Friday, April 1, 2016

Hmmmm. Doesn't Kenny Farquharson know the rules?

Fairly predictably, it's been confirmed that the SNP will use 'Nicola Sturgeon for First Minister' as their additional description on the regional list ballot in the May election.  Kenny "Devo or Death" Farquharson was quick out of the traps in claiming that they were getting it all wrong (again!), because they had absent-mindedly lost sight of the fact that the only reason they ever used 'Alex Salmond for First Minister' was because it got them to the top of the ballot paper, and that the same trick won't work for a leader whose name begins with 'N'.  How forgetful these people are!

Hmmmm.  You won't be surprised to hear that it's Kenny that's got it all wrong.  In fact, the rules were changed after 2007 to prevent parties jostling for position on the ballot paper by using alternative names beginning with 'A'.  So, in 2011, the SNP slotted into their customary position on the ballot paper under 'S' - and yet they still used 'Alex Salmond for First Minister' as an additional description, and it still seemed to work pretty well.  Given Nicola Sturgeon's current popularity, I suspect the mention of her name will work even better.

And you know what?  It's just possible that the SNP may know the rules, even if our most beloved journo trolls don't.

"David Coburn, leader of UKIP Scotland"

It's probably not unusual for political parties to commission private polling which tests how voters react to a set of fairly extreme propaganda statements.  However, it's certainly quite rare for us to ever get a look at that polling.  One of the few examples I can think of was a YouGov poll conducted for Archie Stirling's vanity project "Scottish Voice" in the run-up to the 2007 Holyrood election.  The decision to publish it was baffling, given that it showed only around 20% of voters were responsive to even the most absurdly leading questions.

Stirling did of course have the excuse of being a political amateur, but there's no such alibi for UKIP's extraordinary decision to allow Populus to publish a hugely embarrassing private poll that seemingly hoped to establish that the people of Scotland view David Coburn as the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Please read the following statements and tell us whether you agree or disagree with them.

I am personally very angry that David Coburn, leader of UKIP Scotland, has been excluded from the STV leaders' debate this week.

Agree 3%
Disagree 54%

David Coburn, leader of UKIP Scotland, hasn't received the recognition he deserves for helping secure a No vote in the independence referendum.

Agree 2%
Disagree 57%

I would despair of Scottish politics if it wasn't for the new hope provided by David Coburn, leader of UKIP Scotland.

Agree 2%
Disagree 68%

My admiration for David Coburn, leader of UKIP Scotland, has increased over the last twelve months.

Agree 3%
Disagree 63%

The world needs more strong leaders such as Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and David Coburn, leader of UKIP Scotland.

Agree 1%
Disagree 81%

I would be proud to walk down the street wearing a T-shirt featuring an image of David Coburn, leader of UKIP Scotland.

Agree 0%
Diasgree 77%

That's not a typo, by the way - ZERO per cent of respondents fancied bearing an image of Coburn on their chest.  I am quite simply dumbfounded - what possible utility does anyone in UKIP think there is in letting people know that these barking mad questions were even asked in the first place, let alone what the answers were?  Perhaps someone just pressed the wrong button - we'll know for sure that's the case if the poll mysteriously disappears from the Populus website by mid-morning.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Magnificent Maryfield makes mincemeat of Dugdale's minions as classy SNP storm to by-election glory

Maryfield by-election result (31st March) :

SNP 49.5% (-1.3)
Labour 22.7% (-13.7)
Conservatives 10.5% (+3.2)
Trade Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts 5.1% (+3.3)
Greens 4.1% (n/a)
Liberal Democrats 3.0% (-0.7)
Independent - McLeod 2.6% (n/a)
UKIP 2.5% (n/a)

I almost always end up calculating by-election results for myself, because it's amazing how often the percentages reported on social media (even by normally reliable sources) turn out to be wildly inaccurate, probably because of the complexity of the voting system.  In this case, my calculation almost tallies up with the figures reported by Britain Elects, but some of the percentage changes differ by 0.1%.  I gather from Facebook that the snappily titled "Trade Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts" are exactly the same outfit as the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, who stood in the ward in 2012, so that's why I've listed a (rather impressive) 3.3% increase in their vote.

In a sense it's disappointing that the SNP's vote has slipped slightly, given that the baseline figure comes from an election in which the SNP were polling below 35% across the country.  A much more crowded field this time around can partly explain the drop, although admittedly it didn't prevent the Tories increasing their vote.  But the real story of this contest is a net 6.2% swing from Labour to the SNP, which is the rough equivalent of a 17% or 18% swing in the UK general election.  That's a bit less than the SNP typically achieved in former Labour heartlands last year, but is still a pretty dismal result for Labour given the difficult background against which the SNP were campaigning in the ward.

The downside of the SNP getting so close to 50% of the first preference vote is that we didn't get to see the full range of transfers, but we did find out how the small number of UKIP voters transferred : Conservatives 10, Independent 8, SNP 6, TUSC 5, Labour 3, Greens 2, Liberal Democrats 2.  I'm not sure that tells us a huge amount, although it's perhaps surprising the Tories weren't favoured more heavily.

*  *  *

There have now been four EU referendum polls conducted since the attacks in Brussels.  Two (ICM and ORB) have shown a boost for Remain, one (BMG) has shown a boost for Leave, and the other (TNS) has shown no change.  So taking all of the available information together, it looks as if last week's tragedy hasn't fundamentally affected the state of play, although perhaps we shouldn't jump to conclusions until we see the first post-Brussels telephone poll.

Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?


Remain 44.3% (+0.2)
Leave 40.9% (+0.5)


Remain 41.0% (+0.4)
Leave 40.2% (+0.9)


Remain 47.5% (n/c)
Leave 41.5% (n/c)

(The Poll of Polls takes account of all polls that were conducted at least partly within the last month. The online average is based on eleven polls - four from ICM, three from YouGov, two from TNS, one from ORB and one from BMG. The telephone average is based on four polls - one from ComRes, one from Ipsos-Mori, one from ORB and one from Survation.)

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

BMG bonanza for Bullingdon bore Boris as new poll puts Leave ahead

Last night saw another potentially significant development in polling for the EU referendum, as the second poll to be conducted since the Brussels atrocity suggested both an outright Leave lead and a swing to Leave.  As far as I can see, it's also the first time a poll from BMG has put Remain behind.

Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?

Remain 41% (-3)
Leave 45% (+4)

It's always interesting when a firm produces results outside its previous normal range (as long as there hasn't been any big methodological changes).  In this case, it may not necessarily mean that Leave have made further recent progress, but it certainly increases the chances that the first post-Brussels poll from ICM was leading us astray in suggesting a significant swing to Remain.  It could be that the truth is somewhere in between the two extremes, and that nothing much has changed at all.

Meanwhile, the Guardian have picked up on an analysis by Matt Singh (one of the few people to confidently predict that Conservative support was being significantly understated last year) suggesting that Remain-friendly telephone polls are closer to the truth than Leave-friendly online polls, and that the real state of play is roughly two-thirds of the way towards the telephone side of the divide.  That may or may not be the case, but even if it is, I'm not sure it's quite as important as it sounds, or even as important as it would have been just a few weeks ago.  There's been a fair bit of convergence between telephone and online polls recently, so moving the dial from midway to two-thirds currently makes less than a 1% difference to the Remain lead.

*  *  *

I got into a tetchy Twitter exchange the other night with "Johann Lamont", who I automatically assumed to be a parody or troll account.  It wasn't until quite an advanced stage that it occurred to me to check, and bizarrely, it turned out to be the Johann Lamont who used to be leader of the Scottish Labour party.  You'll be pleased to hear I didn't waste a golden opportunity to get in the standard "genetically programmed" jibe, even though I've always been a little more charitable than most about that gaffe - it seemed to me fairly obvious what she was trying (and spectacularly failing) to say.  Kezia Dugdale got herself into a comparable pickle last night during the STV leaders' debate - she was so fixated on emphasising her opposition to a second independence referendum that she somehow found herself giving one of the stupidest and most offensive answers to a straight question in Scottish political history.  Asked simply whether she would respect an electoral mandate for a second referendum if the voters chose to give one, she flatly replied "No".  Only time will tell whether that response will have an afterlife of "genetic" proportions, but it certainly deserves to.

Taking Dugdale's militant approach last night in combination with Labour's utterly bizarre new campaign video (which presents euphoric highlights of Labour people celebrating with the Tories after the No vote), it's very hard to escape the impression that the party's private polling must be suggesting that the Yes voters they've alienated are not coming back any time soon, and that the only real battleground this year is the rump No-voting Labour support who might now be flirting with other unionist parties.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Sensational Ipsos-Mori poll confirms that Remain's lead in telephone polling has dropped sharply

As you might remember, I had difficulty knowing what to make of the ORB telephone poll showing Leave in the lead, and the succession of ComRes telephone polls showing the Remain lead had slumped, because until now Ipsos-Mori's phone polling had failed to show any significant change.  That is no longer the case.

Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?

Remain 49% (-5)
Leave 41% (+5)

There have been some methodological tweaks since the last poll, so technically there's the possibility that the percentage changes listed above are not meaningful.  But in actual fact, one of the changes has worked in favour of Remain, not Leave.  If Ipsos-Mori hadn't introduced a 'squeeze' (an extra question pressing Don't Knows on how they're most inclined to vote) the Remain lead would be down to just six points.

What I find most extraordinary of all, though, is the revelation that if Ipsos-Mori had used the turnout-adjusted model which takes account of the polling errors at last year's general election, the Remain lead would have stood at just TWO points, essentially eliminating the previously huge divergence between telephone and online polling.  That flatly contradicts what we saw a few days ago from ComRes, who gave comfort to pro-European commentators by noting that their own turnout-adjusted model would have increased the Remain lead from seven points to fourteen (over the months, the ComRes model would have consistently boosted Remain).  I think all we can really say is that the pollsters have yet to reach a consensus on the correct lessons of last year's disaster - which may be just as well, because it was a self-reinforcing consensus that partly caused the problem in the first place.

The big health warning on today's poll is that the vast bulk of the fieldwork was carried out before the Brussels attacks.  The sole post-Brussels poll to date was an online ICM poll, which seemed to show a swing back to Remain, although as it's only one poll, the jury is still out on whether that was a real shift in opinion or an illusion caused by normal sampling variation.  On the headline numbers, Remain moved from being two points behind to take a lead of two points - but if it hadn't been for the introduction of a turnout filter, it would have been a five-point Remain lead (actually more like four points without a distortion caused by rounding).  On a like-for-like comparison, that's Remain's best showing in an ICM poll for many weeks, although admittedly it's still comfortably within the longer-term 'normal range' for the firm.

*  *  *


The increase in the Remain lead in this update of the Poll of Polls is misleading - it's mostly caused by the quirk of the Leave-friendly ORB poll making up half of the telephone sample in the last update.


Remain 44.1% (-0.1)
Leave 40.4% (-2.2)


Remain 40.6% (-0.3)
Leave 39.3% (-0.8)


Remain 47.5% (n/c)
Leave 41.5% (-3.5)

(The Poll of Polls takes account of all polls that were conducted at least partly within the last month. The online average is based on nine polls - five from ICM, three from YouGov and and one from TNS. The telephone average is based on four polls - one from ComRes, one from Ipsos-Mori, one from ORB and one from Survation.)

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Hubristic Hothersall's hopes for happy Easter left in ruins as cruel Survation poll predicts pensioner carnage for Scottish Labour

Constituency ballot (pensioners only) :

SNP 43%
Conservatives 28%
Labour 19%
Liberal Democrats 6%

Regional list ballot (pensioners only) :

SNP 38%
Conservatives 27%
Labour 18%
Liberal Democrats 7%
Greens 5%

Analysis to follow if I can be Smithsoned to do it.  It's Easter Sunday, guys.

Explanatory note : As a fond tribute to the mainstream media's restrained take on the GERS report, Scot Goes Pop headlines will contain 50% added hysteria for an indefinite period.