Friday, June 16, 2017

An open suggestion : if anyone on the pro-indy side has ever thought about commissioning an opinion poll, this would be the optimum moment to do it

Most of you have probably come across Peter Hitchens' famous quote about the purpose of opinion polls -

"Opinion polls are a device for influencing public opinion, not a device for measuring it. Crack that, and it all makes sense."


That is, of course, a massive over-generalisation. Almost all of the voting intention polls we saw in the run-up to the general election were genuine, if mostly extremely poor, attempts at measuring public opinion. Based on the past history of polls having an in-built pro-Labour skew, ICM and ComRes honestly believed they were improving accuracy with their extreme Tory-friendly methodologies. It's doubtful whether the polling errors worked in the Tories' favour anyway - if people had actually known that Labour were only a couple of points behind the Tories, it's likely that scare stories about a Corbyn premiership would have had far greater potency.

There's a 'but' here, though. Voting intention polls using standard, neutral wording are one thing, but non-standard, non-neutral poll questions about other matters have an entirely different purpose. Even more famous than Hitchens' quote is the Yes, Minister scene in which Sir Humphrey demonstrates how it's easily possible to get exactly the same poll respondents to say that they both support and oppose the reintroduction of National Service. All you need to do is use wording which makes the desired answer seem like the 'natural', 'obvious' one.

In Scotland we've just seen a particularly sinister example of that dark use of opinion polls, with the Daily Record commissioning Survation to ask a ludicrously leading question designed to produce a result that made it seem as if Scotland had turned decisively against a second independence referendum. Whether or not the stunt was done in direct collusion with the Tories, it may as well have been, because within a few short hours Ruth Davidson was brandishing the poll at First Minister's Questions as 'proof' that her narrative about the meaning of the election result was the correct one.

And there you see pretty plainly what the function of the poll was - it's no exaggeration to say that it formed part of a 'soft coup'. You can't steal people's votes with a poll, but what you can do (especially in our present quasi-colonial set-up) is steal the meaning of their votes. You can turn black into white, and establish a narrative that people were somehow voting against the flagship policy of the winning party. So how was it done? Obviously the first indispensable step was a 2014-style 'shock and awe' media propaganda campaign that relentlessly portrayed the SNP's election victory as an unmitigated disaster for the party. Bang in the middle of that hysteria, you run a poll that doesn't ask about an independence referendum as a matter of principle, but specifically ties it to the general election result - thus inviting people to agree that it's only 'natural' that a referendum should not take place in the light of the general election result, as helpfully interpreted by the media. In order to dispute that such a conclusion is 'natural', a respondent would have to consciously resist the near-unanimous media verdict on the election, which is not easy to do, particularly given that the SNP did not challenge it strongly enough themselves.

It doesn't end there, though. The proposition was also framed negatively - respondents had to agree or disagree with the statement that "Following the General Election result, Nicola Sturgeon should remove her demand for a second independence referendum". Given that 'demand' is a pejorative word, and that groundwork had been done to establish in people's minds that Nicola Sturgeon was the loser of the election she won, it would take a good bit of psychological effort to actively disagree with what is intentionally presented as a 'perfectly reasonable' point of view. Indeed, to indicate disagreement, a respondent would have had to check the box next to the following faintly ridiculous formulation of words : "Following the General Election result, Nicola Sturgeon should not remove her demand for a second independence referendum".  The result of the poll was utterly predictable, and that was the Record's plan from the start.

So how do we combat this cynical tactic? The only way would be for someone on the pro-indy side to commission their own poll as a matter of urgency.  In theory it could use a scrupulously neutral question, such as "Do you think there should be an independence referendum within the next five/ten years?". In my view, that would probably produce a majority against a referendum in the current mad climate, but I doubt if the size of the majority would be anything like the one found in the Record's dodgy poll. Probably more useful, though, would be to deliberately approach the issue from a different angle - someone suggested today on Twitter that people should be asked whether the Scottish Parliament or the UK government should decide the timing of a referendum. We've had polls like that in the past which have shown decisive majorities backing the Scottish Parliament's right to choose, and it would be very helpful to have that principle reinforced in a post-election poll.

Here are another couple of possibilities -

Q.  At the recent general election, the SNP won 35 Scottish seats, the Conservatives won 13, Labour won 7 and the Liberal Democrats won 4.  Who do you think won the election in Scotland?

a) SNP
b) Conservatives
c) Labour
d) Liberal Democrats
e) Nobody won

Q.  At the recent general election, the SNP won 60% of the Scottish seats at Westminster.  Do you think this gives them a mandate to call an independence referendum once the terms of Brexit are known?

a) Yes
b) No

One thing is for sure - we're at a crucial turning-point in Scottish history, and dark forces are stopping at nothing in their attempts to neutralise our pro-indy movement for good. A 'counter-poll' would be a very useful tool to deploy, and as soon as possible.

41 comments:

  1. You've got my vote, James.

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  2. I think this idea has legs. Or wings. Or something

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  3. Just set up an online poll on your website and a totally unrepresentative sample of your visitors will tick the boxes. It'll be just as valid as the Daily Record's.

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    1. Not really. The Record's poll used a representative sample - it was the dodgy question that was the problem.

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  4. Perhaps the next indyref question could be^Should Scotland remain dependent on England?^

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    1. Or perhaps more accurately "Should England remain dependent on Scotland?"

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    2. Or how about "As the SNP have been in government in Holyrood for 10 years, held the majority of Scottish seats in Westminster after two General Elections and in the 2017 local authority elections won 35.1% of all seats across Scotland, do you finally agree that the Union is dead ?"

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  5. Lets just say support for independence has indeed dropped below 45%, why would the tories be so desperate to stop a referendum? They must know that Brexit is going to be so awful for Scotland that people will be angry and a yes vote would be inevitable. Very worrying.

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  6. Replies
    1. Between £8-10,000 according to Rev Stu. I've nagged him enough about commissioning some polls so someone else can do it this time :)

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  7. We can crowd fund one based on those outlined questions. You start it and we will spread the word.

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  8. Helmut Kohl (cabbage) has died. The man with the vision to introduce German power over the EU by democratic means. The Jock Nat sis are adherents to Kohl. Selling the Scottish nation out.

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    1. I hope you enjoy being the plaything of the DUP. Your rabid howlings are downright liberal compared with those of your overlords' new masters.

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    2. You are welcome.

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    3. And you're not. But it's never stopped your petulant whining.

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  9. Yes crowd fund a poll I'm sure there are enough interested to cover the costs

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  10. The regular Carstairs blogger is up I see😱

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  11. Given the Corbyn surge against a media coup against him, how much influence do you think the media actually has?

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    1. Corbyn will like kim yung eck collect vast pensions while the working classes pay for it. And they offered nuffin in return.

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    2. Corbyn had massively more support from the media than the SNP has ever received. His surge is largely due to events outwith his control.
      Two terror attacks when the PM is the Home Secretary responsible for allowing the perpetrators into the country. And cut 20,000 police. A better challenger would have romped the election in those circumstances.

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    3. The media has massive influence - Corbyn wouldn't have started the campaign from so far behind if that wasn't the case. The stricter broadcasting regulations during the campaign period gave him a fairer crack of the whip.

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  12. So essentially the media decide who wins the election at UK level. Sounds about right.

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  13. Anon above what crap you talk. The perpetrators can go anywhere under freedom of movement. You nat sis want to retain this and let thousands of islamists into Scotland.
    I note your favourite JKR is now a Dame.

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    1. I hope you enjoy being the plaything of the DUP. Your rabid howlings are downright liberal compared with those of your overlords' new masters.

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    2. The DUP are as moderate as Sinn Fein IRA. Republican controlled Derry tried to ban a gay convention in the Guildhall some years back. You are a closet bigot Anon.

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    3. Links? Evidence? No? Didn't think so. Get back under your rock.

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  14. I would not infer that Westminster should control the referendum in the second question, a question more like.

    Who should decide the date of any future independence referendum.

    1) The 100% of MSP's from Scotland at Holyrood.
    2) the 91% of MP's from England, Wales and NI at Westminster.

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  15. We need a crowdfunder to buy ruthie another frock. She was wearing that stretchy black thing again last night. Must be the only one she's got that fits, poor cow.

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    Replies
    1. No crowdfunders for the Tank Commander. Her salary from the public purse should be more than sufficient.

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    2. Trooping the Colour was really great today. The weather excellent and our Queen looked tremendous.

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    3. You would like a Ruthie frock Nat si gay bhoy.

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    4. And out trots the snivelling homophobe. Get back under your rock before daylight burns you.

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  16. You've got my vote, James, start up the crowdfunder and I'll be among the contributors. I'm sick to death of nitwits trying to tell me that a perfectly understandable return to more normal election results is in some way a disaster for my cause.

    It's definitely 1984 in some people's minds: black is white, truth is false news, and facts are just an annoyance to them because then they would have to think about them for themselves. So much easier just to parrot the propaganda.

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  17. Over at Wings Over Scotland someone has suggested for the next indyref:
    1) Should Scotland be an independent country?
    2 Should Scotland remain part of the EU?

    It would be extremely interesting to have these questions answered in the opinion poll.

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    1. A referendum is required now to put the fash nat sis into the dustbin of history.
      We are on our way out of the German dominated EU.

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    2. The imponderable part of it is what the result of the Brexit negotiations is going to be for us. So, for the purposes of an opinion poll, that would have to be factored in somehow - whether Brexit is going to be sheer hell, as many of are very much afraid that it's going to be, or will be a bright new dawn in which Jerusalem will be built in England's green and pleasant land, with lashings of innovative jam tomorrow.

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    3. Some of us trust the Germans before the real Nazis - Britnat Tories and Slabbers - the sort of scum that call themselves Glasgow Working Class but are only in Glasgow for Fascist Scumbag orange walks and Rangers (RIP) football matches.

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  18. Fairliered at 10:40pm, 17 June 2017.
    So an admission at last from a Nat si. You want to hand over the Scottish economy to the Germans where we will get the Greek treatment for not toeing the Nazi line.
    Your comment will be distributed widely fascist bhoy.

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    1. The troll "GWC2" calls scottish people "jocks", made death threats on this blog while posing as a Yes supporter, advocates arming Leave campaigners, arbitrary deportations and public mutilations, claimed Jo Cox's husband was a fascist, uses racial, homophobic and ethnic slurs, pretends to be Labour (badly) while espousing far-right racist hate-speech, praises Theresa May and the tories and displays a perverted poisonous obsession with Scotland's First Minister.

      #jistsayin

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