Wednesday, 14 August 2013

THOUGHTS ON NATE SILVER'S PREDICTIONS AND THOSE OF MATT QVORTRUP

It was interesting that the Scotsman, in common with most other papers in Scotland and the BBC, decided to ignore the opinion poll organised by Wings over Scotland.

Those which did mention it seem to have done so in a patronising fashion, or have suggested that the questions were biased, which I found odd, because Panelbase is a respected polling organisation which adheres to the British Polling Council rules, and many newspapers and the BBC use the company to conduct polls on their behalf.

Perhaps the silence is not surprising given that the general tone of the poll suggested that there was every reason for optimism from the Yes campaign, and that the question on who was considered trustworthy by the respondents showed the Press in a pretty bad light.

While completely ignoring the WoS poll, The Scotsman led their front page with comments from Nate Silver, an American mathematician who correctly foretold the results of each state and DC in the presidential election last year. Mr Silver said that the YES campaign had little chance of winning. James Kelly has done his usual top-class job of analysing Silver's prediction here.

The New Statesman, has also questioned Silver's predictions, based on the less than impressive predictions he made for the UK election, in an article by Alex Hern, which you can access here.

But I was somewhat taken aback to read an entirely opposite prediction in the Express, albeit one which was made a couple of years ago. 

Using historic precedent Professor Matt Qvortrup suggests that Yes will almost certainly win, given that, of 46 referenda on independence since 1905, 42 have resulted in a new country, two in Québec have resulted in status quo and the other two were later overturned by subsequent referenda which opted for independence (Malta and Montenegro).

Personally, I'm happy to know that we are moving slowly but surely in the right direction. 

We are still waiting to hear from Better Together how, apart from our seat on the Security Council, nuclear weapons and the respect and fear of all other countries for the the fourth largest military spend in the world, what exactly it is that makes us Better Together. 

The No campaign has been remarkably silent on what they can promise us for the future; indeed they all seem to say different things about further powers. Alistair Darling made an interesting observation that nothing could be promised at this time. 

Whatever may be further devolved will have to be in manifestos for the next UK election. And we all know that what goes in manifestos for Westminster is what the parties think will be well received in South East England where the votes are, and where elections are lost and won...so don't hold your breath for anything that will do Scotland any good.

21 comments:

  1. Tris

    I read a little of the article from the american guy and while it appears he did do well in the American elections the difference for myself is that it is a hell of lot easier, ignoring 2011, to predict a national election than a referendum. America like the UK has swing states and everyone knows the key states. I think there are about 8 of them or something that hold the key everytime. In the UK there are about 50 seats or there abouts in the south that hold the key so I am not taking much stock in what he has to say to be honest.

    The media and The Scotsman are just finished now. The only paper surprisngly to allow any sort of balanced article was the daily Record and Joan McAlpines opinion section. I think the media by not covering the poll have shown many of those on the fence that they definately can't be trusted and maybe in the long run that is a good thing.

    Better Together just don't have an argument and I really believe now that as we move forward this will become even more apparent. I was at a conference yesterday and Willie Rennie , who was actually pretty decent to be honest, talked about home rule and fedralism but that is where their difficulties lie. Pete Wishart got a couple of things wrong but was passionate as you would expect. There was a labout MSP, can't remember his name or his comments to be honest just nothing there. A Tory Councillor from Glasgow who stood up for what he belived in but was came across as actually honest in what he was saying and a girl from YES who was actually pretty good and the politicians could learn from her on how to answer a question. But the one thing I took from it was that if we had an honest, impartial and trustworthy media the NO camp would be dead and burind now as they have no answers. Missed the two Blairs last night and will need to catch that if I can today.

    As you know I shift between positive about the result and negative but to be honest I would say the longer we go the more positive I become. The last 6 weeks are going to be the key but I still have an issue with the celebration of world war one. You just know that will come with every black and white propoganda war film being on the beeb from morning to night for months. This whole debate is a war but I think we have a chance.

    Bruce

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    1. It's certainly true that Mr Silver doesn't know UK politics like he knows US politics, and maths can only go so far.

      He apparently simply took an average of the polls.

      Now if you do that for UK politics you have at the moment, an average of Tory 31, Labour 38, Liberals 11. which, apparently (according to UK polling report) would give the Labour Party a majority of 84.

      http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/archives/7966?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+PollingReport+%28UK+Polling+Report%29

      But seriously, no one is even talking about a Labour victory at the moment. The Tories are pretty certain that they will win. And historic statistics say that no party has ever had such a small majority at this stage in the electoral cycle and won.

      So maths doesn't cut it, alone.

      By the same token, the SNP was behind in the Scottish General Election of 2011, and yet ended up with what wasn't perceived possible... an actual majority, in a system designed for minority government/coalition.

      As for the press, someone once pointed out to me that although the Courier, Evening Telegraph and back in the day, the People's Journal, were staunchly Tory, Dundee always managed to elect a Labour council...so papers maybe don't have that much of an influence.

      Interesting to hear that the only party that had nothing interesting to say at your conference, was Labour. If ever a party lost the plot.

      In a way it reminds me of the aforementioned People's Journal. Old fashioned and with a declining (dying off) readership, it decided a few years before its own death, to modernise. It got someone to write a "pop" column and "gigs round Dundee" and "fashion", that sort of thing, alongside the Molly Weir column and knitting patterns.

      The result was that the young people at whom it was aimed, laughed like drains at the inept coverage, and the old people who had read it for what it had been, were put off by all this "young" stuff that didn't interest them. Lose lose situation.

      I see Labour in the same light. Their new friends made under Tory Blur, Bush's warrior, have deserted them for Spivvy Dave and his second hand car stall, ie unadulterated greed... and the old Labour people are shaking their heads and wondering why "socialist" is now a four letter word.

      I think we all shift between negative and positive, depending on many things... but I agree that we are moving in the right direction.

      The war thing is, I think, as likely to put people off as it is to turn them on. That they are staging the celebrations just a few days before the referendum... and THAT THEY ARE DOING IT IN GLASGOW... seems to be the most obvious indicator that they are doing it for political purposes.

      Glasgow in NOT where great British events are celebrated. Unless Spivvy Dave has an ulterior motive, and as we all know he's as subtle as a brick.

      The royal baby will be forgotten in a year's time, but of course Kate may be forced to have another one, or Harry might be married off, or maybe one of the ugly sisters...the 'birth royal princess' sprogs of Andy the Spiv.

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  2. Nate Silver is selling a book, this is the only reason he's given an opinion (a pretty crappy one at that, and I think he knows it.)

    Obviously, the usual suspects among the press have seized on it and while I don't doubt for a minute they knew what WOS was doing with its poll - I think they would've have grabbed Silver's blether with both hands regardless.

    The Scotsman is now a total joke paper. From ignoring an actual poll of Scottish people in favour of the opinion of a US mathematician with no track record what-so-ever in UK politics to then reporting the views of an ex-member of the wee free church who no one has heard of. (He said the Yes side had no chance because Scotland was too enamoured with the royal baby for fucks sake. What a total spoon.)

    In terms of news, you'd be as well buying a Take-a-break.

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    1. Oh well, that explains it all, Pa.

      If he has money to make out of a book, he will surely say whatever he thinks will get him a headline. He must have been over the moon at the naive Scotsman for putting his book ad on their front page as the lead story. What a set of patsies!

      Goodness me. The Wee Frees? it not John Brownlie is it?

      Well, they have a lot of influence on the islands, but I doubt anywhere else much.

      There used to be one Wee Free Church in Dundee, you know. I always said I would go, just to see how extreme they were, but I put it off and put it off. It's a block of flats now.

      When John invites us up to his But an Ben for a wee drink, we'll get him to take us along...

      As for the royal baby. Maybe it's all they are talking about in the Wee Free Church of Scotland, but I've only ever heard it mentioned a couple of times in Dundee. Despite wall to wall coverage in the press and the BBC, even people like my elderly neighbours who usually take delight in boring the backside off me with tales of their devotion to the Mountbatten-Windors, haven't mentioned it.

      Spoon... LOL yep, that sound like a fair summation.

      Just a wee question for anyone who knows anything about these matters...why would the Wee Free Church of Scotland be so attached to a state which makes the Church of England its official state religion?

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    2. Why would any Scottish church be so attached to a state which makes the Church of England the official state religion.

      That easy Tris, they are a branch of the Church of England. Remember the Church of Scotland is the only church on the planet to have sold its entire flock down the swanny in 1707 for its own selfish ends just another branch of the CoE

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    3. Ah, Anon. I know nothing of the history of the CoS. I'm not religious, but the thing I like about the CoS, rather than the CoE or the Vatican Church, is that there is no hierarchy. No bishops palaces. There is the minister and the moderator for a year and that's it.

      Maybe I should read up more... but remember I was talking about the Wee Free CoS, not the CoS.

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    4. Aye Tris a know your were on about the wee frees, it was from one of professor Tom Devines books that I read about the CoS. The CoS were to be subsumed into the CoE if they voted against the Union, if they voted for the union they would be left alone, so they dumped their flock to save their own wee cartel. in Prof Devines book he states had the CoS voted against the union it is unlikely it would have happened. Like all Scottish instutions, law, education, church they kept their independence and the Scottish population lost theirs, and these institutions since that time IMHO have worked against the Scottish people. They are all the same self interest above everthing else

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    5. Thanks for that info, Anon. I see. I guess you let the powerful people remain with no change (the church, the universities and the judges and advocates) and the rest of us can put up with whatever crap they throw at us.

      Must have been Tories that came up with that!

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    6. Poor Tris - I find it often helps to get at least some facts right before one pontificates in public - it saves embarrassment! You clearly know nothing about the Free Church - either in Dundee or nationally. The Free Church in Dundee is not a block of flats, it is a thriving congregation of some 200 plus that has planted another congregation in St Andrews and is about to start another one in Dundee. Feel free to visit if you wish - I always find that firsthand knowledge does so much to overcome ignorance and prejudice.

      And the Free Church does not support the British State nor Scottish Independence. This may be a revolutionary concept for you, but we are here to preach the Gospel, not to tell people how to vote. You will find that there are Free Church people who support the Union and those who want independence. In fact in the Dundee congregation you will find both, including the former leader of the SNP, Gordon Wilson.

      Time for you to do some thinking and next time get some information before you make such foolish comments.

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    7. Than s very much for that information, even couched in such patronising tones. I'm sure Jesus would be absolutely thrilled at your skills in making people feel rotten.

      FYI I'm not actually embarrassed at all. The free church building on the Arbroath road is a block of flats...although it could have been one of the break away free churches.

      I'm surprised you say that the church has no opinion on this, as I seem to remember reading some Wee Free minister bumping his gums the other day in the Hootsman about how we're too enamoured of the latest royal sponger to worry about independence.

      I think I'll decline your kind invitation to visit. If hey are all as patronising as you, it would be a rather vinegary visit.

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  3. Friends and foes are wondering if Mr Miliband has lost the plot (no advertising revenue)

    When only the Netherlands, Greece and Portugal are doing worse, and when Britain is back-tracking to a neo-feudal world of seigneurial privilege and modern serfdom, Labour need to produce some answers.

    Things must be dire in the UK when even the Torys can see where we are headed. In case you think I am OT then an anagram of Nate Silver is Servantile.

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    1. Thanks. I'll read that when I get back tonight CH...

      I love the quote from it though. It's pretty much how things are for my point of view.

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    2. Very interesting stuff, CH.

      Not that we didn't know most of it of course, but that the Gruinard are printing it.

      In theory, given the quote you give above, Labour should be so far head as to be uncatchable, but they are not. In fact I don't think anyone expects a Labour government next time round.

      The trouble is they offer no alternative to the Tories for far of being called socialist by the South East. But why have the mock Tories when the genuine article is there.

      if the Tories ditch Spiv Dave they will certainly be home and dry.

      God help us if the Tories get in and we have been stupid enough to say no.

      We can kiss everything goodbye. They have no mercy, especially on people who wouldn't vote for them in a heartbeat...

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  4. tris

    Nate is a very experienced reliable and accurate pollster
    who could be right. or not

    slagging him off and running him down wont take
    that away from him.

    anyway keep on saying its in the bag and
    lots of Unionists will say ' cant be bothered to vote as we have won already '
    thus handing an unlikely victory to the yes camp.

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    1. Well, he's been very accurate in America, but not so good in the UK.

      I don't think I slagged him off. I think he was smart enough to know how to sell his book, by making a statement that he could guess would get huge coverage in the papers.

      He's a sharp elbowed middle class guy who wants to make a lot of money, and will do whatever it takes to do so.

      If you think that's slagging him off, I'm probably slagging off about 40% of the British population too...

      ...And 99.5% of Tories.

      But yes, I agree with you. It never does any harm to let your opponents know that they have it in the bag. There's no need to No voters to get off their backsides, so they don't and Yes wins.

      What I do criticise is the Scotsman and the BBC who seem to feel no moral obligation to report two sides of the story.

      That will end in tears.

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  5. tris

    you do a lot of ' Slagging off ' these day yer getting
    a bit grouchy in yer older age. and looking at probably
    losing the Nats lifetime chance wont make make any of youse.
    wery happy

    .no point pointing out all the reasons for winning the yes vote
    me i have given up.
    Right wing economics and its politics is dominant
    throughout the UK including Scotland and looking easily
    to win the day.

    Consider swinney and the rail price increase
    inflation only .just very slightly less than Osbornomics .
    Not a real alternative like public ownership and fair rail
    prices.

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    1. You've lost your Labour party so stuff everyone else lovely attitude it must be in the membership sign up form.

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  6. In my older age, Niko?

    huh!

    Hah, you're right. I am getting to be an old grouse. I should lighten up and learn to love the Tories!

    Talking of trains, whilst I too wish they world renationalise them so that these fat cats stop taking the subsidy (which Nicola said was 75%) and buying villas in the south of France, 3.5% rise is better than4.5%.

    Why does a necessary have to go up by more than inflation, I ask?

    I don't know what the SNP policy is on renationalisation. I know that Labour's used to be renationalisation, byut Blair soon put the lid on that nonsense.

    Don't give up, Niko. As Plato said-- "The price of apathy is to be ruled by evil men".

    I know you appreciate a scholarly quote from time to time.

    :)

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  7. tris

    “There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.”
    - Epictetus

    ch

    “There are only two people who can tell you the truth about yourself - an enemy who has lost his temper and a friend who loves you dearly.”
    - Antisthenes

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    1. Och Niko...

      Why do you always have to better me?

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