made a catastrophic misjudgement last week by being seen to bully the target electorate in this referendum just a little too blatantly, but he can draw some small comfort from having provided a new catchphrase for the die-hard believers in the old self-loathing creed that Scotland is "too wee, too poor, too stupid" to govern itself. Last night on the bus home, I overheard a 'discussion' about the referendum between a pro-independence woman who was celebrating her 69th birthday (a wee bit of trivia for you there) and a rather belligerent younger man who it is safe to say took a different view. Unfortunately I was too far away to hear what the woman was saying, so all I heard was the following, punctuated with little gaps...

"Independence is not gonna happen.

It's not gonna happen.


The day Scotland becomes independent is the day I have "I love England" tattooed on my ****.

It's not gonna happen.

It's. Not. Gonna. Happen.


If we were meant to be independent, it would have happened a long time ago. It didn't. It's not gonna happen.

It's not gonna happen.


Hmmm. It's very difficult to pick holes in something that is almost literally content-free, but a couple of points do occur -

1) Notice how once again it's the person who DOESN'T want independence that makes the moronic anti-English remark.

2) Just how long ago should Scotland have become independent to prove that it was meant to be? 1314, perhaps?

* * *

Channel 4 News are running an online survey on whether Scotland should be "allowed" to retain the pound and remain in the EU, midway down this page. As you'd expect, the key questions miss the point entirely and the wording borders on the offensive, but by all means let's make sure that the results don't fit the agenda.

YouGov misrepresent the results of their own poll

This is how YouGov are summarising the results of the currency poll that I mentioned in my last post -

"Voters say no to currency union with Scotland

58% of people in England and Wales now oppose allowing an independent Scotland to continue to use the pound..."

Both of those sentences are downright inaccurate - no ifs, no buts, no maybes. YouGov did not ask anyone about a currency union, so there's no way voters can have said "no" to it, and nor did they ask anyone about whether Scotland should be "allowed" to continue using the pound - which of course would have been a rather academic question, given that even George Osborne himself has admitted that Scotland does not need anyone's permission to use the pound outside a formal currency union.

This is the question that YouGov actually asked -

"If Scotland votes to become an independent country, it would then need to negotiate independence arrangements with the rest of the United Kingdom before becoming independent in 2016. If Scotland did become independent, would you support or oppose an independent Scotland continuing to use the pound as their currency?"

There's nothing inaccurate about the introductory sentence, but it's presence should probably always have set off alarm bells about how YouGov planned to misrepresent their own poll results, because it has no relevance at all to the question that follows. Negotiations will indeed be required, but they won't interfere with Scotland's decision on whether to use the pound or not. What will be at stake in the negotiations is whether our usage of the pound is inside or outside a formal currency union. If YouGov wanted to be able to claim that English voters would prefer that it was outside a currency union, then they should probably have asked about that instead. If they wanted to be able to claim that English voters think Scotland should be "disallowed" from using the pound at all, they could have asked that, but it would have made about as much sense as asking the voters of Slovakia who should be the next President of France.

Not for the first time, the message is simple - do better, Mr Kellner.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Do a majority of men already support independence?

As far as I'm aware, this is the first Sunday for a few weeks that hasn't seen the publication of a referendum poll (although there is a GB-wide poll on the currency issue, which I'll come to later).  This gives us the opportunity to take stock of an interesting facet of recent polling that hasn't been commented on to any great extent.  I was having another look at the Panelbase datasets from last week - and, first of all, a big well done to Calum Findlay for revealing the text of Panelbase's 'secret preamble' in a comment on this blog, because it appears that the criticisms over a lack of transparency have now been heeded and the datasets have been updated to include the full wording of the question.  (Of course that still doesn't resolve the more fundamental problem of the subtle No-friendly bias in the question, but a greater degree of openness about methodology is still to be commended on its own merits.)  But what really leapt out at me is that Panelbase are showing that Yes have a clear lead among men -

As you may know, the Scottish government intends to hold a referendum this year on Scotland becoming a country independent from the rest of the United Kingdom.  The question on the ballot is expected to be as below.  How would you vote in this referendum?  Should Scotland be an independent country? 

Yes 47%
No 43%

Perhaps these figures haven't been remarked upon because they aren't actually unusual for Panelbase, but they led me to refresh my memory about the state of play other pollsters are showing in respect of male voters.  It's true that Panelbase are alone in showing a Yes lead, but the gap is extremely tight with a couple of other companies - including most surprisingly YouGov, which puts Yes at 44% and No at 47%.

Across the seven BPC pollsters that have conducted referendum polls so far, this is what a Poll of Polls restricted to men would be showing...

MEAN AVERAGE (not excluding Don't Knows) :

Yes 41.0%
No 45.6%

MEAN AVERAGE (excluding Don't Knows) :

Yes 47.3%
No 52.7%

So Yes are not all that far away from holding an outright lead among men, and given what Panelbase are showing, the possibility can't be wholly excluded that they already do.  It's generally the negative side of the gender gap that is commented upon (ie. that Yes are doing less well among women), but the positives shouldn't be entirely overlooked.  If one of the factors that perhaps suppresses the Yes vote is the slightly 'taboo' nature of admitting to support for independence, then at least we have one gender that has a good chance of breaking free of those shackles, thus increasing the likelihood of a snowball effect.  Even in this day and age, the majority of people are 'homosocial' (ie. most or all of their friends are the same gender as themselves), and it must be hoped that in male-dominated settings there are an ever-increasing number of conversations about independence going on, and that undecided men are gradually realising that the jump to Yes will put them in good and plentiful company.

*  *  *

The YouGov currency poll shows that yet another chasm has opened up between public opinion in Scotland and the rest of the UK -

If Scotland votes to become an independent country, it would then need to negotiate independence arrangements with the rest of the United Kingdom before becoming independent in 2016.  If Scotland did become independent, would you support or oppose an independent Scotland continuing to use the pound as their currency?


Support 64%
Oppose 22%


Support 23%
Oppose 58%

(To use David Aaronovitch's favourite word, note YouGov's blatant 'othering' of Scotland in a GB-wide poll with the use of the word 'their' in the question.)

This seems to reinforce the point that The Economist made on Friday - the level of disagreement, divergence and bitterness that has emerged between Scotland and the rest of the UK, whipped up by London politicians (and ironically contributed to by The Economist themselves with their notorious 'Skintland' cover) has left the Union in a near-irreparable state.  We know from a Panelbase poll just a few weeks ago that English voters were overwhelmingly supportive of Scotland retaining the pound when they were reminded of their own self-interest in preserving a monetary union with a country that is their second-biggest export market.  So the radically different figures from YouGov can only be the result of the anti-Scottish rhetoric we've heard from Osborne, Balls and Alexander this week, and indeed from the London media.

The widening chasm between Scotland and the rest of the UK is all your own handiwork, chaps.  Good luck with that love-bombing campaign now.