200 Days To Go

Today sees the latest of those little anniversaries that are being used to punctuate the long referendum campaign. The latest milestone is that it is 200 days to go to polling day on September 18th.

The occasion has been marked by one new poll of referendum voting intentions in Scotland (together with a poll of attitudes south of the border in The Observer). Conducted by YouGov, it appeared in yesterday’s Scottish Sun.

This latest Scottish poll puts Yes on 35%, up one point on YouGov’s previous poll a month ago, while No are on 53%, also up a point.  Meanwhile 11% say they do not know how they will vote, down one point, and one per cent said they would not vote (down one!).  Fieldwork was conducted between 24-28 February and 1,257 people responded (details that The Sun should have reported but failed to do so). Only information on referendum voting was collected.

Inevitably the poll can be regarded as good and bad news for both sides.

The Yes side will take comfort that the poll confirms the impression created by the three previous post-currency announcement polls that the UK government’s refusal to allow an independent Scotland to share the pound has not had any significant impact on the referendum race. It will also note that, only marginally higher though it may be, its 35% share is actually the highest Yes vote that YouGov have as yet recorded. The advance is also enough to put Yes on 40% once Don’t Knows are excluded – the first time Yes have reached this psychological threshold in a YouGov poll.

The No side, however, will note that even a 40% Yes share is down on the average 43% vote recorded in the three previous post-currency row polls.  Moreover it represents only a two point increase in the Yes share since the last YouGov poll to be conducted before the independence White Paper was unveiled at the end of November. In short YouGov’s polls continue to cast doubt both on the more exaggerated claims of how much progress Yes have made in the last two or three months and still suggest that the No side enjoys quite a healthy lead.

All in all, six published polls of referendum voting intention were conducted in February. On average they put Yes on 42% once the Don’t Knows are excluded. Between them they represent the best run of poll results for the Yes side since the final version of the referendum question was unveiled just over a year ago.  But the Yes side still have a lot more ground to make up before the race will begin to look like a truly close contest. Plenty to play for in the next 200 days!

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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.