Whereas last weekend the Sunday Times featured a poll from YouGov, for the final weekend of the campaign the paper has returned to its usual stablemate for referendum polling, Panelbase.
The company’s latest poll puts Yes on 46%, No on 47%. That means Yes are up two points on Panelbase’s previous poll conducted a week ago for Yes Scotland, while No are down one. Once the Don’t Knows are removed Yes are on 49%, No on 51%, representing a one point swing to Yes. So, unlike last week, Panelbase have at least detected some swing to Yes, thereby putting support for the pro-independence campaign at a new record high in the company’s polls. But the swing is still astonishingly small as compared with those recorded recently by YouGov, TNS BMRB and ICM, and leaves the Yes campaign a little short of the 50% mark.
One unusual feature of Panelbase’s poll last week was that the gender gap in support for independence disappeared, a finding not replicated by any other recent poll. Now it has re-emerged. Support for Yes amongst men (after Don’t Knows are excluded) stands at 53%, whereas amongst women it is a more modest 46%. At seven points the gap between these two figures is only slightly less than the equivalent gap of nine points in Panelbase’s poll in mid-August. Women (along with older voters) still stand between Yes and winning a majority.
Now that all of the polls that have been commissioned by today’s newspapers are available, we are able to calculate a final poll of polls based on all polls released yesterday evening. Yes now stand on 49%, No on 51% – unchanged from the position of the poll of polls released after the publication of the ICM/Guardian poll on Friday.
Much of today’s poll focuses on what is arguably the leitmotiv of the final phase of the campaign – risk. As has been evident from other not dissimilar exercises in the past, for the most part independence is seen as rather more of a risk than is staying in the Union.
In today’s poll respondents were asked to use a scale from 1 (very likely to happen) to 5 (very unlikely to happen) to say how likely they thought it was that various risks would happen under (a) independence and (b) staying in the UK. As many as 43% gave a mark or 4 or 5 to the chances of Scotland economy becoming worse off, for example, whereas only 36% put the risk as low as 1 or 2. In contrast, when the same question was asked of remaining in the UK, only 31% put the risk as high as 4 or 5, while rather more, 42%, put it as low as 1 or 2. A not dissimilar finding was obtained in respect of whether people’s own finances would be worse off.
As one might anticipate, Yes supporters are disinclined to think that independence constitutes a risk while staying in the Union does, whereas No supporters take the opposite view. However, the views of No supporters are the more consistent in that respect. For example, no less than 85% of No supporters think it very likely that independence would leave Scotland’s economy worse off. In contrast, only 67% of Yes supporters reckon that is unlikely to happen, while only 53% believe it likely that Scotland’s economy would suffer if it stayed in the UK. Perhaps this means that the No side has a chance of winning over some Yes voters around as a result of the recent warnings about the economic consequences of independence that have been uttered by some prominent businessmen and financial institutions.
But not all of the risks are more likely to be thought to lie on the side of independence than staying in the Union. Both are widely thought to constitute a risk so far as the prospects for public spending are concerned – but with staying in the Union slightly more likely to be regarded as a risky step. Forty-one per cent think it very likely that public spending would be cut under independence, while as many as 45% take the same view of staying in the UK. It appears that the Yes side’s claims that staying in the UK would herald another round of austerity have hit home – even if voters are not necessarily convinced that independence represents a possible escape route.
Debates about risk in referendums are often thought to favour those arguing the case for maintaining the status quo. However today’s poll would appear to confirm a message that was also evident in YouGov’s poll for The Sunday Times last weekend, viz. that the one thing that few voters in Scotland are not seeking is to do is to maintain the status quo. Asked to choose between independence, more devolution and the status quo, only 16% back keeping things as they are. Thirty-five per cent support increased devolution and 42% independence. No less than 61% of No supporters now say they want increased devolution. Given the apparent widespread mood for change, the No side may need to continue to talk about the new opportunities afforded by their own proposals for more devolution as well as emphasise the alleged risks of independence – though in the absence of an agreed plan for more devolution that may be hard for it to do.
One risk that the No side has of course mentioned many a time in this campaign is its claim that no UK government would be willing to share the pound with an independent Scotland. It is a risk that many a voter is still inclined to discount. Just 35% feel that the UK government would maintain that position in the event of a Yes vote, while as many as 46% reckon it would change its mind. Equally only 31% reckon it is 5/5 certain that Scotland would be denied the pound, although only 32% feel that it the chances of it happening are 2/5 or less. It seems that the currency debate has simply left many a voter rather uncertain about what exactly will happen to the pound should Scotland vote Yes. That must be rather less than the No side would have hoped its currency intervention would have achieved by now.
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.