Why the 49% supporting independence in today’s BMG poll may be more accurate and much more optimistic than other recent polls suggesting a wider gap.

8 February 2017

See this from BMG:

‘The latest BMG poll for the Herald reveals that support for Scottish independence has increased since the Prime Minister suggested that the UK would leave the single market.

The results found that with “don’t knows” removed, 49% of Scots now support independence, up 3 percentage points since BMG last poll for the Herald in December 2016.

A closer look at the data reveals that support for independence remains strongest among the young. A majority (56%) of those aged 16-34 are in favour of independence, up 5 percentage points on December, whereas just 25% of those aged 65 and over share the same view. Support for independence is also up among Remainers from 45% to 51%.’


The full report including methodology can be scrutinised at: http://www.bmgresearch.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/BMG-Opinion-Poll-for-The-Herald-Methodology-Sheet-080217.pdf

Here’s some of the the methodology and it’s this that makes me optimistic for the future:

Data Collection Method: Fieldwork was conducted online. Invitations to participate were sent to members of online panels. Non-response from different demographic groups was taken into account during the fieldwork phase and post-fieldwork adjustments.

 Sample: All residents aged 16+ in Scotland. The sample size is 1,067 respondents.

 Weighting: Results were weighted to reflect the profile of people aged 16+, in Scotland.

Targets were: Age/Sex, Scottish Parliamentary Region, Indices of Multiple Deprivation (IMD), the 2014 Independence Referendum Results, the 2015 General Election results and the 2016 EU Referendum Results.

This looks reasonably like the ‘real deal’ in research terms. There’s obviously some scope for subjectivity and thus bias in the choice of ‘online panels’ and the sample size is surprisingly small given the low cost of online data collection by contrast with say, telephone interviews.

I’ve already written attacking polls based on telephone interviews which mostly suggest no increase in the Yes support since 2014. Here’s what I said back in January:


First see these reservations, from YouGov, about telephone interviews from the opinion polls which got the EU Referendum so wrong:

‘There’s a big difference between the online and telephone polls on the EU referendum – with online polls showing the sides neck-and neck and telephone polls showing about a 15% gap in favour of ‘remain’. Why? It’s striking that both methodologies right across the different polling companies give about the same number to the ‘leave’ campaign, around 40%. The difference is in the ‘remain’ number, which is around 52% from the telephone polls but only 40% for online polls.’

So, commonly, telephone surveys generate conservative, negative or status quo returns. Respondents are more likely to say no to a question about a big change of some kind. I don’t know what effect an English accent would have.

In another YouGov report we read:

‘Now however we can reveal a real, significant and evidence-based difference between the two methodologies that explains why they are divergent and why it is online that appears to be calling it correctly.’

See this online survey report from the, far from sympathetic to Scottish Independence, Scotsman newspaper in June 2016:

‘Nearly six out of 10 Scots say they’d vote Yes in a second independence referendum. In a clear reflection of the growing backlash north of the Border to Thursday’s Brexit result, a ScotPulse online survey of 1,600 Scottish adults on Friday (24 June) showed that 59% of Scots now back leaving the UK.’

Further, not everyone has a landline to be called on. Roughly 20%, especially younger and economically disadvantaged citizens do not have one so cannot be surveyed. As the Herald report points out, the young and the less-well-off are more likely to prefer independence.

Here’s an even more interesting thought, from the USA admittedly:

‘There now may be something unusual about people who are willing to answer the phone to talk with strangers, and we should be sceptical about generalizing from the results of these surveys. It is possible that the new habit of non-phone-answering is evenly distributed throughout the population (thus reducing this as a sampling confound), but this seems unlikely.’

Now, are NO voters more unusual than Yes voters?


So based on the above evidence this recent 49% might well be pretty accurate. Why does that make me optimistic? I guess it’s obvious to many of you. To start a campaign for a Yes vote in the next referendum from a starting point of almost equivalence would be a dream for us Yessers. Think of the extra nearly 200 000 16 years of age plus voters who have arrived on the scene since September 2014. As an auld yin myself I won’t say too much about the older No voters, many of them English settlers who retired up here and voted to keep us in the UK in large numbers. That wouldn’t be nice. More important, think of all the feet shoved sideways in Tory politicians’ mouths over the next few years. They can’t hide their contempt for us. They’re going to feed us so much evidence we’d be better apart. Think of all the non-native but welcome Scots who now know all too well what the English Tories think of them and their right to stay in the UK. Think of all the Union-first Labour supporters who voted Tory recently who find out just what that is going to mean for their employment rights, their families and their unemployed or disabled friends. They’ll be back.









11 thoughts on “Why the 49% supporting independence in today’s BMG poll may be more accurate and much more optimistic than other recent polls suggesting a wider gap.

  1. Clydebuilt February 8, 2017 / 6:21 pm

    Good news and great post…… I wonder what question was asked to arrive at a majority not wanting Indy Ref2 till after EU exit…… Were they given the option of 2018 / 2019. How many understand the importance of being Independent before Brexit to increase chances of EU membership for Scotland…..
    The Herald is moving (slowly) in the right direction.
    There was a poignant Agenda piece in Saturday’s Herald by Mike Daily (Solicitor Advocate) detailing his journey from NO to SNP membership. He was a strong Better Together advocate, his shift of sides bodes well.


  2. johnrobertson834 February 8, 2017 / 7:31 pm

    Thanks CB. Thought I’d ignore the Ref2 question. It was confusing as you point out. Herald moving in the right direction? That ‘d be great.


  3. broadbield February 8, 2017 / 8:05 pm

    Let’s hope this is a sign of a momentum beginning to build, which could be unstoppable. At any rate starting from a significantly higher base than for IndyRef we can only be optimistic. One fly in the ointment, as James Kelly (Scotgoespop) points out is the 3:1 No majority among the over 65’s (guilty as charged but I’m a longterm lesser) who are more likely to vote. Ironic that those for whom Independence is unlikely to have any great effect, given that many are reasonably comfortably off and the grim reaper is collecting names, are the ones most opposed to Scotland realising its potential.


  4. johnrobertson834 February 8, 2017 / 10:35 pm

    Maybe us over 65s should not get a vote? I’d take one for the team.


    • Sooz March 4, 2017 / 5:44 pm

      Very funny. Not happening. 😀


    • epicyclo March 4, 2017 / 7:11 pm

      Better yet, why not head over to Tory HQ and offer to fill in all those blank Postal Votes they have ready. 🙂


      • johnrobertson834 March 4, 2017 / 7:34 pm

        Oooooh what are you accusing them of? I know they’re the nasty party but….


  5. Escargot February 9, 2017 / 8:18 am

    Keep up the great work, you are a legend!


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