In commissioning and publishing the poll from Panelbase that it released this morning (which showed Yes 40%, No 45%, Don’t Know 15%), the Yes Scotland campaign was doubtless hoping to persuade us that it is on the edge of victory in September. Its press release highlighted the fact that, at 47% (once the Don’t Knows are excluded), the Yes tally was just three points short of the winning post.
But two notes of caution are in order.
First, as we have repeatedly pointed out, Panelbase persistently produce higher estimates of the Yes vote than any other pollster. That doubtless explains why they have become the independence movement’s pollster of choice. Apart from Yes Scotland they have been commissioned to do polls by the pro-nationalists websites, Wings over Scotland and newsnetscotland.com as well as the SNP themselves. Other pollsters have as yet to agree that the race is quite as close as Panelbase make it.
Second, there is nothing new about Panelbase recording a 47% Yes vote (once Don’t Knows are excluded). The figure is exactly the same as it was in the Wings over Scotland poll published on Sunday and the newsnetscotland.com poll conducted four weeks ago. It thus adds to the evidence from recent polls that in fact the progress that the Yes side made during the winter may, for the time being at least, have come to a halt.
Meanwhile today’s poll also asked people whether they would be likely to vote Yes or No in September if they thought they and their family would be ‘economically better off’ under independence. As we might have anticipated from Scottish Social Attitudes’ now famous £500 question, over half (53%) say that in those circumstances they would be ‘very’ or ‘quite’ likely to vote Yes, while only 37% state that they would be unlikely to do so. The prospect appears to be particularly attractive for undecided voters, no less than 64% of whom say they would be likely to vote Yes in the those circumstances.
However, the problem facing the Yes side is that so far most voters have not been convinced they would be better off. According to a recent YouGov poll, only 19% think they would personally be better off under independence. While there may be little doubt that Scotland would vote for independence if it thought it would bring prosperity, the Yes side still have an awful lot of work to do to persuade most Scots that prosperity is what would indeed be delivered.
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.