A Little Encouragement for Yes: Ipsos MORI Post-White Paper Poll

There is some moderately encouraging news for the Yes side in the latest Ipsos MORI poll of referendum voting intentions for STV, released this evening.  In what is only the second poll to be conducted since the unveiling of the Independence White Paper, support for Yes amongst those who are certain to vote is put at 34%, up by three points on the company’s previous reading in September. The No tally is 57%, down two points on Ipsos MORI’s previous poll.

When the Don’t Knows are excluded, the figures point to a 37% Yes vote, also up three points on September.

However, even if this three point increase is not simply a consequence of the random variation to which all polls are subject – and it could well be  – the most that the poll can be said to indicate is that the Yes side’s support is back up to where it was at the beginning of this year. Although Ipsos MORI put the Yes tally (once the Don’t Knows are excluded) at 34% in May as well as in September, in February the Yes side stood at 38%.

This trend is much the same as that uncovered in the TNS BMRB poll released last week (but largely conducted before the White Paper was published). That suggested that the Yes vote had increased from 35% in late August to 38% now – almost back to the 39% that the TNS BMRB registered in February.

So while the Yes side might take comfort from the fact that two of the more consistently pessimistic polling companies (from their point of view) now put its support within sight of the 40% mark, it would be premature to suggest this latest poll provides any evidence that the White Paper is proving to be a  ‘game changer’ so far as the balance of public opinion is concerned.

Indeed the Ipsos MORI poll reports that while 18% do say that the White Paper had made them more inclined to vote Yes, slightly more, 20%, state that it has made them more likely to vote No. In truth probably not too much should be made of either figure. Nearly all those who say that the document has made them more likely to vote Yes are people who say they will actually vote Yes, while nearly everyone who says it has made them more likely to vote No states that they will vote No. In short, in answering the question about the impression that the White Paper made upon them, many a Yes and No voter was probably simply stating that its unveiling reinforced their existing views.

Somewhat more interesting is the fact that the proportion of current No voters who said that the White Paper had inclined them more towards a Yes vote was, at 4%, slightly greater than the proportion of Yes voters who indicated they were now more likely to vote No (1%). Moreover, 22% of all those who say they might change their minds claim they are now more likely to vote Yes, while only 13% say they are now more likely to vote No. Equally slightly more of those who remain undecided say they are now more inclined to a Yes vote (14%) in the wake of the White Paper than say they are now more likely to vote No (12%). Between them such figures suggest the White Paper could eventually help the Yes side to close the gap a little more – but not on anything like the scale required to deliver a Yes majority.

Meanwhile, there are signs the gradual intensification of the referendum debate has seen voters on both sides become more committed in their views. No less than 79% now say they are certain to vote in the referendum, up from the 73-74% that Ipsos MORI reported in their three previous readings this year of referendum vote intention. At the same time, after rather inexplicably increasing from 19% in February to 30% in September, the proportion who say they might change their mind about which way they will vote has slipped back down to 23%. Mr Salmond, however, needs voters to remain open to persuasion, not settle on their existing views.

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About the author

John Curtice is Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University, Senior Research Fellow at ScotCen and at 'UK in a Changing Europe', and Chief Commentator on the What Scotland Thinks website.