There will doubtless be considerable disappointment in the Yes camp at the findings, published today, of the first poll to be conducted since the launch of the independence White Paper on Tuesday.
Conducted online between Wednesday and Friday of last week by Progressive Scottish Opinion for the Mail on Sunday, the poll puts the Yes vote on 27%, almost 30 points behind No on 56%.
Progressive previously ascertained referendum vote intentions in September (also for the Mail), in what was their first and until now only attempt to do so. That earlier poll put Yes on 27% and No on 59%.
So, while opposition to independence is three points lower now than in Progressive’s previous poll of three months ago, the proportion saying they will vote Yes is exactly the same.
If we take the Don’t Knows (some 17% of the latest sample) out of the calculation then the Yes share edges up from 31% last time (the second lowest reading in any poll conducted so far this year) to 33% now. So small a movement could easily be no more than a product of the random sampling variation to which all polls are subject.
There is no sign either that the White Paper’s focus on childcare has helped to close the gender gap. Once the Don’t Knows are excluded support for independence amongst women stands at 29%, exactly the same as in September – and seven points lower than amongst men.
One apparent reason why the White Paper has not brought the Yes side an immediate boost is that it has seemingly not succeeded in persuading Scots that independence would be economically beneficial – the issue that has persistently seemed crucial to voters in this campaign.
A number of recent polls (see, for example, here and here) have suggested, via variously worded questions, that those who are pessimistic about the economic consequences of independence outnumber optimists. That still appears to be case.
According to Progressive, just 23% agree that their household would be better off under independence as laid out in the White Paper, while no less than 49% disagree. Only a handful of those who disagree say that, nevertheless, they are still inclined to vote Yes.
This of course is only one poll, and from a polling company whose one previous poll of referendum vote intentions produced a particularly low estimate of support for independence. We will have to see if the apparent finding that the media razzmatazz surrounding Tuesday’s unveiling has not had any immediate impact is confirmed by other readings. But if this poll is any guide at all to how the public have reacted it looks as though on its own delivering a detailed plan has not been sufficient to bring some momentum to the independence campaign.
In truth, to win next September the Yes side requires more than a plan. It needs to be able to sell it effectively too.
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.