Nice piece of analysis from John Curtice at What Scotland Thinks in which he notes the strong pro Yes dynamic in the polls of the last week, in contrast to the general stasis of much of the campaign heretofore. Their poll of polls processes the latest ‘gains’ for yes, and (excluding Don’t Knows) set the current rate at the tightest margin yet…
He offers four key points…
…the issue that above all seems capable of persuading people to vote Yes or No is whether they think independence would be good or bad for Scotland’s economy. Up to and including its poll in June YouGov had never found more than 30% saying that Scotland would be economically better off under independence. Now, having risen to 32% in YouGov’s poll a fortnight ago, that figure now stands at 35%. At 44% the proportion who think Scotland would be worse off still outnumber the optimists, but they are fewer in number now than in any previous YouGov poll. It looks as though the Yes side has made some significant ground on the crucial economic debate in recent weeks.
Second, although unfortunately in this poll YouGov asked new questions about people’s attitudes towards the currency issue, and thus we cannot see whether attitudes have changed in the wake of Mr Salmond’s clarification of his stance in the second leaders’ debate, it certainly looks as though this issue is still not scoring for the No side in the way that it believed it would. It remains the case that most voters – including most No voters – would like an independent Scotland to keep the pound, while many voters (or Yes supporters at least) still believe that this is what would happen.
As many as 56% of all voters – including 54% of No voters – would like an independent Scotland to keep the pound as part of a monetary union with the rest of the UK. Meanwhile 67% believe that an independent Scotland would carry on using the pound, either as part of a monetary union (41%) or otherwise (26%). Amongst Yes voters that last figure stands at no less than 87% (including 67% who think there would still be a monetary union, but even just over half of No voters (54%) reckon Scotland would keep the pound. In short the No side’s claim that an independent Scotland would not be able to keep the pound is still widely disbelieved and goes against the grain of what many of their own supporters would want to happen in the event of a Yes vote.
Third, the Yes side appeared to have secured some traction in its recent claim that the NHS might suffer if Scotland were to remain in the Union. As many as 42% think the NHS will get worse if Scotland remains in the Union, while only 9% believe that it will get better. In contrast as many as 37% believe that the NHS would get better under independence, while only 29% believe it would be worse. Of course many of those who think the NHS will get worse if Scotland remains in the Union are existing Yes voters (while contrary to what the Yes side themselves have been claiming, fewer women than men supports its view about which option offers the brighter future for the NHS). But at least the Yes side have identified a supposed risk that at least their own supporters find credible – in sharp contrast to position in which the No side finds itself on the currency issue.
Fourth, the Yes side appear to have made particular progress amongst the less well-off C2DE social groups, at whom much of its campaigning has been targeted in recent weeks. Support for independence amongst such voters is up nine points on a month ago (after Don’t Knows are excluded) whereas amongst more affluent ABC1 voters the swing has been a more modest six points. Doubtless this helps explains why support for Yes amongst those who voted Labour in 2011 has increased over the same period from 18% to 30%, though in truth the former figure was always rather low as compared with the findings of most other polls.
He finishes with this intriguing caveat…
Just one group of voters appear to have resisted the tide towards a higher Yes vote – older voters. Despite the particular importance of the NHS for such voters, at 31% support for Yes amongst the over 60s is actually slightly down (by two points) on a month ago. Indeed, but for the Yes side’s weakness amongst this group YouGov would be putting Yes in the lead. Will pensions now be one of the crucial battlegrounds in what promises to be a very keenly contested last two weeks?
I suspect that this has been well known to the Yes camp for some time how. Much of their campaigning has focused resolutely on brigading younger and poorer voters into social networks both online and in the various in situ ‘monster meetings’ up and down Scotland. The social effect, they hope, will help offset their greater propensity not to vote.
It seems to have worked for the Democrats over the last couple of general elections, though its hard to tell whether it was social or candidate selection that innervated black and hispanic voters to get out and vote in unprecedented numbers.
As an aside, the read out on the currency issue will be particularly disappointing for the No camp. It’s a given that an independent Scotland will keep a pound whether its independent and Scots pegged to the Bank of England rate or through a tight fiscal union with England.
The Euro’s a basket case, and no one’s even remotely thinking about launching a new free floating currency in the current hostile climate.
Their problem is twofold. As Paul Cairney points out, in the white heat of #IndyRef…
…no-one wants to give any ground. As a result, the debates tend to be very limited and partial, producing more heat than light. A simple example is the prospect of currency union: ‘keeping the pound’ can refer to using it as a means of exchange (simple enough) or agreeing to use the Bank of England as a lender of last resort.
Or, NHS ‘privatisation’ can refer to anything from the use of private companies to deliver health services, to a less-well funded service, or the removal of a tax funded service. Or, people use ‘Barnett formula’ to mean Scotland’s budget rather than the means to adjust it.
As Quintin Oliver warned a few years ago one key to winning is who gets to frame the debate early…
…first mover advantage often goes to those who ‘frame’ the discourse most coherently, at an early stage; in Cyprus in 2004, after years of UN-brokered talks, leading to broad agreement, dissenting Greek Cypriot PM, Tassos Papadopoulos returned from Switzerland (location of the negotiations for reasons of distance) characterising the deal, as ‘The Annan Plan, after the UN Secretary General, playing up its external origins and exogenous nature; had it been called ‘The Cyprus Plan’, been signed on Ledra Street and promoted by the Yes parties together, it might have stood a better chance.
And that would be the Yes camp in this case. John McTernan’s squeeky bum time is getting closer and squeaker. In losing the first TV debate, but winning the second, it is Salmond rather than Darling that comes aways with the reward of momentum.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty