This article was originally published in Think Scotland.
Two years ago, a few Aberdeen City and Shire Better Together veterans, including the two chairmen, Ian Lakin and Professor Hugh Pennington (better known as Nicola Sturgeon’s COVID bête noire), got together to create Scotland Matters.
We were all agreed that the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections would be the Scexit High Noon and unless Labour, Lib Dem and the Conservatives started looking like an effective opposition and alternative government, the SNP/Greens would again win a majority of seats with a minority of the total vote. Then they would agitate for Indyref2, even if they don’t actually mean it.
Our campaign group’s unique selling point was, and is, that the pro-UK parties need to work together to maximise the number of seats between them – ie. endorse tactical voting – and be willing to form a coalition. We also went out of our way to work with other groups.
With only six months to go until the Scottish Parliament election, not much has changed, other than a series of biased polls predicting a rout of the pro-UK parties.
Scotland Matters believes a growing number of people want the pro-UK party leaders to get serious about tactical voting as a means of getting a Parliament that reflects the 55/45% union majority voting split in their favour. Perfect tactical voting can yield a significant number of seats; anything over 65 will remove the SNP/Green majority.
We decided to test our theory.
We have an email list of around 1900 people, around 1200 are individuals who have signed up and the rest are pro-UK Councillors, MPs and MSPs. Typically, around 600 open our update emails regularly.
Two weeks ago, we sent out a Survey Monkey Poll which asked the question:
A subsidiary question was: Would you support any voting strategy to get the SNP out?
Just to be clear, our target audience was pro-UK people because independence-supporting voters are hardly likely to support tactical voting to defeat the SNP/Greens, and our objective was to get some coalface evidence of the appetite for tactical voting if is supported and prompted by the parties themselves,
We sent out two identical surveys: to private individuals and the politicians. Almost immediately, we had around 100 responses from the individuals showing 99% in favour. That was obviously from the real enthusiasts, so we waited to see if any more people responded. We got a total of 200 responses and the percentage fell to 98% including 12 politicians’ responses, all in favour.
This was tremendous and surprising, so we decided to test further and share the survey link on open pro-UK social media sites.
We assumed that nationalists spotting it and piling in, and the wider, albeit still pro-UK, audience would dilute and reduce the percentage in favour. In fact, the number of respondents went up to 860 and the percentage in favour fell only slightly to 96%.
This encouraged us to go for a bigger sample so, as a third test, we debated whether to commission a proper professionally run poll, or “boost” the survey on Facebook. We spent £200 to “boost” it on Facebook to a rough combination of Labour, Lib Dem and Conservative voters, Express and Sun readers. It was seen by 21,000 people.
We received a further 1000 responses, bringing the total to 1891, four times what we would get on a professional poll. The percentage went down to 93.4% , while 70% said yes to the “would you support any voting strategy to get the SNP out” question.
We have still to do a professional poll and the cheapest way to do this would be to insert our question in an “omnibus” poll, whereby it is included in a regular poll with other organisations’ questions to a representative panel of 1000 people. By definition, this would survey around 550 people who voted NO in 2014.
I’m no statistician, psephologist, pollster or professional politician, but so far our self-selecting survey looks to me like a clear message from a very random sample of Scotland’s two million NO voters that they want the parties to get their act into gear and save themselves, and Scotland, from — let’s be honest — near destruction of the parties and our country as we know it.
Roughly 10% of individuals who saw our poll responded and almost 100% were in favour. What if we could have reached 10% of two million NO voters and even 70% of them had been in favour, and these 140,000 had clear guidance and voted tactically as optimally as possible?
This would surely have a significant, potentially election winning, Scotland saving effect.
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