Panelbase, the nationalists’ favourite pollster, have a new poll of voting intentions out this morning. It has been commissioned by the pro-independence web site, Wings over Scotland, the third such poll the site has funded via contributions from its readers.
The poll puts the Yes vote on 41%, No on 46%. Both votes are up one point on Panelbase’s previous poll, conducted three weeks ago for the pro-independence news website, newsnetscotland.com. The small increase in the Yes vote is, however, enough to make it the highest pro-independence vote in any poll yet, other than in a much criticised poll Panelbase conducted for the SNP last August. It is a point the Yes side can doubtless be expected to emphasise.
Once the Don’t Knows (14%, down one point) are excluded the Yes vote stands at 47%, the same as in Panelbase’s previous poll for newsnet. The poll thus cannot be cited as evidence that there is now a nationalist bandwagon moving continuously and relentlessly towards the 50% mark. We should certainly remember that all of the polls Panelbase conducted last year already put the Yes tally at 44% or 45%. The two to three point increase in Yes support since then is simply in line with the trend that has already been evident in more or less all the polls for some two or three months.
On the other hand, the No side’s continuing efforts at persuading Scots of the risk of independence – together with three weekends of unionist Scottish party conferences – are still evidently failing to bear any fruit. The argument that the No campaign is too relentlessly negative will doubtless continue to be heard. Better Together will certainly be hoping the persistently relatively high Yes vote in Panelbase’s polls is an overestimate of the level of support for independence, though of that there is far from being any guarantee.
Today’s poll is also notable for exhibiting a particularly wide gender gap. Support for Yes amongst men stands at no less than 56% (once Don’t Knows are excluded) while amongst women it is just 40%. That the gap is quite this wide may well be no more than an accident of the random variation to which all polls are subject. But its strength in this poll casts doubt on the claim that some made in the wake of the most recent YouGov poll that the gender gap was narrowing, thanks perhaps to the SNP’s promises on childcare. It seems that women continue to stand between Alex Salmond and the realisation of the nationalists’ dream of independence.
Like everyone of all political persuasions and of none, we were sad to hear of the death on Friday of Margo Macdonald, the Independent MSP for the Lothians and former SNP MP for Glasgow Govan. Nobody could doubt the passion and sincerity of her convictions. She will be much missed.
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.