Scotland and the referendum on independence

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Gordon Cadden
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Re: Scotland and the referendum on independence

Post by Gordon Cadden » Thu Sep 18, 2014 11:39 am

Kevin Thurlow wrote:"If a YES vote, what's to be done about all the Scots employed in Whitehall, the Treasury and so forth? Don't they immediately become hostile agents of a foreign power?

And then, there's the Arbiters."

In fairness, the arbiters were widely regarded as hostile already.
We still have the Tower of London.

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Peter D Williams
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Re: Scotland and the referendum on independence

Post by Peter D Williams » Thu Sep 18, 2014 1:10 pm

789,024 postal votes (almost 20% of total votes) have been returned for the Scottish Referendum vote. :D
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Matt Mackenzie
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Re: Scotland and the referendum on independence

Post by Matt Mackenzie » Fri Sep 19, 2014 10:29 pm

So, anybody predict 55% for no?
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Paul McKeown
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Re: Scotland and the referendum on independence

Post by Paul McKeown » Fri Sep 19, 2014 10:59 pm

I never thought Yes would win, and I was sceptical of the media furore after one and only one poll showed Yes in the lead. Man bites dog supposedly sells newspapers, journos hate the predictable.

As for the margin, is it really a surprise? For nearly two years, the Yes campaign was stuck in the mid thirties, they closed the gap in a very polished campaign, but they never were ahead, apart from one rogue poll. The Yes campaign attracted voters from groups that are less likely to vote than those that the No campaign attracted, there was always likely to be an effect of variable turnout. Variable turnout is the curse of politics on the progressive end of the spectrum, and Yes was framed in terms of progressive politics. This effect of variable turnout could only have been exacerbated when no one in their hearts really believed Yes would win (the bookies paying out for No days in advance and so forth), why waste time with a trip to the polling booth?

And anyway, bar talk is cheap. A pollster isn't really asking the same question as a ballot paper in a polling booth, even if the words are the same.

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Matt Mackenzie
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Re: Scotland and the referendum on independence

Post by Matt Mackenzie » Sat Sep 20, 2014 12:14 am

I think there were actually three polls giving a "yes" lead in the entire campaign. Not the stuff that referendum wins are made of.
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MartinCarpenter
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Re: Scotland and the referendum on independence

Post by MartinCarpenter » Sat Sep 20, 2014 9:38 am

There were an awful lot within error margin either way though. Also always a decent chance of a systemic error either way so it wasn't at all certain.

Anyhow I just hope the negotiations for more devolved power for various people go well and don't either stall totally (whence independence would get quite likely), or turn into a horribly rushed mess.

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Re: Scotland and the referendum on independence

Post by Paul McKeown » Sat Sep 20, 2014 11:16 am

I thought this, from the NY Times nailed it:
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/20/upshot/scotlands-no-vote-a-loss-for-pollsters-and-a-win-for-betting-markets.html?_r=1&abt=0002&abg=0 wrote:The prediction markets, on the other hand, yielded much more reliable forecasts. Despite the demise of Intrade, these markets remain extremely active, and over at Betfair, bettors rated the chances of a No vote at around 80 percent, an estimate that remained remarkably stable over the past week, fluctuating by only a few points.

British bookies were laying similar odds. According to The Financial Times, a Ladbrokes spokesman argued earlier this week that the referendum would be the biggest political betting event in history, noting that his firm had taken more money in bets than the last British general election and American presidential election combined. Betting on the likely winning margin also suggested that the No vote was most likely to win by around 4 points. Yes, bettors underestimated the winning margin, but they were still closer than the election-week polling average.

My own research with Microsoft’s David Rothschild suggests that pollsters could do a better job if they learned from prediction markets. Instead of focusing on whom people say they plan to vote for, ask them instead to focus on who they think will win. Typically, asking people who they think will win yields better forecasts, possibly because it leads them to also reflect on the opinions of those around them, and perhaps also because it may yield more honest answers.

It’s an idea with particular relevance to the case of the Scottish referendum. As Stephen Fisher, an associate professor of political sociology at the University of Oxford, has noted, there is a historical tendency for polling to overstate the likelihood of success of referendums, possibly because we’re more willing to tell pollsters we will vote for change than to actually do so. Such biases are less likely to distort polls that ask people who they think will win. Indeed, in giving their expectations, some respondents may even reflect on whether or not they believe recent polling.

And in this election, too, voters’ expectations yielded a much clearer signal. A recent IPSOS/Mori poll showed that voters' intentions were so evenly balanced as to be within the margin of error, even as the share of the population who expected the No vote to win held a robust 11-point lead over those expecting a successful Yes vote. Lesson: The electorate knew who would win, even as most pollsters failed to ask them.
No one, or at least few except the most unthinking nationalists, actually believed at any point that Scotland would vote for independence. The polls failed to reflect this, which suggests the polls were systematically wrong, unable to tap into representative samples, unable to elicit what people thought and with fudge factors which could not be properly calibrated. The fact that bookmakers paid out in advance for No, whilst pollsters were still claiming that the result still lay within the margin of error emphasises this.

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Re: Scotland and the referendum on independence

Post by Paul McKeown » Sun Sep 21, 2014 12:44 pm

The observer will have noticed that the Conservative party's response to the demand for constitutional change in the wake of the Scottish referendum is to call for the Great Chocolate Teapot of British politics, an "English Parliament". The seasoned and cynical observer will, of course, have concluded that the reason for this is precisely because it is the Great Chocolate Teapot of British politics...

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Re: Scotland and the referendum on independence

Post by NickFaulks » Sun Sep 21, 2014 2:31 pm

Paul McKeown wrote: The fact that bookmakers paid out in advance for No, whilst pollsters were still claiming that the result still lay within the margin of error emphasises this.
Why would the bookies pay out in advance? The authorities have huge leverage over them, and it is very plausible that they were bribed / strongarmed into doing so in order to dishearten the other side. As to the prediction markets, it is known for certain that such manipulation is an established practice. The John Kerry campaign did it, but then spoilt their work by bragging on the social networks, before the polls closed, about how clever they had been.

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Re: Scotland and the referendum on independence

Post by Ray Sayers » Sun Sep 21, 2014 2:34 pm

'Call me Dave' Cameron panicked and offered something his backbenchers don't support (and weren't even consulted about) - more powers for Scotland (or Devo Max - the one thing he didn't want to put on the ballot paper). This put his head on the block whichever way Scotland voted. 'I am Mr Ed' Milliband supported it because he realised not losing Scotland was more important than losing Dave and his mates.
Now of course the No vote has won, Dave has to sell the deal to his party. So he has added the proposal that Labour effectively lose 40 MPs voting at Westminster. Ed is clearly not happy with this stiletto in the back. But if the extra powers don't materialise for Scotland, the nationalists will be shouting for a re-run of the vote. Isn't it all fun?

Alistair Campbell
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Re: Scotland and the referendum on independence

Post by Alistair Campbell » Sun Sep 21, 2014 3:40 pm

Paul McKeown wrote: No one, or at least few except the most unthinking nationalists, actually believed at any point that Scotland would vote for independence. The polls failed to reflect this, which suggests the polls were systematically wrong, unable to tap into representative samples, unable to elicit what people thought and with fudge factors which could not be properly calibrated. The fact that bookmakers paid out in advance for No, whilst pollsters were still claiming that the result still lay within the margin of error emphasises this.
Some interesting points. Perhaps I am one of the few as I certainly though “yes” might win, as they appeared to have the momentum at one stage, and they were making a lot of noise. Although polls were “normally” about 60-40 against, votes were notionally pretty evenly split between the separatists (SNP/Green/SSP etc) and the Unionists (Co/Lab/Lib) based on the results of the 2011 election. I guess in a cross party campaign, a lot of emphasis is placed on parties delivering their own core vote, rather than joint-platform events where differences can be exposed. The question was, how susceptible was the traditional Labour vote, and how much of the SNP’s vote was based on perceived competence in government, rather than support for Independence?

With regard to the polls, I’m not sure whether they are attempting to quantify how the population claims it will vote, how it really intends to vote, or how it will actually vote. Clearly there is a difference between the first two answers (with the concept of “shy Tories”, or equivalent, potentially distorting matters), and with the last two you have the possibility of people changing their minds, or not actually voting.

With regard to the bookies – I had always thought that odds offered were a function of weight of money, rather than underlying probability (adjusted for profit)? Although perhaps the big players will have inside info from each campaign’s canvassing figures. Possibly another question to ask is – who is the best at predicting election results – the campaigns, the bookies, or the pollsters? Perhaps someone like Matthew Turner could comment?

I wasn’t actively involved in the campaign, but the impression I had was there was a clear movement from No to Yes late on, before a later shift back the way. YouGov’s eve of poll figures had it as Y 48 N 52, meaning virtually all the undecideds had to vote Yes for them to win. Allegedly both sides claimed to be 10 points clear from their private polling, although how much truth is in that I don’t know.

On the day itself I was aware that a number of friends were plumping for Yes, but the close of poll poll had the probability of No winning at 99%. That seemed to be confirmed from the attitude of the various politicians doing the rounds of the TV studios – the “No” side seemed quite chipper, the “Yes” side were talking about the turnout. Once Clackmannanshire voted “no” and there were low turnout figures from Dundee and Glasgow, the game was a bogey, yes-wise.

Post-election analysis appears to confirm what one might expect – Yes did well amongst the young, the poorer, the city dwellers and the “very Scottish”, No did well amongst the opposite. Of course, these categories are correlated. As Paul says (if I have interpreted him correctly), No did better to GTVO.

Reactions since the result have been quite illuminating. Some on the “yes” side seem incredulous, some seem to be convinced there was a “fix”. Perhaps it is campaign naivety, perhaps an example of the Kübler-Ross model.

[edited for apostrophe catastrophe :oops: ]
Last edited by Alistair Campbell on Sun Sep 21, 2014 4:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

MartinCarpenter
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Re: Scotland and the referendum on independence

Post by MartinCarpenter » Sun Sep 21, 2014 3:45 pm

Well, even if they hadn't promised anything a ~45 per cent vote for independence is hardly a crushing vote for maintaining the status quo as is.

Tricky to cut Scottish MPs off from some votes though. If nothing else, Wales and (more or less) London do also of course have their own parliaments....

I guess the Conservative dream would be a specific parliament for the richer rural bits of England ;)

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Re: Scotland and the referendum on independence

Post by Paul McKeown » Sun Sep 21, 2014 3:54 pm

MartinCarpenter wrote:I guess the Conservative dream would be a specific parliament for the richer rural bits of England
Isn't the reason that an English Parliament is a Chocolate Teapot exactly the opposite, that it would concentrate power with the London-centric elites that already dominate so much of British politics, so that the English regions would be even more starved of funding and self-determination than they currently are? Isn't the only way to avoid that is to devolve power, funding and tax raising to the regions, in a similar way that Scotland has achieved? And isn't that exactly what the Conservatives, and to a lesser extent, Labour, are determined to avoid? Mother knows best... Mother Parliament, that is.

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Michael Farthing
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Re: Scotland and the referendum on independence

Post by Michael Farthing » Sun Sep 21, 2014 4:07 pm

Alistair Campbell wrote: With regard to the bookies – I had always thought that odds offered were a function of weight of money, rather than underlying probability (adjusted for profit)?
Precisely.
Although perhaps the big players will have inside info from campaign’s canvassing figures.
But Bookies would still ignore this. They're not gamblers (at least, not within the business - any that were would now be bankrupt). They expect a consistent level of profit whatever the outcome.

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Matt Mackenzie
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Re: Scotland and the referendum on independence

Post by Matt Mackenzie » Sun Sep 21, 2014 8:37 pm

On a point of fact, the Tory leadership are not supporting an English parliament.

I am none too keen on that, but would certainly prefer it to what they *are* proposing......
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