Friday, May 24, 2013

On grandiose claims about self-selecting polls

I've got nothing against self-selecting internet polls - I've run a few myself over the years, and they can be quite entertaining if a lot of people take part. But at the end of the day they are unweighted, unscientific voodoo polls, and even if several thousand people took part they wouldn't tell you a thing about the true balance of public opinion. They are, in the immortal words of Peter Snow, "just a bit of fun".

Last September, Subrosa ran a self-selecting poll on her blog about whether an independent Scotland should be an EU member or not. The results were as follows -

Yes - 110 votes
No - 176 votes
Stay in the UK but leave the EU - 72 votes
Unsure - 29 votes

(The other obvious option of staying in both the UK and EU does not seem to have been provided.)


Both at the time and then again yesterday, Subrosa made quite extraordinary claims about the significance of those results. I challenged her on both occasions, pointing out that bloggers tend to attract readers who agree with them, and she was kind enough to respond. I must say, though, that I found her responses somewhat baffling. Here was the first one in September -

"Yes James, I am anti-EU and that will continue. Many of my readers disagree with me about lots of issues and I respect their opinions.

If you're suggesting that this poll is invalid because it's turned out to be 50/50 then I think you're wrong.

In no way am I stating the poll is an accurate reflection of the whole of Scotland but at least it proves that 176 people don't want an independent Scotland in the EU - if nothing else. :)"

The first couple of sentences are irrelevant because I hadn't suggested there was anything wrong with an individual continuing to be anti-EU, nor had I disputed that some (ie. "many") of her readers disagree with her.

The third sentence is peculiar, because self-evidently the poll hadn't turned out to be 50/50, nor had I suggested that was the reason for it being invalid.

The fourth sentence is technically accurate, but so what? The fact that 176 people hold a particular viewpoint is spectacularly unimportant in the overall scheme of things. Even if we assume that every single one of them was a Scottish resident (almost certainly not the case), that would constitute a mere 0.00003% of the population.

And here was her response to me yesterday -

"A great majority of the readers of this blog support independence James and have done for many, many years. It's quite strange that you're implying the majority are against the EU because I would disagree.

What was interesting about my tiny poll was the number of people who were undecided about the EU yet continually we're told that most of us support it.

Believe me not all my readers agree with me; in fact many take the trouble to tell me just how strongly they disagree and I respect their views."

First of all, I didn't "imply" that the majority of Subrosa's blog readers are anti-EU - I was simply looking at the poll results which clearly suggested that was the case. And was the number of undecideds (a mere 29 people) really the most interesting thing about the poll? How exactly does that contradict the idea that "most of us" support membership of the EU?

And once again, I hadn't disputed that some of her readers disagree with her - I simply pointed out that it was unsurprising that the majority do not.

What am I missing here?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Omniscare

Hello, I am Robert MacDonald, guest poster. I yearn for the day I can get rid of Alex Salmond - by voting Yes in 2014. But what will that shining post-referendum future hold? I thought I'd share one vision of our future, as imagined by the Better Together campaign and their supporters. Have a read and decide for yourself how credible this future is. We can't say we weren't warned...

The Scottish elector woke up the day after the referendum. He went to get his morning newspaper, and read the front page headline 'Cochers Choppers Off'. The rest of the paper reiterated all the stories it had run in the previous two years warning him of the dangers of independence.

He set about tidying his spare room because his mother-in-law, retired and living in Spain, had been evicted because Scotland was no longer an EU member. However on arriving at the airport he found that the runway was out of action, because the English had preemptively bombed it... as they were scared of terrorists.

He had a bit of bother paying for the taxi back into town as the only currency he had to pay with was Scottish pound notes which were no longer legal tender, except it wasn't Scottish notes. It was Euros. Even though Scotland had been kicked out the EU.

He went to the bank to withdraw more but found that he was suddenly tens of thousands of pounds into his overdraft, his bank's Scottish customers having been saddled with the entirety of UK banking debt. Unfortunately, despite taking on all the debt, he couldn't see how he was going to pay for it, as the remainder of the UK had kept most of Scotland's prize asset, oil revenues. And this was only the start of his economic woes. The economy was crashing about his ears because Moodys no longer rated the economy AAA. I mean, AA. I mean...

As an Englishman living in Scotland, he was careful to keep his voice down on the streets, in case an increase in anti-English violence was targeted at him. However as an Englishman of Pakistani origin there was not much he could do to hide his skin colour. He decided to blend in by eating a deep fried mars bar, and the chip shop was full of Catholic children who had nowhere else to go now their schools had all been forcibly closed. But as he walked home surrounded by a gaggle of children he came under attack from the Orange Order, who had gone paramilitary at the loss of Scotland's UK status.

Back home, to soothe his jangling nerves he switched on TV to watch his favourite programme, Eastenders, but it was no longer available - in fact, the whole of the BBC appeared to be jammed, despite being sure his wife's cousin in Ireland could get it. He looked at his father visiting from England and asked "what now?" "Charades!" came the reply.

Whilst entertaining themselves with charades his father had an unfortunate accident miming 'Blade Runner'. Our Scottish elector rushed him to A&E - only to be turned back, as the NHS would no longer treat anybody who did not live in Scotland, and vice versa.

He phoned his sister in London to tell her this terrible news only to be told to 'get lost'.

he went to the pub to drown his sorrows but beer was suddenly as expensive as Norway, and he couldn't afford more than a pint. Especially as he was now as poor as an average Bangladeshi.

Deciding to drive out into the countryside he couldn't afford petrol as the price of oil had suddenly shot up. Or maybe it had plummeted. It was all too volatile to be sure.

He looked up in the sky and there? What was that? Nuclear missiles from North Korea! His last mortal thoughts on this accursed day of Scottish independence, as the nuclear missiles rained down and the last helicopter left Edinburgh for Carlisle: 'Thank goodness Alan Cochrane, at least, is safe - if only I had heeded his warnings'.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Panelbase poll : Yes campaign closes gap to just eight points

I'll have to make this a very quick post because I'm in a mad rush, but the latest Panelbase poll on independence has thankfully contradicted Ipsos-Mori by showing the No lead dropping. Here are the figures -

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 36% (-)
No 44% (-2)

And the SNP's lead in Holyrood voting intentions remains at ridiculously high levels for this stage of mid-term -

Constituency vote:

SNP 45% (-2)
Labour 30% (-)
Conservatives 13% (+1)
Liberal Democrats 5% (-)

Regional list vote:

SNP 45% (-)
Labour 27% (+2)
Conservatives 13% (+1)
Greens 6% (-2)
Liberal Democrats 6% (+1)

There's also a question asking how people would vote on the independence referendum on the (fairly plausible) assumption that Britain will be leaving the EU -

Yes 44%
No 44%

* * *

I'm the editor of this week's Scottish blogging roundup, which has (to say the least) something of a Eurovision theme. You can read it HERE.