Friday 22 August 2014

Could Yes be heading for victory?

The quick answer is that they are not very accurate at all. The pollsters got the alternative vote referendum badly wrong by overstating the yes side by about ten percent. On purely Scottish matters they have consistently made mistakes, most notably in the 2011 elections when they predicted the constituency vote fairly well, but managed to understate the SNP regional list vote by a large amount.

The problem that the pollsters have is that a sizeable chunk of the Scottish electorate do not vote, either because they cannot be bothered to register, or because they just cannot be bothered getting off their arses and walking to the polling station on the day. The pollsters try to weight their findings to take those factors into account, but this referendum is different. For one thing because both sides have encouraged a high turnout and both have encouraged people to register for the vote. In England the registration form is a simple two page affair, but in Scotland it is an even simpler one page matter - and there are special forms for homeless people and the 16 and 17 year olds who can vote next month. Try as they might, the pollsters cannot accurately measure the voting intentions of people who have historically never voted, so they apply a weighting to their sample and hope for the best.  

If the turnout is high - say over eighty percent - then all bets must be off and we could just be looking at very interesting times starting on the 19th September.

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