And lo! Arses were covered!

There shall, I’m certain, be more than a few nods of agreement when I say that I find the behaviour of Sturgeon/SNP loyalists and apologists at all times maddening and on occasion quite sickening. The behaviour of some of these sad creatures over the last few days has fallen into the latter category. Quite unintentionally, I provoked a response which demonstrated the lengths to which some people will go to cover up or divert attention from the abject failures of the current SNP leadership with regard to the cause of restoring Scotland’s independence. The main task for which they were elected. It seems they need constant reminding of that. And due chastisement for having so deplorably forsaken Scotland’s cause. Those who put party and personality before cause and country, however, are determined to ensure that any attempt to properly scrutinise the SNP/Scottish Government’s record is shouted down. Thus, nothing changes. The failure continues – painted to look like success by slobbering sycophants.

For some time, I have been posting a very simple statistic intended to illustrate the failure to advance Scotland’s cause in a way that was easily understood and, importantly, easily replicated. You’ll find an example here. The idea was to spark some discussion of the SNP/Scottish Government’s record by showing that, despite the grandiose claims and the inane trumpeting of the isolated favourable poll results, in fact support for Yes as indicated by polling has not changed in all the long wearying years the Sturgeon has been the de facto leader of the independence campaign. To this end, I wanted a statistical illustration that was truthful without being overly technical. A calculation that almost everybody can do and therefore that almost everybody would fully understand and trust – because they could do the calculation themselves in order to verify, even if very few bothered to do so. The fact that they could being enough for them.

My hope was that others would pick up on this and produce their own statistical illustrations of the SNP leadership’s failure to increase support for Yes. In addition, I hoped that at least a few more people would be prompted to question those grandiose claims of continuing success and step away from the inane trumpeting of single polls which tell us precisely nothing about the SNP/Scottish Government’s performance with regard to the constitutional issue. At the very least, I reckoned maybe a few people would start asking for evidence of the claimed increase in support for Yes. Something more credible than a single poll result.

As we have come to expect, I was subjected to the customary abuse for presuming to question the carefully nurtured image of Nicola Sturgeon as the great commanding general of Scotland’s cause. It was all pretty much standard stuff. I was called a traitor to the cause and a ‘Yoon plant’ and suchlike. I was told my calculations and conclusions were all wrong, although nobody was able to actually point to the alleged errors. I was told the figures I use are unreliable because they are sourced from Wikipedia. Although when I asked for better information, none was forthcoming.

This, as I say, is all standard stuff. The sort of thing that anyone subjecting Sturgeon &Co to even mild scrutiny will be all too familiar with. I expected this response and, while it is troubling that so many people insist the SNP leader ship be immune from scrutiny, I wasn’t personally affected by the abuse at all. When you’ve been active in online campaigning as long as I have you no longer react emotionally to the snarling and sniding of the mob. If you let these numpties anger you, you’ll be angry all the time. And that is not good for anyone’s health. Especially someone a couple of weeks away from their 72nd birthday.

That said, from time to time there are things which seriously irk me. My buttons may be small, concealed and fitted with safety covers, but I still have buttons. And they can be pressed. Just not purposefully. Oddly, it can be really trivial things that manage to annoy me. It’s a quirky phenomenon. Or it might be some particularly desperate attempt to discredit the message or shoot the messenger. That’s what got my hackles up on this occasion.

First, let me explain that the statistcal illustration I used was based on the headline percentages recorded for Yes in the selected polls. I did not use the percentage of the vote minus don’t know/undecided (DK) because doing so was an unnecessary and irrelevant added complication for an exercise that I was intent on keeping simple. Excluding the DK’s just didn’t give the added value that would have made the extra complexity worthwhile. The exercise did what it was intended to do as it was. So why add a redundant element?

The illustration is true. For all the abuse and all the whining and all the nit-picking about statistical baubles that hadn’t been tacked on, the fundamental fact remains that support for Yes has not increased out of the margin of error zone since Sturgeon became First Minister. For all the complaining about this truth being publicly stated, nobody has been able to refute the conclusion. The statistical exercise I use may not be fancy enough for those who are impressed by fanciness nor complex enough for those who suppose complexity implies authority even if it makes the exercise incomprehensible to anyone other than trained statisticians. But it is honest. Surely that is what matters.



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10 thoughts on “And lo! Arses were covered!

  1. The Scottish Social Attitudes Survey contradicts you. On your linked site, it shows support for independence at 33% in 2014 and 51% in 2021. The poll results on your linked site also contradict you. They show support for independence was around 39% in late 2016 and 51% in late 2022. Both show progress.

    You make two fatal errors in your “methodology”. Firstly, your baseline is “untypical”. The time directly after the referendum was a time of heightened emotion. The feelings of grief and injustice were raw and saw a small spike in pro-Indy sentiment. It couldn’t last, and didn’t last. The same was true of the Brexit referendum. An initial spike in pro-Indy sentiment plummeted within months to its lowest level since the 2014 referendum. All this was predictable and was predicted by cooler heads. Any attempt to declare independence between Sept 2014 and the immediate aftermath of the Brexit referendum would have ended in catastrophic defeat for YES. This is where your baseline should have been. When YES reached its inevitable, post-referendum nadir of around 39%. But that wouldn’t have aided your narrative, so you went with a more emotive start point.

    Secondly, you do not make any comparison with the performance of the NO vote. You have placed YES in a vacuum with no information as to how it is performing relative to NO. It would show that NO had slipped significantly in the polls from regularly getting 50+% of the responses between 2014-19 (101 polls) to almost never getting it between 2019-22 (89 polls). The comparison would also show YES only getting 50+% of the responses once between 2014-19 while conversely regularly achieving that result between 2019-22. Determining how NO is doing is critical in determining how YES is doing. But again, that wouldn’t have aided your narrative.

    It amazes me how allegedly pro-indy bloggerati and activists are so keen to dampen down any enthusiasm other Indies might show over positive stories regarding independence with “it’s aw sh*te”, “it’s no’ real” and “nuthin tae see here” claims. It is so utterly self-defeating. It is literally a unionist view.

    PS: I didn’t claim the DKs would have changed your narrative. They wouldn’t have. Especially given your “errors” outlined above. It was just your bizarre claims they somehow did not exist that bemused me. It turns out you just couldn’t be ars*d to do the relatively few simple sums it would have taken to remove them.

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  2. Some may consider your approach, Peter, to be ‘simplistic’ but it is factual and based on published data, the source for which you have provided. And, as you state, it is easily comprehended.

    There are many other ways to analyse, using the underlying change both including and excluding those that don’t know, won’t say and won’t vote. And, there are many ‘starting points’ that you could use as your reference to measure progress.

    It seems reasonable to me to look at a dozen poll results after Sturgeon’s ascendancy to the leadership and the last dozen surveys since you were looking to assess movement under the current FM’s stewardship. Picking either a low or a high point over the time series would distort this performance measurement (either upwards or downwards, depending on whether the nadir or zenith across the period was used as the baseline).

    For what it’s worth I can verify your results using your source as anybody could and as you have pointed out. The conclusion on that basis is, again as you mention, ‘No Change in YES support’. Excluding the non-committed YES is at 49.52% for the first 12 polls after 18th September 2014 – which includes a couple of polls prior to Sturgeon being elected SNP leader – and 50.02% for the last dozen. The conclusion once more is ‘No Change in YES support’ (unless you consider +0.5% of statistical significance).

    Of course, averaging across polling firms can cause distortions to the LEVEL of support recorded due to inherent differences in methodologies involved. On the other hand these statistical biases can be balanced out in the averaging process as long as no single firm dominates the series of surveys.

    Probably the most accurate way, in my opinion, to measure CHANGE in support is to analyse data by polling firm across the time period and to WEIGHT BY VOLUME to allow for the (small) difference in sample size from poll to poll. This I have done for the 4 major firms that have surveyed across the period using the published data tables on each firm’s website for the first 12 post-referendum polls and the most recent dozen, with the following respective results:

    Ipsos: 51.69%, 52.64% (+0.95%)
    Panelbase: 47.70%, 49.18% (+1.48%)
    Survation: 48.53%, 50.37% (+1.84%)
    YouGov: 48.37%, 48.21% (-0.06%)

    So 3 out of 4 show some limited progress which, taken in the round, could point to an uptick of around +1%. (Yes, taking an arithmetic average of these is slightly distorting but given that sample sizes are similar in the polls this should only be in percentage decimal points).

    I haven’t looked at how NO has performed. However, if it has gone down sharply over the period this hasn’t been reflected in a substantial increase in YES. In this event the proportion of non-committed may have increased as a result. (To repeat, I don’t know if it has). I would not, however, use a pronounced reduction in NO as a measure of success unless it translates into a similarly marked increase in YES. After all, we need the bulk of the population to be in favour so that the question is resolved unequivocally.

    Now the UK Supreme Court ruling may be a watershed and it has probably had an effect on immediate YES sentiment. But there have been a number of supposed ‘game changers’ in the last 8 years, none of which have been capitalised on. (We all know what they are).

    We’ll have to wait and see if subsequent polls register increased support before drawing any such conclusions.

    Just as one swallow doesn’t make a summer, a single swally doesn’t get you drunk … or at least it shouldn’t.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks for that. It’s refreshing to get a coherent, rational response. And gratifying that your analysis confirms my own while also confirming that excluding DKs makes no difference to the conclusion. No matter how you analyse the data, there has been no statistically significant increase in support for Yes during Sturgeon’s time as First Minister and leader of the SNP. Simplifying the methodology as I did in order to make the calculation more accessible, produces the same result as other more complex methods of making the necessary comparison.

      If I had even suspected that excluding DKs or some other statisticians’ trick would produce a contradictory conclusion then I would be guilty of distorting the picture. But I confirmed that excluding DKs made no difference. So, given that the priority was simplicity, there was absolutely no reason to exclude DKs. And very sound reasons for not doing so.

      As you will no doubt have realised, all the fuss about DKs is a smokescreen thrown up by those who prefer that people are not told the truth about Nicola Sturgeon’s failure to progress Scotland’s cause. I make no apology for being angered by this kind of irresponsible arse-covering.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Yes simplicity is key to getting the message over as long – and as you say – this illustrates the point and does not distort the conclusion.

        The ‘weighted by volume’ analysis is not difficult – it’s certainly does not involve mathematics! That would be calculus, trigonometry, geometry and algebra. It really just entails a bit of simple arithmetic and basic numeracy.

        However, it is, as you allude to, much more involved. That is, researching the data from the individual sources and collating to produce the results.

        I find that it’s always good to look at things in different ways in order to cross-check and back-up conclusions.

        Once confirmed these inferences can be presented in the most easy to understand manner so that the gist of the argument is put over successfully to the audience (which, in this case, will in all likelihood mostly – and for better or worse – not have a statistical background nor have an interest in acquiring one!).

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        1. Very well said!

          My rule of thumb is that if I can understand, anyone can. Numbers don’t speak to me at all. I am OK with very basic arithmetic. But it’s an effort. Largely because I always feel I have to double- and triple-check even the simplest calculation. The upside of this is that I can usually be pretty confident that there are no errors.

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  3. The errors aren’t in your sums, they’re in your choice of reference periods and the reasons for that. I repeat;

    “The Scottish Social Attitudes Survey contradicts you. On your linked site, it shows support for independence at 33% in 2014 and 51% in 2021. The poll results on your linked site also contradict you. They show support for independence was around 39% in late 2016 and 51% in late 2022. Both show progress”.

    Your insistence on using an unrealistic starting point, which showed Indy support at predictably unsustainable levels, was self-serving and skews the conclusions you draw from the exercise. The more realistic starting point is when the inevitable post-referendum hangover has run its course and things have bottomed out. That was in late 2016, once people had taken on board the Brexit result.

    By any standard, the recovery in the YES vote since that point has been remarkable. Despite a hostile media and the emergence of an equally hostile malcontent clique in the previously united Indy movement. According to your linked site, support for indy has risen by nearly a third since late 2016. To ignore that success is to mislead by omission.

    And I would like our allegedly pro-indy forecasters of doom to explain to me just how all this wet blanket stuff is meant to advance the cause of independence. How is the use of Unionist arguments to lower morale amongst Indies going to get us any closer to independence. As I said before, it is utterly self-defeating. It raises questions as to the motives and/or judgement of those sowing the despondency.

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    1. My bio says “No attitude immutable. No conclusion final. No opinion humble.” and has done for some time. There are people who get the meaning right away. Then there are those who never will. We find that same divide everywhere we look on social media.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. So you are willing to support the Union in the guise of an Indy then. Thanks for clarifying. So much makes more sense now.

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