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?
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.