Rather than being a regular poll of all voters, this month’s poll by Survation for the Daily Record, published today, has been conducted exclusively amongst women. So, although it was conducted between 8 and 12 August and is thus only the second poll to have been conducted wholly since last Tuesday’s leaders’ debate, it does not provide us with a clear indication of the possible long-term impact of that debate.
What we might be inclined to do is to compare the results of this poll with the referendum voting intentions of women only in Survation’s recent polls. However, in so doing we should bear in mind that as those previous polls interviewed only 500 or so women, their results can vary from month to month by chance to a greater extent than in a regular poll of 1,000 people or so. Meanwhile Survation themselves warn that, unlike their regular polls, this poll has not been weighted by how people said they voted in the 2011 Scottish Parliament election and thus suggest we should be very careful in comparing its results with the figures in their regular polls – though as it happens 45% of those women in this poll who say they voted inn 2011 say they voted for the SNP, in line with the actual result (though given the long standing gender gap in SNP support we might feel the figure should be a little lower than that). So in making a comparison between today’s poll and Survation’s regular surveys we proceed in this blog with caution.
In today’s poll, 34% of women say they will vote Yes, 50% No, while 16% indicate that they are undecided. Once the Don’t Knows are excluded, that equates to a 40% vote for Yes, 60% for No.
These results are much the same as those for women in Survation’s poll conducted after the leaders’ debate (39% Yes), while they are clearly worse for Yes than the figures for women in the poll the company conducted a week earlier (towards the end of the Commonwealth Games – 45% Yes). So at first glance it would appear that the poll confirms the message of Survation’s post-leaders’ debate poll that Mr Salmond’s performance on that occasion did the Yes side significant harm.
However, the level of support for independence amongst women in Survation’s post-Games poll was unusually high by the standards of other recent Survation polls. In the company’s last regular monthly omnibus for the Daily Record in July, Yes support amongst women stood at 40%, exactly the same as today’s poll. Meanwhile the equivalent figures for the three months before that were June, 41%, May 38%, and April just 36%. In short, given also all the caveats that surround these comparisons, we have to conclude that today’s poll does not provide further evidence in support of the claim that support for Yes has declined in the wake of the leaders’ debate.
Of course what the poll does do is to add to the substantial weight of evidence that the Yes side is well behind in the polls. However, while a poll of women alone can give us an indication of what women in particular are thinking, in the absence of any comparable data for men it cannot help us understand why women are less keen on independence than men.
For example, the poll goes on to show that both Yes (42%) and No (46%) supporting women are more likely to cite their belief that the economy would perform better/worse under independence as one of the top two reasons for making the choice that they have. But we cannot tell whether this is any different from the position amongst men. As it happens, the evidence of ScotCen’s Scottish Social Attitudes survey unveiled on Tuesday suggests that it is not unusual, for the key message from that survey too is that no other issue distinguishes more between Yes and No voters – irrespective of whether they are men or women – than what they think independence would mean for Scotland’s economy.
Much of the rest of today’s poll in fact focuses on what women think of various political leaders. Inevitably the pattern of responses heavily reflects respondents’ prior partisanship. So 82% of those intending to vote No say that Alex Salmond’s leadership of the Yes campaign makes them more likely to vote No, while 63% of Yes supporters state that it makes them more likely to vote Yes. While 81% of No voters feel that Mr Salmond is arrogant, only 17% of Yes supporters do so. Such partisanship is also evident amongst men. And while it might be thought revealing that women are less likely to accuse Nicola Sturgeon of arrogance (only 39% of No voters hold that view), given that we do not have an equivalent reading for men we cannot tell whether perceptions of Mr Salmond’s alleged arrogance are peculiar to women or are just as common amongst men too.