Sunday, May 11, 2014

Scot Goes Pop Fundraiser : For accurate reporting of Indyref Polls

In the six years that Scot Goes Pop has been running, it has carved out a niche for itself among pro-independence blogs due to its coverage of opinion polls. Towards the end of last year, exasperated by the misleading reporting of one or two individual polls that showed wildly improbable leads for the No campaign, I went a step further by introducing a Poll of Polls feature so that every new referendum poll could be placed in a more meaningful context. I’ve since updated the Poll of Polls every single time fresh figures are released, usually within two or three hours. There has also been comprehensive analysis of each individual poll, which has also typically appeared very speedily. This has played a role in combating the misrepresentation of polling numbers, especially on social media. The most recent YouGov poll is a good example – John Curtice’s analysis didn’t appear for the best part of 24 hours, so for a long spell this was the most high-profile blog to be pointing out the simple truth that, far from being a "setback for the Yes campaign", the poll actually showed the slimmest No lead of the campaign so far.

There is now at least one mainstream media outlet (the Financial Times) and another semi-mainstream outlet (John Curtice's blog!) that publish their own Poll of Polls, and that is an extremely welcome development. Unfortunately, both of them use what in my view is a flawed method - a rolling average of the last six or seven polls to be published, regardless of whether the polls were conducted by Yes-friendly pollsters (such as Panelbase) or No-friendly pollsters (such as Ipsos-Mori). That will lead to gross distortions in the trends that are reported, as we’ve already seen when the appearance of the last YouGov poll led to a 2% increase in the No lead in the Financial Times Poll of Polls, in spite of the fact that it had actually shown a modest drop in the No lead. So the Scot Goes Pop Poll of Polls still has an important role to play in accurately reflecting the real trends.

I would very much like to carry on covering the polls in the way that I have been doing over the last few months, and indeed to step up my efforts even further (which will certainly be necessary, because the rate at which polls appear is bound to increase significantly as polling day approaches). Unfortunately, though, my personal circumstances are changing, and as things stand it’s simply not going to be possible for me to carry on as before. Writing this blog isn’t the equivalent of a full-time job, but it’s certainly the equivalent of a relatively heavy-going part-time job. It’s very common for me to stay up half the night writing posts. I don’t mind doing that in the slightest, but unfortunately I can’t do it if the time isn’t available! I’m not suggesting that Scot Goes Pop will end completely, but it will probably be reduced to a ‘skeleton service’, with perhaps a brief round-up now and again.

However, before I resign myself to that outcome, I’m going to try the alternative – an appeal to raise enough funds for me to be able to carry on as before, and hopefully to ‘expand operations’ even further. I’m setting what I openly admit is an extremely ambitious target of £2500. There’s very little point in setting it much lower than that, because that’s probably the minimum that would be required to make the plan work properly over the four-month period between now and the referendum. The campaign will be running on Indiegogo until May 21st, and is already open for donations.

There seems to be a convention of doing a Q&A when launching a fundraiser like this, so here goes –

Why is it important for the pro-independence blogosphere to cover opinion polls?

I think there’s a degree of myopia among some (not all) Yes supporters about this subject. One of the main factors that has held some voters back from seriously engaging with the Yes campaign’s arguments is their sense that it is either unlikely or impossible for us to win. That impression is entirely driven by misreporting of opinion polls in the mainstream media, and it needs to be combated. You can’t do it with throwaway lines such as “the polls are all biased” or “the only poll that matters is on September the 18th” – that sounds weak beyond belief, and simply reinforces the original impression in voters’ minds. It instead has to be done by taking the polling numbers seriously, and explaining what they really mean.

Even if this is important, why is it more important than any of the other pro-independence causes I could donate to?

I don't think it is. Nobody is more desperate than I am to see a Yes victory, and I’ve been extremely conflicted about whether to launch this fundraiser, because I hate the idea of ‘diverting’ even a single penny that might be better spent elsewhere. But the beauty of an appeal like this is that you can decide for yourself what will give you the best bang for your buck. If you personally think Scot Goes Pop's coverage of the polls can play a significant role, you have the option to donate – but it's only an option.

How many people actually see Scot Goes Pop’s coverage of the polls?

Over the last twelve months, there have been roughly 50,000 unique visitors to the site (ie. real people, only counted once no matter how many times they visited). Approximately 50% of them were in Scotland, meaning that 1 in 200 of the Scottish population have visited the site at least once in the last year. If the current trajectory continues, the numbers are likely to increase significantly in the run-up to polling day.

Could you use online advertising to boost those numbers even further?

Yes, if the fundraiser exceeds the target figure, that’s most likely how I would use any excess funds. Facebook advertising, for example, looks very cost-effective, and could potentially lead to a blogpost headline and snippet being seen by hundreds of thousands of people throughout Scotland.

Do you intend to blog full-time until the referendum if this appeal is a success?

Not quite – I think I would become extremely jaded if I attempted to write four or five posts every day, and that would detract from the blog. But I would certainly be looking to at least maintain the current tempo, and probably increase it.

Is analysis of polls the only thing you do?

No! The other staple of Scot Goes Pop over the years has been ‘fisking’ of mainstream media commentators. Exhibit A : Richard Madeley.

What experience do you have as a blogger/writer?

Apart from my six years writing this blog, I’ve also written articles for the International Business Times, Political Betting, Wings Over Scotland, National Collective, Scottish Roundup and the Eurovision Times. In the final running of the Total Politics Blog Awards in 2011, Scot Goes Pop was voted one of the top 100 political blogs in the UK, and as an individual blogger I was rated higher than the likes of Peter Oborne, Adam Boulton and Kevin Maguire.

Is there a danger this fundraiser could end in utter humiliation?

Yes, absolutely! A few months ago, some anti-independence Twitter trolls took advantage of the ‘fame’ they had gained from being mentioned in the Scotsman, and ran a fundraiser. After several weeks, their running total stood at…zero. So there’s certainly a significant chance that the amount of money raised could be so small that the whole thing won’t have been worth the bother. If that happens, you have my solemn promise that anything raised will be given to other pro-independence causes. The money won’t be wasted.

Isn't it a mistake to run the appeal over such a short timescale?

Possibly. But most people who donate to fundraisers tend to do so early on. My hope is that the short timescale will add focus, and it also has the added advantage of meaning that my embarrassment will end more quickly if things don’t go well!

Shouldn’t you have set a much more modest target? There would have been nothing to stop people donating even after a small target had been reached.

The problem is that contributions do sometimes tend to dry up when the nominal target has been met.

So is the £2500 figure purely psychological?

Not quite – if it isn’t reached, Indiegogo will deduct a bigger administration fee.

If everyone who visited this blog in the last week donated just £1, would the appeal reach its target?

Yes!

WILL everyone who visited this blog in the last week donate £1?

Er, probably not. It’s purely illustrative.

How can I donate?

It’s really simple – just click HERE and follow the instructions.

29 comments:

  1. Done, James. I appreciate your poll analyses.

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  2. Done, keep up the good work!

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  3. Terrible misjudgement of the UK entry at last night's Eurovision aside, an excellent product. Well worth a groat or two ;-)

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  4. Done as well. Enjoy your blog.
    Regards
    Js

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  5. Done, and half of target already achieved. I read your blog with interest

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  6. You had me at "Hello"!

    £25 donated. Let me know if you need more.

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  7. Thanks guys. I'm so grateful for all your support, I can't begin to tell you. I'm hugely embarrassed to be asking for money, but at the risk of sounding like Tony Blair, I'll do my best to repay the trust you've put in me.

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  8. Done. Only a couple quid, as I'm skint, but hope it helps.

    Keep up the good work!

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  9. Maybe Stuart could post the appeal on PB? :)

    Well done James.

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  10. I appreciate how difficult it must have been for you to ask for money. But the response - 85% within 16 hours - shows that your efforts are seen as important to the movement. More power to your pen!

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  11. as a regular visitor to your blog, is only fitting that i should contribute.

    keep up the good work, sir

    thebunnyman

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  12. Anyone who did that would be banned Marcia. No, that isn't a joke, they really will ban you on PoliticalBetting just for mentioning and linking James scottish site.

    Good luck once again James and I'll see if I have anything else to email to you soon mate. :)

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  13. Q: Is there a danger this fundraiser could end in utter humiliation?

    A: Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ...

    At time of writing you are only a hundred short, on the first day.

    Congratulation, James. I told you at least a year ago you should do this...

    I'm over the moon happy for you. Let's hope you get well past your target.

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  14. Just spotted that Tris. Wow!

    Congratulations James and very well deserved indeed.

    The generosity and kindness we are seeing from Yes supporters on a any number of fundraisers is truly amazing.

    Quite a stark contrast to the No campaign and 'better together', and with good reason.

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  15. Hi James,

    I saw someone had put an appeal on WoS on your behalf so I decided to send you some cash. Then I read your appeal and decided you deserved more than just cash. Your analysis of the polls is EXTREMELY useful and I agree with you that it is not given enough credence by many Yes campaigners. Too many people are economically and statistically illiterate and unaware of that fact. Your blog helps correct that balance.

    Cheers,

    Hugh Wallace

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  16. Currently at £2437 with 10 days to go. I think you might have cracked it. I hope you get more, much more, than you asked for. Don't sell yourself short! :)

    Hugh Wallace

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  17. Congratulations, you made the target!

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  18. Well done young man and within a day!

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  19. Done in the first day:

    Know you and the work you do for our campaign are greatly appreciated and we don't want you to stop.

    Thanks, James.

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  20. Target hit in under 24 hours. Superb!


    Couldn't happen to a nicer person James. :)


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  21. I'm almost lost for words, but thanks again to all of you! I can hardly believe it.

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  22. This was an excellent post and was very insightful.

    start a fundraiser on www.rallyhero.com

    Online Fundraising

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  23. James,

    I am delighted for you, obviously the Eurovision perspective, and the curling, never forget the curling, boosted your figures into the stratosphere!

    I'm a tad strapped until the end of the week, will drop a few quid in then.


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  24. Contributed James, a very worthy and deserving cause, plus great value for money!

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  25. Congratulations James, I saw this yesterday, intended to contribute today (which I have just done) and you have already exceeded your target!

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  26. GrassyKnollingtonMay 12, 2014 at 3:09 PM

    Well deserved James, always look forward to your deeper analysis when I hear a depressing poll result & come away much cheerier.

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  27. Done again, please feel free to advertise on facebook again.....love your blog......

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  28. Many thanks, Anon. Will do.

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