From Norm M
I’ve been reflecting on why I enjoy this blog and the work the Prof (Ed: I’m only a ‘vessel’… for the ideas of Noam…..not Norm!) is leading through it. It can be summed up in its name: Talking Up Scotland. There is so much media openly hostile to independence, no more than ever has it been important for there to be outlets where we can highlight the positives (and throw honest un-spun light on the negatives).
One of the things that contributed to this reflection is chatter elsewhere about the minutiae of opinion polls. In this area I think there is a bit of need of a ‘talking up Scotland’ approach keeping in mind the big picture. Firstly an important disclaimer, I’m not a pollster or psephologist, but neither are the absolute majority of us.
What do individual opinion poll results actually show us? They show us how a subset of people responded to a specific set of questions within a specific time period. On their own, they can give clues to what others think but, on their own they are not absolute proof. That’s where the phrase or logic behind “it’s just one poll” comes from.
So why bother? Well, where opinion polling is useful is when questions are asked in a repeated manner over time, you can see trends. In cases where there is significantly consistent polling you can look at demographics (or other information collected) to analyse any trends. Opinion polls on their own aren’t able to explain the reasoning by any trends, as this usually requires more intensive research.
So let’s look at one aspect of opinion polling that contains consistent questions over a long period of time regarding independence.
Plotted on the graph above is the result (in dots) of every opinion poll on Scottish independence from October 2014 (as listed and referenced on Wikipedia). The trend lines are polynomial to a degree of 6, and made automatically in Google Sheets.
What does it show us? Since 2018 there has been an upward trend in support for independence, and a downward trend in support for staying part of the UK. That doesn’t mean that the independence is in the bag (or even that the SNP are a shoe-in for success in May), but it shows us a lot more about what people in Scotland are thinking about politics than sporadic opinion polling on hypothetical situations.