A somewhat uncomfortable juxtaposition this, given yesterday's jeremiad against commentary on Scottish independence which obsesses unduly over polling numbers, and which campaign is ahead by a nose, or as circumstances might have it, by a proboscis of Pinocchioesque scale. What can I say? I'm going hazard the Americanisation, threaten complicity in the saturation of our politics with statistics, and take a closer took at Ipsos-MORI's latest independence poll, published this morning. Commentary on these polls tends to be governed by how the relate to the study undertaken immediately previously, and if the analysis hitherto is anything to go by, then the good ship independence isn't exactly holed below the waterline, but this October poll shows it leaking support in a less than encouraging fashion.
It strikes me, however, that it might be interesting, and certainly wiser, to cast our minds back a wee bit further than July this year, to see the ebbs and flows of these opinion polls in their proper aspect. Accordingly, in slight amendment to my past approach to presenting polling data, this time I'll be contextualising the new findings, not with respect to the immediately prior poll, but to all five Ipsos-MORI independence surveys back to August 2011. There is no particular reason of principle for my stopping at this point. That was merely when easily-accessible data stopped, and is I think far enough back, to offer perspective to today's findings, without exhausting us all with too much information.
The lesson of this longer-term perspective? Firstly, you're really struck by the volatility of findings beneath the topline. While in poll after poll you find lower support for independence amongst women, and higher support for it amongst poorer than richer Scots, the rates of difference are all over the place, sliding hither and thon like a drunken centipede, giving rollerskates a try. Opposition to independence amongst men, for instance, has ranged across fourteen percentage points, from a high of 58% opposition last August, to January 2012's low of 44%, increasing in July, and falling again by two pips this October. Women's support for independence has been consistently on the slide in Ipsos polls (down from 34% last August to 25% today).
Beyond the extremes, how support for independence might break down by age is mostly hunchwork. We can consistently say that the oldest cohort of Scots is the most opposed to independence, but shy of that, all one can soberly say about those under fifty five is that they are consistently inconsistent in their constitutional preferences. By way of an example, take the youngest group, 18 to 24 year olds. Their support for independence in Ipsos polls has vacillated 12 percentage points from the highest to lowest level of support. Indecision even more so, shifting 18% upwards today, compared to just 3% of the cohort questioned who said they were undecided about Scotland's constitutional future last December. Over-confident analysis of these fluctuating findings looks decidedly chancy.
One final observation or two on the latest poll, before the charts. Across all but one of the categories we're looking at here - of gender, of social deprivation and of age, indecision is on the increase, and not solely at the expense of the pro-independence side of things. The percentage of respondents who are undecided in October's Ipsos-MORI is higher than any of the other four, whether they are men, women, old or young, and with only one exception, whether those questioned were wealthy or impoverished. Divided up into the five percentiles of deprivation, only the second least deprived 20% felt less uncertain this October about how they might vote, than every other category of people. This is at its starkest amongst the poorest 20% of Scots, usually independence polling's strongest supporters. While independence remains the majority choice of the poorest 20%, levels of indecision have increased from a low of 9% in last autumn's poll, to a full quarter or respondents today.
All in all, though, these aren't splendid-looking polls for those who support independence. Levels of support for independence today are at their lowest since August 2011 amongst men, amongst women, amongst the poorest, amongst 25 to 34 year olds, those aged 35 to 54, and amongst the inveterately opposed old codgers, counting more than fifty five years to their name. I suspect my own feelings mirror those of most nationalists surveying these results: they simply underline the challenge before us, rather than fostering despair. Salmond's buccaneer sensibility is the right one. Confound the bean-counters. Make the arguments. Strive to persuade your neighbours, your colleagues and friends. Keep the heid. It's not sewn up just yet.
And with that, to the pretty charts. Let's start with gender, and their shifting Ipsos trends.
After which, to age. For convenience, I've broken all of this down into Ipsos age bands. I pondered a vast, mad, spider's web of a line graph, but it make for an impenetrable thatch of data to try and tease through. If anyone has particular requests or preferences in terms of the presentation of the information, do please let me know. You'll notice, by the by, that Ipsos use slightly different, slightly fewer age brackets than, say, TNS-BMRB. Chronologically, the pollster's findings were as follows...
Unlike the social grading used by TNS-BMRB, which is based on the occupation of the "head of household", Ipsos favours distinguishing its respondents into one of five categories of affluence, running from the 20% who live in Scotland's most deprived areas, to the 20% who stay in the least deprived quarters of the land.
One infelicity of this approach is that it is a bit tricky to entitle the data in a readily comprehensible way, save for the extremes of poverty, and extremes of wealth. For accessibility, I've styled the arid categories 2, 3 and 4 as - second most deprived 20%, the middle 20%, and the second least deprive 20% respectively. The charts run in order down the page, from poorest to richest to aid in their construction. Already starkly hostile to independence, this month's poll records the lowest level for support for independence from the richest Scots yet, falling beneath 20%, while levels of indecision, as elsewhere, look to be on the rise.
Those full Ipsos-MORI October tables.