Friday, September 19, 2014

Scot Goes Pop! : The second fundraiser

Help to keep Scot Goes Pop going until the May 2015 UK general election.

Click here to go straight to the fundraiser page.

I'm writing this on what may be remembered as one of the most traumatic days in Scottish history - the day after we turned our back, for the time being at least, on the sovereign right to shape our own political future, and the day on which Alex Salmond announced his decision to step down as First Minister. However, the months ahead are still full of opportunities as we seek to ensure that the London parties do not betray the panic-stricken "vow" they made to the Scottish people just before polling day. If they do let us down, as they probably will, much will depend on whether the SNP can at last make a telling breakthrough on "away soil" at the UK general election in May.

In the months between now and the election, it's more important than ever that we have a strong alternative media in Scotland to put the pro-SNP case, because in the context of a UK-wide vote, the party is usually widely ignored by the London-based broadcast and print media.

Over the years, Scot Goes Pop has carved out a niche role in the pro-independence blogosphere, particularly due to its coverage of opinion polls. It relentlessly challenged the agenda-driven misreporting of polls as supposedly showing that the Yes campaign were not even in the game.

There will not be a huge number of full-scale Scottish polls before the general election, but there will be some, and with your help I hope to cover them as comprehensively as I have done the referendum polls. When there aren't polls around, I'll go back to doing what I used to do - offer general commentary on the political scene in Scotland, the UK, and further afield, and probably undertake the occasional 'fisking' of mainstream media commentators.

In case you don't know about me, my name is James Kelly, and I've written Scot Goes Pop for more than six years. I've also written articles for the International Business Times, Political Betting, Wings Over Scotland, National Collective, Scottish Roundup, Fair Observer and the Eurovision Times. Some of my IBTimes articles were syndicated on Yahoo News in the run-up to the referendum.

Since I ran the first fundraiser, I've practically been blogging full-time. Even if I take my foot off the accelerator a little (as I'll probably have to), it just won't be possible to find the time to keep the blog going properly without a second fundraiser. I'm setting an ambitious target of £5000, because that's the amount I think would just about be enough to keep things ticking over until May, and perhaps a little beyond. But anything over and above that would be enormously helpful.

If the target is significantly exceeded, I'll be able to use some of the money on advertising. In theory it might even be possible to commission our own poll, but that's unlikely because it would need the target to be exceeded by several thousand pounds.

As I said last time, if the fundraiser fails and only raises a small amount that can't possibly make any difference to my ability to keep the blog going, rest assured the money won't be wasted - I'll donate it to other pro-independence alternative media outlets.

I fully appreciate what a difficult time this is to be launching this initiative, when people are feeling heartbroken and have donated so much of their disposable income in an attempt to secure a Yes vote. I feel the timing is unavoidable, though - I didn't want to do it before polling day and potentially divert money that might otherwise have gone to the Yes campaign, but if I wait even a few more days a golden opportunity may be lost, because for obvious reasons the current readership of the blog is much bigger than it has ever been before, or is ever likely to be again.

What I am going to do, however, is run this over a much longer timescale than last time (60 days) - so if you think you might want to donate but would rather wait a few weeks, feel free to do that. And even if you're a regular reader, please don't feel under any pressure to donate AT ALL. I regard you all as friends (with the exception of the trolls!), and that's far more valuable than any donation.

Now more than ever, let's stay strong.

Click here if you'd like to donate.

And now for the good news...

The No campaign have failed to deliver on their boasts of a few hours ago that they were heading for a victory margin of 58/42, or possibly 60/40, or even greater. The BBC are in fact predicting a result of 55/45 (some would say that they authored that result as well as predicting it, but that's an argument for another day). As Murdo Fraser himself said, once the relief wears off, the London establishment will know that's a far, far tighter outcome than they could have originally expected or possibly feel comfortable with. If the Yes vote had been several points lower, and in particular if they had failed to win the symbolic prize of Glasgow, the long-term aim of another referendum in 12-20 years might not have seemed credible. As it is, we have a result that is much narrower than the 1980 Quebec referendum, which as we all know was followed by a very-nearly-successful second attempt just fifteen years later.

That's a consolation for us, but it's also a long-term threat for London, and that's the one reason for thinking we might possibly get some traction in the push for more powers. It's going to be a hell of a hard slog, though, and I think much will depend on whether the SNP can at least make some kind of breakthrough on 'away soil' in the UK general election that is just a few short months away.

One thing that intrigues me is whether the Greens will continue to support independence as a long-term goal, or will argue that the matter has been permanently settled. Although I'm not exactly James Mackenzie's greatest fan, I've been encouraged to see him make a number of comments along the lines of "if not now, next time", and hopefully that sentiment will be shared by many of his colleagues.

Although I'm finding this result as difficult to come to terms with as anyone, I'm hoping to carry on with Scot Goes Pop until at least the general election. The money from the fundraiser won't last for much longer, though, so realistically I'd have to run another one. I don't want to try anyone's patience by doing it too soon, but on the other hand I would probably be foolish to leave it too long, because the blog's readership is bound to drop sharply as interest in the referendum subsides. I'm happy to take advice on what the most sensible timing would be.

In the meantime, we can all take pride in a 45% Yes vote that once upon a time was supposed to be impossible. In a long-term sense, the dream lives on.

A triumph of fear over hope

We clearly are now facing a No vote, and as I said in my IBTimes article this morning, that will result in a national trauma that will take a long, long time to recover from.  I don't always agree with Gordon Wilson, but I think he's absolutely right that Scotland's influence within the UK will now vanish.  In the long run, the biggest questions may be for the likes of Kenny Farquharson, who convinced themselves that there was some kind of constructive way of voting No that could move Scotland forward, even in the absence of meaningful pledges from the London parties.

One battle we mustn't lose, though, is the battle for the truth of how this referendum was won by the No campaign.  I've already seen Louise Mensch retweeting a succession of comments from Tory Union Jack waving idealists, trying to weave a narrative that No voters were somehow embracing a positive message about the UK, rather than being terrorised into rejecting independence by the most negative, cynical campaign in modern British political history.

They may have won the referendum, but let's not allow them to steal the truth.  They chose fear, and won with fear, and as a result Scotland and the UK are diminished places.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

YouGov prediction leaves Yes still in the game

I can now say what I didn't dare say before the polls closed - there have been some really disturbing rumours flying around that there was evidence of a very substantial last-minute swing to No. But YouGov have now released a 'final prediction', based on recontacting respondents after they had voted, and although it's certainly not good news, it's nowhere near as bad as the figures that were being rumoured.

Yes 46% (-2)
No 54% (+2)

So obviously if Yes are going to have a chance of winning, we're going to need there to be some kind of systemic problem with YouGov's methodology. But at least, as of this moment, we're still in the game.

Want to help win a Yes vote over the next three hours?

Just thought I'd make myself useful by reposting this tweet from Ross Greer -

Still need Yes volunteers at every local campaign base tonight. Head along or call 0141 221 4767 to find out where to go.

Last night's Survation poll was better for Yes on the unrounded numbers

A small piece of good polling news as we all wait (or hopefully as we get on with the Get Out The Vote operation) - last night's Survation poll in the Record, which was one of only two polls over the last few days to report a Yes vote of lower than 48%, was actually slightly better for Yes on the unrounded figures -

Yes 47.3% (+0.8)
No 52.7% (-0.8)

Changes are from the directly comparable Survation telephone poll published on Saturday.

Meanwhile, because of the rumours that were swirling around about last night's YouGov poll in advance of publication, I was a bit worried that Yes may have only been rounded up to 48% by the skin of their teeth, but in fact that isn't the case, and it turns out that they've made a small gain on the last YouGov poll -

Yes 48.0% (+0.4)
No 52.0% (-0.4)

UPDATE : The datasets for today's Ipsos-Mori's poll have finally been released, and just like Survation, it turns out that Yes did slightly better than the rounded numbers suggested -

Yes 47.4% (-1.5)
No 52.6% (+1.5)

The above numbers should certainly ease any concerns that there was any detectable swing back to No on Tuesday or Wednesday - all of the changes are well within the margin of error, and in any case two of the three polls are showing small shifts towards Yes.

Lastly, I have a new article at the Fair Observer website, on a similar theme to my last-but-one article at the IBTimes.  You can read it HERE.  I was under pressure of time when I wrote this one, as you might just be able to tell!

Final Ipsos-Mori poll puts Yes just 3% from victory

Ipsos-Mori's last word is -

Yes 47%
No 53%

Not quite as good as yesterday's poll from the same firm, but the difference is easily explainable by margin of error 'noise' - ie. if the true position according to Ipsos-Mori's methodology is somewhere between 46 and 50, it would be completely normal to get 49 one day and 47 the next due to random sampling variation.

I hope to God this is the last poll, and we can now let actual votes decide this referendum!

One Opportunity

I have a little referendum day article at the International Business Times, reflecting on the historical importance of this moment - you can read it HERE.

The 2001 Irish Referendum and parallels to the Indyref

A guest post by Scott Hamilton

As we move into referendum day, it is instructive to look at an interesting example from the recent history of constitutional referenda - namely the Irish vote in 2001 on the Treaty of Nice. Whilst the referendum is not exactly like the Scottish independence referendum, there are certain parallels between the campaigns, how they have been run, and how the polls can spectacularly fail to predict the outcome of such a contest even a few days from the vote.

In his excellent book “A Comparative Study of Referendums: Government by the People, Second Edition", Jens Qvortrup describes the campaign leading up to the 2001 referendum and provides some insight into what caused the shock result.  Much of the book is available on the wonderful Google Books website.

All conventional wisdom pointed to a “Yes” vote- this was the position of the Irish Government of and the mainstream political parties, the mainstream media in Ireland and most “establishment” voices.  The “no” campaign comprised active “grassroot” campaigners and a band of organisations united around a simple message- to reject the Treaty of Nice.

My contention here is that the “Yes” in the Irish example provided by Qvortrup has strong parallels with the “No” in the Scottish referendum. In the discussion below, all that is required is to swap “Yes” for “No” and vice versa.

In the run up to the referendum the Irish Government was doing well in domestic opinion polls, with some 86% of the Irish population agreeing that being in Europe was good for Ireland, leading some to believe the referendum was a foregone conclusion- people would, conventional wisdom suggested, get behind the government, and vote “Yes” to ratify the treaty.

The main political parties supported the “Yes” side, bolstered by support from big business, most trades unions, farming bodies and importantly- the mainstream media. This seemed to suggest an easy victory, if only the voters could be trusted to follow the cues and signals given by the parties.

Except that’s not what happened...

The challenge to the orthodoxy came from a varied and determined set of “No” groups whose ground campaign simply outperformed the combined might of their opponents’ entire campaign. The “No” campaign comprised a variety of enthusiastic groups such as “No to Nice”, the Green Party, Sinn Fein, the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the Justice and Anti-Poverty Body Action from Ireland, the Peace and Neutrality Alliance, the National Platform and the Christian Alliance. There are certainly obvious parallels between the Scottish Yes campaign here.

In addition the “Yes” parties proved unable to work together with a general election looming in 2002; it seems that their lack of co-operation was prompted by mutual mistrust and party political rivalries. The “No” side was, by contrast, unhampered by such rivalry.

The “Yes” parties simply fell victim to over confidence and an over reliance on their powerful friends and a powerful media. Opinion polls had predicted an easy win for them, though as Qvortrup suggests:

“…alarm bells should have begun to ring on Saturday 2 June (Scott’s note- the vote was on 7th June) when an Irish Times- MRBI poll revealed that 45 percent intended to vote “yes”, whereas the figure two weeks previously had been 52%; some 28% indicated they would be voting “no”, and increase of 7% on the earlier poll; while the number of those undecided remained the same at 27%. Somewhat surprisingly, the politicians took little notice of the poll.

The “yes” campaign was lackluster and ineffective: the political parties did not present a unified front, other than agreeing on the necessity for a “yes” result; indeed they seemed more concerned with party-political point scoring, than with securing a “yes” vote”.

The “No” campaign was mainly undertaken using good old fashioned door to door canvassing, something that had not been the norm in Ireland for many years. The reader can decide which campaign in the Scottish referendum most closely parallels this approach.

Qvortrup concludes:

“The polls indicated that the Government was within close range of victory. The outcome would- or at least could- have been very different had the “yes” parties been able (and willing) to co-operate, but that was not the case. The ”yes” side was split by internal rivalries between the parties, and the focus on the Tipperary by-election created tension in the camp. Consequently the parties of the “yes” side failed to co-operate. The “no” side by contrast succeeded in maintaining unity- ostensibly because the parties involved were too ideologically heterogeneous to pose an electoral threat to each other”.

So, in summary - the losing side was made up of political rivals who were suspicious of each other, given an election was looming. The losing side let this rivalry negatively affect their campaign and they failed to present a united front. The losing side relied too heavily on a compliant media, and lacked an effective and broad ground campaign. The losing side took solace in the polls, believing that they had the result sewn up long before the vote, “how can we lose?”. The losing side failed to recognise the ground shifting behind their feet only days before the vote, and when they did, they lacked the tools to counter the shift in opinion.

The losing side lost.

More excerpts of Dr Qvortrup’s book are available at Google Books. See page 72 and the available pages nearby for more.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Final YouGov poll puts Yes just 2% away from victory

YouGov's final word of the campaign is -

Yes 48% (n/c)
No 52% (n/c)

Meanwhile, there's a phone poll from Survation which shows that the Yes vote has crept up since the equivalent poll at the weekend -

Yes 47% (+1)
No 53% (-1)

I thought we were going to get a rare Scot Goes Pop exclusive tonight, because two different commenters seemed to have leaked the YouGov result several hours early on the previous thread.  But I'm very glad we didn't get the exclusive, because the numbers were less good than we ended up with.  It does mean that I pre-wrote an entire post on the assumption that the leak was correct, and now I'm going to have to cherry-pick the bits that still make sense!  I certainly thought that YouGov was going to be our only real clue before the end of the evening as to whether there had been any last-minute swing, because their fieldwork carried on a bit longer than either Panelbase or Ipsos-Mori. If that had been the case, the message would have been "no, there hasn't", because the sequence of results that YouGov have produced over the last three weeks looks fairly stable within the confines of the standard margin of error - 47, 51, 48, 48.  But now Survation have muddied the waters with yet another completely unexpected intervention, and with fieldwork that is more up-to-date than anyone else's - it took place entirely over the last 24 hours.

There shouldn't be any dismay at all that they've produced a slightly lower Yes vote than the phone polls we've had from ICM and Ipsos-Mori, because different methodologies produce different results (as we know in this campaign of all campaigns).  It is absolutely correct to compare this poll solely with the last Survation phone poll, and doing so paints a good news story for Yes - there has been a pro-Yes swing since the weekend, albeit well within the margin of error.  There is certainly no evidence there of any last-minute swing to No.  My only slight doubt is due to the fact that the previous Survation phone poll was commissioned by the No campaign, who seemingly only made the decision to publish at the very last minute for tactical reasons.  So we can't entirely exclude the possibility that the No campaign have commissioned several Survation phone polls, and withheld all the others because they were better for Yes - in which case the trend in tonight's poll obviously wouldn't be quite so good.  But that's just wild speculation, and there's no point worrying about something that is utterly unknowable at this stage.

Unless we get any more surprise polls at a few minutes' notice, the last clue as to whether there has been any late swing will come in one further Ipsos-Mori poll, which is rather disrespectfully being published tomorrow morning while people are in the middle of voting.  But obviously 'clue' is the operative word, because unless there's a very big shift from today's poll conducted by the same firm, any change could just as easily be a margin of error illusion.  If we can dodge that bullet and convince ourselves there has been no late swing to No, then it seems to me the scenario for reconciling the polls with our hopes for a Yes victory would be as follows -

1) That phone polling is more reliable than online polling.

2) That ICM, with their "gold standard" reputation, are the most accurate phone pollster.

Both of the above held true in the AV referendum - there's certainly no guarantee that they will again, but it's an encouraging thought.  Under that scenario, it's perfectly credible to believe that Yes are at the higher end of the range that the polls are suggesting, ie. 49% - because that is what ICM showed in their only phone poll of the campaign.  If so, the race is close enough to be decided one way or the other by the ground operation tomorrow.

Alternatively, the polls could be structurally wrong, just as they were in 1992, in which case all bets are off.  But remember, it's completely 50/50 as to whether that would be a good thing for Yes or a good thing for No.

Basically, the outcome is unknowable.  And at the end of a long campaign that has seen voters being constantly bullied by having one-sided polls shoved in their faces, we should probably regard that as a truly wonderful destination to have arrived at, however scary it might feel.