Ipsos MORI Give Salmond Debate Fillip

A poll commissioned by STV from Ipsos MORI and released at the beginning of tonight’s leaders’ debate gives Alex Salmond a bit of a fillip as he prepares to debate with the Better Together leader, Alistair Darling.

The poll puts Yes on 40% and No on 54%, with just 7% of those who say they are certain to vote (the basis upon which Ipsos MORI calculate their headline figures) saying they are undecided. That represents a four point increase in Yes support as compared with Ipsos MORI’s previous poll in June, while No support is unchanged. Once the Don’t Knows are excluded Yes are on 42%, up two. This represents the highest Yes tally yet in any poll from Ipsos MORI, a company that that tends to produce a relatively low estimate of Yes strength.

As only the second poll to have been conducted since the Commonwealth Games began, the poll’s results are bound to fuel speculation that perhaps the Games have given the Yes side something of a boost after all. Certainly the Games are widely regarded as a success; no less than 67% believe that they have been ‘very successful’.

However, as many 89% say that the Games will not have any impact on how they will vote. Still, as was also the case in Survation’s poll on Sunday, amongst the minority that say it will make a difference, rather more say that the Games have made them more likely to vote Yes (7%) than to vote No (3%).  More importantly perhaps, 10% of those who say that they are undecided say the Games have made them more likely to vote Yes, while just 1% say they are now more likely to vote No. The success of the Games has clearly not done the Yes side any harm, even if any boost looks to be no more than modest.

The effect of today’s poll is to increase the Yes tally in our poll of polls to 45%, equaling the highest it has ever been (last seen at the beginning of May). But the fact that its level is not unprecedented means that it is too early to suggest that the Yes side have begun to gather momentum. And it is but an indication of the task still facing the Yes side that a poll that puts them 14 points behind can be regarded as relatively good news.

Meanwhile, there is at least one crumb of comfort for the No side in the poll. Alistair Darling’s personal satisfaction ratings have improved. In June only 34% were satisfied with his performance as Better Together leader, while 50% were dissatisfied. Now 37% are satisfied and 44% are dissatisfied. That can do no harm to his chances of proving persuasive in debating with Mr Salmond. He certainly has more credibility in the eyes of Scots voters than the Prime Minister, with whom just 30% are satisfied and 64% dissatisfied. Mr Cameron has evidently been wise to stay away from the debates.

Still, Mr Salmond still has the edge on his opponent; 49% are satisfied with the First Minister, 43% dissatisfied, little changed from June. The question is whether tonight and in the coming weeks he can make that advantage tell.

John Curtice

About the author

John Curtice is Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University, Senior Research Fellow at ScotCen, and Chief Commentator on the What Scotland Thinks website.