Archive for the 'Scotland' Category


Take the Ladbrokes 10-11 IndyRef NO victory with turnout under 80% bet

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

The best value punt, surely, for those who think independence will be defeated

One of the problems for those wanting to bet on NO in the September 18th Scottish Independence referendum is that prices are so poor. About the best you can get is 1/6 which means that to make a profit of £50 you have to risk £300.

A far better wager has just been made available by Ladbrokes.Odds of 10/11 (almost evens) that the referendum will be lost and that the turnout will be lower than 80%.

That was the turnout prediction that Alex Salmond made in Monday night’s debate which to my mind is on the high side. At the Holyrood elections in 2011 the level was 50%. A year earlier at the general election 63.8% of electors voted north of the border.

What’s driving the high turnout prediction for September 18th has been the certainty to vote levels in the referendum polls. Ipsos-MORI, the only phone pollster, had this at 81% in its last survey.

    But you have to distinguish between the turnout certainty of those ready to take part in a polling interview or fill in an online questionnaire and the electorate as a whole.

    The very fact that people are happy to be polled, I’d suggest, inflates the certainty level.

I think that turnout three weeks tomorrow will be high, certainly in the 70s, but I’d be very surprised if it hit the levels seen in the polls.

I’ve had a bet with Ladbrokes at 10/11 and plan to put more on.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


Salmond’s ICM victory in the 2nd IndyRef debate triggers a 2.5% move to YES on Betfair

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

But did punters misinterpret the ICM voting data?

Three weeks ago during the first Salmond-Darling TV encounter the first indications that NO was having the best of it came on the Betfair betting exchange where full data on trading is made available instantly and where you are able to track it.

In the two hours of the STV hosted confrontation a lot of money was traded and YES moved sharply backwards from the 22% chance position it had reached in the aftermath of the Glasgow games. The ICM poll that came afterwards merely confirmed what punters had seen for themselves – Salmond was losing.

So last night I kept a close at the markets which barely moved throughout the 90 minutes of the debate. YES started at a Betfair price of 7.4 (a 13.5% chance) and finished at 7.4.

The movement came after the the debate was concluded and the Guardian published details of its ICM poll of 505 people who had watched it.

As well as the “who did best” the 51-49% leads for NO on referendum voting intention before and after the debate in the poll were widely reported. This led to an assumption on PB and elsewhere that the referendum voting intention findings now had YES and NO very close. People were mistakenly comparing the debate figures released with other ICM referendum polling.

With its debate results the firm issued the following guidance:-

“It should be stated this this sample was pre-recruited on the basis of watching the debate and being willing to answer questions on it immediately after the debate ended. While we have ‘forced’ it via weighting to be representative of all Scots, it SHOULD NOT be seen as a normal vote intention poll as it is premised on a different population type i.e the profile and nature of Scots who watched the debate is different to a fully nationally representative sample of Scots.

If punters moved to YES because the ICM debate sample appeared to be split down the middle they were drawing the wrong conclusion.

UPDATE: YES price back to almost where it was before debate started

The chart above has been revised.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


Darling versus Salmond – the 2nd leg: Live discussion with regular betting updates

Monday, August 25th, 2014

debate bbcc


Unless independence campaigners can convince the oldies in the next 3 weeks then YES, surely, is doomed

Sunday, August 24th, 2014

Like in all elections the oldies are crucial

A lot has been talked about the gender effect in the September 18th Scottish referendum and today a new Survation poll of pensioners for the Sunday Post highlights the generation battle.

Not only are the oldest oldies the most certain to vote they are more than two to one for NO.

The charts show the certainty to vote proportions and across the older age ranges as well as their stated voting intentions.

It is the combination of very high turnout levels with a strong desire to oppose the move that makes this group so important.

One of the factors here, of course, is that women tend to outlive men and demographically many more in the oldest groups are female.

Mike Smithson

Ranked in top 33 most influential over 50s on Twitter


David Herdson wonders how much we can trust the referendum polls

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

How effective are the pollsters with such a one-off event?

Knowledge, information and judgement: the past, present and future of effective prediction.  The problem, as far as the Scottish referendum is concerned, is that all three are badly affected by the paucity of precedent.  There have been referendums before, both in Britain and elsewhere, but all have their drawbacks for comparative purposes.  (Prediction is of course only one half of effective betting; the other being able to spot value).

From overseas, we can study the independence referendums in Quebec, the EU Treaty polls in various countries, and the Australian vote on the monarchy; closer to home there were the 1979 and 1997 votes on Scottish devolution, the EEC referendum and most recently the AV vote.  All, however, have their drawbacks in making direct comparisons, whether that be the nature of the electorate, the size of the turnout and intensity of the campaign, the divisiveness of the issue in question, or the broader political and economic context in which each one was fought.  Put simply, each one is a one-off to a much greater extent than a general election is.

That fact not only makes it harder for analysts to work out the implications of the polling numbers but it makes it harder for the polling companies themselves to produce accurate data.  How do you weight responses to reflect what they say about their likelihood to turn out, for example?  The general rule on turnout is that it’s driven by two key factors: how close the vote is perceived to be and how important the result is perceived to be.  September’s vote scores so highly on both counts it may pip the 81.1% Northern Ireland recorded in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement referendum.  Ensuring the polls accurately represent those voters on the very fringe, who often will not be general election voters never mind other elections, will be no easy task.

Similarly, the methodologies used to try to ensure a balanced political sample become much more complex where there are apparently such disparities between how men and women are planning to vote, between those born in Scotland and those from outside.  Weightings can be and are applied but producing accurate figures is still akin to hitting a moving target, while standing on the back of a moving pickup truck, at dusk – which may account for the widely differing figures being published.

“Aha”, you might say, “then I’ll balance them out and take an average”, which is all very well except that there’s no guarantee that the average will be particularly accurate.  1992 remains the most famous example, but it’s not just a historic problem.  In 2010, every pollster overstated the Lib Dems and virtually every one understated both the Conservatives and Labour; five of the last six London mayoral polls in 2012 gave too low a share to Ken Livingstone, four of them by more than 3%; the Scottish election in 2011 saw the SNP under-reported for the regional vote in almost every poll, some by a considerable margin, even while those same polls got the SNP almost spot-on in the constituency section; most pollsters overstated those in favour of AV by 7-10% in the two weeks before the vote.

Put another way, even in elections for which pollsters have had a fair bit of practice, the methodology is still not perfect.  Worse, there’s been a tendency for all the various methodologies to be out the same way, if by different amounts.  In the Scottish referendum, they’ve had virtually no practice.

What does this mean for the vote?  My instinct would be to allow for a much wider range of possibilities than the polls are currently showing (and for once, perhaps because they can’t benchmark against their peers, there’s quite a spread already).  It may be that No has an even more commanding lead than the 22% YouGov found earlier this month; alternatively, it could be neck-and-neck, beyond even Survation or Panelbase’s findings.  We are in unchartered waters.  To that end, the value bet is with Yes – there is too great a degree of certainty in the odds at the moment.

David Herdson


Salmond says he’s ready to put his job on the line and even disband the SNP to help secure a YES vote

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

Just ten days before the first postal ballots arrive

In the wake of polling suggesting that Alex Salmond himself might be hurting the YES case it has been made known that the First Minister is saying publicly that if the price of winning independence is his job then he’s ready to step aside.

This comes after YouGov found that 45% of Scottish voters polled thought he was the wrong man for the job and just 57% of YES voters backed him.

This is how the Scotsman is reporting Salmond’s comments this morning.

“Referring to Greek mythology and the 17th-century Scots prophet the Brahan Seer, he said: “If I had the Delphic oracle, or a soothsayer, the Brahan Seer, was sitting in this audience and the Brahan Seer said to me, ‘Listen, you retire from politics tomorrow and I guarantee you Scotland will be an independent country in the spring of 2016’, I would shake hands on that right away – absolutely….If the Brahan Seer said to me, ‘And the other cost of getting independence is the SNP has to be abolished’, then I would agree to that as well, because this is about the people of Scotland for the first time in democratic history having the ability to determine the government of their choice.

“It’s the choice of the people of Scotland that’s the important thing.”

To me this is a smart move because inevitably the campaign is being portrayed in personal terms between Salmond for YES and the Alistair Darling for NO. To many observers Salmond’s big mistake in the first TV debate was to make personal attacks on Darling and I think the SNP leader realises that. This will help defuse it.

Yesterday’s YouGov/Times Scotland poll found that as Darling’s stock is rising Salmond is falling. Just 35% of those sampled said they trusted the First Minister with 58% saying they didn’t – a net negative of minus 23.

Darling’s figures were 38% “trust” to 52% “not trust” a net negative of minus 14.

There is a lot left in this election and time is running out.

  • IndyRef betting. Prices have barely moved since my post yesterday afternoon. Twice as much has been matched on Betfair on the IndyRef in the past 24 hours as the total since the market was established on UKIP GE2015 seats.
  • Mike Smithson

    2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


    Even though the last 3 polls have edged a touch to an IndyRef YES the betting is still strongly on NO

    Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

    Apart from a little pre-debate burst the markets remain stable

    Given the spate of polls over the weekend all showing that YES was edging up I was half-expecting a rally in the YES price on Betfair. It did move a touch but it is now back in the 6.8-7 range which in percentage terms converts to a 14-15% implied probability.

    The next event that could move things is the BBC TV debate next Monday. Salmond, surely will have learned from his first experience and have developed a better strategy. No doubt Darling and his team will be giving serious thought to their approach.

    Betting remains buoyant. As I write a total of £1.716m has been matched on Betfair which is very high for any political market four and a half weeks out.

    Mike Smithson

    2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


    Yes hits an all time high with YouGov

    Monday, August 18th, 2014

    The third poll this weekend shows the momentum is with Yes.

    With a little over four weeks to go it would appear the momentum is with Yes, as one of the pollsters that has had traditionally had the largest leads for No, shows significant movement towards Yes.


    What appears to be shifting the votes

    Peter Kellner says

    “There does seem to have been a real shift in opinion, especially among Scots under 40.”

    At the time of writing, the best odds of a Yes vote is 9/2