One of the curious features of the polling conducted since the publication of the independence White Paper last November, is that the one and only company not to register any subsequent increase in Yes support has been Panelbase, whose results had hitherto consistently been the most favourable to the Yes side. Of course, given that it was already registering a higher Yes vote than anyone else, it was arguably a taller order for the company’s poll to register any increase. But it meant the Yes side was denied a boost to its morale that it might otherwise have hoped to enjoy.
No longer. Today sees the release of the headline voting intention figures (others are to follow later) from a poll Panelbase conducted between the 7th and 14th March for the pro-independence news website, newsnetscotland.com – and it shows an increase in Yes support so that it stands at above pre-White Paper levels.
Yes are estimated to be on 40%, No 45%. Once the 15% who say they are undecided are excluded, the figures translate into Yes 47%, No 53%. That represents a three point increase in the Yes vote (once Don’t Knows are excluded) as compared with Panelbase’s previous poll (for the SNP towards the end of February). More importantly, it represents a two point increase on the figure in the final poll that Panelbase conducted before the publication of the independence White Paper. Indeed, it is two points higher than in any Panelbase pre-White Paper poll apart from one much criticised effort for the SNP last summer.
The increase is modest, and on its own could be dismissed on the grounds that it could simply reflect the random variation to which all polls are subject. But it is entirely consistent with the increase registered in the last two to three months by the polls as a whole. On average, the 14 polls conducted since Christmas have put the Yes vote on 42% (once Don’t Knows are excluded), up three points on the equivalent statistic for all of the polls conducted in the second half of last year. There can now be little doubt that the No side’s lead has narrowed – and equally that last month’s currency intervention has so far failed to reverse that trend.
When applied to Panelbase’s previously relatively favourable figures for the Yes side, even a modest increase is enough to break records. Apart from the SNP’s much criticised poll of last summer, this is the first time that any poll has suggested the Yes side has reached the 40% mark, when the Don’t Knows are still included. The 47% tally once Don’t Knows are excluded is also a record high.
Cautious heads will warn that one swallow does not make a summer. They will note that the poll was largely conducted before the publication of the latest Scottish Government and Expenditure Revenue statistics that showed a weakening of Scotland’s fiscal position, as well as after many a company spoke in their annual reports of the possible risks of independence. The gender gap (at 46% the proportion of women backing independence is almost as high as the 48% figure for men) is unusually small. Nevertheless for the time being at least the poll is bound to provide a boost to the Yes side’s morale.
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.