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. There’s some truth there deblonay, but the heartening difference between the Labour Party and the Labor party here is that the left of the UK party has not been completely crushed. It still has a voice through some of the Unions and some of the local parties, and it still has MPs who are prepared to speak against and vote against the party line.

  2. There’s some truth there deblonay, but the heartening difference between the Labour Party and the Labor party here is that the left of the UK party has not been completely crushed. It still has a voice through some of the Unions and some of the local parties, and it still has MPs who are prepared to speak against and vote against the party line.

  3. Although the YES vote on aggregate is very similar to the SNP vote in 2011, at the council level this relationship is weak. The 1997 referendum result is a much better predictor.

    The correlations, across the 26 councils for which we have results at the moment, are:
    r=.83 between yes in the 1997 referendum result and yes in the 2014 independence referendum
    but only
    r=.53 between the 2011 SNP vote and yes in the 2014 independence referendum.

    Indeed, there’s a slightly stronger negative correlation (r=-.58) between the conservative vote at the 2011 election and the YES vote in 2014. Though that difference between the SNP and CON correlations is probably not statistically significant.

    Numbers might change slightly once all councils are in.

  4. BBC Scotlandshire

    [Bringing you ludicrous, spurious and ill-conceived Scottish stories from Atlantic Quay.
    Any similarity to other terminally biased national broadcasters is entirely unfortunate.]

  5. Deblonay – agreed, the British Labour Party has a lot to answer for. Having said tha, Scottish Labour is considerably to left of it’s national counterpart.

    Lefty E – I’m not denying that there is a strong correlation between high Labour voting areas and yes voting areas, just saying it’s not an exact fit.

  6. Highland and Argyle & Bute I can understand, but I wonder why it’s taking so long to do report the overall count in Fife and Edinburgh. After all Glasgow was showing 75% turnout (which means votes counted but not sorted) long ago.

    Interesting also Glasgow has the lowest turnout so far. Maybe too much complacency, thinking it was going to be a shoo-in for Yes? Or are they still hung-over from the Commonwealth Games? 🙂

  7. Re Shorten
    Another Shorten stupid remark…when he said when asked about the Scots,said he thought the world had enough borders…implying his support…as did Abbott… for the No case..what a dumbbell

    Shorten is a real nowhere man..I now fear that with the terrorist wind in his sails Abbott will cruise to a victory in “16

  8. JimmyDoyle

    [Scottish Labour is considerably to left of it’s national counterpart.]

    Is there such a body?

    Their national address is in London.

  9. John Curtice
    Professor of politics at Strathclyde University

    Posted at 05:36
    Those areas with more middle-class folk were more likely to vote “No” than those areas with more working class people.
    Those areas where there were more people who have come to Scotland after being born in the rest of the UK have a relatively high “No” vote.
    Thirdly, those places with a relatively older population are again the places where “No” did well.
    Although it is true that the overall “Yes” vote seems to be below what the opinion polls were predicting – it looks as if it might be short by three points or so – that is not uncommon in these referendums where people are being asked to make a big change. They often draw back at the last minute.

  10. 2014 turnout correlates negatively with the 2014 YES vote, but so too does turnout in 2011 (by a slightly larger amount). So increases in turnout 2011-14 correlate positively with 2014 Yes vote.

    That is, supporters of independence are likely to stay at home, but this was even more the case in 2011 than in 2014. So, boosting turnout helped boost the yes vote. But not by enough.

  11. Final results expected with the next hour. I can not believe the length of time it has taken to count the vote. Less people than in Victoria 4.3 Million.

  12. democracy at work.
    It’s not just a case of counting the vote and phoning the results through. The actual ballot papers have to be taken to a central point for counting. You are talking of some fairly remote islands here and who knows what the weather conditions might be like. Unlike Australia, remember they are also counting throughout the night – something we don’t do in your urgent need to get a second by second result.

    It’s not Australia, and it doesn’t have the same system as us. What’s so hard to understand?

  13. It’s a simple Yes not. ere is no preferences. Each booth just rings in or logs on online and you get the preliminary vote which tells you if there is a need for more detailed scrutiny.

  14. So, Better Together had all the UK media onside (almost scandalouslyo in BBC’s case), all UK parties onside, and convinced fewer than 11/20 Scots to stay?

    I think YES have done bloody well, especially considering where the polls were only a month ago.

    They’ve probably forced Devo Max on Westminster here too: just make sure those sneaky Poms dont backtrack!

  15. JD

    [Lefty E – I’m not denying that there is a strong correlation between high Labour voting areas and yes voting areas, just saying it’s not an exact fit.]

    Scotland Labour won’t lose too much sleep. A lot of ticket-splitting goes on between Westminster and Holyrood.

  16. Jimmy

    [The Scottish Labour Party is formally part of the Labour Party and is registered as an Accounting Unit (AU) with the Electoral Commission. It is not a separately registered party under the terms of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. ]

  17. [
    They’ve probably forced Devo Max on Westminster here too: just make sure those sneaky Poms dont backtrack!

    It sounds like they already are.

    norman smith @BBCNormanS · 29m
    Sources say new powers for Scottish parliament will be “an extenssnion of existing responsibilities” – not Devo Max #indyref

  18. Swamprat @271 – that’s all fine and dandy, but I’m not sure what point you’re trying to prove – That Scottish Labor is not distinct from UK Labor? Or that it’s not free to formulate it’s own policies?

  19. swamprat

    They are counting. Fife has established that 84.1% of the electorate voted. Now it’s a case of counting and confirming the Yes and No. Same with Moray – 85.4% turnout. Highland is huge and with lots of scattered population. Also not good roads for driving at night to bring the votes to the central tally room.

    Highland will be the last to declare but it is obviously a No vote in any case for Scotland.

  20. Europe is facing very difficult and divisive times. The sanctions on Russia and Russia sanctions on EU products are having a negative impact on the European economy when they least can afford it.

  21. democracy.

    Catalonia I agree with but, alas, that isn’t binding, is it? Will be an interesting result if it is a high “Yes” though, as it may force the Spanish Govt to act, hopefully for the better and not some sort of crack-down.

  22. I wonder why Antony’s prediction still shows a 44.9% Yes vote. Is he expecting Highland and Moray to go Yes? Seems unlikely given that the surrounding areas all voted No and they are all similar in demographic.

  23. Highland remaining Regions to be declared. Expected to split 47/53 in favour of the no vote. This s9uod ped it back towards 45/55 against independence

  24. Südtirol/Alto Adige is the hot spot with agitation for a referendum next year.
    I have a lot of respect for Italy aber, und das ist ein Großer arber, Südtirol ist österreicher und Sud Tirol shon immer gewessen österreichisehn

  25. Highland has 190,778 registered voters. a 47/53 split does not swing the overall result that much. It will end up slightly above 45/55.

  26. Roughly 85% turnout to vote. I know the circumstances are unique but Westminster and even Holyrood can only dream about people being so motivated for a general election!

  27. Only Highland left and I have a funny feeling that could be a No vote too, no matter the predictions.

    I’m glad it turned out around 55/45 rather than 51/49 as that might shut up tattie-heed Salmond for a while. Now all they have to do is vote out the SNP, although I doubt if that will happen for a while.

    Like some others here I don’t think this will hurt the Labour vote much in Scotland, the Conservatives haven’t had a look-in since Thatcher and her poll-tax social engineering and the Liberal Democrats are probably spent everywhere. UKIP perhaps? Nah!

  28. One of my favourite bloggers…

    […..For all Westminster’s talk of home rule, they’re keeping their paws firmly on the TV remote control. Now we all know why. It allows them to set the agenda. So we must build a new media, one that truly represents the diversity of this land and gives a space to Scotland’s voices, and take it beyond the internet, onto the TV screens, into the press, into every street, into every home. It must be owned and controlled within Scotland. We have work to do.

    The Labour party must be held to account. No more can they claim to stand shoulder to shoulder with the poor and the excluded. No more can they claim to represent the working classes. No more will they leech moral authority from our struggles, sucking the life blood from change, managing the expectations of working class people. Labour is a creature of the bosses and the banks. It is the problem, not the solution. Labour cannot claim to defend us from the Tories after they and the Tories stood side by side. I will never vote for them again. Labour for Indy must consider their future. Perhaps it’s time for a new party of the left in Scotland. Independence cannot be the preserve of just one large party. It must be a broad based national movement, and be seen to be such. We have work to do.]

  29. Diogenes

    This is the first time in 307 years that the Scots have been able to vote on self-determination.

    A 45% at the first attempt with all major organs of the State (parties, media, bosses) against them is pretty comendable.

  30. Scotland should do a New Zealand and hold a referendum for Independence every time they hold a General Election.

    That’ll make them all turn out

    PS New Zealand used to hold a referendum on the prohibition/licensing of liquor at the General Elections.

  31. Raaraa

    [Scotland should do a New Zealand and hold a referendum for Independence every time they hold a General Election.

    That’ll make them all turn out

    PS New Zealand used to hold a referendum on the prohibition/licensing of liquor at the General Elections.]

    Brilliant idea. But cannae see the Scots voting on prohibitoin at a’!!!

  32. [It’s unusual to see a referendum almost get up when there is bipartisan support against it.]


    The SNP are the Scottish political mainstream so it can’t be said that there was bipartisan support against it. Yes, the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems were supporting the union but it can’t be said that there was bipartisan support.

  33. Ha, The West Lothian Question, again!!

    [More powers for Wales. Make devolved institutions function effectively in NI. But now England must be heard. In short, he wants a decisive answer on West Lothian – with English votes on English issues. William Hague to work on that. To the same timetable as the Scottish action.]

    Cameron PM

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