TNS BMRB Continue To Show An Unchanging Picture

The latest monthly poll fromTNS BMRB, published today, adds to the impression that, while far from being reversed, the progress made by the Yes side during the winter has not continued apace in the spring.  At the same time, however, the poll contains some food for thought for the No side about how voters perceive the style of its campaign.

The poll puts Yes on 30%, No on 42%. Both figures are up a point on the company’s previous poll a month ago, with a commensurate two point drop in the proportion of Don’t Knows.  However, at 28%, these continue to be much higher than in other companies’ polls.

Once the Don’t Knows are excluded from the calculation, Yes stand at 41% and No on 59%, exactly the same as last month. Indeed, after showing a slow but steady increase in Yes support through the autumn and into the New Year, the Yes tally in TNS BMRB’s poll has been stuck consistently at 40-41% ever since January.  There is little sign here of the continuing momentum that the Yes side would still seem to need.

In the apparent hope of getting a headline out of a poll that shows no change, TNS BMRB themselves have chosen to highlight the voting figures for those certain to vote. These show the No lead (with the Don’t Knows still included) dropping from 13 points last month to nine points this month. But the No lead was only nine points on that basis as long ago as January too.  However, the fact that Yes voters appear to be rather more determined to vote underlines Jan Eichhorn’s findings on likely turnout we reported earlier this month.

Indeed, there is also evidence in this poll that suggests Yes voters are more likely than No voters to have become secure in their choice.

At the end of September TNS BMRB found that only 31% gave themselves a score of at least seven out of ten when asked how much information about the decision they have to make in the referendum that they felt they had. Now, nearly half (49%) give themselves such a score. Apparently the long campaign is proving to be worth it so far as giving voters a sense that they are coming to grips with the issues is concerned.

However, it is amongst Yes supporters that the increase is most apparent. The proportion of them who give themselves a score of at least seven out of ten has increased from 43% in September to 68% now, an increase of 25 points. The equivalent figures for No voters are 36% and 53% respectively, an increase of 17 points.

Perhaps one reason why No voters are less likely to feel adequately informed lies in the perceived character of the No campaign. In line with previous poll findings, today’s poll finds that the No campaign is widely regarded as negative (and therefore, perhaps, uninformative) in tone. As many as 53% agree with the proposition that it has been ‘negative rather than positive’. In contrast, only 29% say the same of the Yes campaign. Of course, Yes and No supporters are more inclined than anyone else to see their own side’s campaign in a positive light. But even then, No voters are still slightly more likely to regard the Better Together campaign as negative (41% do so) than they are the Yes Scotland campaign (37%).

Of course a negative campaign is not necessarily an ineffective one. But the figures are hardly a sign of enthusiasm for the character of the No campaign – including not least amongst the undecided, no less than 45% of whom feel the No campaign has largely been negative. (Only 24% say the same of the Yes campaign.) Maybe it is time for No to talk up the Union rather than talk down independence?

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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.