Is someone telling porkies? The SNP ‘National Survey’ response

I keep thinking I’ve posted my last article about the SNP’s meretricious ‘National Survey’ (this links to all my previous posts on the subject). Then along comes another scrap to keep the pot bubbling.

Since I last wrote, the closing date has passed to contribute to the survey/give your contact details to a marketing exercise. Three things have occurred almost simultaneously.

First, a YouGov poll based on fieldwork undertaken 25-29 November asked this question:

Over the last three months the SNP have been carrying out a “National Conversation” survey on independence. Have you been approached to take part in the “National Conversation” survey? [on p.6 of the YouGov report]

The results were:

  • Yes – 13%
  • No – 82%
  • Not sure – 6%.

Let’s try to work out what this might mean in the population as a whole.

Start by assuming that everyone who said yes or no was telling the truth.

Assume that the 6% who said they were not sure had not been approached: if they had been I suspect they would remember.

Errors of estimate in surveys of this sort are typically ±3 percentage points. So that 13% who said they’d been approached to take part could be as as low as 10% in the population as a whole, or as high as 16%.

Let’s also assume that the ‘population’ means, for this purpose, the electorate for Holyrood elections/the 2014 referendum, that is everyone aged 16 or over. The most recent available official estimate for this group of people is 4,460,000 (mid-year estimate of population, 2015 [p.15]) .

Therefore, the likely number of people approached to take part in the survey would be between 446,000 at least (10%) and 713,600 at most (16%).

Note that YouGov asked whether people were approached to take part, not whether they did take part. Some will doubtless have said ‘No thanks.’ Others, on circumstantial evidence appearing on social media, will have taken part more than once using different names.

Nevertheless, as I say, the maximum number of real people approached to contribute was most likely no more than 713,600. Here is the SNP’s claim of how many responses they received:

national-survey-claimed-final-response

Based on the YouGov survey, this is 2.8 times the maximum number of people likely to have even been approached to take part. To put it another way, the SNP claim 45% of the entire adult population of Scotland responded to the survey.

This is remarkable and frankly I don’t know what to make of it. The possibilities seem to me to be four:

  1. the YouGov estimate is wrong, but wrong by a margin of error hugely larger than any other properly conducted poll I’m aware of on any subject in modern times
  2. those people who filled in more than one form did so on average a humongous number of times to bridge the gap between 446,000/713,600 and 2,000,000
  3. the SNP mean something radically different from a ‘response’ than I would understand, maybe adding in people who attended meetings or talked to them in some other way or took part in other recent data collection exercises they’ve undertaken, or … what?
  4. someone’s telling porkies.

Second, when they first started this survey the SNP got into trouble with the information commissioner’s office for misrepresenting the nature of the survey, intentionally or unintentionally. I’d argue that there is now another sort of misrepresentation. Detached from the tweet, as it will be many times, the graphic above still contains no reference to the political party that carried it out, still includes the misleading ‘National Survey’ logo, and styles Nicola Sturgeon as ‘First Minister,’ her government role, not as ‘SNP Leader,’ which is what she is for this purpose.

Third, and I’d welcome a definitive statement on this from the SNP, there have been widespread claims in the mainstream media and on social media that the SNP won’t even be publishing the results of the survey. I put this claim in italics because it strikes me as frankly outrageous if true. What came in with a bang on the tailcoats of the non-existent summer of wooing and became characterised as ‘The biggest listening exercise in the SNP’s history’ would go out with a whimper amid suspicion that whatever it was, it wasn’t what it claimed to be.

I don’t know how many people took any notice of my original scepticism about this data-gathering exercise but I confess to feeling vindicated in my original advice to ‘avoid it like the plague.’ If  the SNP are right,  2,000,000 people disagreed with me. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

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12 Responses to Is someone telling porkies? The SNP ‘National Survey’ response

  1. I assume that the main purpose of this exercise was to find out why soft No voters voted the way that they did and what the SNP can do to win their support in future. If that is correct, it appears from comments made on Twitter by SNP supporters when it was first announced that some of them have inadvertently sabotaged it. Several tweeted about making multiple entries, apparently assuming that the objective was to show strong support for independence rather than discovering the concerns of No voters.
    If the survey has been distributed via SNP members then it is unlikely that it will have reached much of its target audience. There is a polarisation of Scottish society that means that few people will find that their friends, relatives and acquaintances split 55/45 against independence.
    It might have been sent to people who responded to questionnaires from Yes Scotland asking about their voting intentions and did not tick the do not contact me box. It probably would not have been sent to people who stated that they were strong No supporters, such as myself.
    A more cynical view of this exercise is that the Greens said in their manifesto that they wanted another independence referendum provided that there was some sign of public demand, such as a petition with a million signatures. They now appear ready to vote in favour of holding one. Would they count a ‘National Survey’ with 2 million respondents as a sign of demand for another referendum?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Roger White says:

      Thanks for commenting – a few interesting hypotheses there I hadn’t thought about but which sound highly plausible! The latest YouGov poll I cited in the article also puts support (crudely speaking) for Yes:No at 44:56. Not a good omen for the Greens – or SNP – if they’re unwise enough to push for an early re-run of the 2014 referendum.

      Liked by 1 person

      • wujeanty says:

        I can’t remember if I read this on your blog, Roger, but at the bottom of the survey page is a link to the outfit that is providing the website (and most likely the program that the results will be stored on and processed), namely: http://nationbuilder.com/. When one clicks through to their site, I think it pulls back the curtain, Wizard of Oz style, somewhat: their service, in a nutshell, appears to be a database for building up profiles of individual voters, in order that their clients can then target those voters with tailored messages. Thus, for Indyref2, those people who are considered to be soft nos, will no doubt have their email accounts bombarded and nationalists banging on their doors in order to try to browbeat them into voting ‘Yes’. Frankly, I’m not too worried about this: this type of campaigning – which is the sort of thing Obama pioneered in 2008 – has had its time – one needs only look at the firm’s client list at the bottom (starting with the Labour Party!) to know what I am saying appears to be true. We shall see, but I think the SNP might have wasted their members’ money.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Roger White says:

        Yes, I did mention that company. I suspect many political parties of all colours use their software. The SNP’s unique selling point seems to be the deviousness with which they’ve tried (and failed) to dress up their use of it as something non-party political.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Ronnie Smith says:

    Didn’t you consider a No 5? People may have responded without being approached?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Roger White says:

      Good point – I can imagine someone dropping by one of their street stalls or in one of their consultation meetings having a response completed for them on the basis of what they say. Someone on Twitter speculated that the 2 million might be 2 million actual questions answered (so by far fewer people). Until the SNP are upfront and honest about the exercise all sorts of speculation will continue. Thanks for commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. F MacLachlan says:

    I saw this survey several times on line and decided against responding for the following reasons:
    I have seen these surveys before and they are rigged.
    I do not believe a word the Scottish Government says.
    What’s the point? They didn’t listen last time and their ‘statistics’ are habitually twisted until they give the message that the SNP wants them to. I am not by any means alone, so really, the figures are irrelevant

    Like

  4. NGH says:

    I know of only three people who received the SNP mailshot. One was an SNP member. One was an independence sympathiser. The other was my 86-year-old mother, who tore into the SNP and its nonsense and rank incompetence with a fluorescence that I hadn’t realised she possessed. To cap it all, she ignored the party’s request to put a stamp on her reply “to save our funds”, and sent it back unstamped. She takes no prisoners.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Andrew Scott says:

    Was not sent one but found it online and sent my opinion. Also wonder about the EU result in Scotland as it was a large vote to stay in my constituency yet most people I speak to voted to leave?

    Like

  6. Alex MacLeod says:

    Nobody approached me. I did take the survey by following a link on Twitter as did many others

    Like

  7. Pingback: Is someone telling porkies? The SNP ‘National Survey’ response – Steve Sayers Blog

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