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New Thinking.

The Scottish Yes side’s women problem gives No the edge

The Yes side continues to lead among men by eight points, but trails among women by 16. 

By George Eaton

The Scottish referendum is still the No side’s to lose. After last weekend’s YouGov poll putting the Yes campaign ahead for the first time, the Unionist fear was that the nationalists would continue to gain momentum as undecided voters followed the wave. But today’s survey by the same company shows that reverse has happened. 

The No side is up three points to 52 per cent, while the Yes side is down three points to 48 per cent (excluding don’t knows). If all voters are included, No is up five points to 50 per cent and Yes is down two to 45 per cent. The relative paucity of polling on the referendum means that it’s hard to know whether last weekend’s survey was merely an outlier, or whether there was a genuine movement towards Yes, followed by a swing-back to the status quo (as voters considered the full consequences of independence and were love-bombed with promises of further devolution). But with only five days of campaigning remaining, it is becoming difficult to see a path to victory for the nationalists. 

On the central issues of the economy and living standards, they have badly lost ground to the No side. The number who believe that Scotland would be worse off under independence has risen to 48 per cent (+6), while the number who believe that it would be better off has fallen to 37 per cent (-3). And the number who believe that they would personally be worse off has risen eight points to 45 per cent, compared to just 21 per cent who believe that they would be better off.

The Yes side’s defining failure remains its lack of female support. Among men, it still leads by 54 per cent to 46 per cent, compared to 55 per cent to 45 per cent last week. But among women, it trails by a huge 16 points: 58 per cent (+5) to 42 per cent (-5). The latter appear to have been particularly affected by renewed warnings of the economic consequences of independence, with 49 per cent now believing that their family would be worse off, compared to 39 per cent last week. 

For the nationalists, who were six points behind in the most recent Survation survey and four points behind in the most recent Panelbase one, the fear is that the well-documented tendency for support for the status quo to increase as voting day approaches is applying in this case. The Yes side continues to argue that its superior ground operation will carry it to victory, but in a high turnout election that they may count for less. Indeed, the narrowness of the polls may have harmed their cause by ensuring that No voters turn out. 

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But a range of factors – the unprecedented nature of the referendum, the “missing million” (those who don’t normally vote in elections, but are likely to vote on 18 September) and the closeness of the polls (all of which carry a margin of error of around three points) – means that no one should regard the race as over. 

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