The latest Survation poll for the Daily Record puts support for Scottish Independence into the danger zone for the Union. With a hard Brexit looming, a special deal for Ireland’s security and economy, but none for Scotland’s, another special deal for English car manufacturers but the selling out of the Scottish fishing fleet’s future and campaigning still to begin, the gap looks small and easily bridgeable. Answering the question ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’, the results were:
Yes 47% (+1)
No 53% (-1)
It’s not clear from the Record report whether this was an online of telephone poll and that matters. If it was online, it’s probably about right but if it was a telephone call poll, then it almost certainly understates support for independence as these polls tend to under-represent younger (exclude 16 and 17 year-olds) and poorer voters who increasingly don’t have landlines. The previous Survation telephone poll had Yes down at 39% so this would be quite a swing. 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.’
In the next few weeks we should see just what the Brexit deal looks like. I can’t see it looking good for Scotland. As it becomes clear we are to get nothing while other interests such as the London Banks, Nissan and Irish affairs are protected, look out for the next opinion polls. As the new Scottish Branch Labour leader exposes his lack of competence again and again, as the Scottish Tories fall further behind and as the SNP manage the economy and services visibly better than Westminster, watch support for the SNP begin to climb again. Finally, as a renewed Yes campaign, energetic and coherent, kicks into action against a No campaign bereft of leadership or a clear rationale, look forward to Indyref2 with confidence. If that’s not enough for you, ask the bookies: