By Dave Taylor
“The last referendum on Scottish independence was held in 1997”, the Mail on Sunday tells us, in reporting the results of the latest Angus Reid poll on independence.
With that level of reporting accuracy, it seems safe to wholly discount anything else they said. The poll itself, however, is interesting.
As always, when comparing polls over time, you need to look at changes in the numbers produced by the same company, as each one uses different sampling methods.
Normally, you also want to see the same question being used. The form of the question is generally considered to matter – though the Electoral Commission analysis suggests that people are quite clear what the constitutional issue is all about. Interestingly, those interviewed thought that “other people” might be influenced by the wording, but not them!
Angus Reid have sensibly changed to the actual referendum question and hopefully everyone else will too.
A month ago, when asked the “Do you agree” question, responses were Yes 32%, No 50%, Not Sure 16%.
On the new question, the latest poll shows Yes 32%, No 47%, Not Sure 20%.
While the movement is within the margin of error, if this shows anything it is that either the original question made no difference to the Yes vote, or that it did and real support for Yes has risen. That more respondents who were previously in the No camp are now unsure will concern the No campaign.
Most commentators assume that the economic argument will have the greatest salience in deciding the final outcome. In this poll, people were also asked: "Thinking of your own financial position, do you think independence will leave you better off, make no difference, or leave you worse off?"
In response, 14% said they would be better off, 38% worse off, 27% said it would make no difference and 21% said they were not sure.
That, I would suggest, will be the critical battleground. The No campaign has a 'Better Together' theme, they are relying on people believing that things will be worse with independence, thus it could be argued that the 'No Difference' replies are more helpful to the Yes campaign.
There was one further question – “Which one of these political leaders do you trust more?”
However, only two politicians were given as options – Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon.
The option “Neither” was selected by 50%, 12% were “Not Sure”, 25% said Salmond and Sturgeon was trusted most by 13%.
I have to admit that the purpose of this question rather escapes me. However, the figures may be hugely encouraging for the Cabinet.
In a June 2011 GB poll Ipsos-MORI found only “14% saying they trust politicians in general to tell the truth; 17%, say they trust government ministers. To make matters worse for politicians at all levels, more people say they trust journalists (19%) and bankers (29%) than politicians.”
For the two most senior members of the Scottish Government to have double the trust rating of Westminster Government is no small achievement.