IndYref2 Poll Validity Limits: Authentic or Hand-Picked?

Audience views influence poll results. Media viewers are not generally the intellectual classes of Scottish society. So relying on poll results is a high risk. Does the political orientation of the media affect the released results? Are polls a good tool for understanding public opinion? Among polling tools, how reliable are e-polls? Do different poll results damage their credibility?

The results of the Scottish Independence poll, which was randomly sent to the e-mail of 1000 people, show less than 50% support for Scottish independence. However, polls cannot be an accurate tool to understand public opinion. In addition, among polling tools, electronic polls have disadvantages that make the results unreliable. Most importantly, the results of previous polls have not always been the same, which diminishes their importance and thus undermines the validity of recent Scottish polls.


Polls Are an Inadequate Tool

According to the polls, it cannot be concluded that most Scots no longer want to secede from the rest of the UK. It cannot even be said that in 22 consecutive polls, there is a positive vote for independence. In fact, votes for Scottish independence and non-independence are not obtained through opinion polls. Because these polls, which are also electronic, have disadvantages that prevent them from representing the Scottish majority.


Common methods of conducting surveys, and in fact collecting information and data that can be called “traditional methods” of conducting surveys, include written and oral methods (face to face). But these are eliminated in electronic methods, leading to serious shortcomings in the surveys.


Disadvantages of Polls in General

Survey companies have their own method: they choose the survey tool. The choice of the number of people to be asked the selected questions depends on them. Finally, they are the ones who can do the survey in person, by phone or online.


In general, how to deal with the above questions and conduct surveys with people online or by phone can affect the results.


If this is conducted over the phone, usually by landline, most young people will not show much interest.


Online polls, on the other hand, increase the likelihood of paying attention to the policies and interests of the polling companies, because the board has selected the participants. Unfortunately, this method is often used by many companies.


Polls on the Scottish independence referendum, Britain’s first major political event, are also often conducted online.


In general, the margin of error in any poll is high. For example, new poll data cannot be compared to data from a previous Scottish independence referendum. It therefore makes validation difficult.


Most of all, the particular problem with online surveys is that respondents’ weight is not measurable. The relative opinion of the youth can be calculated in this way, but the relative opinion of the elderly and those who are not technically savvy cannot be calculated in this way.


It can be said that all survey companies choose a statistical sample and a small statistical community that does not represent everyone and can only publish results based on the selected sample.


In addition, the millions of people who have not yet voted or are disappointed with politics is another issue that generally tarnishes the credibility of these polls.


Believers in the “yes” campaign say their vote has been underestimated. Because there is a section of society in working-class areas that has not previously registered to vote, does not have a landline for telephone polls, or does not choose to participate in online polls.


So the actual number of “yeses” can be more than what the polls say. In fact, in the Scottish referendum, this could mean a large number of asymptomatic votes.


Another thing about polls is that poll data has always shown “a real, lasting and big change.” For example, it was observed that the statistical sample selected for the poll chose the option “no” at one time and the option “yes” at other times, or vice versa.


Therefore, polls can only tell us that the statistical population varies between yes and no, which can be termed as decision fluctuations. In general, it is the ballot boxes that tell us the definitive results, not the polls.


Specific Disadvantages of Electronic Surveys

One of the disadvantages of electronic surveys is the impossibility of face-to-face conversations with respondents, especially in the preliminary study stage.


Another problem is the lack of security guarantees when using the internet. Respondents are limited to network users only.


Another disadvantage of this method is the possibility of the spread of cyber viruses and users deleting the email containing the questionnaire from their inbox before opening it.


Another disadvantage that can be mentioned for this method of data collection is the validity of the answers, which in this method is less valid due to user anonymity in cyberspace.


In all internet polls, our contacts are limited and do not include all those we want!!! In other words, users may not be connected to the internet for a certain period of time and, as a result, will not be within the required calling range.


Another problem is that in an online poll, the pollster does not choose the audience, but the audience chooses the pollster, meaning only women may take part in a poll while it is decided that 50% of participants are male.


The Problem of Differences in Survey Results

If we look at the referendum polls after the 2014 Scottish referendum, we see how different the results of these polls are from reality.


In 2014, after the referendum, 25 polls were conducted, in which “no” was the dominant answer in 17 and “yes” in 7.

Between 18 September 2015 and 18 September 2016, another were conducted, of which 20 resulted in “no” and 4 in “yes”.


From 18 September 2016 to 18 September 2017, were conducted, of which 25 resulted in “no” and only one in “yes.”


Thus, the answer “no” prevailed until July 2019 when, at the same time, a poll by Lord Ashcroft showed an overwhelming majority of “yeses”.


This trend continued until January 2020, when three polls declared “yes” in support of the independence: between 50 and 52%.


In general, polls do not represent everyone in the community, and polling tools cannot completely solve the problems in this area. The problem of the validity of polls always remains. In addition, poll results have not always been the same. It seems that several methods should be used to cover everyone’s opinion. It is not possible to find out about all the opinions in society just by polling. In addition, polls on Scottish independence are completely electronic, further complicating the issue of their validity.

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