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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  • Gutter

    Two very unusual examples you have picked there. Both, in their different ways, are built on the misery of others. Neither of them is a model that I’d have thought Scots would wish to emulate, even if it were possible. Which it isn’t.

  • Peacewisher

    Why would I pick “usual”, Gutter? You can read that in the mainstream media.

    You obviously completely misunderstand the point… when does good politics become manipulation or even become rigging. If you were in the UK on 10th March 1992 you’d know there was a sense that a wrong had been done. Bad enough in Birmingham so goodness knows what it would have been like in Glasgow.

  • mark golding

    Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond has said he would oppose air strikes against the Islamic State, which have been endorsed by the British government. It suggests that should Scotland become independent, Edinburgh would follow a different foreign policy than Westminster. Could it mean Scotland would project soft rather than military power if it went it alone?

    The charge that a A wee state is a weak state is absurd and silly. A ‘Yes’ vote will create an opportunity for Scotland to join the ranks of those many small states around the world that, with no illusions of grandeur, prefer to view the world through a more ethical and humanistic lens.

  • Tom

    In the European elections this year, getting on for two-thirds of people who voted in the South East supported UKIP or the Conservative Party – yet I never heard any acquaintance at work or anywhere else saying they would vote for either (even though I know many of the them did go out and vote). I imagine it might be something similar in Scotland.
    But time will tell, and Cameron et al certainly don’t believe the result is in the bag or they wouldn’t so anxious.

  • nevermind, Scotland wird bald frei sein

    Excellent exposee of the reality behind the BBC fakery, Craig, thanks and good luck for your final talk tonight. Its also good to see the corporate canivance with the establishment and their political party puppets, all trying desperately to keep up their profits and reliance on scottish resources flowing, north to south.

    Why is it good to see?
    because these same companies are the one’s who are not working in the interest of people, whether its in Scotland or anywhere else. I’m so glad never banked with DB, never even crossed my mind, but this little list of siren urchins purporting to want to run away, the scares over pensions and other services, all this will be taken into account, no doubt, once the yes vote has won the day and a new Scotland, not necessarrily organised around party politics, is being shaped for the future of all.

  • mark golding

    Britain cannot take the lead role on air-strikes against Syrian government forces ISIS/IS preferring to adopt an ’embedded’ role within a broad coalition of the willing.

    The concealed accord of the recent COBRA get-together confirmed that Westminster and the Establishment must stay on a decision to use UK military force until the result of the Scottish referendum is known, despite enormous mission creep pressure from Washington.

    Lets talk ‘poodle’ and fact; UK and European cItizens have started to understand that mindless fulfilment of orders from Washington devalues the national sovereignty of once great European powers. As a result, UK & European VALUES, businesses and ordinary citizens suffer from principled and economic loss, the common European space faces the threat of destabilization and possible future disintegration.

  • Ba'al Zevul (Insert Soundbite Here)

    The charge that a A wee state is a weak state is absurd and silly

    Yes, Mark, but he likes the alliteration and thinks it’s a lovely thought-suspending soundbite. Also, that ‘wee’ suggests that he is Scottish right down to his fingertips, him. I’ve no doubt he’ll keep on using it.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella) !


    You haven’t really addressed any of the points I made in my post (including the footnote), have you.

    But that’s OK – my points and questions, when not met with accusations of me being a troll, are either ignored or deviated from. This is par for the course and actually might serve to confirm their validity? 🙂

  • Ex Pat


    Another view from Oireland “The best of Scottish luck to you all.” ; ) –


    As the day of the vote approaches do we keep the rose tinted glasses firmly on, or do we look directly at harsh reality?

    Noam Chomsky on why some countries and groups get it and why others have a mucher harder time. “It all depends who’s been holding the whip for eight hundred years and who’s been under it for eight hundred years!” As in Ireland, so in Scotland.


    Why would the UK elite – satraps of the US Empire, fully implicated in torture-to-death, murder, illegal war and ‘rendition for extermination’ on ‘lesser breeds’ abroad – not be expected to at least attempt to fudge the vote count at home, if push came to shove? ; )

    1. NOW –


    The nine holes drilled in the feet of the Iranian diplomat, 20,000 disappeared Muslims, the U.S bacon slicer cutting off arms – with links to each original story –


    See multiple comments with chapter and verse – US EMPIRE MURDER AND TORTURE TO DEATH and _WE_ ARE THE NAZIS, comments to

    – “Camp Nama: British Personnel Reveal Horrors of Secret US Base in Bagdad” – ICH –

    2. HISTORY


    – Ireland. GPO 1916 – Michael Collins –

    – One way to get rid of the Sassenachs –

    Followed by three years of British Imperial death squads – the ‘Black and Tans’.

    – The Wind That Shakes The Barley – Youtube – OR search youtube –

    SO. Will England be sending another Cairo gang to Scotland? Because they’ve done it in every recent struggle.


    > “I’m from Dublin, Ireland. I don’t like the IRA. – Joe Soap.” (OR a UK shill??? Ed.)

    Reply –

    > “You may not like the IRA but they’re the reason you’re writing from Dublin, Ireland rather than Dublin, United Kingdom.”


    Ditto Scotland???

    Comment to “IRA vs Al Qaeda – I was wrong,” by the War Nerd, Gary Brecher, 27th April 2011 – The Exiled Online –

    >Others use guns. The Scots are writing a revolution.

    Except for … Perfidious Albion.

    SO. Enjoy the jokes, but remember perfidious Albion. As in Florida 2000, Ohio 2004, so in Scotland 2014? And if the Sassenachs mess with the recount, well …! ; )

  • D00dler

    Just have a look at your ‘people you may know’ tab in Facebook and count the ratio of ‘yes’ to ‘no’ badges displayed. It certainly gives ma a warm fuzzy feelin 🙂 These are not people with direct connection to you, or even similar opinions … They’re random friends of friends of friends – a veritable cross section of on-line voters.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella) !


    “You obviously completely misunderstand the point… when does good politics become manipulation or even become rigging.”

    Perhaps you’d like to share your thoughts on that, with reference inter alia to the points and question I put in my post to you at 10h06?

    Re polytechnics/universities, grateful if you would tell us if you think that the abolition of the tro-partite system of secondary education (grammar, secondary modern and technical) and the move towards comprehensive schools was an example of “ballot rigging” or “manipulation”?

  • Ruth

    I don’t think it’s enough just to follow the vans. You need to know whether replica votes/ballot boxes are already in the van. You also need to monitor what happens between the van stopping at the centre and the boxes arriving inside to be counted. Switches could happen there.

  • Peacewisher

    @Hab: You are simplifying. The tripartite system never existed in many parts of the country. It was either grammar or secondary modern, then a technical education if you rose to the top at a second attempt.

    Ironically ? One of the few places where the truly tripartite education system was implemented was Northern Ireland. Sadly, they still got it wrong though because of all those segregated schools.

    Don’t get me going on education. It (up to HE level if appropriate), should be a right not a privilege… fundamental to the post-war consensus enshrined in the UN charter.

    Best example of UNCHR education… Finland (small country!)

  • Dcanmore

    I believe there are at least a million ‘new’ voters going to take part in this referendum. A registration of 97% of the electorate is truly remarkable. It will guarantee an 80% turnout. This million+ would have been off the political radar, a disenfranchised even alienated population that have been motivated to cast a vote. Is it to save the union? I don’t think so. People get motivated for change and these people will be voting for change because for the first time in their lives they feel their vote will mean something.

    Looking at the numbers, 80% SNP, 40% Labour (at least), 20% LibCon will vote YES. Combine that with a majority of 16-17yo and those previous disenfranchised non-voters, will that see a YES win? I think it will, maybe even as big as 60% YES.

  • Ruth

    To divert attention from the Yes vote being manipulated, there’ll media hype over an incident where the No vote was fixed negatively

  • Windy Miller

    When we look at the accuracy of the 2010 general election opinion polls it shows that the outcome was nowhere near what was being projected. It’s interesting that the protest vote at the time was LibDem, which never transpired. It’s easy to say you want make a statement by voting for change but actually doing is much harder. The same maybe said for UKIP.

    I hope Scotland make the right choice (whichever outcome that might be) but i suspect that that outcome might err more to the safe vote as history tends to suggest.

  • John Goss

    I don’t doubt there will be attempts at rigging the vote. Karl Rove was only able to do it on behalf of George W. Bush because of computer software and a close vote. If the Yes vote is convincing enough there should be no problem. But, unlike Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, they are not likely to get above 90% in favour of leaving the union.

  • kashmiri

    I find it genuinely unbelievable that some people are programmed into thinking that pre-election polls are to bear any resemblance to the reality. NO! Stalin said: It’s not the one who votes that counts, but one who counts the votes. As someone well-familiar with survey methodologies I say: It’s not the answers that matter but the methodology. I am able to prepare you a survey showing a 90% approval rate for the government, or 90% disapproval rate, depending what you my customer want. Both of them will be absolutely genuine, scientifically validated questionnaires measuring the “views” of “representative population”.

    The polls are only used as a propaganda tool. The same way as in any fully managed nation.

    Reality is what you Craig brilliantly described on the streets.

  • Windy Miller


    Looking at the numbers, 80% SNP, 40% Labour (at least), 20% LibCon will vote YES. Combine that with a majority of 16-17yo and those previous disenfranchised non-voters, will that see a YES win? I think it will, maybe even as big as 60% YES.

    Why would a Labour voter cast a Yes vote, they would lose 41 seats in Westminster and have no chance of being in power against the SNP in Scotland. Surely that would be political suicide.

  • Peacewisher

    @Windy: Labour voters have been completely and utterly sold down the river by Labour. In Scotland the people are actually doing something about this. Once they get independence they’ll rebuild the labour movement from the bottom up (c.f. McDonald debacle to Atlee Govt, 1945). Might be an inspiration for the good people of the remainder of the UK.

  • Tony M

    I think it’s around very roughly 83.876087% for Yes.

    I think too the media does not help things, with their being required, though completely disregarding it in their news and current affairs programs, to maintain balance, showing Yes for Independence supporters and Naws, at roughly 50:50, with a smattering of clueless don’t knows, for entertainment purposes.

    It must be difficult to find Nos and Don’t knows, who can be convincingly vacuous playing a part, so abundant Yes supporters are standing in for the dunnos, who’ll play the part to perfection, the don’t knows citing ‘aliens from the space’ for their indecision and the stand-in Nos, coming out with easily knocked down crap, like will there still be bananas and where’s Mr Churchill?

    Independence first, party politicking, the widest range of views, can come later, without a Yes, you’ll never again have even that, only fifty shades of Tory.

  • Windy Miller

    Fair Point and i do hope that is the case. I work in Scotland a lot and have many friends there and I’m worried that after the vote, which ever way it goes, Scotland could end up divided. Where i live in England you still can’t mention the miners strike (not that I would want to) but the distrust runs deep and is a very great shame, hence why I am a little concerned for my Scottish friends.

  • fred

    I too am worried about vote rigging. I’m concerned there may be people who live in England who have gone to Scotland and stayed with friends there for just long enough to register to vote then they will go back to England right after they voted. This I think is against all the principles of democracy.

    I am also concerned that our local community forum, which is run by a local councillor, has banned all those posters who argued for a No vote from posting there. I don’t think there is much chance of a fair count in his area.

  • Greg Dunn

    On the surface its odd I agree. My own feelings are that the NO voters fall into three groups. Those who are older and well off and don’t want change. They are happy to let future generations be worse off and simply don’t care. Then there are the die hard “Unionists” – those who have little brain power and only come out in groups when they feel safe. As demonstrated by the Orange Order march of last Saturday in Edinburgh. Reason does not work with them. The last group are the die hard Labour supporters. They hate the SNP for doing what their own party ought to be doing – that is providing a Social Democratic alternative to the selfish greed racist agenda of the Tories and the UKIP. They ought to hate Labour for abandoning them but can’t bring themselves to do that. Those three groups come out of the woodwork from time to time. I can only hope that there is a YES vote for the good of both Scotland and indeed the remainder of the UK.

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