A LEADING polling organisation has banned new members from contributing to future polls on Scottish independence amid concerns that it has been swamped by Nationalists seeking to “influence” the results.
Panelbase says it is taking the measure after online speculation about an “organised sign-up” of Yes campaigners – although it insists that new recruits to its base of polling respondents has had no significant impact on results.
The organisation hit the headlines last week when it released a poll giving the Yes side its first lead – by just one point (44%-43%) – since the referendum campaign got underway.
But it was sandwiched between a YouGov poll last weekend which was 59%-26% in favour of a No vote and a TNS-BMRB poll on Wednesday which indicated a 47%-25% lead for the pro-UK side.
“There has been some discussion on Twitter of an organised signup of Yes campaigners, hoping to influence Panelbase polls,” the organisation said in a statement yesterday.
“In fact new joiners have had no significant effect on our results but we do recognise the potential for abuse of the system if people on either side were able to coordinate a mass sign up of new members.
“As a precaution, between now and the referendum we will not be including results from panel members who joined more recently than June 2013. This only applies to political polls.”
The statement added that any difference between Panelbase and other organisations is down to analysis approaches rather than the raw data, but admits the referendum has left pollsters in “unchartered territory.”
It added: “Whereas Holyrood and Westminster elections come around regularly and can be used to hone techniques, an independence referendum is a rare event.”
A spokesman for the SNP, which commissioned last week’s poll, said: “We have no knowledge of people signing up.
“Panelbase state that most of the difference between their results and those of other polling companies lies with the varying approaches they have to the analysis of the data.”
But a spokesman for the pro-union Better Together campaign added: “This is a sensible step from Panelbase in response to co-ordinated attempts by nationalists to unfairly influence opinion polls.”