Scottish independence referendum: September 18 (UPDATED 18/9)

Polls aggregated and entrails examined ahead of next week’s knife-edge referendum on Scottish independence.

Friday, September 19

For literally anything you need to know about what to expect and when, Antony Green’s guide can’t be beat. Basically, we can’t expect any official results until about 3pm AEST, though presumably some manner of informal indication of how the count is going might emerge. There will not be any exit polls, but there is talk that a retrospective opinion poll might be conducted (how did you vote rather than how will you). The one final poll out was, as noted below, from Ipsos MORI, which was a phone poll of 980 respondents showing yes on 45% and no on 50%, rounding out to 53-47. I couldn’t be bothered running the poll tracker charts again because the result of the poll after bias adjustment was right on the trend, at 51.2% for no. My personal feeling is that no is likely to do it a little more easily than that, but only time will tell. The map to the right is derived from regional level polling data over the past few weeks from Survation and ICM, to give at least a broad-brush idea of where the independence cause is weakest and strongest. The actual results will emerge at the level of Scotland’s 32 local government authorities – at the link above, Antony Green maps their past voting behaviour, since support for the Scottish National Party is very likely a good proxy for how the referendum vote will go.

Thursday, September 18

9pm

A few hours after polls open, one final poll from Ipsos MORI – 53-47 to no. Ninety-five per cent report they will vote, which by early reports of turnout can almost be believed.

Overview

Okay, to tidy up the mess below: we’ve had 51-49 from the very authoritative Ipsos MORI, a phone poll with a sample of 1405; two online polls at 52-48, one from YouGov with a bumper sample of 3237, the other from Panelbase with 1004; and a phone poll from Survation, for which I assume the sample was about 1200 given such was the case in its only previous phone poll, at 53-47. The Survation survey in particular is very fresh, having been conducted entirely within the last 24 hours. Pumping all that into the poll aggregate is slightly better for yes than you might think, since Ipsos MORI and YouGov both get bias adjusted about 1.4% towards yes, and weighted heavily in the overall result. I’m a bit nervous about this – those bias adjustments seem excessive – but the current reading, which you may take or leave, is 51.2% no, 48.8% yes.

Earlier

UPDATE 4: Survation has it at 53-47.

UPDATE 3: YouGov has it at 52-48. And the fun’s not over, because Survation have just revealed they’re about to lay on a surprise phone poll.

UPDATE 2: Mike Smithson of Political Betting tweets: “So 4 pollsters have NO on 52% and 2 on 51%. Maybe they are wrong but at least they are all wrong together”. The implication, I believe, being that we may be seeing a little bit of herding going on.

UPDATE: The Ipsos MORI poll turns out to be a nailbiter – 51% no, 49% yes. This is important because it’s a phone poll rather than online, and Ipsos MORI did a particularly good job of calling the last Scottish parliamentary election. YouGov to come in a few more hours, and then I’ll give the poll aggregate another run.

A new poll from Panelbase does nothing to relieve the monotony, once again producing a result of 52-48 in favour of no. However, this is the best 52-48 so far for the no camp, as Panelbase has been the most yes-leaning of the regularly reporting pollsters. The full numbers are 49.5% no, 45.4% yes, 5.1% don’t know. Full results here. The eagerly awaited Ipsos MORI poll will be along at 3am EST, followed by the final YouGov poll at 5am.

Wednesday, September 17

Three new polls have come in overnight – from Survation, Opinium and ICM – and every one of them finds no with a lead of 52-48. My poll tracker (methodology explained in the entry below from Saturday) now has no leading 51.7% to 48.3%, slightly higher than the 51.4% to 48.6% recorded following Sunday’s polls. More tellingly, the trendlines provide a fairly clear indication that the momentum to yes which was evident over a period of weeks has tapered off:

Of the three pollsters to have reported new results, Survation has the no lead narrowing from its result on Sunday, which had it at 54-46; Opinium also narrows slightly from a poll on Sunday, which had it at 53-47; while ICM is much better for no this time around, its previous poll being a small-sample outlier with yes leading 54-46. All three polls were conducted online; Mike Smithson at Political Betting says that, based on past form, the one we should be hanging out on is tomorrow’s final phone poll from Ipsos MORI. I had a paywalled piece in Crikey yesterday considering the possibility that the polls might just have it all wrong.

Some further findings from Opinium: 50% do not trust that new devolution powers in the event of a no vote will be delivered as promised; 47% think Scotland will keep the pound against 37% who don’t; 44% think Alex Salmond should resign as First Minister if no wins (which I find very odd); and 45% think independence will damage the Scottish economy.

Sunday, September 13

No less than four new polls have reported overnight, of which two have “no” with reasonable solid leads of six or eight points, one is lineball, and one is the best poll yet to emerge for yes. These are reviewed in detail below, but first we take an updated look at the poll tracker. This puts the current result at 51.4% for no and 48.6% for yes, all but unchanged on the 51.2% and 48.8% recorded yesterday (based on like-for-like methodological comparison). An outline of the methodology was provided yesterday, in the bottom half of this post.

The polls in turn:

• The good news for the independence camp first: ICM has produced the second poll to show the yes vote in front, following on from the first of last week’s surveys by YouGov, and by a not inconsiderable margin – 49% to 42%, rounding out 54-46 after exclusion of the undecided. Unlike yesterday’s ICM poll, this one uses its usual online methodology. The caveat here is the unusually small sample of 705. Also, as noted below, ICM has been one of the more yes-friendly pollsters, such that the poll tracker adjusts it downwards by 2.0%.

• An online panel poll by Survation, which has tended to come in at the middle of the range, has no at 47.0% and yes at 40.8%, for a rounded result of 54-46 to no. The poll was commissioned by the pro-union Better Together campaign. Whereas the bulk of the polling for the referendum has been online, this one was conducted by telephone, from Wednesday to Friday, with a sample of 1044. As was the case with TNS yesterday, this is a first phone poll from an outfit whose previous polling was conducted online.

Opinium is an established online pollster which has made its first entry on the referendum, this being a survey of 1055 respondents. Its result is a lot closer to Survation’s than ICM’s, with 45% for yes and 49%, rounding out to 53-47.

• Panelbase in the Sunday Times has no on 50.6% and yes on 49.4%, but given its relative “yes” lean in the past, it’s comes out similarly to Survation and Opinium so far as the poll tracker is concerned.

Saturday, September 12

It’s now less than a week until Scotland’s independence referendum, which will be held on Thursday with polling stations to close at 10pm local time, or 7am Friday on the east coast of Australia. An official result won’t be expected until mid-afternoon our time. Before that time, the 32 local authorities that will be taking care of the business end of proceedings will report their results, which I guess we can expect to be done more promptly in the cities than the country.

The latest poll out this evening is an ICM poll for The Guardian which confirms the recent trend of being too close to call – 42% no, 40% yes and 17% don’t know, panning out to a headline figure of 51-49 with the exclusion of the undecided. According to Anthony Wells at UK Polling Report, we can expect a result reasonably soon from Panelbase, which I have determined to be one of the more “yes”-friendly pollsters. We might then see a relative lull before heavy-hitters YouGov and Ipsos MORI hold off until their final results nearer the big day, although there will surely be other results around the place between now and then.

My own polling tracker, which is laid out below, currently has “no” in the lead with 51.6%, but there is no sign that the trend to “yes” is levelling off. As I shall discuss, it would have been more like 51.3% if I had treated the latest poll differently, as maybe I should have.

A few things that have caught my eye:

• For those of you who know your way around Scotland, The Guardian offers mapped results of a year’s worth of Ipsos MORI polling in eye-watering detail.

• John Curtice, a political scientist of some renown, considers the contention popular in the “yes” camp that pollsters are under-representing respondents who don’t normally vote, whom they expect will give their cause a boost. However, Curtice finds that past non-voters who have been polled are leaning quite strongly towards no.

Stephen Fisher at Elections Etc observes polling before 16 constitutional referenda in Austria, Ireland, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Quebec, Scotland, Sweden, Britain and Wales (not us, alas), and notes there “does not seem to be a precedent for a close referendum at which final polls underestimated the Yes vote” (he in fact said “overestimated” but if you read the sentence in context, this was clearly erroneous).

Now to my own poll tracker. The methodology runs roughly as follows: 1) Calculate accuracy ratings for each pollster based on the performance of their polls in the last week of the campaigns for the 2014 European, 2011 Scottish and 2010 Westminster elections; 2) Run a local area regression on the results with each poll weighted as per the relevant pollsters’ accuracy rating multiplied by the sample size; 3) Use the trend result thus produced to derive bias measures for each pollster, by averaging the deviation of their poll results from the trend; 4) Correct the pollsters’ results accordingly and run the regression again.

The bias adjustments made to the various pollsters’ “yes” results are as follows: Ipsos Mori +1.6%; YouGov +1.6%; TNS +0.6%; Survation -0.7%; ICM -1.5%; Panelbase -2.5%; Angus Reid -4.4%. The complication I mentioned earlier is that the latest ICM poll was conducted by telephone, whereas the nine previous polls from which I have derived its bias adjustment were online polls. I have nonetheless decided to apply their existing adjustment to the latest result. Since this poll is, together with the most recent YouGov, the very latest result in the model, and the bias adjustment used is a not inconsiderable penalty to “yes”, the effect is non-trivial. If no bias adjustment is applied to this poll, the “no” result comes down to 51.2%. If the poll is removed altogether, it is 51.3%.

A couple of further points to be noted. YouGov’s stunning poll result on Monday showing yes in the lead was a real outlier from a normally no-leaning pollster, and it shows up in the charts as the only data point with yes above 50%. Another poll from YouGov a few days later had no back in front. This was inevitably reported in terms of the momentum for yes having stalled, but that’s not the picture that emerges when the polling is aggregated. Panelbase’s polling before the start of this year had an enormous lean in favour of yes which has since been corrected, so the earlier results have been excluded. Angus Reid is, or has been, a fairly major pollster in Britain, but there has been no Scottish independence polling from it since August last year. Should it re-emerge in the next few days, I will have to think twice about applying the 4.4% correction noted above.

Photo finishes

LNP OTH LNP LEAD
Mackay (vs ALP) 10993 11199 -206
Yeerongpilly (vs ALP) 13416 12655 761
Bulimba (vs ALP) 10702 10806 -104
Maryborough (vs IND) 12028 11734 294
Thuringowa (vs KAP) 10189 9669 520

Tuesday (2pm). Pardon my recent laziness. The LNP now has Maryborough and Thuringowa in the bag: in the former case 1273 absents and 846 pre-polls have piled 178 votes on to their lead, which is now at 294 with only a late trickle still to come. The lead over the KAP in Thuringowa is out even further, from 320 to 520. However, Labor looks to be home in Mackay: with another 901 absents counted the LNP has only chipped 10 votes from Labor’s 216 vote lead. For some reason though, there has still been no progress in the two-party count in Bulimba. By my arithmetic though, Labor is in trouble: the LNP Leads by 980 on the primary vote with 2802 Greens preferences to be distributed, and if these continue to split as the booth votes did, they will land about 179 short.

Friday. The ECQ has unexpectedly come good with an indicative LNP-versus-KAP count from Thuringowa, and it confirms almost exactly the reported preference split referred to in yesterday’s entry, with the LNP leading by 320. Quite a few votes remain to be counted, but it will be very tough for the KAP to rein in a lead of that size. The other big news of the day is that a bundle of 50 votes has been identified as being in the wrong pile in Bulimba, which has cut Labor’s lead from 193 to 93. In Mackay, 282 absent votes and a some other miscellany has reduced the Labor lead from 235 to 216. In Maryborough, 432 votes have been added to the count, a mixture of postal and absent votes, and they have cut the LNP’s lead over independent Chris Foley from 162 to 116. The early trend of absent votes is encouraging for Foley, so this could go down to the wire.

Thursday. The ECQ’s Bulimba error from yesterday has been corrected: it turned out the Greens vote had been entered as the Labor vote in the relevant booth after rechecking. Otherwise no progress in the count there, which leaves 2662 primary votes still remaining to be added to the notional two-party count. I am not exactly sure whether these are booth votes, postals, pre-polls or some combination. If they’re postals, Labor should gain ground; otherwise they will tread water. In addition to this, there are absent votes of which we can expect as many as 3000. If the vote differential between booth and absent votes plays as it did in 2009, Labor should pick up at least 200 votes here. In Mackay, the first 895 absents have reduced Labor’s lead by all of one vote, to 235. Minor additions in Maryborough have increased the LNP lead by 11 votes to 193. The LNP continues to drive nails into Labor’s coffin in Yeerongpilly, where 687 absents and 199 postals have increased their lead from 440 to 470. Antony Green relates in comments that Labor’s scrutineers in Thuringowa say 70 per cent of Labor preferences are exhausting and the rest are splitting 75-25 between KAP and LNP. This would only give the KAP 1000 of the votes it needs to bridge a 1300-vote deficit against the LNP on the primary vote.

Wednesday. Something odd in Bulimba: with booth figures updated after rechecking, 691 votes have disappeared from the Labor primary vote count in the Morningside booth. This reduces the Labor vote there from normal to unbelievably low, so we can presume the original figure was not significantly erroneous. Labor has gained 37 votes there with the addition of 1696 postals and now leads by 195. In Maryborough, 565 postals have increased the LNP’s lead over independent Chris Foley from 158 to 195. In Mackay, 1002 postals have cut the Labor lead from 269 to 236. In Yeerongpilly, 494 postals have increased the LNP lead from 429 to 440. Only uneventful rechecking today in Thuringowa. Most of the absent votes – about 2000 in Maryborough and 2500 to 3000 in Mackay, Yeerongpilly and Bulimba – still remain to be counted; pre-polls should be done and postals will slow to a trickle, except perhaps in Maryborough where a few more look to be outstanding.

Tuesday. The LNP looks home and hosed in Yeerongpilly: its lead is out from 372 to 429 after the addition of 792 postals and 213 absents. Chris Foley has cut the LNP’s lead in Maryborough from 171 to 146 with the addition of 1162 pre-polls and 182 postals. There should be at least 1000 of the latter still to come, but the kicker for Foley is that there will also be about 2000 absent votes, and he did very poorly on these in 2009. The first 1010 postal votes in Thuringowa have been an eye-opener: compared with the polling booth results, they have come in 6.6% lower for the LNP, 4.1% higher for Labor and 3.5% higher for KAP. This has cut the LNP’s primary vote lead over KAP from 6.8% to 4.9%. Based on current numbers, when the preferences from Labor and other candidates are distributed, the KAP will need to outscore the LNP by 13.8% in the KAP-LNP-exhausted carve-up. Nothing today in Bulimba, and only rechecking in Mackay.

Monday 4pm. Von Kirsdarke in comments relates the notional LNP-versus-KAP count in Thuringowa has turned up a surprise with the KAP candidate 61 votes in front, but the ECQ site is not publishing the figures (UPDATE: But it turns out Antony’s results page is, and it now has the LNP 262 votes ahead) (UPDATE 2: Scratch that: those numbers are just based on Antony’s guesstimate of the likely preference flow. The ECQ is not conducting an indicative count, which means we’ll have no idea until the full preference count is conducted next week). I might expect though that the LNP will do better in late counting than on the polling booth figures, which are presumably what is being counted here. The Townsville Bulletin reports LNP figures are whingeing that the ECQ “stuffed up” by conducting the election night count on an LNP-versus-ALP basis, but they’ve no right to – any contrary decision would have been very odd indeed. In the three outstanding Labor-versus-LNP contests, the most recent counting has widened all existing leads: Labor has gained 26 votes with the addition of 489 postals in Mackay and 43 with the addition of 118 various votes in Bulimba, while the LNP has gained 52 with the addition of 675 votes of various kinds (mostly postals) in Yeerongpilly. In Maryborough, 613 various votes (mostly postals) have split almost perfectly evenly, with the LNP maintaining a lead of 613.

Sunday. This post will follow late counting in the still undecided seats in the Queensland election. I’m counting five, which leaves the LNP with 74 definite wins and Labor with six, with two independents and two for Katter’s Australian Party. The five still in play are Bulimba, where Labor led at the close of counting last night by 83 votes; Mackay, where Labor led by 239; Yeerongpilly, where the LNP led by 320; Maryborough, where the LNP led independent incumbent Chris Foley by 177; and the wild card of Thuringowa. The issue in Thuringowa is that Katter’s Australian Party candidate Steve Todeschini finished second (with 30.8 per cent) ahead of Labor incumbent Craig Wallace (27.2 per cent), with LNP candidate Sam Cox on 36.2 per cent. The indicative preference count on election night was conducted between the LNP and Labor candidates, so we do not know how Todeschini will fare after Labor preferences are distributed. The ECQ is currently conducting a LNP-versus-KAP count to answer the question for us. Wise heads who have crunched the numbers deem it very unlikely, but Bob Katter is bullish about his candidate’s chances on the basis that Labor’s how-to-vote cards directed preferences to him. However, that’s not what Labor’s registered how-to-vote card says. If Labor was indeed distributing different how-to-vote cards on the day, it has committed an offence with a $2000 fine attached. I gather we should get the results of the indicative count shortly, which may well put the result beyond doubt.

As was the case at federal level, electoral laws have been changed since the previous election to allow pre-poll votes to be admitted to the count on election night. That leaves two substantial categories of votes outstanding, together with curiosities like institution and electoral visit votes, along with rechecking which can occasionally show up bundles of 50 votes which were added to the wrong pile. Each electorate should produce as many as 2000 postal votes, of which it seems about a third are being added to the count today. These will continue to come in in diminishing numbers over the fortnight, and will be added to the count sporadically. There should be about 3000 absent votes, which past practice suggests should be admitted to the count later this week. Everything will be finalised by Friday week. Late counting traditionally favours the conservatives, but Labor would at least be hopeful of doing relatively well on postal votes as many would have been cast before things went seriously awry for them over the past 10 days or so of the campaign.

So far today, we have seen the addition of 792 postal votes which has increased Labor’s lead from 83 to 115. In Maryborough, 649 postal and other votes have been added, shaving the LNP margin from 177 to 170. Similar additions will presumably follow shortly in Mackay and Yeerongpilly.

NOTE: Can this thread be used exclusively for discussion of the count. For more general discussion of the election and its implications, please use the other threads.

Britain’s AV referendum: May 5

British voters go to the polls on Thursday to decide whether to introduce the “alternative vote” – what Australians know from state-level experience in New South Wales and Queensland as “optional preferential voting” – in place of the first-past-the-post system which has been in place since the dawn of electoral time. The lead-up to the referendum has proceeded much as an endeavour of this kind would have done in Australia, with the fundamental issues at stake held hostage to the basest of short-term partisan motives. Without question the worst tosh has come from the no camp, whose remorseless misrepresentations have been keeping Antony Green off the streets for the past two months or so.

The main argument has been that the system will in effect deliver a “second vote” to supporters of dangerous fringe elements such as the British National Party. This rather glosses over the fact that a preference vote is activated only when it has been established that the first preference has failed to achieve anything. In the final analysis, the BNP voter ends up with exactly as much influence over the final result as everybody else. In any case, the invocation of the BNP bogey should amuse supporters of its nearest Australian equivalent, One Nation, to the extent that this breed can be noted for its sense of humour. Despite enormous public support, Pauline Hanson herself failed to extend her parliamentary career beyond a single term entirely due to the workings of preferential voting.

Another favourite has been that only a tiny number of countries have been silly enough to introduce AV, with Papua New Guinea and Fiji more frequently invoked as cautionary tales than our own modestly successful polity. What they don’t point out is that it is all but unknown in the modern world for those establishing new electoral systems to favour that most notoriously archaic and dysfunctional model known as first-past-the-post. Outside the similarly hidebound United States, presidential elections around the world are mostly determined through some manner of “run-off” vote, in which under-performing candidates are excluded in the second round. This is essentially a more expensive and protracted variation on preferential voting, which is accordingly known in some quarters as “instant runoff voting”. If the wisdom of crowds is your metric for determining the merits of an electoral system, first-past-the-post emerges a big loser.

It is true that a Newspoll/Institute of Public Affairs survey of Australian voters after the 2010 election showed 57 per cent favouring first-past-the-post over the existing federal system of compulsory preferential voting. However, as Antony Green points out, earlier polling suggested the public would far prefer optional preferential voting to either alternative, and it is this that is being proposed in Britain. The complaints most commonly levelled in Australia relate to the compulsory aspect: a ranking must be given to every candidate no matter how obscure, and those who hold the major parties in equal contempt are forced to jump off a fence they have every right remain seated on. Without these consequences of compulsory preferences, much of the opposition would vanish – opposition which is obviously not too strongly felt in any case, given the complete absence of any campaign for change.

The one convincing argument from the no camp is that the likely boon to the Liberal Democrats will indeed increase the likelihood of minority and coalition government, if that is to be regarded as a bad thing – as it is by many, both in Britain and Australia, who associate it with indecisiveness and blurred lines of accountability.

Just as the campaign has proceeded exactly as Australian experience suggested it would, so will the referendum itself: with victory for the status quo. The most recent polls recorded by UK Polling Report have no leading yes 55-45 (YouGov), 60-40 (ComRes), 59-41 (YouGov again) and 58-42 (Angus Reid). This reiterates the well-known lesson from Australia that unambiguous bipartisan support (possibly tri-partisan in the British context) is required for a constitutional referendum to succeed. This has not been forthcoming in Britain and was never going to be, which the Liberal Democrats should probably have factored in when they extracted the referendum as a condition for entering into coalition with the Conservatives.

There is little question that AV would be a disaster for the Conservatives, who haven’t polled anywhere near 40 per cent of the national vote since 1992, but can still hope for majority government on the back of vote-splitting among the myriad parties of the centre and left. Labour’s formal support for the referendum proposal has proved meaningless as MPs have been given latitute to pursue their own course, and many have thrown their weight behind a “Labour Against the Alternative Vote” campaign. Their motivation is scarelessly less transparent than that of the Conservatives: to drive a further stake into the floundering Liberal Democrats, and by extension into the coalition government itself.

Given that the Liberal Democrats are the only party to wholeheartedly support the proposal, the wonder is that the margin of defeat won’t be even greater.

UPDATE: New YouGov poll: 39 per cent FPTP, 38 per cent AV, others don’t know/won’t vote.

UPDATE 2: That poll, related to me via Twitter, turns out to be a few months old. The late polls have it pretty solidly at about 60-40 against.

British election: May 6

Britons will go the polls on Thursday, May 6 for one of their too-infrequent national elections. I don’t think I’ll have much to say about the campaign, but if I do it will happen on this post, where you are invited to discuss events as they unfold over the coming month so as to keep the main threads slightly less off-topic. For now, I’ll stick to a few key facts. At the last general election five years ago, Labour polled 35.3 per cent, the Conservatives 32.3 per cent and the Liberal Democrats 22.1 per cent. This translated into 356 seats for Labour, 198 for the Conservatives and 62 for the Liberal Democrats, with another 30 won by Irish unionists, Scottish, Welsh and Irish nationalists and assorted odd-bods. By-elections, defections, party explusions and suspensions (the latter being unusually common due to the expenses scandal) plus two deaths and a resignation that occurred too recently to have allowed for by-elections have left the current numbers at Labour 341, Conservative 193, Liberal Democrats 63 and others 46, with three vacancies.

Labour will retain power in its own right if there is a uniform swing of less than 1.6 per cent (which in the non-preferential voting context refers simply to the gap between support for the two parties), while the Conservatives will win a majority if it’s more than 6.9 per cent. The dividing line between Labour and the Conservatives emerging as the largest party in a hung parliament is 4.3 per cent. This of course dubiously assumes status quo results for the minor parties. In fact, the polls mostly have the Liberal Democrats losing some ground since 2005, with the Conservatives hoping to nab a few seats from them, while nobody seems to know what’s going on with the Scottish Nationalists.

To the best of my limited knowledge, the closest British equivalent to the unnaturally fruitful Australian psephoblogosphere is a site called Political Betting, known to its enthusiasts as “PB” (which between Poll Bludger and Peter Brent seems to be a charmed set of initials as these things go). As the name suggests, the site seeks to tell those wishing to punt on British elections what they need to know, and in doing so covers very much the same ground as this one, right down to its sprawling and unruly comments threads.

UPDATE: This site’s sole overseas reader (to the best of my knowledge), the aptly named Tokenyank, offers in comments that UK Polling Report fits the bill at least as well as Political Betting.