And another – ICM have also carried out a poll on al-Megrahi, a specific Scottish poll, this time for the BBC.

32% of Scots told ICM they thought the decision was right, with 60% saying it was wrong. This is slightly less supportive than in the YouGov poll, but still shows a majority of Scots disapproved of the descision, but with a large minority in support (the difference is likely to be the question wording, which with a question like this that needs some introductory blurb is inevitably different. YouGov, for example, included the fact that al-Megrahi had advanced prostate cancer in their question, ICM didn’t. YouGov asked whether it was the right decision, ICM asked if the Scottish government was right to do it).

Other questions in the poll included whether people thought Kenny MacAskill was right to visit al-Megrahi in gaol before making his decision (52% thought it was wrong), whether the decision was taken on legal grounds alone or was influenced by other factors (68% thought there were other factors). As with YouGov’s poll, despite disagreeing with his decision only around a third (36%) thought MacAskill should resign.

52% of people thought it was right that the UK government did not get involved in the decision, nevertheless 68% thought that Gordon Brown’s reputation had been damaged (though I expect we’ve reached the point that a lot of people just give a negative answer to any question about Gordon Brown).

(A side note about methodology – I’ve already seen some criticism of this poll on the basis that it probably wasn’t past vote weighted. I’m a supporter of past vote weighting, but it really doesn’t make a huge difference in questions like this. In a poll about voting intention it really matters if Conservatives are on 38% or 40% and how a pollster weights it politically is critical. If a question is strongly correlated to voting intention, like which party is best on the economy then it makes a difference and it matters, since the Conservatives being 2 points ahead gives a different story to Labour being 2 points head.

In the context of this poll however, answers aren’t that strongly correlated to voting intention, so past vote weighting would probably only have shifted answers by a couple of points at most…and whether 31% or 35% of people supported the decision doesn’t really matter a huge amount in terms of what it tells us about public reaction. Either way around about a third of Scots supported the decision. In a perfect world I’d still say it’s always better to have a politically weighted sample for any political questions, but it would be wrong to obsess about it on questions where it wouldn’t really change the conclusions we draw from it.)

Full tables are here

9 Responses to “ICM too show Scots disagreeing with Megrahi release”

  1. This is one ex-pat who is pat and on holiday.

    Substantial piece Anthony on the clear flaws of the ICM questions. Seems suspicious that they made pretty elementary errors.

    And here is a prediction based on my poltically imbalanced sampling of my country men and women over the past three days.

    1) The SNP will not suffer as a result of the decision. Virtually everybody thinks it was a tough call hence the support for Macaskill even among people who disagree.

    2) Older and more thoughtful people are behind Macaskill. Younger and more tabloid inclined would have strung up the Lybian.

    3) Labour will suffer most. Brown is treated with derision. Macaskill is respected for toughing it out.

    4) Salmond is regarded as light years ahead of the rest in the Scottish Parliament. The Nats should get him on TV MUCH MUCH more not less.


  2. I stick with my opinion it may turn out to be a serious mistake by the SNP,that they will regret.

    The SNP if hit as much as being seen in the polls recently might end the prospect of getting the mandate needed for a referendum on independence so sought after by the SNP.

    The timescale for the SNP to get this vote is not open-ended,the plan how i believe it to be,2010 referendum,2017 independence,sorry if this has changed,this was the plan as i understood it in 2008.

    If the consequence of this decision is the SNP not performing as well as expected in Westminster elections & also Holyrood elections the SNP band-wagon could stall completely.

    Alex Salmond is the SNP,they are very much 2nd rate without him,they are a one-man-band in the true sense of the word.

    Salmond has walked out on the SNP before,he has a strange temperament if he dosn’t get his way,if the polls do translate into real votes or lack of them for the SNP he may just walk again.

    How strange it would be if a act of patriotism from the libyians to please the Scots through the flying of Saltires could end the SNP dream of independence.

    Time will tell.

  3. If this poll is correct then it would seem another reason why GB MIGHT (together with all the reasons Rich and I have enumerated in other posts) go for an early election as it could limit the ability of the SNP to gain any seats and thus secure some of his Scottish heartland!

  4. I always thought this was a bad call for the SNP and was made worse by the welcome. The Glasgow by-election should be very interesting will Labour play the libya card?

  5. I agree with Rich, unpopular descisions make you unpopular, regardless of how well you seem to be handling it or how strong you seem, the SNP will be damaged by this as will Labour or atleast Brown as he has neither objected to it nor backed it.
    This will make way for some poll improvement for the Tories and the Liberals, which have both spoken out against it in some way. Although probably only by a few % between them but enough to have the SNP worrying and Labour plunge further down. Thats what i reckon, but ive been wrong before.

  6. In a few months time after the death of al-Megarahi is announced virtually any damage that may have been done to the SNP will dissipate.

    I can imagine that some of those most affected may never forgive MacAskill and the SNP. But for the General Public who are not so emotionally involved the decision will be kept in perspective, particularly after the cancer has carried out the death sentence.

    Regarding its impact on Gordon Brown, the slowness of his reponse may reenforce the impression of him as a ditherer who at length mulls over and calculates obessively his political position before making decisions.

  7. Philip

    But most of those personally affected in the UK seem to support Macaskill’s decision – the BBC just doesn’t give them the same amount of airtime as the US families.

    I am not sure that those personally affected are of one mind on this issue either her or even in the USA.

  8. Ex-Pat – more US citizens lost their lives than UK by a large number. So it is reasonable for the BBC to give them more air time.

  9. It is a mistake to regard the SNP as a one man band.

    SNP ministers are busy on many initiatives. Rural issues don’t get much media coverage even in Scotland, but those who live in fishing communities for example may be less influenced by the party leader on television than by what they read in industry journals. That could be crucial in the SNP’s key marginals.

    So too with health. NHS staff are a large body of voters in every constituency who have been messed about by market fundamentalists, NewLabour gimmickry and multiple re-organisations.

    If I were an SNP strategist, I would put the Health Minister to the fore, not AS. She has a direct no-nonsense manner and it’s obvious that she means what she says. There’s a novelty value in that which would help to get her message across.

    If you work in an industry in which your problems have been ignored by the previous government, and another party aims to change things, has had some small success in doing so, and is at least listening to you and trying to help, then that might weigh more heavily in your decision whether to change your vote than an argument on TV about whether or not we should renew Trident.