Yes campaign catching up: 13 thoughts
Scotland on Sunday has an ICM poll out on the independence referendum today showing support for the Yes campaign up significantly. John Curtice has seen the tables, and you can see his detailed breakdown here. Below are my immeditate thoughts.
- It’s just one poll.
- But it is ICM. Who, as others have pointed out, have a pretty good record, and were the best predictors of the AV referendum result.
- And it confirms a bit of a swing that we saw before Christmas – though not on this scale.
- It also confirms anecdotal evidence I’ve been hearing over the last couple of months, and the sense I’ve been getting a bit too. Though she’s from the wrong demographic, it’s typified for me by my mum. She was undecided. She feels as British as she does Scottish – her mum was born in Jersey, she went to school in England, etc. But she read the white paper, thought about it carefully, and decided to vote yes a couple of weeks ago. People are taking their time to make up their mind, but as they consider their options, the swing is largely one way.
- The swing is largely among the young (who, it’s important to acknowledge, were undersampled). This is a key reminder of a crucial fact about modern politics: young people change their minds quickly, and en mass. I have a general principle in election campaigns that you can swing a university campus in two weeks. The same is true, it seems, in the referendum. My generation doesn’t vote because of past loyalties, is always willing to change its mind, and tends to do so together.
- The other big change is that the gender gap is closing.
- Which leads onto the second point – the White Paper mattered. It didn’t deliver an immediate swing, but it did put issues like childcare on the table, and though I doubt few will have read the full thing, I imagine lots of people know someone who has, and has spoken to them about it.
- I think Christmas is an important feature here. Changing your mind over something as big as independence is likely to happen through gentle conversations with friends and family. Christmas provides a perfect setting for that.
- The yes campaign has always been playing a long game. I had a chat with a friend who works there, a few months ago, in which they told me that, in focus groups, they can talk people through a series of stages and, by the end, get the majority to support a yes vote. As Stephen Noon explains in the Scotsman, this is what they have been doing. Winning isn’t about being ahead in the polls. It’s about getting most votes on the day. With 8 months to go, it’s more important to lay the ground for a yes vote than it is to convince everyone now.
- Better Together, on the other hand, are starting to look like they’ve played all their best cards. Whether or not there is a genuine lupine threat circling around Scottish accession to the EU, for example, is barely relevant. Their cries of “wolf” over stamps and mobile phone roaming charges and all other kinds of nonsense mean their warnings are now weakening in power.
- That said, the British state doesn’t want to break, and may well have a few more tricks up its sleeve.
- The SNP are slowly taking control of the Yes campaign. This may be a good thing – they have a record of winning – but it does highlight how important it will be for other voices to make sure they are heard. Green Yes and the Radical Independence Conference, for example, have already been key to shaping the narrative around the potential for an independent Scotland, and if the Yes campaign is to basically be an arm of the SNP, then it’ll be important that the plurality of the broader yes movement continues to be reflected.
- The key figure in the poll is that, when the leanings of the undecided voters are considered, the Yes campaign only needs to convince 3 out of every 100 Scots to switch from a no to a yes. It’s only one poll, but the trend is an upwards one for the yes campaign. Everything is to play for.
I think another key point is that in most referendums (or referenda) the side promoting change sees a fall off of support in the last weeks towards the vote as negative campaigning has an effect. I suspect this will not happen in this referendum as the Bitters have been negative from the off so that their weapons will have lost all effect by the home straight. We are really on the way so let’s redouble our efforts, speak to as many as possible and keep the momentum going all the way to September 19th/