By Dave Taylor
While the Sunday Times chose to write an “if only” story about their Panelbase poll – “if only” No supporters actually bothered to vote, they could win decisively – the real story in this poll lies elsewhere.
In what may turn out to be the worst bit of political strategy since Ted Heath went to the country asking “Who governs Britain?” (the answer being – “Not you, mate.”) – the London directed UKOK campaign has portrayed the independence platform as being identical to the SNP.
That would have seemed a sensible plan to those who have little or no understanding of Scottish politics. If the SNP had simply been a party of protest like those that have come and gone in England/Britain in the past, then the power of the established parties and their compliant media should have been enough to send the upstarts, and their policies which endangered the power of the ruling elites, to oblivion.
For reasons which must seem wholly incomprehensible south of the border, where Scottish domestic politics is seldom featured, the SNP not only hangs onto its lead position in support for Holyrood, but is increasing its lead over a Labour Party which even its supporters see as lamentably weak.
After the 2011 election it was commonly assumed that the party had peaked. After all, a single party gaining a majority of seats was what the system was designed to prevent. In reality, this poll shows the SNP gaining 3% on the constituency vote, and 4% on the list compared with 2011.
Putting the voting intention figures into the Scotland Votes predictor suggests that the SNP would win 62 of the 73 constituencies. Only Etterick, Roxburgh & Berwickshire would return a Tory; only the 2 constituencies of Orkney and Shetland would be Lib Dem; while the once mighty Labour Party would be reduced to 8 constituency MPs – Dumbarton, Renfrewshire South, Eastwood, Rutherglen, Provan, Maryhill & Springburn, Coatbridge & Chryston, and Dumfriesshire.
Fortunately for Labour, they would have 25 list seats for their big hitters who couldn’t win a constituency – Iain Gray, Johann Lamont and who knows – Ian Davidson, Alastair Darling and Gordon Brown?
As for the referendum outcome, the shifts since May are within the margin of error that all polls have. The only data of marginal significance is that indy supporters are more likely to register a vote. It was surprising to see Ivor Knox, managing director of Panelbase, saying: “If we include everyone who has told us which way they plan to vote, irrespective of likelihood, the No side has a more substantial lead of 58 to 42.”
Well, d’oh! Panelbase include “likelihood to vote” as a filter in determining their headline figure, because their polling model assumes (correctly) that few of those who say they are “unlikely to vote” actually will do so. Knox’s comment reads like an attempt to reassure his clients and provide media copy, rather than good psephological analysis!
As last month’s Panelbase poll showed, however, voting decisions for many people are taken in the context of other issues. Then the Yes and No votes were tied on 44% if voters thought the UK was likely to leave the EU.
For many, a perception that the most likely result of the next UK election is a Tory or Tory/Lib Dem Government will switch some to a Yes vote, while the perception of a likely UK Labour Government will persuade some to vote No.
Some factors are outwith the control of either of the referendum campaigns.