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Expert says we should be sceptical of poll showing voters don’t think indy is important

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IN light of the recent poll for The Scotsman showing Scots don’t think independence is important, there are an array of reasons why you should be sceptical about misleading data surrounding Scottish independence, according to a top polling expert.

A recent Savanta ComRes poll for The Scotsman found that fewer than one in five (19%) Scots think independence is important when asked “to pick their three “most important issues facing Scotland” from a list of options.

Independence came sixth in the list, behind the economy (50%), health (45%), employment and welfare (35%), education (31%) and Brexit (25%).

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Professor Sir John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, explained to Progress Scotland how the methodology of pitting Scottish independence in a poll against the NHS, economy and education is flawed.

These topics are called “valence issues” and they are matters which everybody broadly agrees on – although we might disagree on how to achieve them. 

READ MORE: Poll finds Scots back indyref2 within five years but the outcome is split

However, it’s inappropriate to make independence compete in isolation with these issues, according to the political scientist. 

Curtice said: “What happens is that some of the people who are in favour of independence pick it out, but nobody who’s not in favour of independence picks it out – they’ll pick out something else.”

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He highlighted Ipsos MORI’s approach in their most recent poll which grouped Scottish governance, devolution, and independence as one option – which emerged as the most important issue.

From which Curtice deduced that both SNP and Tory voters agree that the constitutional question is the most important.

“The Conservatives have managed to bang on about it so much in the last four years, they have indeed succeeded in persuading people that it is an important subject,” he added.

READ MORE: Henry McLeish tells Anas Sarwar’s Scottish Labour to drop indyref2 opposition

Mark McGeoghegan, researcher manager at Ipsos MORI, identified an array of issues creating vast inconsistency in polls on Scottish support of independence.

In response to the headline “Scottish independence seen as most important issue for fewer than one in five Scots”, McGeoghegan tweeted: “TL;DR [too long; didn’t read] unprompted questions are better at measuring what matters to voters, so these sorts of headlines need to be taken with a bucket of salt.”

In a series of tweets, he echoed the difficulty of pitting independence against valence issue; he highlighted the disparity in how polls word questions and answers; and he indicated that whilst some polls allow for open, tailored responses, others are closed and restricted – which is problematic. 

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