The last of our poll data releases yesterday highlighted perhaps the biggest factor in deciding the outcome of the independence referendum – the views of the undecided. Cross-referencing those yet to make up their minds with the other questions in our survey tells us much about the arguments that will win or lose the vote.
So just before we make the full data tables available for any old Tom, Dick and Harry to peruse, here’s an exclusive early sight for the people who paid to make it happen.
Firstly, it’s important not to mistake “don’t know” for “don’t care”. All the undecideds in this data come from the group who rated themselves at least 8/10 likely to vote, with 75% of them saying they’re absolutely certain to do so.
Undecideds made up just over 17% of the “likely to vote” sample, and if you strip them out them the Yes/No figures are 45/55. On those numbers the Yes camp needs undecideds to break a little under 3:1 in favour of independence to win.
(A fair bit, but not gigantically, higher than the proportion they did split in when BBC Scotland held a recent televised debate for an audience of Don’t Knows.)
So let’s see what they think.
UNDECIDED VOTERS (100%) BY 2011 VOTES
Labour: 39% (constituency) 32 (region)
SNP: 32% (36)
Lib Dem: 11% (5)
Conservative: 2% (4)
Green: – (8)
Didn’t vote/can’t remember: 16% (15)
A wide range of polls have consistently found that Labour and SNP voters are the most likely to vote against their party’s policy when it comes to independence, so no real surprises there. But as we’ll see shortly, it’s perhaps notable that it’s overwhelmingly those from the left side of the spectrum who currently haven’t made their minds up about whether the United Kingdom or an independent Scotland offers the best hope of achieving their goals.
The rich and the poor have pretty much made up their minds. The vast bulk of people still thinking about it are those in the middle and lower-middle classes.
VIEW ON NUCLEAR WEAPONS
In favour: 19
Don’t know: 34
We’re not going to go through every single one of our social attitudes questions – you can do that yourself from the full tables – but we’ll pick out a few choice examples where there are significant differences between the general populace and the undecideds. The latter come down against Trident by -29, compared to just -14 from the full sample, which alert readers will have noticed is over twice as much.
VIEWS ON THE MONARCHY
In favour: 40
Don’t know: 27
Our undecideds are still in favour of continued Royal rule overall, but much less so than the general populace: just +7 compared to +18.
VIEWS ON NATO MEMBERSHIP
In favour: 39
Don’t know: 48
This is an interesting one. Our swithering voters still back membership of the military alliance by a hefty margin – three to one – but much less than the six-to-one of Scots as a whole. Almost half of them aren’t sure, which suggests to us a sizeable clutch of SNP voters still unconvinced by the party’s recent change.
VIEWS ON FRACKING
In favour: 13
Don’t know: 48
The wider Scottish public opposed the violent method for extracting natural gas by a net score of just -8, but here it’s a huge -26, and another three-to-one margin of those who expressed an opinion.
VIEWS ON NUCLEAR POWER
In favour: 20
Don’t know: 48
A full-blown reversal here. Scots as a whole backed the construction of new nuclear power stations by a narrow +5, but our undecideds are against by -12.
ON GENDER QUOTAS FOR MSPS
In favour: 40
Don’t know: 37
And a slightly bigger one here, with the full sample opposed by -6 but our undecideds supporting a 50/50 split of men and women in the Holyrood chamber by a clear +17.
Scottish (independent): 42
Don’t know: 38
As we noted yesterday, if told that they’d be neither better or worse off in an independent Scotland, a very small plurality of Scots (-4) said they’d vote to stay as they were and avoid all the bother. Among our undecided group, the story is very different, with a thumping +22 who’d prefer independence if all else was equal.
ON THE ABOLITION OF THE BARNETT FORMULA
(General populace figures)
More likely to vote Yes: 45 (27)
More likely to vote No: 8 (5)
No change: 6 (54)
Don’t know: 40 (15)
This is a big one. More than half of the full sample didn’t care either way if the funding formula which gives Scots more spending per head than the UK was done away with, as all three Westminster parties now want. Threaten undecided voters with the cut, though, and the number who move towards Yes leaps by 22 points.
If we were the No campaign, we’d stuff a towel in Margaret Curran’s mouth pronto. (For all sorts of reasons, if we’re being honest, but this one more than most.)
REACTION TO THE CAMPAIGN SO FAR
Much more Yes: 4 (18)
Slightly more Yes: 32 (12)
No change: 54 (55)
Slightly more No: 8 (6)
Much more No: 2 (9)
This is a telling stat. As you’d expect from a group that isn’t in either camp, there’s less movement at the extremes and more in the middle.
The total proportion of undecideds who’ve shifted towards independence by some degree over the course of the 15-month campaign to date is 36%, compared to just 10% moving the other way. At the extremes it’s a 2:1 margin, identical to that among the general public, but it’s much more marked in the small-movement category – exactly 4:1 towards Yes, compared to 2:1.
People are moving towards independence slowly at this stage, but they’re doing so in very big numbers. We suspect that that particular stat is one which will encourage Yes Scotland more than any other.
ON WHO SHOULD DEBATE ALEX SALMOND
David Cameron: 31
Alistair Darling: 12
Alistair Carmichael: 8
Don’t know: 33
Scots as a whole thought the Prime Minister should make the case for the UK by a 3:2 margin over the “Better Together” chairman, but among undecideds the margin was almost twice as high – just short of 3:1. This reflects the fact we also revealed yesterday, namely that Labour voters (who are a higher proportion of the undecideds) really don’t fancy their former Chancellor at all.
ON LEADER APPROVAL
Alex Salmond +36 (+15)
Nicola Sturgeon +34 (+12)
When it came to whether various figures in the independence debate were seen to be acting in the best interests of Scotland or not, the undecided group didn’t vary much from the full sample with regard to the people on the No side (rating Alistair Darling, for example, at -16 rather than -11 and Michael Moore at -25 rather than -20).
But there was a dramatic divergence in the case of the SNP leader and his deputy. The First Minister’s motivations were trusted more than twice as much as the general public gave him, and Nicola Sturgeon did even better, almost tripling her score.
Nobody else moved nearly as much as the +21 and +22 shifts our undecideds gave the nationalist figureheads, although interestingly they also tended to be more trusting of the Scottish media.
CONFIDENCE IN THE SCOTTISH PEOPLE
Would make a success of independence: 68
Would not make a success of independence: 3
Don’t know: 29
As we noted yesterday, though, the most spectacular difference between undecided voters and No voters was the level of trust they had in their fellow Scots. Those who’ve made up their minds to vote No don’t believe their countrymen and women have what it takes to make an independent Scotland work by a horrifying -45 margin. Those who aren’t yet sure, on the other hand, think that if it happened we’d make good fist of it by an overwhelming +65.
That, if you can’t be bothered to do the sums, is a 110-point variance – a mindboggling figure in the world of opinion polling. For comparison, the biggest gulf, by a long way, that we could find anywhere else from a quick scour of our poll data was between Tory and SNP voters on nuclear weapons, and even that was only 84 points. (The next-widest gaps were closer to 50 or so.)
Undecided voters believe in Scotland. They’re greener, more left-wing, more republican and less militaristic than the Scottish electorate as a whole. They’re mostly Labour and SNP voters – almost evenly split, but they trust Alex Salmond vastly more than Alistair Darling and Johann Lamont.
They’re ready and willing to be won over, if the Yes camp is up to the job.