It’s been a long journey, but we’ve finally arrived at the eve-of-referendum polls. For a lot of the Scottish referendum campaign the discussion about polls was one of right or wrong – we had lots of polls showing the same trend (flatlining!), but showing different absolute figures. Companies like MORI, TNS and YouGov were showing big NO leads; companies like Panelbase and Survation were showing a tight race. Then we had a period of some companies showing a strong movement towards YES, some not, and we have ended up with everyone showing much the same figures (what was the true picture earlier in the campaign we will never know for sure – by definition you can check eve-of-election results against reality, but never mid-term ones). With one MORI poll still to come, here are the YES shares in the latest polls from each company (taking the online and telephone methodologies seperately for those companies who have done both):

Ipsos MORI (phone) 49%
ICM (phone) 49%
TNS (face to face) 49%
YouGov (online) 48%
Panelbase (online) 48%
ICM (online) 48%
Opinium (online) 48%
Survation (online) 48%
Survation (phone) 47%%

Essentially everyone is predicting the same result, the margin of error on most of the polls is around plus/minus 3%, every poll is within two percentage points of the others. This isn’t going to be a case of individual pollsters getting it right or wrong, they’ll either all be around about right or all be horribly out.

There’s a temptation when the polls are like this to say YES and NO are within the margin of error, that it’s “too close to call”. It doesn’t really work like that – these polls are showing NO ahead. The margin of error is on each individual poll, and it’s equally likely to happen in both directions. Hence if the “true” balance of public opinion in Scotland was 50/50 we’d expect to see a random scattering of results around that point, some polls showing yes, some polls showing no. We’re not seeing that. We’re seeing polls randomly scattered around the 48/52 mark, suggesting that’s most likely where public opinion is – a very small lead for the NO campaign.

It’s possible there will be a very late swing, that people will have changed their minds in the last few hours or in the polling station itself. In most polls there really aren’t that many don’t knows left to make their minds up though.

The alternative route to an upset is if the polls are wrong, if there is some systemic issue above and beyond normal random sampling error that affects polls from all the companies. I wrote yesterday about what the potential risks are – the main challenges in my view are first whether people who are on the fringes of society and normally play little part in politics don’t get picked up in polls but do vote; and secondly whether there has been an issue of differential response rate, have the obviously more enthusiastic yes voters been more willing to take part in polling that no voters are?

Personally I’m a little more worried about the latter – I think there’s more chance of the polls ending up underestimating the NO vote than the YES vote, but there comes a time when you just have to trust the data. The polls say the result will be around about YES 48%, NO 52%. We will see on Friday morning.


Two more final polls tonight. YouGov’s final poll for the Sun and the Times has topline voting intention figures of YES 48%, NO 52% – reinforcing the general polling consensus around that figure. Fieldwork was Monday to Wednesday, with a sample size of 3000 or so.

Meanwhile a Survation telephone poll for the Daily Record has toplines of YES 47%, NO 53%, again very much in line with the consensus. The Survation poll was conducted today, so has later fieldwork.

The very last referendum poll isn’t till tomorrow morning – Ipsos MORI for the Standard. I’ll post shortly summarising what we can tell from the final polls so far.


Ipsos MORI still have a final final poll to come in tomorrow’s Evening Standard, but they also have a Scottish poll out tonight for STV. Topline voting intention figures with changes from their previous Scottish poll, right back at the start of August, are YES 49%(+7), NO 51%(-7). As with the YouGov, TNS and ICM polls they’ve shown a big shift towards YES over the last month and, as with everyone else, they end the campaign with YES and NO extremely close, but NO just an inch ahead. I’ll add tables later on…


Panelbase’s final call poll for the referendum is out and also has a 48/52 split. Full topline figures are YES 45%, NO 50%, Don’t know 5%, which excluding don’t knows becomes YES 48%, NO 52% – the same as in all three of yesterday’s polls. While it doesn’t seem to be their “official” headline figure, Panelbase also included a forced choice question to don’t knows asking them to imagine they were in the polling station, right now, with no don’t know option – with that data it would have been YES 47, NO 53. Full tabs are here.

Still to come later tonight are the final YouGov poll and the penultimate Ipsos MORI poll.


Two days to go until the referendum, and we starting to get the final “eve-of-election” polls. Three of them should be out tonight – ICM’s final poll for the Scotsman, Opinium’s final poll for the Telegraph and a Survation poll for the Daily Mail. As at the weekend, I’ll update this post as they come in.

ICM’s poll for the Scotsman shows YES on 41%, NO on 45%, don’t knows on 14%. Excluding don’t knows that works out at YES 48%, NO 52%. Last week ICM did two Scottish polls – a traditional telephone one for the Guardian which showed a two point lead for NO, and a rather unusual online one for the Sunday Telegraph showing an eight point lead for YES – far and away their best showing in any poll. However, the ICM online poll had a small sample size and seemed to be a Scottish boost to a GB poll rather than a bespoke poll in its own right, so we were a bit dubious about it. Today’s poll suggests we were right to be sceptical – a bespoke, full size ICM online poll is bang in line with the rest of the pack.

UPDATE: Almost as soon as I’d posted Opinium’s Telegraph poll also appeared, with identical headline figures of YES 48%, NO 52%. This is almost the same as their poll for the Observer at the weekend which had a 47/53 split. Tabs for the Opinium poll are online here (I don’t think the ICM ones will be up until the morning).
Survation is the final confirmed poll of the night, and I’m expecting that at 10pm.

UPDATE2: And Survation are also showing YES 48%, NO 52%. Tabs are here. Once again, it very similar to their previous poll which was showing 47/53. Three polls tonight, and all three showing a 48/52 split. The referendum polls really have come into a very tight consensus now, updating my list from the weekend we now have levels of YES support (excluding don’t knows) of:

Panelbase (online) 49%
ICM (phone) 49%
TNS (face to face) 49%
YouGov (online) 48%
ICM (online) 48%
Opinium (online) 48%
Survation (online) 48%
Survation (phone) 46%

The final polls tomorrow (and for MORI Thursday morning) may pick up very late swing, but barring any surprises it looks like the polls are going to be predicting a narrow victory for NO.