Hitherto most of the polls conducted wholly or partly in April had been conducted by pollsters whose estimate of the Yes share of the vote has typically been towards the higher end of the various estimates. So it was particularly interesting that, thanks to Channel 4 News, last night saw the first release for quite a while of a poll from a pollster whose estimate tends to be towards the lower end of the range.
True to form, YouGov’s results were nothing like as optimistic for the Yes side as a number of other recent polls. It put the Yes vote on 37% (no change), No on 51% (down one). Even so, we might note that the one point drop in the No vote vote since YouGov’s previous poll of a month ago is enough to make it (marginally) the lowest No tally yet to be recorded by the company. Once the Don’t Knows are excluded, Yes stand on 42%, No on 58% – unchanged from a month ago, thereby equaling what then was an all-time high for Yes in a YouGov poll.
In short the poll suggests that little has changed in recent weeks. The Yes vote remains at an all time high but has not made any further progress. This in truth has been the message of most of the seven polls conducted wholly or partly in April. Six of them showed the Yes vote to be unchanged or to have moved up or down by no more than one point since they were last conducted (which in most cases was March). The one exception was an ICM poll for Scotland on Sunday that put Yes up three points to an all time high of 48%. The discerning reader will follow the rule rather than the exception.
So, on the one hand it appears that the gains that the Yes side made during the winter have been held and consolidated. But the challenge that now faces Mr Salmond and his colleagues is to work out how to engender the further increase in support they still need to turn the referendum into what really would look like a close race.
Meanwhile the Better Together campaign has to consider how best to respond to the fact that its more negative messages do not appear to have the traction they might have anticipated. The latest poll confirms that the campaign’s claims about currency and Europe are widely disbelieved. As many as 45% think that an independent Scotland would be able to use the pound as a currency union while only 38% think it would not. Equally, 46% believe that Scotland would remain a member of the EU while just 34% do not.
Revealingly in both cases No supporters appear less likely to be convinced of their own side’s argument than Yes voters are of the Scottish Government’s counter claims. That suggests the emergence of a credibility problem – and that is something the No side cannot afford to allow to take hold.