Referendum Conundrum 168


I genuinely find it impossible to understand the gap between the opinion polls and what my eyes and ears tell me.

In Glasgow yesterday afternoon a small group of Better Together supporters were handing out material on Sauchiehall Street. Just fifty yards away on Buchanan Street a Yes stall was doing the same thing. The difference was so marked I wanted to quantify it to explain it to you.

I watched each stall for a timed fifteen minutes, immediately one after the other. These are both very busy pedestrianized shopping streets. The crowds going by on each were very similar in size and demographic.

In fifteen minutes the No team managed to give away 7 leaflets and one balloon (the latter to a child). I saw some of the leaflets immediately discarded. The No team were actively approaching people to hand out leaflets, and were shunned by the large majority of people.

By comparison the Yes stall was actively approached by large numbers of people. In the fifteen minutes, 56 people approached the stall and spoke and of those 42 took campaign material, while at least 11 made a donation. The final statistic is remarkable. I counted exactly the next 400 people I could scrutinise reasonably closely on Sauchiehall Street. Of these an extraordinary 52 – that is fully 13% – were wearing Yes badges. There were no large groups and no event in the vicinity that accounted for this. I saw only 2 No badges and one No balloon, again a small child.

I appreciate that this may seem strangely nerdish behaviour, but when I flatly tell you that I have been experiencing a revolutionary groundswell of popular feeling on the streets, that is a perception easily dismissed. The above are hard, statistical facts that in a small way quantify that feeling. The puzzle that remains to be solved is the extraordinary incompatibility between this evidence and the opinion polls.

I can accept that there is an exuberance about the Yes campaign – a belief that a better world is possible and the neo-con dominance of Westminster can be broken – that leads it followers to be enthusiastic and wish to share that belief. By contrast, the No voters to whom I have spoken have, in my own experience, never expressed any enthusiasm for the United Kingdom, but rather fear that an independent Scotland might fail economically – a fear with which they have been relentlessly programmed. Cowardice is not something you wish to display or tell people about. So I can see the psychology is different.

But if the opinion polls are right and the No vote is in the lead, then this psychological phenomenon must be extraordinarily powerful and universal, this behavioural difference so marked as to be in itself a quite extraordinary fact.

The alternative explanation is simply that the opinion polls are wrong. I discussed this with the Yes campaigners on that Buchanan Street stall. They had a considered view which seems prima facie eminently sensible. They believed that the people mobbing their stall were in the large majority people who had never been politically active before. They were not the kind of people who would ever have signed up to be part of online polling panels – the methodology of the vast majority of polls. Those who were on such online panels may give pollsters a reasonable reflection of how party support splits among the 60% of the population who might vote in a general election, but could tell nothing about the 40% who never vote or join online polling panels. Those people were the ones now taking badges and wee blue books. The other polling method was landline telephone, and that missed another great swathe of the Yes demographic – the younger voters.

I yet again saw the BBC baffled and fail to pick up on what was happening on the street as they could not find a man in a suit to interview. The No campaigners were al men in suits and the BBC team looked visibly relieved. For me this “man in a suit” media syndrome is the principal cause of the disconnect between media reporting and what is actually happening.

Tonight is my final set speech of the campaign – Linlithgow Bowling Club at 7.30 pm.


168 thoughts on “Referendum Conundrum

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  • Peacewisher

    @Sjb: Such people are not expected to vote. That is why this particular poll is ground-breaking in the Internet era. People are away from their screens and out on the streets. Shock, horror. People power is back in town. This will now spread south of the border and there will be a very interesting election next year. hopefully, there will be a party for “working people” to vote for, that’s not UKIP. C’mon Greens, here’s your big chance. Of course, if the country had elected for PR a couple of years ago, the 2015 election would be very interesting indeed.

  • JonL

    My theory is….If the polls are showing a trend in your favour, as “the Authority”, it makes it easier to fraudulently manipulate the results to show the no’s, have it!

    It may sound ridiculous, but, in this day and age I wouldn’t put anything past the buggers!

  • Mochyn69

    I cannot help but admit to some glee at seeing the discomfiture of the smug, smarmy, professional London politicians at the hands of ordinary voters on the streets of Edinburgh, even if it a little less polite than might be heard in the salons of Islington or the Tory shires, although somehow, I doubt it.

    It is long overdue. They should get out more often.

  • Ba'al Zevul (For Scotland)

    (RoS kindly quotes the blog leper) not a peep out of the others I’ve had the honour of addressing.

    Habbabreak. Deafeningly effective.

  • john sporrng

    If a significant population of a country wants to leave, then you have to let them go. Understand this though: the oil and gas in the north sea was secured and exploited by the British State, not Scotland alone.

  • ------------·´`·.¸¸.¸¸.··.¸¸Node

    @john sporrng 17 Sep, 2014 – 12:21 pm
    “Understand this though: the oil and gas in the north sea was secured and exploited by the British State, not Scotland alone.”

    The corrupt British State gave away the oil and gas for a pittance to oil companies and used the meagre tax returns to destroy unions and fund tax cuts for the rich.
    I ain’t voting for more of that. I’m voting YES.


    Dude, where’s my North Sea oil money?
    Last Wednesday, every single Norwegian became a millionaire – without having to lift a lillefinger. They owe the windfall to their coastline, and a huge dollop of good sense. Since 1990, Norway has been squirreling away its cash from North Sea oil and gas into a rainy-day fund. It’s now big enough to see Noah through all 40 of those drizzly days and nights. Last week, the balance hit a million krone for everyone in Norway. Norwegians can’t take a hammer to the piggy bank, amassed strictly to provide for future generations. And converted into pounds, the 5.11 trillion krone becomes a mere £100,000 for every man, woman and child. Still, the oljefondet (the government pension fund of Norway) owns over 1% of the world’s stocks, a big chunk of Regent Street and some of the most prime property in Paris: a pretty decent whipround for just five million people.

    Wish it could have been you with a hundred-grand bonus? Here’s the really nauseating part: it should have been. Britain had its share of North Sea oil, described by one PM as “God’s gift” to the economy. We pumped hundreds of billions out of the water off the coast of Scotland. Only unlike the Norwegians, we’ve got almost nothing to show for it. Our oil cash was magicked into tax cuts for the well-off, then micturated against the walls of a thousand pricey car dealerships and estate agents.”
    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/13/north-sea-oil-money-uk-norwegians-fund

  • Muscleguy

    @Nevermind

    Just offered to pull two shifts, 5pm to 10pm (end) at our local polling station as the Yes Rep.

    Offer came just after I pulled a 4 hour shift in a panda costume for RIC in various parts of Dundee (the pandas embody the democratic deficit – twice as many pandas as Tory MPs). I now have a new respect for those who do distance runs in those suits.

    If you met the pandas in Dundee today, I was the tall one.

  • Ian Scott-Moncrieff

    I am an ex-pat, following the referendum from the States, where I have seen voter fraud, ballot stuffing and the ultimate vote rig – electronic voting – in the last few presidential elections. Glad to hear that there will be observers making sure that the power is with those casting the votes and not those counting the votes, and that it is a paper ballot. It is in the interests of the overlords to make sure that the polls show a neck and neck race, it provides plausible deniability. Remain vigilant, and mark those “Yes” votes in ink!

  • Laura

    I’m a bit concerned about the Bookies odds…. Apparently they’re a much better predictor than polls and they’re saying a “no” is the most likely outcome. Fingers crossed they’ve got it wrong! VOTE YES!!

  • Douglas Gray

    As an American looking from the outside, I have a question. Does England’s slide into a socialist, multicultural nanny state have much to do with some Scot’s desire for independence?

  • Thomas Rice

    One question that has been going through my mind is,
    If the Scots overwhelmingly vote yes for independence and the Brits refuse to honor it or cause problems
    What will happen? This is a huge moment for you in Scotland, as an American Patriot who has had it with our corrupt government my hat is off to you and my prayers are with you.

  • Ken

    If the vote is yea and I hope it is, why would you scurry over to the EU as your new master, its like a poodle jumping from someones lap on to another.
    Be free, be independent bow down to no man.

  • Rabbitnexus

    I reckon the truth may be darker than this actually rather rosy, some may say naive outlook. More likely they are fiddling the polls, in anticipation of fiddling the final vote too. By now it should be what people expect and are doing something to insure against. As always they’ll wait till after to see the obvious and it will be too late.

  • Max

    HI Craig

    we now know that the opinion polls were not wrong.In fact they slightly underestimated the yes vote. How do we reconcile this with your experience. I don’t know because I live in Germany. I wasn’t on the ground. One explanation I can think of that Yes campaigners were very load and vociferous whereas No voters were the quiet majority.

  • nicholas wood

    FROM JEWISH CHRONICLE 3 October 2014 NOW WE KNOW >

    RAF USING ISRAELI TECHNOLOGY TO HIT JIHADIS > by Anshel Pfeffer Jerusalem.

    In his speech to the UN this week Benjamin Netanyahu mentioned that there were “common interests” between Israel and the Arab States attacking Islamic State [IS] in Syria and Iraq.
    But the traditional foes have more in common than a series of shared objectives: some of the jets being used by the US- led coalition against IS rely on Israeli technology .
    The RAFs Tornado GR4s, which began carrying out missions against IS this week, were carrying dark- green pods, fitting snuggly beneath their fuselages.
    Those attachments are part of the Litening III missile guidance system, manufactured by Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defence Systems.
    Litening contains a number of sensors which allow the weapons system officer sitting in the Tornado’s back seat to assess and acquire potential targets while flying over enemy territory and attack them with Paveway laser guided bombs.
    RAF officers have acknowledged that the Litening has been crucial in enabling the ageing Tornado fleet to carry out precision attacks over Afghanistan and Libya as well as Iraq.
    On the current Iraq mission, where the Tornado has been tasked with hitting mobile ‘targets of opportunity’ in the desert, Litening is essential for locating these targets in real time.
    The Ministry of Defence has also ordered dozens of the pods, costing around £1million each, for its much newer fleet of Typhoons.
    British Army units operating in Afghanistan have become increasingly reliant on Israeli Elbit Hermes 450 reconnaissance drones.
    In recent weeks the new Watchkeeper WK450, a more advanced version of the Hermes, has been deployed in Afghanistan by UK forces. Watchkeepers are built in the U.K, but as a senior Israeli officer said, “The British don’t like to talk about it, but these are Israeli factories, run by Israeli managers.” Another piece of Israeli hardware, extensively used by UK ground forces in Iraq and Afghanistan has been Rafael’s Spike NLOS [non-line of sight] missile, code-named “Exactor”, the missile can hit fast-moving targets when air strikes are not available.

    This is MOD speak very similar used in the Chilcot Inquiry by Sir Glen Torpey. Nicholas Wood

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