Scottish independence referendum: September 18 (UPDATED 18/9)

Polls aggregated and entrails examined ahead of next week’s knife-edge referendum on Scottish independence.

Friday, September 19

For literally anything you need to know about what to expect and when, Antony Green’s guide can’t be beat. Basically, we can’t expect any official results until about 3pm AEST, though presumably some manner of informal indication of how the count is going might emerge. There will not be any exit polls, but there is talk that a retrospective opinion poll might be conducted (how did you vote rather than how will you). The one final poll out was, as noted below, from Ipsos MORI, which was a phone poll of 980 respondents showing yes on 45% and no on 50%, rounding out to 53-47. I couldn’t be bothered running the poll tracker charts again because the result of the poll after bias adjustment was right on the trend, at 51.2% for no. My personal feeling is that no is likely to do it a little more easily than that, but only time will tell. The map to the right is derived from regional level polling data over the past few weeks from Survation and ICM, to give at least a broad-brush idea of where the independence cause is weakest and strongest. The actual results will emerge at the level of Scotland’s 32 local government authorities – at the link above, Antony Green maps their past voting behaviour, since support for the Scottish National Party is very likely a good proxy for how the referendum vote will go.

Thursday, September 18


A few hours after polls open, one final poll from Ipsos MORI – 53-47 to no. Ninety-five per cent report they will vote, which by early reports of turnout can almost be believed.


Okay, to tidy up the mess below: we’ve had 51-49 from the very authoritative Ipsos MORI, a phone poll with a sample of 1405; two online polls at 52-48, one from YouGov with a bumper sample of 3237, the other from Panelbase with 1004; and a phone poll from Survation, for which I assume the sample was about 1200 given such was the case in its only previous phone poll, at 53-47. The Survation survey in particular is very fresh, having been conducted entirely within the last 24 hours. Pumping all that into the poll aggregate is slightly better for yes than you might think, since Ipsos MORI and YouGov both get bias adjusted about 1.4% towards yes, and weighted heavily in the overall result. I’m a bit nervous about this – those bias adjustments seem excessive – but the current reading, which you may take or leave, is 51.2% no, 48.8% yes.


UPDATE 4: Survation has it at 53-47.

UPDATE 3: YouGov has it at 52-48. And the fun’s not over, because Survation have just revealed they’re about to lay on a surprise phone poll.

UPDATE 2: Mike Smithson of Political Betting tweets: “So 4 pollsters have NO on 52% and 2 on 51%. Maybe they are wrong but at least they are all wrong together”. The implication, I believe, being that we may be seeing a little bit of herding going on.

UPDATE: The Ipsos MORI poll turns out to be a nailbiter – 51% no, 49% yes. This is important because it’s a phone poll rather than online, and Ipsos MORI did a particularly good job of calling the last Scottish parliamentary election. YouGov to come in a few more hours, and then I’ll give the poll aggregate another run.

A new poll from Panelbase does nothing to relieve the monotony, once again producing a result of 52-48 in favour of no. However, this is the best 52-48 so far for the no camp, as Panelbase has been the most yes-leaning of the regularly reporting pollsters. The full numbers are 49.5% no, 45.4% yes, 5.1% don’t know. Full results here. The eagerly awaited Ipsos MORI poll will be along at 3am EST, followed by the final YouGov poll at 5am.

Wednesday, September 17

Three new polls have come in overnight – from Survation, Opinium and ICM – and every one of them finds no with a lead of 52-48. My poll tracker (methodology explained in the entry below from Saturday) now has no leading 51.7% to 48.3%, slightly higher than the 51.4% to 48.6% recorded following Sunday’s polls. More tellingly, the trendlines provide a fairly clear indication that the momentum to yes which was evident over a period of weeks has tapered off:

Of the three pollsters to have reported new results, Survation has the no lead narrowing from its result on Sunday, which had it at 54-46; Opinium also narrows slightly from a poll on Sunday, which had it at 53-47; while ICM is much better for no this time around, its previous poll being a small-sample outlier with yes leading 54-46. All three polls were conducted online; Mike Smithson at Political Betting says that, based on past form, the one we should be hanging out on is tomorrow’s final phone poll from Ipsos MORI. I had a paywalled piece in Crikey yesterday considering the possibility that the polls might just have it all wrong.

Some further findings from Opinium: 50% do not trust that new devolution powers in the event of a no vote will be delivered as promised; 47% think Scotland will keep the pound against 37% who don’t; 44% think Alex Salmond should resign as First Minister if no wins (which I find very odd); and 45% think independence will damage the Scottish economy.

Sunday, September 13

No less than four new polls have reported overnight, of which two have “no” with reasonable solid leads of six or eight points, one is lineball, and one is the best poll yet to emerge for yes. These are reviewed in detail below, but first we take an updated look at the poll tracker. This puts the current result at 51.4% for no and 48.6% for yes, all but unchanged on the 51.2% and 48.8% recorded yesterday (based on like-for-like methodological comparison). An outline of the methodology was provided yesterday, in the bottom half of this post.

The polls in turn:

• The good news for the independence camp first: ICM has produced the second poll to show the yes vote in front, following on from the first of last week’s surveys by YouGov, and by a not inconsiderable margin – 49% to 42%, rounding out 54-46 after exclusion of the undecided. Unlike yesterday’s ICM poll, this one uses its usual online methodology. The caveat here is the unusually small sample of 705. Also, as noted below, ICM has been one of the more yes-friendly pollsters, such that the poll tracker adjusts it downwards by 2.0%.

• An online panel poll by Survation, which has tended to come in at the middle of the range, has no at 47.0% and yes at 40.8%, for a rounded result of 54-46 to no. The poll was commissioned by the pro-union Better Together campaign. Whereas the bulk of the polling for the referendum has been online, this one was conducted by telephone, from Wednesday to Friday, with a sample of 1044. As was the case with TNS yesterday, this is a first phone poll from an outfit whose previous polling was conducted online.

Opinium is an established online pollster which has made its first entry on the referendum, this being a survey of 1055 respondents. Its result is a lot closer to Survation’s than ICM’s, with 45% for yes and 49%, rounding out to 53-47.

• Panelbase in the Sunday Times has no on 50.6% and yes on 49.4%, but given its relative “yes” lean in the past, it’s comes out similarly to Survation and Opinium so far as the poll tracker is concerned.

Saturday, September 12

It’s now less than a week until Scotland’s independence referendum, which will be held on Thursday with polling stations to close at 10pm local time, or 7am Friday on the east coast of Australia. An official result won’t be expected until mid-afternoon our time. Before that time, the 32 local authorities that will be taking care of the business end of proceedings will report their results, which I guess we can expect to be done more promptly in the cities than the country.

The latest poll out this evening is an ICM poll for The Guardian which confirms the recent trend of being too close to call – 42% no, 40% yes and 17% don’t know, panning out to a headline figure of 51-49 with the exclusion of the undecided. According to Anthony Wells at UK Polling Report, we can expect a result reasonably soon from Panelbase, which I have determined to be one of the more “yes”-friendly pollsters. We might then see a relative lull before heavy-hitters YouGov and Ipsos MORI hold off until their final results nearer the big day, although there will surely be other results around the place between now and then.

My own polling tracker, which is laid out below, currently has “no” in the lead with 51.6%, but there is no sign that the trend to “yes” is levelling off. As I shall discuss, it would have been more like 51.3% if I had treated the latest poll differently, as maybe I should have.

A few things that have caught my eye:

• For those of you who know your way around Scotland, The Guardian offers mapped results of a year’s worth of Ipsos MORI polling in eye-watering detail.

• John Curtice, a political scientist of some renown, considers the contention popular in the “yes” camp that pollsters are under-representing respondents who don’t normally vote, whom they expect will give their cause a boost. However, Curtice finds that past non-voters who have been polled are leaning quite strongly towards no.

Stephen Fisher at Elections Etc observes polling before 16 constitutional referenda in Austria, Ireland, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Quebec, Scotland, Sweden, Britain and Wales (not us, alas), and notes there “does not seem to be a precedent for a close referendum at which final polls underestimated the Yes vote” (he in fact said “overestimated” but if you read the sentence in context, this was clearly erroneous).

Now to my own poll tracker. The methodology runs roughly as follows: 1) Calculate accuracy ratings for each pollster based on the performance of their polls in the last week of the campaigns for the 2014 European, 2011 Scottish and 2010 Westminster elections; 2) Run a local area regression on the results with each poll weighted as per the relevant pollsters’ accuracy rating multiplied by the sample size; 3) Use the trend result thus produced to derive bias measures for each pollster, by averaging the deviation of their poll results from the trend; 4) Correct the pollsters’ results accordingly and run the regression again.

The bias adjustments made to the various pollsters’ “yes” results are as follows: Ipsos Mori +1.6%; YouGov +1.6%; TNS +0.6%; Survation -0.7%; ICM -1.5%; Panelbase -2.5%; Angus Reid -4.4%. The complication I mentioned earlier is that the latest ICM poll was conducted by telephone, whereas the nine previous polls from which I have derived its bias adjustment were online polls. I have nonetheless decided to apply their existing adjustment to the latest result. Since this poll is, together with the most recent YouGov, the very latest result in the model, and the bias adjustment used is a not inconsiderable penalty to “yes”, the effect is non-trivial. If no bias adjustment is applied to this poll, the “no” result comes down to 51.2%. If the poll is removed altogether, it is 51.3%.

A couple of further points to be noted. YouGov’s stunning poll result on Monday showing yes in the lead was a real outlier from a normally no-leaning pollster, and it shows up in the charts as the only data point with yes above 50%. Another poll from YouGov a few days later had no back in front. This was inevitably reported in terms of the momentum for yes having stalled, but that’s not the picture that emerges when the polling is aggregated. Panelbase’s polling before the start of this year had an enormous lean in favour of yes which has since been corrected, so the earlier results have been excluded. Angus Reid is, or has been, a fairly major pollster in Britain, but there has been no Scottish independence polling from it since August last year. Should it re-emerge in the next few days, I will have to think twice about applying the 4.4% correction noted above.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

359 comments on “Scottish independence referendum: September 18 (UPDATED 18/9)”

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  1. JimmyDoyle – it’s possible. Look at the closeness of Inverclyde, which is really an extension of Glasgow. Interesting that the overall count has taken place in Glasgow (75% turnout), yet not in the next two largest counties, Edinburgh and Fife.

  2. from BBC blog

    [Star Trek star George Takei has the most popular tweet: “Overheard: “Well, if Scotland votes for independence from the U.K., what’s to keep Canada from breaking off from the U.S.?”, retweeted over 1400 times.]

  3. that Dundee result is great – and a blessed relief from the nyah-nyah tone barely concealed on the BBC live site. West Dunbartonshore 54% YES as well.

    This will be somewhat closer than many are making out on social media.

  4. Allan Moyes@195

    I realise we are keen followers on this site but I doubt if we can arrange a country to report its results for our entertainment. It’s the end result that counts.

    I was making an observation from an election-junkie’s point of view, which is what people do on a forum like this. The end result might be what counts for Scotland and the UK, but it’s the counting process that matters for watching purposes. Watching elections is like watching cricket: it wasn’t how many runs Viv Richards scored that mattered, it was how he got them.

  5. West Dunbarton 54% Yes. Another extension of the Glasgow region. It’s looking interesting for the eventual result in Glasgow itself.

  6. West Dunbartonshire 54% — Glasgow’s outer suburbs.

    [This will be somewhat closer than many are making out on social media.]

    Och aye!

  7. Stirling 59% No. Swinging back more to a No vote. Glasgow and Edinburgh (and Fife) will be decisive I think. (They being the three largest counties). Edinburgh and Fife still to finalise their count, according to Antony’s webpage.

  8. Its close but do you really think that the powers that be will allow a Yes vote to creep over the line?

    My family (The Black Douglas Clan) has always wanted a Free Independent Scotland.

  9. The BBC bias on Scottish Independence was appauling. As was the Labour Party who will suffer for their position ion advocating NO.

  10. I can’t see Labour suffering from this. They are and have always been a Unionist party. No one will feel betrayed by them. BUT if they don’t deliver on further devolution then they will rightly suffer.

  11. They will. The Labour Party will lose support. Many of those voting Yes will reflect on the Labour Pary Support opening way up for new parties. Britain does not have Preferential voting.

    Mind you I would vote against Australia becoming a republic if it mean we have a directly elected head of state

    Australia would have been a republic had the directly elected head of states republicans not acted to spoil the vote.

  12. ABC projection has been fairly bouncy but is seriously tanking for Yes with 30% of votes but half the councils in. Projection now down to about the same as the headline, ie 44%.

  13. My take is that the Labour Party is likely to surge at the expense of the SNP, who in turn will make up some of the loss from the Lib Dems. But as I say only as long as Labour keeps faith with the concept of further devolved powers.

  14. [ABC projection has been fairly bouncy but is seriously tanking for Yes with 30% of votes but half the councils in. Projection now down to about the same as the headline, i.e. 44%.]

    Since when has the BBC not been bouncy, They take their feeds from the BBC and the BBC has been appauling on its coverage. Extreme Bias as the BBC has the most to lose should Scotland declare independence

  15. Angus came in low compared with what its SNP vote would lead you to expect. Before that, a model of SNP-to-yes vote out of the 14 councils had an R-squared had an R-squared of 0.6344. Angus turned it into 0.4244.

  16. democaracy@work

    It seems to me the trouble for the Labour Party since it became Bliarite and supporters of the neo-liberal establishment is not that they are unionists but they have abandoned the poor and undeprivildeged.

    They can rely on the use of fear and traditional loyalty only so long.

  17. Actually, the reason for that is almost certainly that there is static between my numbers for Angus and Dundee, because the council boundaries don’t conform with the constituency ones.

  18. [Actually, the reason for that is almost certainly that there is static between my numbers for Angus and Dundee, because the council boundaries don’t conform with the constituency ones.]

    Pool ’em.

  19. [Glasgow 53.5% YES, which will go a long way to salvaging yes pride. Thats the largest urban centre in Scotland – a clear YES.]

    Is there a poll map for each of the 32 regions. If would be interesting to compare how well the polls were performing.

  20. I would expect that there will be strong efforts to establish a 3rd Party that will compete for Labour Party votes. The Labour Party will regret they did not support a preferential voting system

  21. glasgow, and neighbouring west dumbartonshire and nth lanarakshire along with dundee are labour strongholds: all voted YES. Neighbouring Inverclyde 49.9% yes came close too.

  22. BBC Breaking News ‏@BBCBreaking 17m

    North Ayrshire votes NO in Scotland’s #indyref: Yes 47,072 (49.0%) No 49,016 (51.0%) Turnout 84.4%

  23. BBC has called it for the No camp. After all they campaigned against a yes vote.

    The powers that be were never going to allow a yes vote to succeed. More and more separatist movements are seeking independence. Catalonia will be next then Venice maybe Bavaria. Brussels itself could split as Europe slips towards an economic depression.

  24. No that’s nonsense democracy@work. You can accuse the ” powers that be” of being complacent and of being dismissive of the Scottish people, but to say they weren’t going to allow it is just wrong. Even the Tories who I loathe have no history of subverting th democratic process in the UK.

  25. “There is a very strong correlation between areas of high unemployment and #YesScotland ” – Prof Charlie Jeffrey on BBC #indyref

  26. Smaller based states could be just what Europe needs. The Baltic tend to vote in a block yet they maintain independence. The partitioning of Europe following WWI has never healed. The there is Ireland.

  27. The British Labour Party is the pits_______
    Neo Liberals who have abandoned the poor and working class,run by public schools boys like Milliband_,and pro-any-war that’s going…the sad death of British socialism

    You’d need a maagnifying glass to spot the diffence from the Toriea

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