Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Scottish referendum going down to the wire

On Thursday, Scots will decide whether to leave the United Kingdom and dissolve their union of over three centuries. The polls suggest the outcome could be as close as the one that almost split Canada apart 19 years ago.

The campaign for Scottish independence certainly appears to have the momentum.

You can read the rest of the article at CBC.ca.

The referendum campaign in Scotland has been an interesting one. It started out as a long shot, but as the vote has approached the 'Yes Scotland' campaign has closed the gap. They still trail, on average, but it is close enough that the result could go either way. The pollsters are saying that the 'Better Together' side will prevail, but only just.

Below I've plotted all the polls that have been published since the beginning of the year, and cropped the y-axis so that the chart is easier to read. You can see just how close it has gotten.

It will be interesting to find out tomorrow how the polls do. Will they be right that the No side will win by a narrow margin? Will undecideds swing to the Yes side like they have been for the past few weeks? Or will they stick with the status quo?

We'll find out tomorrow night.

34 comments:

  1. Belated congratulations Eric!!

    Hoping the no side wins. My father was a Scotsman. I think he'd have voted no.

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  2. In this type of referenda the gap usually closes. People are fearful of the uncertainty of change, so soft supporters come out of the woodwork when there is no chance of the thing actually happening they declare their intention to vote for change only to pull back once the thing gets close to actually happening.

    We witnessed this pullback over the last few days, and I heard similar statements during the Quebec referendum, including many who regretted voting yes when the early figures started showing a win for separation.

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  3. The campaign has turned nationalistic and nasty over the last few days with reports of "Yes" intimidation tactics against "No" supporters. What is clear is that Alec Salmond's office tried to intimidate the principal of the University of St. Andrews into "clarifying" a statement she made in support of "No" into support for the Scottish Government and an independent Scotland. The atmosphere is very tense at the moment the possibility of violence is not out of the question should the Yes side lose.

    It looks like 60% of undecided women are turning to "No" and this demographic may prove decisive tomorrow. Although the polls are close over the last week 80% have shown a small "No" lead.

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  4. This polling reminds me of recent Canadian polling where one side has the momentum but not the majority at the end only to pull away by a decent amount in the end.

    It also make me think about recent polling firm troubles with respect to capturing the demographics of those who are actually going to vote. This referendum will have a completely different demographic than general elections with many more younger people being engaged.

    We shall see what happens!

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  5. Replies
    1. To take a patronage position. Prentice is doing some odd things.

      That lake of fire preacher as Education Minister really perplexes me. It could be an attempt to draw social conservatives away from Wildrose, but I would think that would strengthen Wildrose by eliminating the natural tension that exists between social conservatives and libertarians (and Danielle Smith is certainly a libertarian).

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  6. I think the No side will win but the margin can and will be very small !!

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  7. We shall see what happens!

    Indeed, very difficult to make a prediction with any degree of confidence. I was just pointing out that one shouldn't read too much into the closing of the gap. The big questions are who will turn out (my projection: every one) and will their hand waiver in the polling station (my prediction: it will). So, I'm going to go out on a limb and say 56%-44% for NO, being fully aware that it's just a wild guess as good as anyone else's.

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  8. And I'll go for 51-49 for the NO

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  9. I believe for many Scots - their heart would want to say yes, but their brain would want to say no.

    I'm predicting a tight campaign with 53% NO 47% YES.

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  10. I'm a little disappointed that you left the 15% undecided out of the chart. The one on Wikipedia shows it to great effect (if it's accurate):

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_Scottish_independence_referendum,_2014#Overview

    That's a lot of people making the decision at the ballot box. Normally, I'd say that favors the "safe" status quo, but the Conservatives bickering about what a "No" vote will bring gives the impression that a "No" will turn into a neverending, drawn-out, volatile, economically draining and uncertain bickering about constitutional issues. A nervous voter may just as well vote Yes as it promises a deadline where any bickering will end.

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  11. I'll predict a 53-47 vote in favour of NO tomorrow.

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    1. I'll steal your prediction and go with the same.

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  12. The behaviour of the polls compared with Quebec 1995 is shockingly similar. 20% No lead one month out, 2% Yes lead two weeks out, 0-2% yes lead three days out. The campaign issues have been the same, especially for the No side (starting with emphasizing the refusal to have a monetary union and the difficulty of rejoining the free zone, and then promising more devolution in the final days).

    Just like in Quebec 1995, there will be high turnout from people who don't usually vote, leading to a very close result. But turnout will ultimately keep Yes from winning because teenagers will vote less than seniors, lower income will vote less than higher income. It wouldn't surprise me if the vote was very close to the 49.4 % Yes - 50.6% No vote of Quebec 1995.

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  13. Any thoughts to why the votes are so slow? Seems to be normal there as far as I can tell.

    No results there 2.5 hours after polls close. They don't bulk of the results until 5 to 7 hours after polls close.

    Given the similarities between their system and ours, the very slowness of results starting to trickle out seems odd.

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    1. The results were slower than the BBC predicted. Generally speaking the local districts with small populations reported before the high population centres. This is pretty consistent with what I would expect-the less votes the faster the counting.

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    2. This was a referendum not a general election so the geographical constituencies were much larger. Instead of parliamentary ridings Scotland was broken down into their Local Government Areas, these are equivalent to regional districts or counties. The more rural LGAs likely have a population similar to parliamentary ridings (roughly 100,000) but, the larger areas have three or four times the population for example; Glasgow and Edinburgh. Since, the results were not announced until all votes in a LGA were counted, add in the historic high turnout and I think that the explanation for the longer than expected wait times.

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    3. In the UK the results of constituencies are read out once all of the counting is done in that constituency, if memory serves.

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  14. Not as close as the polls predicted. A UBC professor on CBC (who was also pro-Yes and a former SNP employee who didn't try and hide his bias! Very unprofessional of the CBC IMO) speculated that this "invisible 5%" has turned up quite a bit lately in Canada; Alberta 2012, BC 2013, Quebec 2014 and now Scotland. Perhaps its a methodological polling error or just perhaps the status quo, stability and the establishment have more resilience than some may care to believe?

    Most talking heads predicted this 45% Yes vote would inevitably lead to constitutional change; a devolved England perhaps or a "federal England" and of course more powers to Scotland and maybe the other devolved governments. While I wouldn't disagree that a sizable amount of the Scottish population wants some form of constitutional change or reform, I don't hold out much hope for significant change. I remember Chretien promising change and reform in 1995; Quebec was to be given back their "veto" and BC was to be made a region in its own right for constitutional purposes, there were to become five regional vetos. Twenty years on whether BC is a region or not is irrelevant because it has never had the chance to use its veto, nor has Quebec, nor the Maritimes or Prairies nor Ontario. All the constitution institutions pre-referendum are still in place unchanged. Change has only occurred at the ballot both and today that change looks far less dramatic than it did in 1997 or 1993. It appears Canada is once again gravitating toward a two party plus system as it has for almost its entire history.

    It will be interesting to watch England over the next 9 months toward the General Election. One thing I believe we can say about the 45-55 vote is that Nationalists will surely try again.

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    1. It's excellent that a guest commentator didn't hide their bias - being open about where one stands makes it much easier to assess one's comments. It's quite possible to learn from someone with whom you disagree, whereas pretending neutrality does a disservice to all points of view.

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    2. Chimurenga,

      I take your point but the segment lacked balance his viewpoints were interesting but, since no opposing views were broadcast the viewer was given a very lopsided performance. Some of his comments were at best speculative and a viewer may have walked away thinking they were the Gospel truth.

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  15. I would caution against drawing too many false analogies with the 1995 Quebec referendum. For one, Canada was a country tired of concessions to Quebec. The UK on the other hand is a country who is 40 years overdue in turning into a proper federation. Heck, even England is in favour of a more federal-like division of powers (e.g. only English votes in English matters (the West Lothian question).

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    1. Even the Scottish YES people described Scottish independence as having more in common with Canada's patriation of the constitution than with Quebec secession.

      In their eyes, they're a colony just like us, and they thought it was time to go their own way, just as we did in 1982.

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    2. There are many similarities between Quebec and Scotland. Much as Canada is tired of subsidising Quebec England subsidises Scotland through the Barnett formula.

      The problem with federation for England is that England holds 83% of the UK's population and does not have a history of internal provinces. 1100 years ago England was divided into various Kingdoms, but, most English people have no deep down allegiance to East Anglia or Mercia or Wessex. Many counties are really too small to provide or be suitable to become devolved centres especially due to the distribution of wealth, it is difficult to envision how the North East could become a devolved entity without subsidisation from the South.

      While I don't doubt many Yes supporters viewed their referendum as similar with the events of 1982 many including those in leadership positions with in the SNP viewed it as akin to 1995. Indeed, many contacts were developed between the SNP and PQ in an effort to "learn lessons from 1995" in order to have a successful result.

      This whole idea about Scotland as a colony is nationalist nonsense. Most of Scotland never spoke Gaelic and Gaelic is an Irish language in any case. Scotland prospered disproportionately from the Empire as the grand tobacco merchant houses and warehouses of Glasgow or the New Town of Edinburgh demonstrate. The Union became necessary in the 18th century not because England wished to colonise Scotland but, because Scotland was essentially bankrupt; everybody and their mother from the aristocracy to the lower middle class invested in the Darien expedition to colonise what today is Panama and Belize. The failure of this scheme was disastrous for the Scottish economy. Much like in 2010/11 when the UK gave Ireland 10 billion dollars intervention was necessary in the early 100's to stave off total economic disaster.

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  16. Undecideds = discreet NO voters.

    Nationalists tend to be louder while those who are not tend to be more quiet and discreet.

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    1. Indeed. If we are to be guided by the press/amount of noise they make separatists in Quebec speak for the people. If on the other hand we look at opinion polls straight separation has never polled over 50%.

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    2. Based on the polls, Undecideds turned out to be non-voters, which is generally how elections work.

      The polls were showing it about 48-42, and with 84% voter turnout it didn't miss that by much.

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  17. I'll admit I'm disappointed. I'm generally in favour of devolving power closer to the people, and breaking countries into smaller parts is a great way to do that.

    Also, I'm a big fan of UKIP, and UKIP doesn't get any support in Scotland, really, so Scottish independence would have done wonders for their electoral chances.

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    1. UKIP has a MEP from Scotland; David Coburn. He was elected with 10.5% of the vote.

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  18. Well, in the end was 55.3 to 44.7, while my guess was 56 to 44. Salmond will resign which is the honorable thing to do under the circumstances rather than the classless "a la prochaine fois and carry on" from Levesque, who in his usual self was well above that.

    Now Cameron has to deliver. If they don't there will be another referendum and independence will win next time.

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    1. Yeah and major Brit politicians where backing away from the Cameron promises even before the vote !

      Look for another vote ???

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    2. Well, Labour was backing away, but that's an obvious political play for them. They gain nothing by agreeing with Cameron, especially in Scotland (where Cameron correctly described his party's popularity by calling it by its colloquial Scottish name: "effing Tories").

      But Cameron's proposed devolutions (not just to Scotland and Wales, but also to the regions of England, and possibly making the outlying islands largely autonomous, as Denmark did with the Faroe Islands) are necessary to avoid a future vote, I agree.

      I do wish Scotland had voted Yes, but I see only good things coming from this.

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    3. Lbour is backing away not because the Tories are unpopular in Scotland, they are backing away because they may never get a majority of English M.P.s and would be left with a situation where a Labour PM would be unable to pass legislation for England. We would be left in a situation where a Labour government would be unable to legislate for 83% of the population.

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