Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Spoiler alert : There are no spoilers. We don't know the election result until the votes are counted.

There's yet another "tactical voting on the list" (sic) article out today, this time from Fraser Stewart at Common Space.  This is becoming incredibly repetitive, but I'll just briefly deal with his central claim...

"Thus, if a party was to win nine constituency seats in Glasgow, say, their second vote share would be reduced to one-tenth of the original figure. Large parties doing well on first votes systematically cannot do anywhere near as well on the list: a simple and effective reality of the d’Hondt method.

Yet many remain defiant to stand by the SNP on both constituency and list votes, in the face of this systemic impenetrability. Spoiler alert: if a pro-independence Holyrood is your ambition, both votes SNP can not and will not work."

The word "say" covers a multitude of sins. By definition we cannot possibly know how many constituency seats the SNP will win in any region until the votes are counted, by which point it's too late to do anything about your "tactical" vote on the list if all of your assumptions turn out to be wrong. But OK, let's "say" for the sake of argument that the SNP will clean up in the constituencies. The snag is that one-tenth of a huge numbers of votes is still a lot of votes, and will quite probably be a greater number than a small party like RISE has received. It may well meet the de facto threshold for winning at least one list seat in the region.

Suppose you and a friend are both SNP supporters, but are both avid fans of RISE press releases on Bella Caledonia, and are tempted by the idea of a "tactical vote on the list" (sic). Suppose you have second thoughts at the last minute and stick with the SNP, but your friend goes through with it and switches to RISE. The SNP win a list seat in spite of their list vote being divided by ten, while RISE receive a derisory vote and fall well short of the de facto threshold of 5%. Question : whose vote has "worked", and whose vote has been "wasted"?

By the way, if a pro-independence Holyrood was your aim in 2011, it may be news to you that "both votes SNP cannot work". We currently have an outright SNP majority, and it simply wouldn't have been won without list votes - if they'd been relying on constituency votes alone, the SNP would have fallen a whopping twelve seats short of the target of 65.

Oddly, the rest of Fraser's article moves on from "tactical voting", and instead makes the case that you shouldn't vote SNP on the list because it would be a really bad thing if the SNP won a huge majority. Er, haven't we just been told the system makes that impossible, and that SNP votes on the list won't even count? Jeez, get it sorted, guys...

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  1. Sunshine on CriefgJanuary 6, 2016 at 6:36 PM

    It is tedious even though tactical voting on the list has been shown to be nonsense time after time

  2. Voting system is really simple for Holyrood.

    On you V1 Constituency vote, you pick the candidate you'd most prefer as your local MSP. As it's FPTP counted (largest share wins, even if not 50%), you might vote tactically here if you felt the need, particularly as the party you most like might not field a candidate in your area.

    The second Regional vote is what makes the whole thing PR. So, it's crucial you vote for here for the party you'd most like to see in government. You can't cheat PR.


  3. As I've said before the tactical vote is possible and indeed likely to pay dividends not with RISE but with Green and only in 1 or 2 (possibly 3 regions). Lothian looks currently likely and Mid-Scotland and Fife looks reasonably plausible. Glasgow is a possibility but that's all. If Green continue polling high and these areas are above the average (Lothian well above it and SNP well down) then a shift makes sense. Elsewhere the tactic doesn't seem sound as it stands. There are risks but I think I could predict the winner of every consitituency seat in these regions. As for the regional list we have some polling evidence, we know the explanatories (age, sex economic class) and we kno their distribution at a seat level. It is a tactic. That is what a tactical vote is. A tactic. It isn't certain. But in Lothian definitely and Fife (maybe) I would employ the tactic as I think it will much more likely contribute to delivering a green than SNP will on the list in these places.

    1. Thats how I see it as well Jam. The only party who could benefit here are really the Greens, and not in every region. If I thought it would work for the Greens in my region I would consider it.

  4. Sunshine

    We are in unchartered territory where a tactic could be applied. Care to explain how it has been "shown to be nonsense time and time again."

    Do you work for the BBC?

    1. Tactical voting on the list doesn't work in any region (work in the sense of not relying on pot luck) unless you know the constituency results in advance. You don't know the constituency results in advance.

    2. The 'no one knows results in advance' line is obvious and if you don't mind me saying, a little patronising. In theory, it COULD work. If you can't acknowledge this as a fact, your own arguments against why it's a bad idea appear weak.

      No one has a crystal ball, but what CAN be done is base a 'tactic' on polling evidence and a decision made for a second vote on what is most likely to happen. A vote is a vote wether its called tactical or not. The thing I'm most disappointed with is that to give the best chance of success a united front is needed but between you and Wings you have possibly scuppered the opportunity. Wether this is based on SNP bias or a moral stance about tactical voting I don't know but it was always going to take unity and organisation. I don't give a damn about the SNP being held to account by someone else in the SP, I want them to have a majority but want to minimise these useless yoons and get them replaced by pro-indie parties. I believe both these things were/are possible. Cheers and keep up the good work.

    3. The best way to "minimise these useless yoons and get them replaced by pro-indie parties" - which is something I would very much like to see - is to convince people who previously voted for those yoons to not do so again.

      Replacing one pro-indy MSP with another achieves nothing. While circa 50% of voters support yoon parties, PR will give them seats. How you split the other 50% doesn't change that (it does change other things, such as the SNP's chances of a majority).

    4. I agree with that, Anonymous.

      The issue here is not tactical voting, but plurality. Is independence more likely with more pro-indy parties? The surest way you'll convince me is by winning the votes of the yoonists, not by hectoring SNP voters.

    5. "The 'no one knows results in advance' line is obvious and if you don't mind me saying, a little patronising. In theory, it COULD work."

      Yes, in theory it could work if we knew the constituency results in advance. In practice, it can't work because we don't know the constituency results in advance. Genuine tactical voting relies on foreknowledge (ie. I can say for almost certain that the two leading parties in my constituency will be the SNP and Labour), whereas the 'gambling voting' you're advocating relies on pure luck to avoid a totally counter-productive effect. The precision of foreknowledge required is too great, and will never be available (except perhaps in an extreme situation where the SNP become as dominant as the ANC).

      You're wasting your breath calling me "patronising" when either a) you're genuinely misunderstanding the very simple point I'm making, or b) you're pretending to misunderstand it. For as long as you keep that up, you leave me and others with very little choice but to continue making the same very simple point over and over again. By all means disagree with the point and explain why we're wrong, but this habit of answering a slightly different point is very tedious.

      "A vote is a vote wether its called tactical or not."

      And a sentence is a sentence, regardless of whether it has any meaning.

      "The thing I'm most disappointed with is that to give the best chance of success a united front is needed but between you and Wings you have possibly scuppered the opportunity."

      What?! What kind of power do you think I have? If I thought for one moment that I've genuinely helped to scupper this "tactical voting" wheeze, I would be absolutely delighted, because it doesn't just threaten the SNP's majority - it also potentially threatens the pro-independence majority.

      "Whether this is based on SNP bias or a moral stance about tactical voting I don't know"

      It's neither, as you should know by now, because I've answered both of those charges often enough. My objection to tactical voting on the list is incredibly simple - it just isn't feasible. Tactical voting in single-member constituency elections is feasible in certain circumstances, and is sometimes desirable. How can I possibly have a moral objection to tactical voting when I've made that statement?

      "but it was always going to take unity and organisation."

      That's absolute fantasy. Bella attempted something similar with the bizarre "let's turn the AV referendum into an independence referendum by spoiling our ballots" campaign five years ago, and even with their large readership achieved a negligible result.

  5. so tactical voting doesn't work anywhere as we don't have clairvoyance.. we do however have polls, demographics, economic variables and their relationship with how they vote, historical results and we can extrapolate. Indeed if these polls were so meaningless why do you salivate over them when they arrive. It can work. It's a tactic. An educated guess.

    1. No, it's not even an educated guess. You simply can't (rationally) base a "tactic" on an assumption of how nine or ten constituencies will vote when getting just one of them wrong could mean that the whole thing backfires horribly. Indeed, it can still backfire even if you get all of the constituency results right, because you're also making a guess about whether a small party is better placed than the SNP to win a list seat in the region even in circumstances where the SNP have won every single constituency. In the North-east in 2011, some SNP supporters made that guess, and got it completely wrong, almost leading to an extra Tory MSP.

    2. But you cannot guess educatedly here. The polling data are not in sufficiently high samples for each region to know with any certainty what the outcome of the actual vote is going to be on the day. Polling across the rUK failed to predict the tory win. You think its possible to persuade enough people in all those constituencies to vote tactically to get greens or Rise members elected? The yoons - with meeja assistance - failed to tactically get anyone elected in Scotland last year at the GE. Its a theory. Just like I could be hit by a meteorite today. Or win the lotto. Possible, but less likely than the notion that putting sugar in my tea will make it sweeter.

      What all this distraction does, is confuse voters. It would be better if efforts were put in to fully educate the people on what the two votes do. I suspect some people think its a case of putting their second choice if their first doesn't win on the second ballot. We have seen on this site the strange splits people manage on STV votes. I suspect a lot of people don't grasp it.

      Vote SNP twice. That is more likely to deny yoons top up seats. Thats the tactical vote.

    3. ok which seats in Mid-Scotland and Fife do you think will not vote SNP this time round? The closest last time round was Kirkcaldy achieved on 45% SNP vote the same as 2011 when Labour got 31.7% of the vote nationally. To vote green tactically on the list I'd want SNP over 55% nationally and Labour in the low 20s which they currently are. In such a scenario do you realistically think SNP wouldn't win its most vulnerable seat much more convincingly. I'd need that scenario plus a significantly lower SNP list vote and say above 10% Mid Scotland Green vote to shift the vote. All of which the evidence is currently pointing to. But it needs to remain so. And if it does I'll shift to Green to keep a nawbag oot. You vote double SNP in such a situation pat yirsel on the back and ignore the fact that you let a nawbag in.

    4. "To vote green tactically on the list I'd want SNP over 55% nationally and Labour in the low 20s which they currently are."

      Oh dear. I've just spotted another flaw in this 'strategy'. YouGov have the SNP on 51% and Ipsos-Mori have them at 50%. On what basis have you concluded that other pollsters are more accurate than YouGov and Ipsos-Mori?

      By the way, how the hell are you going to know in advance if the Greens are on 10% in the Mid-Scotland and Fife list vote? Please tell me this won't be based on a TNS regional subsample.

  6. I can see an argument for voting a second pro-independence party in the parliament if the polls remain as they are (which is a big if).

    RISE have a problem; they are building a movement. It would be much more sensible for them to first get councillors before standing in Holyrood. They might be able to steal a seat, that would be a major achievement. I have question marks over what their goals are in Holyrood. Why don't they just join up with the Greens being the most obvious question.

    The Greens: I think the problem is more whether they are fully behind independence. When will they campaign for another referendum? I would love to vote for them, but am not sure what they want. They kind of remind me of a young Lib Dem Party. Waiting for their chance to go into government and flatline.

    There are some great people in the parties and so wish them both well. If the SNP lost seats to RISE and Greens, I would not be too upset.

  7. The way I see it is SNP/SNP worked last time.

    I'm not prepared to gamble on aiming for say 80 various pro-indy MSPs instead of trying to replicate another smaller SNP majority like last time.

    Why take that chance when it could backfire, and we could end up splitting the vote? Getting a majority - even a small one - should be the priority.
    Without a majority and without even the threat of a second referendum, it is game over and Scotland has no clout. It will be 5 long years where Scotland is shat on left right and centre.

    It's not like there is a even a common YES party without other baggage. Personally, I see very little difference between RISE and the Greens.
    They would have a better chance if they merged, then at least we would know the greens are more committed to independence.

    The SNP needed list seats last time, and they could well end up needing them again. NO-ONE can guarantee how the constituencies will pan out as so much can change in 4 months.

    SNP*2 is the safer option.

  8. If Rise want my vote they need to convince me there is a chance they will achieve more material votes on the list than the SNP.

    I have seen no polling data showing this to be even remotely likely.

    The fact they keep punting this despite the above is actually putting me off them. Get real, please.

  9. I'm only advocating watching the votes in Lothian and to a lesser extent in Fife and Weej. I would need convinced SNP would take the lot before I shifted. this would require the sort of numbers we are seeing on the consitituency vote (high 50s) and significantly lower on the list in these areas and higher than average for green in these areas. This is what we have seen so far especially in Lothian but also in Fife and maybe in Weej (but in weej there could be a rise split which makes it riskier so I'd hesitate to vote green there). In Lothian as it stands a list snp vote will likely contribute to delivering zero list snp msps (i.e. let labour and tories in on the list) while a green one could contribute to delivering up to 3 green list msps. It is to a lesser extent true in mid-Scotland and Fife as well. That is the central reason for considering this. We err on the side of caution (SNP*2) but if it points to the list being a waste then we shift. It's the best strategy and nothing I have heard so far has convinced me otherwise.

  10. In the absence of serious forecasts Rise will take more usable votes than the SNP, may I suggest actually talking about policies as a means to my vote. This tactical vote wheeze is really unedifying.

    1. Not only unedifying but IMO utterly bizarre - why are they chasing SNP votes rather than the Unionists? It makes no sense at all.

  11. For me, it's simple; if you want to stop unionists gaining seats persuade people not to vote for unionists.

    Persuading people not to vote SNP as a tactic to stop the unionists is counterproductive.

  12. Here's the thing. To get my list vote, the non-SNP pro indy parties need to convince me they would be competent as an opposition in the real world of difficult decisions.

    If the National is anything to go by, most of them live in airy fairy land. Governing is hard graft not a wave of the magic wand.

    So it is SNP/SNP for me.

    As far as I am concerned, they have failed to do so.

  13. The word "say" covers a multitude of sins. By definition we cannot possibly know how many constituency seats the SNP will win in any region until the votes are counted

    we can know the likelihood of how many seats the snp will win in any region, we can also know the probability of many constituency seats that the monster raving loony party will win in any region, ie zero, which is why no one is suggesting they will win any.

    1. All right. Tell me how many seats the SNP are likely to win in the Highlands & Islands, with a percentage probability of that being the correct number, and explain how you reached that conclusion.

    2. The likes of Sarah Beattie-Smith, Patrick Harvie, Colin Fox, and Jonathan Shafi are worth voting for. They are worth voting for because they are great proponents of independence and were brilliant throughout the referendum. Radical independence in particular.

      That's what they should be pitching, how they (as radicals) will take us forward and advance the indy cause. Saying you should vote for one of them tactically is foolish, remind us of the mass canvasses/mobilising support, the debates, what they want to see now (I like Harvie's Central Bank of Scotland idea. Will he push for a currency policy without Westminster's backing?).

      They need to tell us how they will use a position in Holyrood. They don't like the SNP's safety first approach? Fine, tell us what a bunch of radicals would do.

    3. Glasgow Working ClassJanuary 7, 2016 at 8:42 PM

      I thought Coliin Fox was an international socialist where the working class had no boundaries.

    4. Without nations, there can be no internationalism. Doh!

    5. Glasgow Working ClassJanuary 8, 2016 at 12:54 AM

      We do have a nation called the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland which has many working class. Duh! And the Scots voted to remain within the UK. Eat yer Tunnock's James

    6. Sorry, I can't stand British food.

    7. Glasgow Working ClassJanuary 8, 2016 at 1:36 AM

      What about comrades Colin Fox and big Tam running Sconie Boatland with or without Tunnock's? Strawberries and Cream fur the workers whether they like it or not.

    8. Cereal for you.

  14. James

    No idea about H & islands hence I'm not recommending a green list vote there. The problem there is Orkney. I expect Shetland will go SNP but even that assertion has an element of risk. So I expect 8 or 9 SNP consitituency seats with a 50/50 split around them (for ease as I haven't followed Orkney particularly in detail). I am recommending (as it stands and that's important) Lothian as I expect 8 (30%) or 9 (70%) SNP seats and significantly lower SNP list vote and a very large mid teens and above Green vote there. I expect 8 (25%) or 9 SNP (75%) and a 10-12% green vote in mid and Fife. Percentages which you requested are fairly meaningless as they just reflect odds implicitly as implied by say betfair and the like. Glasgow could be promising but suffers from the Green/RISE split. Lothian has Andy Wightman which is excellent for land reform issues although he does seem incapable at times of seeing the bigger prize i.e. a powerhouse independent parliament that can deliver things he wants. He's a bit too tribally critical of SNP for me but well land reform is a prize worth paying in my view. but that's a different story. Given the locations where I’m advocating a split vote (just two regions really) it should be clear I’m thinking a bit more than a blanket split vote where the problems of getting the constituency wrong or overestimating the Green list vote could arise. I’m not advocating a NE split vote for example despite them winning every seat in 2011 and I expect the same in 2016. This is because of the low Green list vote there. It is central belt trendy areas with high numbers of As and Bs where the Green list vote tactic applies. South is too close to call with a few constituency seats so err on SNP/SNP. West and Central don’t get enough Greens on the list. Green needs to be 9 or 10% and higher on the list for it to work. Anyway these are my thoughts on it. I'll provide a more thorough analysis closer to the time but these two areas are the prime ones for a list split vote.