Tuesday round up

There are a few interesting bits of polling news today. First there is a new chunk of Lord Ashcroft polling, this time on the Conservative’s position in Scotland. Full results are here. I won’t summarise the whole report here, but essentially he segments up the Scottish electorate and as well as that poor sorry rump of Tory support left in Scotland, he also finds a group he calls “reluctant Cameroons” – primary Scots who approve of Cameron, trust the Conservatives on the economy… but don’t vote for them because they don’t see the Conservatives as caring about Scotland and view the party as irrelevant to Scottish politics, or a wasted vote. Therein lies the Conservative problem not just in Scotland, but in much of the urban North too. There are people with some sympathy towards Conservative policies, but they live in places or communities where voting Conservative is simply not done, no one else does it, there’s no point doing it, there’s no longer a recent history of it, what would be the point of it? It’s something people in the South do.

Anyway, I’ll leave you to read Lord Ashcroft’s report for yourselves, but for the record it also contained Westminster voting intention figures for Scotland, concucted earlier this month. CON 18%(+1), LAB 40%(-2), LDEM 6%(-13), SNP 31%(+11), UKIP 2%(+1). Changes are from the 2010 election and reflect a big swing from the Lib Dems to the SNP. If it was repeated as a uniform swing across Scotland the Lib Dems would be reduced to three seats in Scotland, the Tories would gain two seats, Labour would gain two and lose one, the SNP would go up to 11 seats.

Secondly there is the regular YouGov poll for the Sun. Topline figures today are CON 31%, LAB 40%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 12%. While it’s within the normal margin of error of YouGov’s recent polling, the nine point lead is the largest YouGov have show since the start of October. My hunch is that this particular poll is probably a bit of an outlier, but that the issue of energy prices coming back into the news agenda following the energy price rises has boosted Labour’s lead a bit. Full tabs are here.

Finally the Electoral Commission have issued advice on the referendum question contained in the referendum bill currently before the Commons. The Bill currently contains the wording “Do you think that the United Kingdom should be a member of the European Union”. The Electoral Commission have recommended that the “do you think” bit is dropped, so the question is shorter and more formal, and that the wording reflects that the UK is already a member of the EU, as some people thought the question read as if it was whether Britain should join the EU. As such the question would become “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?” They’ve also floated the idea that it might be better to move away from a Yes/No question, and instead have a Remain/Leave question, along the lines of “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union? Remain a member of the European Union/ Leave the European Union”.

As a pollster you tend to get asked questions about referendum wording. It makes some sense, as writing fair questions is the bread and butter of being a pollster, but in many ways the considerations really aren’t the same. As a pollster I hardly every write questions with just a straight Yes/No as options because there is a fear of affirmation bias, so as a polling question the Electoral Commission’s Remain/Leave is definitely better, giving both sides of the campaign equal prominance. However, it’s NOT a polling question, it’s a referendum question. With a polling question, people are rung up out of the blue (or get an email out of the blue) and get a few seconds to answer the question – those small differences in wording undoubtedly make a difference. In a referendum people have weeks to decide, and will be influenced by the whole campaigns, personalities, arguments, advertisements and so on. What the Yes and No votes mean for the country is something that voters will form their own perceptions of long before they enter a polling station. In that sense, as long as the question is clear and unambiguious, I doubt whether it says yes/no or remain/leave matters much.

423 Responses to “Tuesday round up”

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  1. @Howard
    ” Head of the CIA is apparently fighting back with ‘they (er, the allies) are spying on us too’.
    What a lovely bunch they all are.

    Spies spying on each other/foreign governments is not really anything new. But for them to spy on foreign private citizens is something else – especially without permission from the host country, and without this being subject to any effective legal oversight.

  2. ON
    Ok, you’ve got me. Is ‘dug’ a Scottish version of dog, or what?

  3. Interesting article about the North and I see wales’ s sister part of the uk the north east not Scotland, but I suppose I meant social attitudes tend to be similar in the North and Wales to the south, whereas they are very different in Scotland. For what its worth for a non English and non Scottish view, think many Tories are indifferent to Scottish independence, compare how little Cameron has played defender of the union to an English audience, compared to Castilian attitudes to Catalan independence.

  4. I see the bodies ‘Electoral Commission’ and ‘European Commission’ are used interchangeably in this article. Maybe this is the reality? I think using the word ‘remain’ in the ref question introduces status quo bias.


    I report on polling results, and draw conclusions. You suggest that differences exist on where various dangly bits exist on human beings.

    You may be confused by seeing your Dad at his bath time, but those are only significant differences in other human affairs than voting on future constitutional issues.”

    What sort of response is that to what I wrote?

    Are you suggesting Angela Merkel should debate whether the UK leaves the EU if we have a referendum on that ever?


    Any idea why a precious response has been auto-modded?

  6. PETE B

    Yes (or aye :-) ) Burns wrote a poem about two of them. Seems appropriate for Rosie & Daisie

    Nae doubt but they were fain o’ ither,
    And unco pack an’ thick thegither,
    Wi’ social nose whyles snuff’d an’ snowkit;
    Whyles mice an’ moudie worts they howkit;
    Whyles scour’d awa’ in lang excursion,
    An’ worry’d ither in diversion;
    Till tir’d at last wi’ monie a farce,
    They sat them down upon their arse,
    An’ there began a lang digression
    About the ‘lords o’ the creation’.

    Any American readers should note that we do not have their of “dugs” – no matter how much are canine friends obsess about dangly bits.


    “What sort of response is that to what I wrote?”

    Shouldn’t that be “what we wrote”?

    I do understand that your understanding of human affairs may be limited, but Angela Merkel is not the Prime Minister of the European Union.

  8. Mrs May says she won’t share any intelligence with an independent Scotland!! Sarcastic comments in 1, 2, ……

  9. rosieanddaisie
    “To think a boy should get involved would be absurd”

    When you grow up you’ll find that boys, including boy puppies, are interested in having girls around them, for some reasons which may seem odd to you. I hope your Daddy will explain, but he may prefer to leave it to a female member of the family that you know and trust.

  10. jp

    yes – that’s why it would be absurd for them to be involved in the decision of the girls you see.

    Bluddy hell, explaining stuff is harder than you’d think.

  11. @ RiN

    Mrs May says she won’t share any intelligence with an independent Scotland!! Sarcastic comments in 1, 2, ……
    We’ll need to get it directly from wiki-leaks then.

  12. RR Prediction for tonight Yougov:


  13. RiN

    It’s an interesting idea that rUK would prefer not to inform an independent Scotland, of data that the US NSA had given them, that suggested that a terrorist threat existed on their northern border.

    Or indeed, that the USA wouldn’t inform Scotland directly.

    What would either country gain from that?

    Today, 5 dissident Irish republicans were in court in Glasgow because of joint intelligence from PSNI, PSS, and MI5. Is anyone seriously suggesting that such intelligence wouldn’t be shared just because Scotland had decided to return sovereignty to its people rather than it being exercised in the Palace of Westminster.

    If Westminster were so determined to cut off their nose to spite their face, then the UK would be an even more dysfunctional organisation, than even I think it is.

  14. amber

    I should think that an independent Scotland would be quite laid back about that threat.

  15. @Old Nat

    You’re raising the tone there, for which many thanks. It’s a lovely piece; Burns’ affection for the beasts has a great charm that illuminates it.

    I do notice though that the effort of typing Scots has left you incapable of typing English. I’m not sure what your last sentence means even after puzzling.

  16. ……………..anyway, by the time Scotland was independent Mrs May would be opposition leader.

  17. Anthony

    Oh, go on! Release Rosie & Daisie’s modded post. I’m sure their Dad would be keen to see what they get up to when they access his computer.

  18. Yes but does Mrs May have any intelligence to share!?

  19. I always thought that Rabbi Burns was a famous Jewish poet. Interesting that he could write about ‘dugs’ in gibberish.


    :-) I amended that sentence a few times to avoid being overly sexist. Resulting in total incomprehensibility!

    I meant – “Any American readers should note that we do not have their usage of ‘dugs’ – no matter how much our canine friends obsess about dangly bits.”

    The Americans, with their considerable Scandinavian heritage have kept their meaning of “dugs”. Unfortunately, they have abandoned the really good bits about Scandinavian practice.

  21. PETE B

    In my part of Scotland, we normally add an “ee” sound to a word to indicate a diminutive.

    Hence my failure to recognise “Rabbie” in its proper usage.

    Gibberish is, of course, a perfectly respectable language – it is the normal language used in Westminster.

  22. amber

    I think, in all seriousness, that Cameron would do very well. He is clearly passionate and articulate about the Union and being wanted is quite a nice thing for people to hear.

    I certainly don’t think it would be the walkover for Salmond that some would like to predict.

    However, as he doesn’t have a vote he should obviously remain a bystander

  23. Good Steve Bell cartoon in the Graun.

  24. @Old Nat
    Understood, but “dugs” in the anatomical sense was first recorded in English in 1520, so we don’t need to invoke a later borrowing from Scandinavian to explain its presence in America.

    Rabbi Burns amused me. Here are a few lines of his work in his native tongue.

    Un dos iz alts, un dos iz alts
    Kumen vet, un kumen bald,
    Ven mentsch mit mentsch der velt arum

    Veln brider zayn, un dos iz alts.

  25. Now name that tune!

  26. @ Rosie&Daisie

    Yes, in all seriousness both would probably give a good performance, I’d think. Nevertheless, whether it was a great debate or a Punch ‘n’ Judy show, it would (& should) be irrelevant to a decision of this magnitude don’t you think?

  27. “However, as he doesn’t have a vote he should obviously remain a bystander”

    Dunno if there are any pedants out there wanting to unpick the slightest bit of shorthand in the points I am making but, clearly implied in the above [follow this bit slowly now] – as it follows a discussion on a D E B A T E – I didn’t think it necessary to add “in the debate.”

    Good grief.


    “we don’t need to invoke a later borrowing from Scandinavian”

    Ah! Linguistic imperialism at work there! :-) So where did the 16th century English usage of “dugs” originate?

    Happy to accept that England had lost much of its Scandinavian inheritance by then – and is even more distant from socially beneficial policies under Westminster government. :-)

  29. Amber

    I agree absolutely. It is all just showboating to my mind but I must say I am very tired of tonight’s petty attempts at point scoring rather than – for example – sensibly arguing as to just WHY people outwith Scotland should be debating Scotland’s decision about Scotland’s future.

    They should probably still be allowed an opinion though perhaps [!!] – in the same way that I can have an opinion about matters that will ultimately be decided by others.

  30. @OldNat

    If disclosure of info to an independent Scotland would endanger a valued source, then a rUK government may well consider not giving it.

    As for your second example: if the dissident Irish had committed/planned to commit a crime in the rUK, then the rUK government would request their extradition to the rUK to stand trial accordingly. The rUK government wouldn’t give info to Scotland so that they could be tried on Scottish soil for a criminal act within the rUK jurisdictions.

    Conversely, if the dissident Irish had committed/planned to commit a crime in Scotland, then the Scottish authorities may request info from the rUK authorities to assist the prosecution, but the rUK authorities may not actually know any info relevant to the Scottish prosecution. Being convinced that the rUK should not hold sway in Northern Ireland, and planning to commit in the rUK violent acts to further that aim, would not be relevant nor useful to a Scotland prosecution – it’d be circumstantial evidence.

    An independent Scotland would receive a lot of criminal intelligence from the rUK: cops are cops and cross-border cooperation does go on. But an independent Scotland could not expect it as of right and – if politically expedient and/or insufficiently budgeted – may well find it withheld.

  31. MARTYN

    All true. That’s probably why the only two countries who share intelligence are the USA and the UK.

    If you aren’t a citizen of either country, you are probably going to die.

    I’m really glad that I’m not an Icelander.


    “No more from me on this”

    That should be “No more from US on this”.

  33. @ Old Nat

    Regarding Lamont’s speech, yes indeed. And to balance things up, the EU decision that wasn’t written down; the absence of said decision being worth Salmond’s defending via the courts. So let them write things down & stand by their words, or publicly recant. Let there be no heated debate which sways the emotions or makes empty promises but is all p!ss & wind[1] at the end of the day.

    1. Apologies for being uncouth but I could not think of an equally apt but more delicate phrase to use instead.

  34. @ Old Nat

    Sometimes it is Rosie who comments, sometimes Daisie. I don’t see what the problem is regarding whether it is singular or plural – & all things considered, they do remarkably well for wee dugs, given their age & their lack of opposable thumbs. :-)

  35. @Old Nat

    You’ve leapt rather quickly to an erroneous conclusion there. I used the word “later” because I was aware that the English “dugs” is a possible borrowing from Norse into English, pre-America. And its use in England has been continuous since 1520: we haven’t stopped using the word, though it’s not polite to use it for the female anatomy any more, as is the case in Yankland.

    Really, its not linguistic imperialism to say that this word is an early borrowing rather than a late one. And even if I did deny its Norse origin it would hardly be for political reasons. Does the failure of Scots to borrow this word show a native dislike of flat-pack furniture, perhaps?

  36. ME prediction for tonight’s YouGov:

    Con 32.6%
    Lab 39.2%
    LD 9.4%

  37. @OldNat
    I also thought my Yiddish translation of Burns was quite smart, and I’ll be offended if you don’t make a guess at the original ( and surprised if your guess isn’t dead right!)

  38. @OldNat

    Fair point.


    I should have included a LOL for the Yiddish Burns. It “wis worthy o’ a grace as lang as ma airm”.

  40. There is an article on the BBC website about the proposed new penalties in relation to dangerous dogs.

    The headline is “Dog Attacks Crackdown”.

    It did leave me thinking that this particular spokesdog has a rare talent and wondering whether it was Rosie or Daisie….

  41. @Amber,

    I wonder if Vladimir Putin would consider offering the Scots a grand apiece to become a Republic of the Russian Federation.

    Twice the going rate, and the Scots could enjoy being part of an even greater oil and gas-producing power than they are currently.

    Plus they probably wouldn’t have to worry about US intelligence, as the FSB would probably make Snowden available to them directly.

  42. NEIL A

    We could probably offer them a base at Faslane and the nuclear stockpile as well. Mind you, since its only strategic value is to help the USA with the development costs of Trident, they’d probably turn down that offer.

  43. @ Neil A

    I wonder if Vladimir Putin would consider offering the Scots a grand apiece to become a Republic of the Russian Federation.
    That could be what the USofA & Mrs May are concerned about. ;-)

  44. I found this analysis of the poll moving events in the 1995 Quebec independence election


    That election seems to be being used as the template for the Scottish independence election, there is a parliamentary briefing paper which examines that election, and if you look at the Government strategy to date it seems to be a replay of the strategy there.

    The effect of the Quebec campaign was to polarise Quebec along linguistic and ethnic lines, and as the campaign progressed support for independence increased significantly.

    I guess if you are Scottish, and you keep getting messages to the effect that the UK government is going to cut you loose and make life as difficult as possible for you following independence you start to believe you are not really valued as a citizen of that country, and that helps you feel different and less accepted, so more likely to vote for independence.

    So if we follow the Quebec model, and the government continues to follow its briefing paper, I expect we should see support for independence increase.

    I see the Quebec campaign really took off once they got a new leader. I don’t think the pro-independence campaign can win with SNP leadership running the campaign, they need to get a figurehead who is respected across parties if they want to really become competitive and Salmond needs to take more of a back seat so it doesn’t become a Labour vs SNP contest.

  45. richard

    moved to comment by your last post.

    Salmond is the most popular Scottish politician by a country mile. That will have been re-enforced by a fine Conference speech and his brilliant handling of Grangemouth.

    Why on earth would the YES campaign want him to be leading anywhere other than front and centre?

  46. Here is a link to the parliament briefing paper


    Page 14 on talks about the No campaign, which started out with a comfortable No lead, but as they got their message out the Yes vote increased daily as can be seen from the graphs on the polling report I linked earlier.

    “the No campaign stressed that separation would lead to disruption and uncertainty.”…

    “Federalists were aware that aggressive campaigning against Quebec sovereignty could increase divisions between Quebeckers and Canadians from other provinces and push waverers towards the sovereigntists. With that in mind, the federalists left a lot of the campaigning to their colleagues within Quebec”

    “The assertion that Canada would immediately assume the obligations and rights of all Canada’s treaties and conventions was particularly controversial (see section below on legal questions). The US, Canada and Mexico all stated that Quebec should not assume that entry into NAFTA would be automatic.”

    And the earlier report also discusses poll moving events, it seems with each scare story, support for independence increased. (Large company threatened to move jobs out of Quebec, etc)

    So I would say things are looking up for the pro independence folk over the next few months if the Quebec model is anything to go by.


    I really, really hate the auto mod here which sends a post to mod because it a particular section that can mean terminological inexactitude!

    “so it doesn’t become a Labour vs SNP contest.”
    That is what Better Together are trying to make it.
    Polling, however, suggests that the strength of the No vote lies with supporters of the Coalition parties (though it would be useful to know if the pollsters are sampling the Lib-Dems in their heartland of the North, rather than the more easily accessible ones in the Central Belt).

    The actual “battle” is for the support of the undecideds who vote Labour or SNP (and frequently both!).
    The failure to understand the fluidity of the Parliamentary vote between Labour and SNP may explain why pollsters are so variant on the issue.
    For example, there is a tendency to use the constituency Holyrood vote as the weighting factor. However, there is no evidence that I know of that party loyalty (or lack of it) is based on the constituency rather than the list vote, Compositing both votes seems more likely to be a bit more reliable.

  48. @OldNat

    I agree with what you said, except for this:

    “Polling, however, suggests that the strength of the No vote lies with supporters of the Coalition parties ”

    Even if I look at Panelbase, which is the ‘House effects’ pollster most likely to favour the Yes side


    And you look at those cross breaks, it is still very much an SNP vs the rest contest.

    SNP 65% Yes, 20% No (Constituency)
    SNP 66% Yes, 17% No (Regional)

    While Labour figures are pretty much the opposite:
    19% Yes, 53% No (Constituency)
    18% Yes, 54% No (Regional)

    The yes folk need to convert some of those Labour voters to their side if they want to make any progress, and I guess Salmond is not best placed to do that. You need a figurehead to run the campaign who can reach those folk.


    Curse you! :-) Last comment!

    I think you are making the mistake that I suggested earlier. Labour and SNP voters in 2011 aren’t different tribes.

    It’s a convenient weighting factor for pollsters, but the reality is that there are tribal SNP and Labour voters – but many people move back and forward.

    In terms of the Yes campaign, Salmond isn’t as Cameron said (stupidly or tactically) the head of the Yes campaign – that’s Dennis Canavan.

  50. ON
    “It’s an interesting idea that rUK would prefer not to inform an independent Scotland, of data that the US NSA had given them”
    My experience, and that of the CIA and NSA reading of and advice about, say, let’s start with the places where I’ve worked: Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia,Pakistan, the Soviet Union under Gorbachev,, and move on to ones everybody knows about as Wikileaks and the bleeding obvious have done their work, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran – is that cod intelligence produces and exchanges very expensive and occasionally lethal codswallop. So why should Scotland give a flying f–k?

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