Search topics on this blog

Showing posts with label Ipsos MORI poll. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ipsos MORI poll. Show all posts

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Some thoughts on Reform Scotland and its online independence/devo plus poll

My normal preamble: I am a Scottish voter, an SNP member, I hold no role of any kind in the party, and I speak only for myself. I am in favour of Scotland becoming a fully independent country. I am a former Labour supporter, but was never a party member or activist. I was a member of the SDP for a few weeks in 1981. I am anti-nuclear weapons and anti-nuclear power.

I am not a psephologist or statistician either.

The Reform Scotland poll deserves some attention, but in my view, like any online poll, it cannot claim the kind of statistical validity that a poll by a polling organisation such as Ipsos MORI can claim, nor can it be seen as representative sample of the Scottish electorate. Here’s why I say that about a poll, that, if valid in this way, would give me considerable satisfaction.

Online polls by definition are completed by visitors to that online site who chose to respond to the questions, i.e it is self-selecting. It is likely that the majority already read that site regularly, and that a minority came to it by other, e.g. randomly, or by specifically being directed to the poll by other means.

For example, I did not complete the poll, for the simple reason that I did not know that Reform Scotland existed. But had I visited the site and completed the poll, it would almost certainly have been because another SNP supporter directed me to the site. (I speak from experience of other such online polls.)

Doubtless, members of other parties do the same thing, and the intensity of this kind of poll behaviour – completely valid as a PR objective but tending to be destructive of the polling purpose – will increase as the referendum approaches and online polls multiply. What I am saying is that this segment of online voting is in the main representative only of how effectively parties get their vote out, as in an election.

Now that I know about Reform Scotland, what do I now know about Reform Scotland. Here’s what it says about itself, in its invitation to me to sign-up for information – and I have, because I now want to know what this think tank is thinking …

“Reform Scotland is an independent, non-party think tank that aims to set out a better way to deliver increased economic prosperity and more effective public services based on the traditional Scottish principles of limited government, diversity and personal responsibility.”

It says it’s independent, non-party. Well, think tanks always say that – as Mandy Rice Davies would say, well, they would say that, wouldn’t they?

Since think tanks are composed of people, it is always a good idea to look at who they say they are. With some think tanks, this would be the least reliable indicator, but I think we may be reasonably certain that Reform Scotland is comprised of exactly the people they list, and only the people they list, and that no shadowy individuals or groups are standing behind the curtain as in, say, some think tanks on global warming, i.e. the ones that think that mankind - especially that part of mankind who have become obscenely rich from despoiling the planet - has nothing whatsoever to do with global warming.

Reform Scotland receives its funding “from individuals, charitable trusts or companies which share its aims.” Since it seems to be a well-structured, transparent organisation, with a proper separation of powers (an Advisory Board and a separate Board of Management in the form of Trustees) it is doubtless possible for any member of the public to view the funding sources. Its people in many cases occupy significant positions in Scottish public life, and have not only their own reputations to protect but that of the other organisations to which they belong.

It has, in its own words, a vision, which like many such vision statements is essentially meaningless, since it would be endorsed by anyone anywhere across the globe as applied to their own country, and certainly by anyone in Scotland.

Had it said its vision was for a free, dynamic and independent Scotland, it would of course have differentiated itself radically, but would then have become an independence think tank, if not a political party (there already is one with that vision!) and would have started with an a priori assumption about the means of achieving its vision. If it excludes such a possibility, it would not be a think tank worth the name, but it hasn’t, as far as we can determine, although it favours devo plus.


The Advisory Board decides on policy and strategic objectives – the Trustees, the Management Board are responsible for day-to-day operations. Both boards have the same Chairman, not a good thing for an organisation in my view, and he is Ben Thomson, chairman of the Noble Group. The Noble Group describes itself as follows -

“Noble is an independent UK investment bank that provides a unique range of professional services to fast growth small/mid cap companies and investment vehicles. Founded in 1980, the company has over 120 employees based in Edinburgh and London.”

Ben Thomson, a former Scottish international athlete, is deeply involved in Scotland, and is very significant figure in finance and the arts in Scotland. The other twelve board members include Wendy Alexander, Jim Mather, Derek Brownlee and Jeremy Purvis, which is a fair political spread. The composition of the Advisory Board seems to me to about about as widely based as it reasonably could be, and embraces a great deal of academic and financial expertise, and Martin Sime, chief executive of SCVO (Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations)  is an important inclusion.

All things considered, I would call this a reputable think tank, one that I as a voter will treat very seriously, and had I still been in business and responsible to a company, would have advised them to treat it seriously as well. I am glad that such a think tank exists, and wish it well.

This no doubt will come as a great relief to the two exalted Boards of Reform Scotland, who have been waiting in trepidation since their inception for one old Scottish voter to discover that they existed and offer his imprimatur.

You can relax, guys and gals – you’re OK for the moment …


The poll, if it means anything at all, is encouraging for supporters of independence. Clearly, the SNP liked it and welcomed its outcome. (For the benefit of another respected nat blogger, may I reiterate that when I say the SNP, I mean the official spokespersons of the party, not the broad mass of the membership. I speak for neither, only for me.)

The full results are here Reform Scotland poll – pdf

Reform Scotland says this about its poll – “

We do not claim that this poll is totally scientific as  it was self selecting.”

I am cautious, for all the reasons given above, but if it is accepted as a reasonably representative sample of Scottish public opinion, the following figures interest me more than the headline results -

1.  If  there was a Scottish independence referendum tomorrow where you could only vote either yes or no to independence, how  would you  vote?

28% of respondents who most identified with Labour as a political party said YES to that, as did 25% of LibDems and, 9.2% of Tories – three parties opposed to independence - but only 54.5% of Greens, a party committed in Scotland to Scotland’s independence said YES.

65.2% of those identifying with Other as a party said YES. (Unsurprisingly, 97.5% of SNP supporters said YES.) Out of 809 people answering the question, 535 said YES and 425 of them were SNP identifiers, which means that 110 people who don’t identify with the SNP - i.e. 20.6% – would say YES to independence if a poll were called tomorrow.

Does this mean anything? I don’t know. The party affiliations and the no affiliation numbers don’t equate to the real voting patterns in May 2011, other than roughly in the SNP dominance – 53.9% of the 809 respondents identified with the SNP – and those who identified with no party represented 12.9%.

If Reform Scotland has the money, and really wants to keep its finger on the pulse of Scottish opinion, they should commission a real poll from Ipsos MORI at regular intervals until the referendum.

That would really make me sit up and take notice …

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The EU Fiasco, the British Bulldog and the referendum timing.

I feel instinctively European in cultural and political terms, because I am a member of a dwindling demographic that remembers what Europe was like before the European Union: I know what Europe has accomplished and the fate it has protected me and my family from for over fifty years. Contrary to right-wing myths, it wasn’t WMDs that kept Europe from internecine strife, it was the institutions of the European Community, initially an economic union (the EEC) and now a political union.

So it was was incredulity, then contempt, followed by sadness and a deep anger that I watched the Cameron fiasco unfold. The signs were clear last Wednesday at Prime Minister’s Questions in Westminster. One after another, right-wing Tory eurosceptics - or rather europhobics - stood up, in an orchestrated public lobbying of their own leader, mouthing jingoistic nonsense about the British Bulldog and the need to stand firm against the wickedness of Brussels. The same mob welcomed him back from his European negotiating disaster as a conquering hero, with one nauseating, fawning speech after another.

The British Bulldog is now an out-of-control pit bull, rampaging uncontrolled by its anti-social and irresponsible owner, the UK right-wing establishment, posing a threat to the stability of all its neighbours. But they have responded quickly and effectively by placing a cordon sanitaire around it, marginalising its baleful influence on civilised behaviour, then ignoring it while they get on with real life.

This unfortunately creates problems not just for the immature and selfish owner of the dog, but for his immediate and extended family and his entirely innocent neighbours, who are now going to find major obstacles in interacting with the wider community on which they are dependent.

One neighbour in particular, Scotland, has been concerned for some time about this dog and its owner, and their plans to get clear of them - while respecting and pitying his unfortunate family - are well-advanced. But in view of recent extreme behaviour by the British Bulldog, they may have to accelerate them.

I think I’ve taken that rather tortured analogy as far as I can. But one more comment.  Today’s G2 Guardian supplement revealed that Cameron deliberately keeps a full bladder before important meetings and speeches to maintain focus and concentration. Perhaps that explains his odd, tight-mouthed look – but the result at the EU summit was that he pissed all over his relationship with 26 members states.

Right at this moment, the 26 countries are in deep difficulty in reaching a deal, and if they don’t, it will be disaster of global proportions, not just European. What is abundantly clear is that the UK could have been part of those discussions without having sacrificed anything, had Cameron stayed to negotiate and influence, instead of posturing. Deal or no deal, the 26 countries won’t easily forget that he opted out.


On Sunday - blog link – I wrote the following -

I think the Scottish Government may have to re-think its timescale for the independence referendum, and by that, I mean bring it forward. 2014 at the earliest is now beginning to look like too late.

Today, the Times has a two-page spread on its own Ipsos MORI commissioned poll on the timing of the referendum. The First Minister has made it clear that he is still committed to his second half of the term timescale, but I suspect the pressures will grow, not from the unionists, with their early-referendum-and-fail scenario, but from a much wider constituency, including among SNP voter and supporters.

The results for those certain to vote were as follows -

1st question - the ‘devo max’ option: 68% in favour  among those certain to vote. 28% disagree with 4% undecided.

2nd question - the independence option: 38% in favour among those certain to vote. 57% disagree with 5% undecided.

The timing of the referendum:

As soon as possible: 33% in favour among those certain to vote.

Within the next two years: 31% in favour among those certain to vote.

Between two and five years from now: 29% in favour among those certain to vote.

There should never be a referendum: 3% in favour among those certain to vote.

The total figures for all polled, i.e. including those not certain to vote, are lower – devo max 64%, independence 35%.

I have two observations to make on this poll -

Firstly, the wording of the devo max option was posed as the first question – or appears to have been - and its wording was as follows -

Q. The referendum may contain separate questions. The first question will ask whether you agree or disagree with a proposal to extend the powers of the Scottish Parliament to include more laws and duties and more tax-raising powers, while Scotland remains part of the UK. If the referendum was held tomorrow, would you vote to agree or disagree with the proposal.

Ipsos MORI is a polling organisation with an impeccable pedigree and reputation. I am not a psephologist. But I have professional experience of formulating and asking questions, and analysing the answers – in interviewing, in questionnaires, in psychometric testing and in negotiation.

My training and experience taught me the following things that are relevant to the above poll -

1. The sequence in which questions are asked matters profoundly, regardless of what guidance and disclaimers the questioner or the question paper may offer.

2. In psychometric questionnaires, the questions must speak for themselves, be unambiguous in their wording, and any preliminary guidance offered by the person applying the questionnaire – if one is present – must follow a rigid formulation. No ad hoc clarification may be offered of the meaning or wording of the question.

3. The distinction between between the agenda of the person commissioning the test and that of the organisation applying it, and the professional constraints on reconciling these agenda must be managed with great care to avoid distortion of the results.

If I understand the above Ipsos MORI question above correctly, it was the first to be asked in their poll. That sequence matters.

The question as worded refers to the referendum possibly ‘containing two separate question’, but it then goes on to say that the ‘devo max’ question will be the first question in the referendum, but that is not my understanding.

The only thing that is certain is the the referendum will contain a simple YES/NO question on Scottish independence. There may be a second, devo max type question: if there is, it is likely that it will be the second question on the ballot paper, not the first. Unless the Times and Ipsos MORI know different (or the Times report today misquoted its own questionnaire) then the question claims a predictive knowledge of the referendum question sequence that no one else has, and which may be just plain wrong.

Additionally, the wording in the Ipsos MORI question says -

“… The first question will ask whether you agree or disagree with a proposal to extend the powers of the Scottish Parliament to include more laws and duties and more tax-raising powers, while Scotland remains part of the UK …”

I don’t think I am alone in thinking that some might interpret “while Scotland remains part of the UK as meaning “while still part of the UK before independence”.

On that interpretation, as a committed supporter of independence, I would have answered YES to that question. If I was committed to the Union and devo max, I would also have answered YES, on the interpretation that I was voting for Scotland to remain part of the UK.

This seems unclear to me, and obviously affects the interpretation of the result. However, I have not yet read the full Ipsos MORI figure, I may be a psephological dunce, and someone may clarify matters for me speedily and put me in the corner in a pokey hat.

My observation on the timing question is simply this – I believe it to be significant, to be a growing trend, and that the SNP, while not responding prematurely to straws in the polling wind, will be ill-advised to ignore the possibility that the FM may have to re-think his timetable or lose the zeitgeist.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Moridura’s contribution to the Ipsos Mori debate

YOUR QUOTE: "Other polls have shown higher levels of support for ‘independence’; crucially however, respondents in these polls are not presented with a definition of what independence means, possibly because such a definition has yet to be fully articulated."

I would suggest that Scottish voters have a very clear and straightforward idea of what independence means, in a definition that has repeatedly and clearly been articulated by the First Minister and others, e.g. Stewart Hosie MP.

Independence is the full autonomy of Scotland as a nation, with control of foreign policy, defence, taxation, resources, all revenue and expenditure, membership of the EU and membership of the UN. In other words, what every independent nation in Europe defines as independence. Scotland will be a sovereign state, but it will retain the Queen - and her rightful heirs - as constitutional monarch.


What flows naturally from that, as any school child can understand, never mind adult voters, is that Scotland, as an independent state in the modern world will also be interdependent with other nations, and will enter freely into treaties and agreements, and will freely incur obligations and responsibilities and other arrangements that are in Scotland's interests and yield corresponding benefits.

Such agreement will naturally focus on mutual cooperation with our near neighbours and long-time friends in these Islands - England, Wales, Northern, Ireland and the Republic of Ireland - and with the European Union. They will also include the obligations of membership of the United Nations.

Such treaties and agreements will be freely entered into, and crucially, freely terminated under the terms of the agreement when they no longer meet Scotland's interests. They will include matters relating to defence and the armed forces, and any other matter where cooperation and sharing of resources is in  Scotland's interests.

There will be one over-riding proviso in any defence agreements - that Scotland will not be a party to the use of nuclear weapons, and will reject absolutely any basing of nuclear weapons or nuclear delivery weapons systems within the boundaries of Scotland. That resolutely non-nuclear position will be a deal-breaker in any defence-related agreements or treaties.

Any other options such as the so-called devo-max option, i.e. full fiscal autonomy, are not independence options - and they do not represent the core objective of The Scottish National Party. While the UK exists, and is the sovereign state, the Scottish government will continue to press for the maximum autonomy within the devolved settlement, and progressive extension of its fiscal powers and control of resources.

However, what the SNP and supporters of independence want is not necessarily what all of the Scottish people want - determining that is the intent and purpose of the referendum. What questions will be posed and what options offered in the referendum ballot remain to be determined, and will be determined - by the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament alone - before the ballot.

What the opponents of the independence of Scotland appear to be doing is making the patently ridiculous demand that the Scottish government should present to the people the full complex detail of the negotiations that will follow the independence referendum, not precede it. Leaving aside the fact that doing this would prejudice the Scottish governments negotiating position, it would be totally and utterly impracticable. No other nation seeking its independence has ever proceeded in such a fashion, Nor will Scotland.

If I may mix a Scottish saying with an American one - the Scottish voter didnae come up the Clyde/Forth/Tay on a bike, and he or she can tell **** from Shinola when it comes to evaluating the case for their country's independence.

Saor Alba!

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Good morning, Scotland - is this a new dawn? (The Times Ipsos MORI poll)

These are the kind of headlines I like to wake up to -

The Times

Salmond surges into Holyrood poll lead

Labour alarm as voters ask “Who’s Iain Gray?”

Today’s lead story in The Times gladdens the heart, but then I remind myself that a poll is just a poll, and however psephologically sophisticated the selection of the 1000 voters polled, these indicators shift and waver in the lead-up to an election. But the shift is marked, and highly welcome, and I entertain the hope that it is an indicator that my fellow Scots have seen through the web of media lies, distortion, selective reporting that represents so much of UK - and shamefully, Scottish - media coverage of Scottish affairs and our devolved politics.

Ipsos MORI poll

forecast Holyrood seat on May 5th

SNP 51 seats (up 4)  Labour 48 seats (up 2)

Tories 14 seats (down 3) LibDem 12 seats (down 4)

Green 4 seats (up 2)

I can only recommend that you buy today’s Times and luxuriate in the good news while it lasts, and fervently hope that it will last, and that the momentum will grow until May 5th.

But don’t relax - get the message out, by every means possible, that Scotland intends to be governed by its ain folk, because only its ain folk can govern it well.

see excellent piece by Alex Porter - Scotland Unspun

The Good News 16th Feb 2011