By G.A.Ponsonby

A survey claiming support for Yes has dropped to just 25 per cent has been criticised after it emerged no weightings had been carried out.

The latest survey by pollster TNS claimed support for Yes had dropped by five points since its last survey, whilst support for No had dropped by only four.  The team behind the survey also claimed to have uncovered a huge surge in those describing themselves as ‘Don’t Knows’.

However it has now emerged that the methodology employed by TNS did not weigh the results depending on how participants voted in the last election.  Weightings ensure that the breakdown of respondents taking part in the survey take into account the parties they voted for in previous elections.

According to polling expert Professor John Curtice, the TNS survey included more people who had voted Labour in the last Scottish election than voted SNP.  This, said the academic, raises questions over the accuracy of the survey which has received headline coverage in the Scottish media.

Writing in his blog, Professor Curtice highlighted other ‘issues’ which he claimed may have led to a rise in the number of so-called ‘Don’t Knows’.  Other polling organisations have failed to record any significant increase in the totals of those yet to decide.  

It also emerged that TNS had introduced a subtle change to the wording of their question, which the academic claimed might explain the apparent increase in ‘Don’t Knows’.

Previous TNS polls had contained an intro to the referendum question which read: “If this referendum were to be held tomorrow, how would you vote…”

The latest poll however asked: “How do you intend to vote…”

Writing on his blog, Professor Curtice said: “The new formulation invites people to forecast what they will do in a year’s time rather than what they would do now, and perhaps we should not be surprised that rather more people are less certain about the former than the latter.”

In contrast to other polling organisations, TNS employed a methodology that involved knocking on people’s doors and asking them to participate.  This, suggested Professor Curtice, may well have led to an increase in those who do not follow politics closely and who are less likely to actually vote.

The academic said: “All of the other recent polls were conducted over the internet with people who have volunteered to fill in that company’s surveys when asked, whereas TNS’s was conducted by knocking on people’s doors and persuading them to take part.

“Unsurprisingly the latter approach tends to be more successful at securing the participation of those with little or no interest in politics.  And in line with that pattern, whereas Panelbase found that 76% of their sample said they were certain to vote in the referendum, TNS estimate the proportion at just 62%.”

Recent polls have veered wildy with a YouGov poll suggesting Yes trailing its No rivals badly – a thirty point gap opening up (No 59 – Yes 29).  However a Panelbase survey published one day later turned this on its head and indicated Yes ahead marginally, 44% to 43%.

The Panelbase poll was commissioned by the SNP and also suggested those intending to vote Yes would do so regardless of whether Labour or the Conservatives led the next UK government.

There will now be growing suspicions that pollsters themselves are unwittingly producing results favoured by the respective sides in the constitutional debate rather than revealing actual trends amongst the electorate.


2013-09-04 12:04

With regard to the accuracy or otherwise of opinion polls, remind me again of the polls in the run up to the 2011 Scottish Parliamentary election?

As I recall, they predicted the defeat of the minority SNP Government and the resurgence of Labour in particular, which would result in the “natural order” of Labour dominance of the political scene in Scotland.

In the event, I also seem to recall the ACTUAL result of the election, brought about not only the defeat, but also the humiliating resignations of all three opposition Unionist party leaders.

My point is opinion polls are only at best indicators of trends, but their accuracy depends very much on who is polled and what questions they are asked. The only poll which will really count, will be the one next September, when I hope the majority of my fellow voters will put their X in the Yes box!
2013-09-04 12:44

So, inevitably, it has come to pass that the polling organisations are now eating themselves.

If credibility is in question, nothing is thereafter accepted from that source and pandering to sponsoring clients was always going to be the weakest aspect of their business hygiene.
2013-09-04 13:06

Good that John Curtice found these discrepancies so egregious that he could not ignore them.

However, it is disturbing that he felt able to ignore similar issues in the weightings assigned to sub-cohorts in the Youguv poll, while he was excitedly picking apart the panelbase poll.

We really do need to have another demonstrably neutral goto psephologist when trying to assess the veracity of polling data and the validity their conclusions.
2013-09-04 13:22

Let’s face it, even cursory observation makes it clear that Unionist-commissioned polls in this campaign have been near exclusively purposed as instruments of propaganda.

Most of the polls show evidence of push-polling in the formation of questions and in questionnaire ordering.

The sampling methodologies have been found to result in an undercount of YES responses and an overcount of NO and DON’T KNOW responses.

Same ‘ole, same ‘ole. The polls seem designed exclusively to provide ammunition that the MSN can use to instill and sustain the meme that the referendum is a lost cause, supported by an ever-dwindling hard core of extremists and dreamers.
2013-09-04 14:28

An important and interesting fact not being considered in polling results is the person asking the question. Will a respondent be more or less likely to choose a more radical answer if they are asked by a more “academic” pollster? As in 2011 will voters be reluctant to declare their support in advance for an option they know will upset the prevailing status quo. Anecdotally I see and hear no evidence at all of anything but a gradual move towards YES.
2013-09-04 15:48

Whilst I welcome this analysis from John Curtis, I don’t trust anything he says! How can someone who works for a UK Government funded organisation like the ESRC, where he shares £1.3m with six other academics, be impartial in his analysis when this income depends on the continued funding from the UK Government.

£1.3m shared among seven academics = £185,000 each!! That’s a lot of income to lose if Scotland vote for independence.…/…

It’s about time someone investigated the funding background to all these “academics” and “experts” so that the public are fully informed about any bias their analysis and opinion may have.
2013-09-04 19:10

Why should an apparent increase in the NO vote be good for the unionists? Surely it will encourage more independistas to join the YES camp. We’ll get an idea on the 21st of September in Edinburgh. I see more saltires flying over buildings than I have ever seen in Scotland. BE THERE on the 21st September.
2013-09-04 20:56

I have never ever been asked to take part in a poll but looking at my Facebook friends I have 11 who like YES and 4 who like no.
Tis a landslide I forsee…….
2013-09-04 22:08

Go over to Wings to witness an absolute demolition job on the TNS poll. It is not worth the candle but who commissioned it?
call me dave
2013-09-05 01:45

O/T Herald:
I don’t subscribe but will be able to read all about it tomorrow.
UK Government ministers have sought to distance themselves from the Project Fear.
So says the Herald.
Are they saying this because they think the NO’s have it won and easing off now OR
Genuinely concerned that the ‘Better Together’ lot have gone OTT.

Would seem difficult to turn the ‘Project Fear’ battleship at this stage and adopt a new strategy.
They have yet to give a reason for keeping the union.
willie boy
2013-09-05 06:25

Talking Scotland down is standard practice from the UK government.

To o poor, too stupid, no resources, dependant upon Westminster largesse it comes as no surprise that the vast majority of polls feed us the line that we are against independence.

The predicted defeat of the current majority SNP government or the reports thirty years ago that the oil was running out are testimony to the garbage that the Westminster controlled machine is still pumping out.

And it will get worse as the referendum gets nearer and the Westminster establishment becomes ever more desperate to try and subjugate its Scottish colony.

But this time Scotland despite the propaganda will not be fooled.

Independence is coming and the people will choose despite Westminster hostility.
2013-09-05 08:56

With every major media outlet so hell bent on promoting No Scotland it is difficult for Yes Scotland to get any air time or print time.

When Scotland votes Yes I am prepared to see employed the two Ian’s from the Herald ,anyone got anyone else they’d back as honest brokers? ( I have an ENORMOUS list of dishonest ones!)
2013-09-05 09:55

Hi Diabloandco,

I think Margo MacDonald made a good point at last year’s independence rally.

Whatever happens after the vote, we do all have to still get on. Even those who are against independence are (and will be) part of Scottish society. We should try and rise above petty vindictiveness. Especially so given the vindictiveness shown to many of us in the Yes camp.

So, while, like you, I have an ENORMOUS list of people who have been and are being dishonest in this campaign we have to prove ourselves better than them.

We surely all want a better, fairer more inclusive society for the independent Scotland that we will have, and even those who are against us now must be included too.

Having said that…..there are a few who I will never forgive for their duplicity!
2013-09-05 18:34

What about Robert McNeil

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