Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Trees forest/forest trees.

Recently, the independence supporting, media-monitoring website wingsoverscotland.com did something a bit off the wall. The website's main writer - Rev. Stuart Campbell - after crowd funding a reasonable wage for himself in the run up to the referendum next year - decided to crowd fund a poll* on behalf of the website and its readers.

You can have a look here for an at-a-glance digest of the results and if you're interested in the nitty gritty of it, the details are all linked in the sidebar. (Raw data here.)

The Scottish media report on polls all the time, (here, here and here for example.) They pay for their own from time to time. Sometimes it'll be a check box on a newspaper's website. Usually though, polling companies do the work, you've probably heard their names being mentioned - Ipsos Mori, TNS BMRB, YouGov & PanelBase to name but a few.

It was PanelBase who carried out wingsoverscotland's poll, widely thought of as being the fairest. Different companies use different methods, I won't try to explain, my puny intellect can't handle algebra so its fair to say statistical analysis is right out the window - suffice to say - all sorts of 'weightings' are used so it isn't straight forward and as you well know, poll results can be as wildly inaccurate as they are wildly misinterpreted.

On this occasion, its become less about the survey questions and more about the media blackout around the poll itself. It seems, what the Wings survey has done - besides ask some pertinent questions - has confirmed in pretty glaring terms, that the Scottish Press is very picky about what it chooses to report. They might try to dismiss Wings Over Scotland as a fringe website (which it isn't boasting readership figures comparable with many Scottish broadsheets) but they cannot dismiss the polling company -  the BBC (for example) regularly report PanelBase surveys.

Instead of reporting on a poll carried out by a reputable polling organisation which asked 1015 Scottish people what their views were on a number of issues, the Scotsman went for an opinion piece from one Nate Silver, an American pollster who's never commented on Scottish politics, at least that I can see.

Scotsman editors meet to discuss independence reportage.
Its pretty obvious where the press in Scotland stands in terms of independence - they don't support it. But to dissemble so obviously and so enthusiastically - has it not occurred to any one at Pacific Quay or the various newspaper HQ's that Scottish people might begin to lean toward a yes vote because they're sick of being treated like fools?

Nobody appreciates having the wool pulled over their eyes, more-over, they like it even less if its so bumbling an attempt that only a moron wouldn't detect it. If the Scottish Media insist on taking the piss, they could at least do us all the courtesy of making the merest sensation of an effort.

* If you doubt crowd funding or the resolve of the people who donated, check out by how much the target of £1500 was smashed - all within 72 hours.


  1. I understand that not only has the Hootsman led with the story, but the BBC and ITV too.

    So an "opinion" from one of their dreaded foreigners (are Americans foreigners, or just 'the boss'?), is of more value than a properly conducted survey from a company that is, as you say, used by the newspapers themselves?

    Truth is, if you want your survey published in the press here, best make sure that it says exactly what the press want it to say.

  2. Its just really sinister and obviously so.

    A hell of a thing. There may be some serious unintended consequences that benefit the yes campaign in this.

  3. The media in Scotland, BBC excluded of course they are funded through tax, are committing slow but sure suicide. How many of us buy Newspapers anymore, when I go for the rolls at the weekend it's mainly older people getting a paper. As far as the poll goes, there were a few questions I would have worded differently but that is opinion. I hope there are more polls crowd funded that the media will ignore because it will continue to show them in their true light and that will turn people to vote yes.


  4. That it was crowd funded I think makes it news worthy. I bet if it was on any other topic it would be all over the news.

    I haven't bought a paper for years, I read the headlines for a laugh but that's it.

  5. The fact that the poll was crowd funded is indeed newsworthy, but not really enough for a front page anywhere.

    The questions, were dispassionately analysed by Professor John Curtice and he found the majority to be leading, riddled with basic mistakes or lacking in credibility.

    Given that the source of the questions is an individual with a well documented personality problem, I'm surprised the poll even got the attention that was paid to it.

    The one interesting element of this affair is that Wings has helped damage the credibility of PanelBase in the eyes of many including the media.

    I very much doubt you'll see the Times use PanelBase again for example.

    PanelBase are a rewards based polling organisation. You only have to take a look at surveypolice.com to see that its participants are only interested in the rewards.

    In terms of news, much as the pro-indys' got excited, there was nothing much to report on.

    That's news values. Ho hum.


  6. Disagree.

    Polls carried out by pro-union organisations (read, much of the Scottish press) also ask leading questions and are reported enthusiastically.

    I don't know you any more than I know Stuart Campbell, one can only go on what one reads. I've not detected any personality issues with Campbell, that you'd come on here and suggest without any evidence that he has a personality disorder says more about you than it does about him.

  7. Good evening, Longshanks.

    I was interested to read your post. A couple of questions if I may?

    You say that Panelbase is reward driven. Why do you think that that would that affect the outcome of its polls? Several polling companies use rewards. They continue to be used on polls of all sorts. Why would one which was on Scottish independence be any different from others on a wide range of other subjects?

    I've always thought that people doing polls for financial reward are probably slightly more likely to be unbiased than those who are doing the poll for free. They enter into a contract to tell the truth for financial reward. Inconsistencies in their work are noted and too many of them result in the membership being withdrawn. If they want to continue to earn the £2, or £4 reward (or whatever it is) per poll, they have to attempt to make a decent job of completing them.

    As far as I could see the spread of age and political allegiances used was pretty fair.

    I wonder, too, why you think that the poll has ruined the reputation of the polling company. As far as I can make out every poll is open to the accusation from someone somewhere that there is an element of bias in it. You say that you reckon The Times will no longer use Panelbase. Why the Times? It’s hardly now considered to be a particularly well respected newspaper, is it?

    Finally, I wondered if you would care to elaborate on the personality disorder which you ascribe to the writer of the Wings blog and to how you came by that information. It would be helpful to the readership of Wings over Scotland if they had all the information that you appear to have at their fingertips, in order that they could make an informed decision about the contents of the blog.


Thanks for comment as always and I apologise if you have to jump through any hoops to do so. Its just that, I'm still being spammed by organisations who are certain I can't get it up or when it is up its not big enough or that I don't have anyone to get it up for.

Who knew blogging could be so bad for ones self-confidence?