Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The mass canvass results

A couple of people have asked me to say something about the results of the Radical Independence mass canvass on Sunday, which were as follows -

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 40%
No 29.5%

And with Don't Knows excluded, it worked out as...

Yes 57.6%
No 42.4%

Believe it or not, I've only been canvassed once in my life, and that was way back during the 2003 Holyrood election campaign.  A man came to the door without bearing any party colours, and asked a series of studiously neutral questions that didn't give away his affiliation.  (The only possible clue was when he asked "and how would you vote if there wasn't a nationalist candidate in this constituency?" -  an SNP canvasser would probably have been less likely to use the word 'nationalist'.)  It was only after he'd got the treasure trove of information that he'd been looking for that he announced he was from the Labour party, at which point I was of course mildly annoyed with myself for having played ball.  I may have saved them a bit of cash that would otherwise have been spent on a lost cause address!

It's not hard to see how that kind of 'blindfolded' canvassing operation can produce results that are at least as useful as any published opinion poll.  But I don't get the impression that the Radical Independence canvass worked in that way - voting intentions seem to have been recorded after the canvassers identified themselves as Yes supporters and made their pitch.  Of course it's great news if people were converted to Yes on the spot, but it does mean that the voting intention figures can't be considered representative of other people who weren't canvassed.  The only way to wholly square that circle would be to canvass every single adult in Scotland - and the numbers from Sunday illustrate what a gargantuan exercise that would be.  An impressive 8317 people were reached - but that's still only roughly 0.2% of the voting age population.

It's also likely that some people won't have told the truth because they didn't want to cause offence or disappointment to the Yes people on their doorsteps - that would be most likely to manifest itself as No voters pretending to be Don't Knows, but there may also have been some people presenting themselves as more certain for Yes than they really are.  It's also the case that Radical Independence were mainly canvassing in lower-income areas where you'd expect the Yes vote to be higher than the national average anyway.

So when you take all those factors together, probably the best way of putting it is that it would have been quite worrying if the results of the mass canvass hadn't shown a Yes lead - but thankfully they did.


  1. I took part in the mass canvass in Edinburgh and I can report that I saw no evidence of people saying what we wanted to hear. Quite the reverse.

    The people who said they were Yes were ALL very definite about it, hardly allowing us to introduce ourselves before stating that they were definitely Yes with handshakes and smiling all round.

    Undecideds tended to say they were No, but . . .

    Nos were quite emphatic saying that they didn't want to answer questions.

    We encountered a Polish man and a Canadian woman who were emphatic Nos.

  2. Or, what happened is these people:

    No 29.5%

    Are actual definite No status quo, largely in agreement with people who say they are definite No in polls. This is pretty much what TNS get door knocking.

    In polls, a group of No later say, if asked, that they are actually still open to changing their intention / are not definite Nos. This makes them DKs rather than Nos. They also support devo max and natID as primarily or only Scottish.

    Maybe they feel more comfortable with a Yes person at the door (who they understand and sympathise with given they want all but independence and would actually vote for indy if it's the Tories etc), compared to when a 'big polling company' asks them all their details etc and they're not sure where those details might end up (UK Government? Better Together?).

    - 'Don't know' to Yes
    - 'No (but might still change my mind if you ask this)' to Pollsters

    Et voila.

    While the Yes is somewhat high, it's not that high. Panelbase just got 40% Yes.

  3. Oh no, BettertogetherUKOKunitedwithlabournothanks have got a new organisation backing them formally.

    The Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland.

    We're screwed!

  4. Interesting that the House of Lords research team conclude the result is far from certain.

    I wonder how many of the team are Scottish and support independence / devo max so are therefore able appreciate what's likely going on in the minds of the Scottish electorate?

  5. People were clear about what they intended. Yes voters said it without prompting, the Don't Knows and Noes too.

  6. Who knows. All I know is that the only time I've ever been canvassed at my doorstep I pretended to be undecided because they were Labour and I didn't want the awkwardness of declaring myself an SNP voter.

  7. I was taking part in the mass canvas in Aberdeen and I would definitely say that the important caveat "of those who were actually in on a Sunday afternoon and were willing to answer the door" should definitely be applied. Not sure what the demographic repurcussions of that are! A fair few folk were clearly in but didnae answer their door which makes me wonder if they were no voters who spied our badges.

    Still a positive figure overall I think. I know others had different experience but when I asked people to place themselves on a scale of 1-10 (10 being yes) it was very polarised. Most of those with an opinion answered 1 or 10.

  8. People were clear about what they intended. Yes voters said it without prompting, the Don't Knows and Noes too.

    If the fact that the canvassers were overtly Yes wasn't a factor, what on earth explains the huge disparity between the RIC result and virtually every poll since 2011? I'm genuinely interested in theories.

  9. Anon,
    housing schemes and less than three months to go?


  10. I have to say that I don't really trust canvassing figures either. Everybody is wearing Yes badges and nice smiles. Some people don't want to disappoint us. Some people say they "don't feel comfortable discussing the issue" so we record them as having refused to answer when really we have a good idea that they are Noes. Many Yes voters just say yes with a smile but we get a such huge range of reactions from the others which makes the figures dubious. Canvassing really only has much value to me when we get to talk to someone who is a soft No or undecided.

  11. AllanLachlan,
    for me it's not really about the YES/NO numbers. Much more important is the high visibility of and obvious attempt by the YES 'grassroots' at interaction with the actual electorate. Unmediated.

    That's campaigning which causes ripples and forms the background noise very important to making the 'debate' unavoidable and (eventually) fevered come the final few days or weeks.

    That's the atmosphere in which the NOthanks campaign's non engagement policy falls apart and actually becomes hugely damaging to their credibility.

    So thanks to everyone who took part in it on Sunday. I believe it's incredibly important and very much appreciated. Great work and well inspiring!


  12. Writing from the point of view of a potential canvassee, I think there is a difference between canvassing for a political party and canvassing for the referendum. I can well imagine myself politely giving encouragement to a party I do not intend to vote for, smilingly accepting their leaflets and nodding gratefully. (This is less likely at the moment I admit due to the imminence of the referendum, but let's imagine this is a few years back before all the present stooshie)But the referendum itself is an entirely different matter. There is NO WAY I would hedge when it comes to telling a Better Together canvasser that I am a YES voter. And I would imagine NO voters would behave the same way regarding YES canvassers. I'm with S_S on this one in that I think these numbers may not be too far from the truth. At any rate it's a big well done to all involved and much respect for the people willing to do this. Keep up the good work!

  13. There was a string of comments on a Herald article yesterday pointing out that Better Together were forced to admit that their private canvass results were also showing a Yes lead.

    Which is kind of interesting in context.

  14. Lot of good comments here - I agree canvassing is not simply about gauging opinion.

    As for the results - as other people have said they don't see unreasonable given that it's a specific demographic subset. In fact looking at recent surveys they aren't so far out of line with these results.

  15. "There was a string of comments on a Herald article yesterday"

    Link for this? Sounds interesting.

  16. "There was a string of comments on a Herald article yesterday"

    Link for this? Sounds interesting.

  17. smerral - I don't see why people would be less likely to tell a white lie to referendum canvassers than to party political ones. One thing I have noticed, though, is that people tend to be less tribal with canvassers on this issue: you definitely encounter less hostility than when you're campaigning for a party.

    braco - I'm sure the fact that they're doing housing schemes helps, but the figures seem quite a bit better than the main pollsters find even in the DE economic category.

    Rolfe - Do we have a source other than comments in the Herald? Why did BT admit to this?

  18. @Anonymous - well maybe I'm just a honest guy. ;)


  19. I think in my case the difference in response to canvassers and whether I would tell a white lie or not is due to my level of commitment - I'm not that bothered about party politics but I'm passionate about indy. I can only speak for myself of course.

  20. I can't find the article at the moment but I might be able to get it out of my browser history at home. Actually, it might have been Willie Rennie who was said to have been forced to admit this.


    Third last post at the moment, from Alasdair MacKenzie, Livi Vlge.

    "Even Willie Rennie had to concede at the weekend that canvassing in Fife was showing 60:40 YES, even in the Labour heartland of Rosyth. And that despite all of the "no more RN work" threats."

    I thought there were other less specific mentions of BT polls but that's all I can see now.

  22. I'm wondering if that might be a reference to the Courier 'ping pong' poll, which showed 58% Yes in Rosyth. It's hard to believe that Rennie would have given away details of private canvassing or polling unless it was favourable for No.

  23. Very interesting.

    I don't know if we are ahead yet, but it's certainly a lot closer than the likes of YouGov etco.

    That Courier Roadshow thing is very interesting. Near enough EVERY poll has shown an affluent area vs a working class/Labour voting area the numbers are huge. Newport v Tayport/St Andrews v Cardenden/Arbroath v Kirriemuir, etc...

    I can't predict the refrendum, but I bet you 100% Glasgow, Dundee will both vote Yes. Edinburgh and Aberdeen, No.

  24. Here are the results for the 1997 referendum. I suppose the second question is closest to the independence question. I'm not suggesting the absolute numbers will be the same, but it might give us an idea of what to expect by way of demographic variation?

  25. 1997 Q1 (parliament) = 74.3%

    1999-2013 Forced choice national identity ('pick your nation/country') = 74.2% Scottish

    1997 Q2 (max indy on offer) = 63.5%

    Scottish only census natID = 62.4%

    These numbers are not coincidence; you find them everywhere, from trust in Holyrood, support for Devo max, to Scottish government satisfaction...

    >60% for Devo max vs 25% or so against. This is 'Scottish' vs 'British'.

    Of course there is crossover, but this is how these things work globally.