Monday, February 1, 2016

John Curtice concurs that "tactical voting on the list" is a risk

When I noticed a few hours ago that The National were splashing with a John Curtice essay on whether it's a good or a bad idea for independence supporters to vote "tactically" on the Holyrood regional list, I had a horrible feeling that it might be a "both sides of the argument must have prizes" article that would leave people with less clarity in their minds, not more.  So it was a great relief to see that Curtice has in fact very emphatically stated that tactical voters are taking a risk, and listed a number of the exact same reasons that I set out in the article that Bella Caledonia notoriously wanted to "improve" -

1) That it's not much use voting tactically for small parties like RISE or Solidarity if polls suggest they're going to fall miles short of winning any seats at all.

2) That the SNP may well be reliant on list seats to retain their majority if their support slips.

3) That the SNP won at least one list seat in seven out of eight regions last time (ie. their list votes weren't "wasted").

4) That past history suggests the polls may be overestimating the Green list vote, thus making it hard to tell whether the Greens or the SNP are the best "tactical" bet in any given region.

There are of course several other important reasons as well, but that's not a bad tally to be getting on with, and hopefully the fact that someone as impeccably neutral as Professor Curtice has said all this will finally put to rest the silly idea that only "SNP tribalists" would ever dispute the claim that tactical voting on the list is a risk-free enterprise.

Incidentally, on point 4, although it's true that the polls significantly overstated the Green list vote in both 2007 and 2011, it's also the case that Green support in the polls rose significantly in the weeks leading up to election day.  On past form, their showing in the polls right now might not be a bad indication of where they'll end up - ie. they'll rise gradually during March and April, and then in the actual election abruptly drop back to roughly where they started.  If so, they might just be in line for some kind of breakthrough.  But there again, past history is no guarantee of future performance, and all we know for sure is that polling for the list is generally less reliable than constituency polling.  Hardly a recipe for taking a punt on the list with any confidence.

40 comments:

  1. It seems to me that there are 4 outcomes that look plausible at this stage (of course things can change quickly and did so in 2011):

    1 - SNP are largest party but there is not a pro-independence majority.

    2 - SNP are largest party and with support from others there is a pro-independence majority.

    3 - SNP have an overall majority.

    4 - SNP have an overall majority plus significant support from other pro-independence parties.

    The argument about tactical list voting can be reduced to a gambling problem. We could try to achieve option 4 but only if we are willing to risk option 1.

    Everyone can decide for themselves on the risks/benefits of the gamble but there are also important questions of legitimacy of trying to game the system. How would we feel if Liberal candidates stood in Orkney and Shetland but SDP candidates on the Highland list?

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    1. "We could try to achieve option 4 but only if we are willing to risk option 1."

      Which would be a very silly gamble, because there's nothing we could do with a whopping pro-independence majority that we couldn't do with a smaller one. It's winning the majority in the first place that's important.

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  2. If the SNP lost their overall majority then an anti-SNP Government could be formed. Too risky so, both votes SNP

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    1. Would the Greens join in an anti SNP government? Surely that would be 'doing a Clegg'? Although anything is possible. The union parties could make an offer the Greens can't refuse - ban cars or something....

      The SNP will get back in again but the next five years will be wasted ones. No indy vote, chickens increasingly coming home to roost etc. It'll be a bleak 5 years for the SNP / wider 'yes' movement I suspect, despite being in government. A little bit like January blues - nothing to do and nothing to look forward to (but lasting 5 years rather than 31 days).

      Aldo

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    2. Aldo, not wasted IMO...watch out for the Yes movement starting to get back into gear. Westminster and Holyrood elections have taken up lots of folks energy, but once May is out the way, then it's up to Yes groups to start doing the groundwork. Keep an eye open for the National Yes Registry who are already initiating this by engaging with multiple active/semi-active/dormant Yes groups country-wide. I'm in the SNP but I'm not waiting for them to fire a starting gun on #indyref2 - it'll be Yes groups across the country who start the pressure from below, and as before these will be cross-party efforts. The SNP will have to start responding to that and parties will have to get their #indyref2 policy platforms ready for the end of this decade. The next 4-5 years are the most crucial of all for #indyref2.

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    3. I admire your optimism but realistically there can only be a second independence referendum following some kind of 'material change' in Scotland's circumstances. So far, the only candidate is Brexit and even that isn't looking likely. It may well be also that the SNP manifesto does not give them grounds or a mandate for holding a second referendum. We shall have to wait and see.

      Beyond the next parliament - looking on to 2021 and beyond - it will be the unionists who are in the ascendency, with the SNP largely spent as a party of government after a decade and a half in power. They could be back 5 or 10 years later, with another referendum push - but its success will be dependent on the prevailing economic and political circumstances at that time.

      And only a fool would try guessing at those!

      Aldo

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    4. The public are split pretty evenly between those who want to stay in the union and those who don't,so the status quo prevails for the time being.Whether support for the union can be maintained will depend on many factors,but if it withers away a referendum will be held and lost.

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    5. The public isn't really evenly split. The referendum returned an 11 point gap between the two sides and recent polling shows NO still ahead, even after years of campaigning and grudge and grievance. Another referendum held soon would expose the SNP on any number of economic issues and false claims. It would also irritate people who, regardless of allegiance, are prepared to let the matter rest now it has been decided.

      The 2016 parliament will not see a referendum.

      Aldo

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    6. No, Aldo, you're making statements you can't support. We've been over this a million times - online polling shows No only slightly ahead, while telephone and face to face polling has Yes ahead by quite a bit.

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    7. I'm sorry James, but Aldo's right and you're wrong. If you look at all the polls taken on Independence over the last year, out of the 22 only 4 have shown a Yes lead. Only two polls have been telephone (a MORI Yes and an ICM No) and one face to face (TNS also Yes).

      But the MORI and the TNS also had something else in common. They didn't weight for recalled referendum vote - something you'd think pretty important. So the sample could well have had too many Yes voters to start with. One of the two online Yes polls (the YouGov from exactly a year ago) didn't weight either (though oddly they did ask and the figures do show too many Yes voters). Only the Survation from last March gave Yes after such weighting and every Survation since has said No.

      The other 17 online polls plus ICM, were all weighted to past referendum vote and all show No ahead. The gap seems narrower than in 2014, but the picture is pretty clear.

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    8. I'm sorry, Roger, but any post that begins with the words "Aldo is right" is utterly doomed, and yours is no exception. There have been just two real world polls (telephone or face to face) since the referendum - both have shown Yes leads. The Yes lead in the Ipsos-Mori telephone poll was so substantial that it defies all credibility - and I trust you're not doing this - to claim that weighting by recalled referendum vote would have put No in the lead. The primary reason for the divergence between Ipsos-Mori and online pollsters appears to be data collection method. Are you seriously denying that?

      As I correctly said, the online polls have generally put No ahead by only a narrow margin. I note you haven't denied that - you're basically saying exactly the same as me with a heavy spin, and pretending it's the complete opposite.

      Nice try.

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    9. By the way, where are you getting this "ICM telephone poll with a No lead" from? I think you might want to double-check your facts there.

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    10. Why is assumed that weighting by past iref vote is correct? That relies on people accurately remembering and/or and being truthful. If they lie, it results in Yes vote being down weighted, like it normally is. I find it really weird that the more pro-SNP a sample is, the less it voted yes / the more pro-union part a sample is, the more it voted Yes pre-weighting.

      We all know how well 2010 weighting worked in Scotland. Respondents kept telling pollsters they voted SNP to the same level or more as they voted Labour, yet Labour actually got twice the SNP share. Even when pollsters mentioned Cameron becoming PM and then asked what people voted in 2011 too, respondents still told them porkies about 2010.

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    11. Tut tut James! Such prejudice!

      All polls are 'real world' - unless we've somehow found a way to poll Narnia or something...

      Aldo

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  3. I have lots of respect for Yes friends in other parties and we'll work together again for #indyref2. Does seem like #RISE will have a hard time in getting any meaningful vote share in May though. If theres to be any groundswell at all then it has to be for the Greens in an #SNP1/#Green2 combo. But I think the reality is this. Which is, that battle hasn't been engaged yet and that once Labour Head Office start sending up minsisters and MP's to tell SNP voters what idiots they are, once the press ratchet up the propaganda by another notch, once it becomes plain that the choice is stark, then those folk pontificating on SNP-Green and SNP-RISE, will instead harden for SNP-SNP. Along the way, random noise could throw up a poll or two showing the gap closing with Labour. That should concentrate minds wonderfully if folk want to avoid a broad #BetterTogether unionist coalition at Holyrood.

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    1. I'd be interested to know who you believe these Labour ministers coming from HQ are? On what planet does Labour participate in any government?

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    2. The smart-alec answer is Welsh Assembly ministers, but I'm sure Anon was talking about UK shadow ministers.

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    3. Correct, a slip o'the tongue on my part ;-)

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  4. My difficulty with the Greens is that they are not a pro-independence party.

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    1. It would be interesting if someone with knowledge of the internal politics of the Greens could tell us how many anti-independence candidates they have standing. The stock answer seems to be "nobody at the top of the list", but that's not totally reassuring - in some cases people quite a long way down the list can take a seat in the event of an unexpected resignation.

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    2. I am a green member so I'll take a punt. I do not know what more the greens could be doing to be a "pro-independance party". At the conference in october, the biggest ever, a floor vote was taken and it was unanimous in favour of continuing to support independence.
      One of our offical policies is citizen democracy and how it relates to independence is outlined here
      http://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/13839262.Scottish_public__should_have_power_to_propose_independence_referendum_/
      in terms of canditates one the list I have heard of 1 out what must be 90 or more candiates on the list being not for independence and that was Martin Ford on the North east and he stood down.
      So to sum up what more could we be doing to regarded a pro-independence party?

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    3. Well said Iain. I wonder if you will be heard. I have changed my mind on tactical voting, back in the day I thought we were going to carry the same Yes movement mentality into the elections but that's not the case. Now I think many Yessers (Greens and radicals) are taking the same approach to the SNP as we used to take to Labour: Vote SNP for Westminster and in constituencies where your own party isn't standing, but vote on the List for what you really believe in (in my case for independence not just from a warmongering state but from a system hell bent on destroying the basis for human life). I think I'm in a place where I'll be lucky enough to be able to vote Green/ Green.

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  5. It'll be SNP 1/2 for me again. I was contemplating SNP/SSP last year, but decided to go with the SNP as I think they've done a reasonably good job, and another huge incentive, almost beyond party politics is the press in Scotland not wanting to see "Blow for the SNP as they lose majority"

    Although we do not know how/what the manifesto will look like. You could argue that a vote for RISE is a vote for independence(or at least another referendum soon) more than it is for the SNP - if the SNP decide not to put a referendum in their manifesto.

    It's a difficult scenario for the SNP. We just lost a referendum, and we need to get the timing right to win the next one, or that could well be it for Indy (for now) - look at Quebec. Yet, if we win another term in May, that'll be 9 years in power meaning a 2021 victory could be tough to get (plus for any referendum to pass, we would need a majority (of pro Indy MSPs) in Holyrood.

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  6. First things first: independence. SNP x2.

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  7. Snp 1 and 2 is the only thing to do

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  8. I see Tommy is still pushing the line that an SNP list vote is "a wasted vote that actually helps the Unionists”. He seems to be implying that voting SNP on the list is actually more helpful for Unionists than not voting at all. Isn't that just plainly false? Why's he keep saying it?

    He also says: "we have a chance to wipe out the red, blue and yellow Tories from Holyrood. Don’t blow it." I don't know what polls he's looking at, but I think it's fairly safe to say that we don't actually have any chance of the next parliament containing no Labour, Tory or Lib Dem MSPs at all.

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    1. Tommys just trying to keep himself in the public eye.I think he's more of a hinderance than a help to the independence movement at the moment,but he adds a bit of colour to the whole proceedings,so it's not all bad.Best just ignore him and concentrate on getting voters out for SNP 1&2.

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  9. I will be voting for Jean Urquhart in H&I list vote. That is a vote for her and not RISE.

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  10. From The National:

    "THE campaign for the UK to leave the European Union opened up its biggest lead in more than a year over the rival “remain” campaign, according to a new poll conducted by YouGov.

    The survey of 1,735 people showed 42 per cent of voters would vote to exit, compared to 38 per cent who wished to stay – a four percentage point gap that is the largest in favour of a so-called “Brexit” seen in a YouGov poll since October 2014.

    The gap widened as support for remaining dipped to 38 per cent from 41 per cent in December. The proportion backing an exit was unchanged since its last poll while those who were undecided rose three percentage points to 18 per cent. Two per cent said they would not vote.

    The poll did not include separate figures showing how people in Scotland would vote. However, previous surveys have suggested most Scots would vote to remain.

    A Panelbase poll conducted for The Sunday Times and Heart FM of 1,053 voters in Scotland found 65 per cent of Scots wished to remain, compared to 35 per cent who would vote to leave."

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  11. Does anyone see the National front page on this as implying that tactical List voting may be a consideration?

    Why not. "Tactical List voting is pointless: says polling expert" ?

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    1. Because Curtice's argument was more nuanced than that. He was essentially saying "it's a risk, but it's up to you to decide whether it's worth it". Whereas I would say "it's a risk, and it's not worth it".

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    2. Glasgow Working ClassFebruary 1, 2016 at 7:26 PM

      Labour 1 & 2 James keep the two Scottish Tory parties out.

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    3. Glasgow Working ClassFebruary 1, 2016 at 8:53 PM

      Correction

      Both votes SNP.

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    4. Glasgow Working ClassFebruary 1, 2016 at 9:11 PM

      Correction, never vote for narrowback Conservative Nat sis in whichever country you live in. Moreso joke Tartan Tories.

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    5. Exactly James. It is this very nuance I am concerned about. A "pro independence" paper would surely wish to emphasise your nuance over Curtices
      ' ! Otherwise it introduces greater probability of split decisions. More especially given my focal reference of this doubt being evident on the front page, that splitting IS a cinsideration......thus by implication, a consideration of some merit. Coming from Einstein himself !!!

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  12. Glasgow Working ClassFebruary 1, 2016 at 10:06 PM

    Another correction - ignore the fan of Adolf and the Sash.

    Both votes SNP.

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  13. Glasgow Working ClassFebruary 2, 2016 at 7:14 AM

    I concur gwc, both votes snp.

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  14. There seems to be an argument that SNPx2 may be a wasted second vote in some constituencies where the SNP already have a strong likelyhood of taking all the first past the post seats. I have a rather more simplistic view. Firstly by voting SNP on the list I deprive another party of that vote, and secondly when the votes are counted it will show how many wanted a list SNP candidate, even if they didn't get one.

    That doesn't seem to read right - so I hope you understand the point I'm trying to make.

    Willie John

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  15. The Greens aren't actually a political party though are they, more of a contrary movement with the Nick Clegg flea attitude, any dogs back will do

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