Next week Scotland goes to the polls and for the very first time this week the BBC quoted a YouGov poll saying that the Yes campaign may just about be in the lead. Until now all the polls that I saw them reporting showed the “NO” campaign to be ahead. Everyone is saying that the vote will be close.

Majestic is a big data source which can extrapolate deep insights from the way in which pages and entities on the web connect to each other. We thought it would be useful to turn our insights onto the Scottish independence referendum.

From my analysis, it looks like the Yes campaign will beat the No campaign on polling day. As I write this I am personally very disappointed as I think Scotland would be stronger in the union. We predicted it correctly for the Mayor of London, and Obama vs Romney – so we do have a track of calling these things.

On the surface it Looks close…

TopicalTrustFlow-Scotland

Pundits may not have seen this chart before – and it is the first time it has been available for an election like this, but if you know what you are looking at, this chart tells me that the Politicians think Scotland may be “Better Together” (staying within the union) but society significantly disagrees.

These numbers are logarithmic numbers between 0 and 100. The headline metric is “Trust Flow” which is the circle on the left. It tells me that overall, the YesScotland campaign is slightly less influential (28/100) than the BetterTogether campaign )29/100 As the numbers are logarithmic, 29 is quite a bit more than 28… but what is hugely interesting is that we live in a democracy and for once society gets to vote on an ISSUE rather than a politician. We can now look at where that Trust Flow is emanating from, rather than just the headline influence. What we see when we look at the TOPICAL TRUST FLOW is a very different story. We see that all of the influence in the Better Together camp is being pushed by politics (28/100) but the Yes Scotland campaign also has a load more traction from Society. In particular, from People in society (23/100) compared to the more general society category from the no camp at 20/100.

It would make some sense intuitively to suggest that Westminster – with it’s 800 year old political infrastructure (if you start at the Magna Carta) – has more persuasive tools than the Yes camp, but the story becomes more murky when you see that society and people of influence seem to be keeping pace with the establishment. The establishment doesn’t get a vote… so I think the Yes camp is further ahead than the polls suggest.

My prediction is only tempered by the observation that the Citation Flow (the right hand circle) shows a larger value for the Yes camp. This suggests that the Yes camp have been pushing harder on smaller – lower quality – websites. If this number was immensely high, I would suggest that they had overcooked the picture (like Mitt Romney’s camp did in the US) but in this case I am prepared to say that this is a consequence of the Yes camp debating in more town halls and smaller groups and  niches than the no camp trying to manage the campaign from Whitehall.

Is it already Game Over?

Official Yes vs Official no sites

When we look at the number of referring domains going to each site over the last 90 days, we can definitely see more momentum for the independence camp. They are winning, it seems.

Breaking the vote down by sector

scotland-vote-by-sector

For the first time, Majestic can now also tell you what sectors of society are likely to vote in which direction. This is because Topical Trust Flow cuts through verticals. Here’s some interesting observations:

The Health Industry wants to keep the Union (12:0)

You won’t find many influential health sites suggesting a Yes! It seems to me that Scotland will lose the National Health Service and that’s bad news for people in the NHS and drug companies looking for a central distribution channel for their drugs. The Health industry overwhelmingly says “no”.

The Newspapers want devolution! (22:16)

They may wish to appear independent, but devolution is going to sell more papers than a United Kingdom. Imagine all the stories as the political status quo starts to unravel. Chaos ensuing as Tax systems, Welfare systems, monetary systems and everything else goes up for grabs.

Business wants a Union (16:15)

Its not totally cut and dried – but a union is generally easier for business. One VAT system, one market, a closely aligned legal system all makes for cheaper business within a United Kingdom. Scottish businesses, though, may still find benefits in branding themselves “different”… just as long as we all get along after the vote! In the shopping vertical the message is even more marked, but that could just as easily be a short term signal as people clamber for “Independence” T-shirts and merchandise. [Edit: For clarity, the stats are saying business category is linking to the Yes camp more than the No camp]

The Historians think this is decisive for Scotland (16:13)

The reference category is where history will be written for years to come. The Wikipedias and the minutes of record. Here it seems history is being pre-written in favour of the no campaign. [Edit for Clarity: the Reference category has been more inclined to link to the No camp (to keep the union).

The Last Word

I wish I could be sure… but I think Scotland will vote for Independence by much more than the polls suggest. I can’t say for sure because I had to work this out on a morning’s analysis. With more time I would start drilling down into the location and demographics of the users on the sites passing Trust Flow into the two campaigns. I am not paid to do that, but any political commentator ignoring Topical Trust Flow as a signal in any election is missing a trick now.

Of course, Stephen J. Dubner – co-author of “Freakonomics”, reminded me recently that me sticking my neck out has little consequence if I get it wrong… but I think this is different. This time we are using Big Data to make the predictions. Being able to derive deeper insights into what the world is thinking, just by analyzing how the world connects on a grand scale is potentially a huge advance in the world of predictive analytics. We will make mistakes, for sure, but to not try would be the real omission.

Dixon Jones

Marketing Director at Majestic SEO.

Comments

  • Peter Mead

    Awesome information here. Very timely for us too. Been a long time Majestic SEO user. Can see how this data makes sense.

    The research we did using Google Trends seems to have the Yes vote far ahead of the No vote. http://wearedando.com/google-trends-predicting-yes-vote-scottish-referendum/ I will be looking into this more as the days go by to see how things continue to trend.

    Thanks again for all your data 🙂
    Peter Mead

    September 10, 2014 at 4:07 pm
    • Dixon Jones

      Thanks Peter. Interesting findings over on Google Trends too. Thanks for that. It makes me wonder, then, why independent research like this is seeing different data, to the polls. Maybe the polls are better… maybe not… I guess we’ll know next week! 🙂

      September 10, 2014 at 4:20 pm
    • Tony Hayes

      > Great point.
      There is also a major battle going on with mainstream media and social media.
      Most of the yes voters believe the BBC and other traditional media are being very pro union, and unfairly so, but the social media activities of the yes vote is really like a movement that’s gaining momentum and its happening offline too.

      Its an intriguing battle to watch. Many yes folk will also tell you they think the polls are weighted towards “No” intentionally too, whether that’s true or not i have no idea, but it is having the opposite effect with more Scots moving towards yes as a result.
      Fascinating to watch.

      Its not quite social media Vs Main stream traditional media though as many of the mainstream have an online presence, but yes voters are multiplying through social media for sure, its non stop campaigning on networks like twitter.

      My guess is Yes too, just from what i see on social media. I am Scottish but living abroad, but many of my connections are from home, so i am getting a first hand or birds eye view from the social media side and its incessant from the yes side.

      Great blog post and i need to take a much deeper look at majestic, i am a member but have not got deep enough into it to know that you could get this kind of data. Very impressive stuff!

      September 13, 2014 at 10:47 am
  • Nerd 1337

    “It makes me wonder, then, why independent research like this is seeing different data to the polls”

    Digital Divide i would say, old people tend to be more conservative and most of them are not active in the internet so their opinion could not be measured with MajesticSEO but with traditional polls. Anyway, great idea to monitor opinions and political trends of the internet active people through Majesticseo.

    September 10, 2014 at 6:55 pm
    • Dixon Jones

      That… or our data is more accurate and people were people were lying to the pollsters (not necessarily intentionally). We’ll find out next Thursday!

      September 10, 2014 at 9:59 pm
      • BWS

        > But I guess the point is that the older groups’ activity may not be able to be measured in this way in the first place, as although many may use the internet to a certain degree, they won’t be as active, especially on social media.

        Alongside this, they’re far more likely to vote ‘no’. That said, if you predicted Romney vs Obama correctly, the former probably had a lot more older supporters, not necessarily so active online.

        I’m a ‘yes’ supporter but also a researcher, so I like to operate from a position of knowledge! Be interested to know your thoughts.

        September 13, 2014 at 11:03 am
  • barrie

    Intestining reseach and being on the ground the swell, the noise certainly seems to be with the yes campaign.

    Links are the forte of majestic, but coupling this data with social insights would have provided much more weight for the argument.

    The majority of the debate for society is taking place on twitter rather than low value blogs.

    September 10, 2014 at 7:53 pm
    • Dixon Jones

      > >majority of the debate for society is taking place on twitter rather than low value blogs< That's OK, because we know the influence of the Twitter profiles talking (and linking) to the Yes and No camps, so because our data seeks to be a complete map of the web, Social links get soaked into the data by default more than people think. Where we are weaker in Social is on Facebook, because the conversations are behind walled gardens, so not crawl able.

      September 11, 2014 at 11:31 am
  • Barbara McMahon

    Thanks for the information. As a Yes voter I signed the protest re the BBC showing bias in favour of No Campaign. Maybe they have decided to tell the truth at last!

    September 11, 2014 at 8:47 pm
  • Peter Mead

    Actually looking closer at this, yesscotland.net looks to be further ahead than I thought.

    Interesting 🙂

    September 12, 2014 at 12:37 am
    • Dixon Jones

      I may still end up with egg on face… I found myself reminded of the “Quebec effect” last night at dinner. In Quebec, when the election came, the vote was looking clear for independence right down to the day of the vote. On the end, the grey vote voted with their head over their heart. I wonder if lowering the voting age was part of the Yes campaign’s strategy to offset this?

      September 12, 2014 at 8:26 am
  • Peter Mead

    Hi Dixon,

    We have updated our article and included some information about Majestic SEO, a brief summary about you and the data you have presented here. Also we have placed a link on our article through to your article here http://wearedando.com/google-trends-predicting-yes-vote-scottish-referendum/#MajesticSEO because we fee it would be great for our readers to also read your article.

    Very interesting.

    Cheers,
    Peter Mead

    September 12, 2014 at 5:34 am
  • Martha Shardalow

    Hi Dixon,

    Wondering if you could break down the dense analytics on this one

    – what exactly did you measure/research and can you give any more concrete examples of this for tech-dumb readers? i.e. people typing into a search engine ‘why should I vote Yes?’ ??

    – Do you have any figures/percentages on how many people you think will vote Yes? Is it a massive lead and if so can you confirm this statistically?

    Thankyou! really interesting

    September 12, 2014 at 1:26 pm
    • Dixon Jones

      Hi Martha,

      A GREAT question. When I wrote this I was mainly writing for our core user base, who have an understanding about Topical Trust Flow – but it’s a pretty new methodology and obviously has wider uses than our core user base. (For example, looking at electorates!)
      A pretty decent summary of what Trust Flow is can be seen over here. It is not related to what people type into search engines, but it IS related to what people link to and how influential each person or web page is. If you really want to get deeper into it, I have some slides here, but they don’t help too much without my dulcit tones. I just did that presentation about Topical trust flow today in Munich (I am sitting in the BA lounge playing catch up now).

      Let’s see if my prediction turns out to be right before we get too excited as to whether this is a useful barometer of society… 🙂

      September 12, 2014 at 6:48 pm
  • Liz Campbell

    This is a very interesting article and for a yes supporter like myself who is a very proud Glasgwegian expatriate, a very heartening one. Two character traits which may conflict seem to me to be part of the Scottish makeup: Great pride which resents bullying; and great cannin

    September 12, 2014 at 1:42 pm
  • Tricia donoghue

    Could you tell us for clarification what you did not call it right for please.Thank you.

    September 12, 2014 at 5:39 pm
    • Dixon Jones

      I am not sure I understand your question. If the Scots vote to stay in the Union, I’ll be wrong.

      September 12, 2014 at 6:57 pm
      • CB

        He’s pointing out that you have cited which votes you called correctly, but are there any that you have gotten wrong?

        September 12, 2014 at 8:57 pm
      • Dixon Jones

        Oh – I’m just reading Runes like everyone else! The scores in the last table in the post show the relative influence of links to each of the 10 top level topics (verticals) that we monitor. Beneath them we have data broken down into 800 topics, but I am not sure how useful anything more granular would be.

        September 13, 2014 at 8:35 am
  • SDHoneymonster

    A couple of things to possibly take into account: the group most likely to vote No – the over-65s (of which there is a large amount in Scotland, and they can also probably be relied upon far more to GOTV, although really don’t think that’s going to be a problem for most come next Thursday!) – probably have the smallest online presence, and also the generally larger Yes presence online overall is likely a factor – maybe voting Yes and being connected are linked, although the latest poll on ICM showing 16-24 year olds leaning back towards No – the group most likely to be online, and therefore possibly less connected to the idea of a nation than others – but these are interesting stats (as much as I can understand them – I’m no mathematician!).

    For what it’s worth, I don’t think ANYTHING can be predicted regarding this referendum personally – registration to vote is over 90% and around an 80% turnout is expected on the day, and a lot of those registering to vote may well be those who haven’t voted in a general election in years, so I find it difficult to think they’d be voting for the status quo. That said, I read on the Guardian liveblog somewhere during the week that an SNP Yes campaigner said to a journalist in a quiet moment that they reckoned they’d need a consistent 6-8% lead in the polls to truly guarantee a Yes vote, which was a similar precedent set in the Quebec referendum. In short, it’s still all to play for!

    September 12, 2014 at 7:19 pm
    • Dixon Jones

      Yes – I certainly only heard about the “Quebec effect” (Well done AlJazeera for your SEO efforts on that one!) after I wrote this article. The younger voting age may well offset this, but likewise, my data set might be skewed towards the young. If the ICM poll is showing 16-24 year olds ALSO leaning towards no, then I guess we will all have to just wait and see. ICM have been at this longer than I have…

      September 12, 2014 at 7:27 pm
      • SDHoneymonster

        > Sorry about that first paragraph by the way was a bit fractured and punctuated by hyphens! The 16-24 swing back towards No was interesting, as that was where, alongside among women, the Yes vote had surged in the last week and it’s interesting that the group most likely to be logged into social media, where the Yes side has always been a louder presence, is looking like heading away from that. Worth pointing out though it’s still incredibly close – only 51-49, although most age-group categories are close to be fair; it’s only really the over-65s (No) and mid-20s to mid-30s (Yes) that seem to have truly made their mind up either way.

        Quick word on postal votes too. They went out a couple of weeks ago and something like 800,000 people are voting postally (about a fifth of the overall electorate, a large number) so there’s actually a large chunk of the vote already cast. Given the people likely to be voting postally – immobile elderly people and those living in Scotland’s remote outposts like the Highlands and the outlying islands of the Shetlands, Orkneys and Hebrides, who have all shown fairly consistent support for a No vote – it’s conceivable that Yes in terms of votes already lags quite a considerable distance behind, although that’s of course massive speculation.

        September 12, 2014 at 8:02 pm
  • Mark Nixon

    Can you tell us what you mean by “Scotland will lose the National Health Service”? NHS Scotland is wholly independent of NHS England, and has been since 1948 (all cross-border co-operation is a matter of service contracts, which are highly unlikely to be cancelled). The UK government, then, can’t take it off an independent Scotland, and the new Scottish Government of whatever stripe won’t want to get rid of it. Also, if you do accept that point, how do you then explain the figures you see for the health sector?

    September 12, 2014 at 9:29 pm
    • Dixon Jones

      Hi Mark, yep – I accept the point. The explanation in the data is mainly due to the site wide link from this lady: http://siobhanmcmahon.org/2013/02/27/honoured-to-be-a-patron-for-hemihelp/ < her blog is quite influential in the health sector.

      September 13, 2014 at 8:42 am
  • William Belford

    I would query your results on the NHS. You might not find many websites suggesting Yes, but you will find a surprisingly large number of health professionals from consultants to porters supporting Yes.

    As for losing the NHS, well if the NHS is enshrined in the Scottish Constitution how can it be lost?

    September 12, 2014 at 9:52 pm
    • Dixon Jones

      As above, William. I am prepared to accept that the health vertical has been skewed in my data. although – (and I say this as an ignorant Englishman now) – if the Scottish NHS has been devolved since 1948 then guess the Health sector has the same “free vote” as the rest of Scotland.

      September 13, 2014 at 8:49 am
  • Dorothy Bruce

    I’m not sure what you mean by “Scotland will lose the National Health Service”. The NHS in Scotland is separate from the NHS in England – always has been since its inception, and since 1999 has come under the Scottish Government. We (Scottish people and those who work in the NHS) have no intention of our NHS going anywhere or being lost to anyone. We wish to retain a publicly funded service, free at the point of need. Indeed this is one of the main planks of the Yes campaign, as we look on at the NHS south of the border being privatised, and try to persuade Westminster to seek exemption for the NHS from TTIP as in EU matters Westminster unfortunately speaks for the whole UK – one of the many reasons we want independence.

    September 12, 2014 at 10:08 pm
  • Kevin Gallagher

    HI,

    I am a yes supporter. I want to know a few things. How high is the percentage of the over 55s? How many English people in Scotland will vote and for whom? How decisive could be the influence of socialist groups like radical independence in getting out extra voters for yes? Why do you think yes will win when most of the polls have us behind? Thanks.

    September 12, 2014 at 11:26 pm
    • Dixon Jones

      I don’t know the answers to any except the last question. The last question is that I am using a different proxy to pollsters. Pollsters use “asking people” as a proxy to guessing the vote. We use “how people and pages link on the Internet” to extrapolate meaning. Just because we intuitively think people will tell the truth when asked, they may well not!

      September 13, 2014 at 8:55 am
      • Tim

        > The hard left like Radical Independence have been out canvassing on the most deprived housing estates. The people who live here are a demographic which typically has low levels of participation in elections. RIC has predicted, and confirmed by canvassing, that here a majority will back YES when asked, sometimes quite a substantial majority up to 70%. But we don’t know whether they will in fact go out to vote on the day. A high turnout in general is predicted, but we don’t actually know for sure whether the schemes will also see a high turnout.

        September 13, 2014 at 12:43 pm
  • Tim Morrison

    Thank you – fascinating analysis and it shows a good example of honest reporting – in that you declare your own politics in it rather than pretending to be above the fray – so you are clear about the distinction between your beliefs and the data.

    I am meeting some people who are determined to say in flux – some who have determined that they are not going to decide until the very last day because they want the fullest picture possible. Others who are now so confused they are not going to vote for fear of doing the wrong thing. I think these ones are particularly interesting in that they are not voting ‘no’ but abstaining.

    September 13, 2014 at 8:00 am
    • Dixon Jones

      There may be another element at play. This is the only chance in our lifetimes that Scots will have the chance to have their own country. When all is said and done, 10 years down the road, when your son says “dad, what did you vote on that historic day”… How will you feel about saying “I said No”?

      September 13, 2014 at 8:59 am
    • Neil Paterson

      > A category of voter that Better Together have definitely noticed: http://www.bettertogether.net/blog/entry/if-you-dont-know-vote-no Encouraging voters not to do research or form opinions I find profoundly anti-democratic, to be honest…

      September 15, 2014 at 9:47 am
  • Grant McGovern

    Re comment 9, good question. You cited in the article where you called a vote correctly. Out of curiosity are there any examples where you called it wrong?

    Also, not sure where you got your health score from, much greater risk to free healthcare with a No vote and many health professionals realise that. Check The Lancet.

    September 13, 2014 at 8:30 am
    • Dixon Jones

      Grant – re:health the point is conceded above. On point 9, this is the first time in a vote this data has been available. My previous guesses were just the us president and the mayor of London. I may have not been so accurate with the French election, but I can’t see what I predicted on that now!

      September 13, 2014 at 9:04 am
  • Ari Oundle

    “Scotland will lose the NHS”? No. That’s a basic error. The NHS in Scotland is completely operationally independent of the rest of the NHS. There is no such thing as “British NHS”… they are separate organisations in each constituent British country and have been since the start of the health service. The fact that people in one area can use the NHS in other areas is down to behind-the-scenes agreements between the countries, not to there being a single NHS.

    September 13, 2014 at 9:12 am
    • Dixon Jones

      > Conceded as above – although in conceding this point, the likelihood of a more significant YES vote than the polls suggest looks even more plausible.

      September 13, 2014 at 12:03 pm
  • Matty

    Interesting article. I’m a Federalist voting “Yes” because I think Westminster is institutionally incapable of creating a truly federal Britain and no government, regardless of majority, can change Westminster as an institution. I think “No” will win, though, here’s why:

    First, I’ve heard from a few people who are astounded by the polls because everywhere you hear people discussing the issue, most people seem to be “Yes”. I think this ignores that a lot of the “No” votes are going to come from retirees and the elderly who are “invisible” as far as society goes.

    Secondly, I think “Yes” is winning the “hearts and minds” arguments as far as most people in Scotland go. There seems to be very, very little support for government from Westminster up here, it’s largely confined to the small number of Tory/UKIP voters; Labour voters seem split on the issue. However (and this is very important) there are, I suspect, a large number of people who are sympathetic to Scottish independence who think Salmond’s plans are a bit wishy-washy and want more concrete information before taking the all-important step to independence. Many are probably sympathetic to “Yes” and edge towards it but may vote “No” on the day for this reason, convincing themselves there’ll be another independence vote in the next decade (there won’t be, Westminster will never agree to such a thing again; Cameron only agreed because he was certain that “No” would win by a comfortable margin and that this would put the issue to bed). The “scare” effect also needs to be taken into consideration – the “No” camp gave up on being positive about the Union a while ago and focused on uncertainty and “what might happen”. It’s impossible to disprove anything they say catagorically, even the most silly stuff (armed guards at the border etc) because the future is unknowable. Again, this might swing nervous people on the day.

    My own view is that if we vote “Yes” then all the “uncertainty” will be smoothed out in the 2+ years of negotiation likely before actual independence. Since Scotland will be a major trading partner for England a mutually beneficial scenario will be drawn up between the two governments. Likely as not, much of what the Union bloc and SNP are claiming *before* the vote won’t actually happen once the theory becomes reality (for one, I suspect Scotland may end up using its own currency if the UK really does refuse a currency union, regardless of what Salmond says; I think the “won’t take any of the debt” thing is also a bluff).

    September 13, 2014 at 9:21 am
    • Dixon Jones

      > Interesting points.

      You points are well made. However, if people vote with their hearts, not their heads on Thursday, then you are home and dry as a yes voter. I think that the pull to voting with one’s hearts is quite strong – although looking at the stats on who is visiting this blog post, the audience is heavily 18-24 year olds, so the comments are, themselves, from a small sector of society.

      September 13, 2014 at 12:10 pm
  • Stephen t

    The icm poll mentioned has a big change in youth probably because it was a phone poll & not an internet poll.

    September 13, 2014 at 9:32 am
  • Laura Eaton Lewis

    I think you’ve made a wee mistake on the analysis or presentation of the data – in the column for business it says 16 for yesscotland and 15 for better together, not the other way around as your analysis describes. Also, I was wondering, are these values logarithmic too?

    Very fascinating work, and thanks for sharing.

    September 13, 2014 at 10:01 am
    • Dixon Jones

      Oh Laura – that does look a bit confusing! My data says that Yessscotland is ahead on the business front! Now that smacks in the face of this morning’s headlines re:RBS. Also, The history/reference topic I also managed to write confusingly… The historians seem to be predicting the unions staying together! Thanks. I’ll Mark the edits on the text now.

      September 13, 2014 at 11:49 am
      • Dixon Jones

        > Yes – the numbers are logarithmic, so one point up might signal significant difference in influence. That said, the “size” of one topic may be very different the the size of another, so the numbers between topics would not be directly comparable in the bottom table. The circles on the left of the top charts, though, reconfigure the data to show the proportional influence of each topic. It is because the YesScotland circle is so much more varied than the BetterTogether circle that I think there may be a more deep rooted support in society for independence than the polls are saying. Whether “wanting independence” translates onto “voting indepence”… well we’ll see soon enough I guess!

        September 13, 2014 at 12:01 pm
  • Julie Arbuckle

    I love data and your analysis is fascinating. Let’s not forget that a huge dimension of society conducts it’s self outwith the realm of websites and recordable data. It’s the conversations at bus stops, pubs, dole queue… and the embedded morals and subtle influences of our upbringings. Whether this intangible dimension will be more in favour of independence or union remains to be seen until polling day. Would be interesting to compare your data with the results, perhaps it could help develop an “off set” for the “un-minable” data.

    September 13, 2014 at 12:28 pm
    • Dixon Jones

      If Majestic’s data gives a valid correlation to the actual results, we’ll have a whole new market for our data. I don’t think it’s worth over analyzing until we see the results though.

      September 13, 2014 at 12:39 pm
      • Duke of Nukem

        > ” we’ll have a whole new market for our data”

        Not only for voting analysis, perhaps also to predict stock market prices ? (perhaps Price for financial products corelates with its popularity on the Net). Or compare newest Iphone versus newest Android Phone on the net.

        Perhaps some new tools would be nice to do it automaticaly over a great number of product related URLs (such as articles) and how often they are linked in comparisson of articles about other products.

        September 13, 2014 at 4:37 pm
      • Dixon Jones

        We already have these tools available on the site now… You can compare up to 100,000 URLs against each other with our bulk backlink checker. I also have talked in the past at big data conferences about how link data might be useful for things like investing in stocks and shares and other things… here’s a presentation I did last year I think in Stockholm on how Big Data can predict the future and save the world. That was BEFORE we developed Topical Trust Flow. I think the presentation makes some interesting points, if you are into that sort of thing. If not, please don’t let me bore you!

        September 13, 2014 at 4:50 pm
  • Steve

    A layperson question if I may, knowing nothing about Topical Trust Flow. Since much of the empathy in the Yes camp seems hung upon a profound distrust of Westminster bubble / business-as-usual do you feel your methodology reflects the protest element of voter intentions?

    September 13, 2014 at 3:18 pm
    • Dixon Jones

      I would have to start looking at the individual links that make up the data to answer that. At such a granular question, a few individual links might sway the answer.

      September 13, 2014 at 4:08 pm
  • Will McEwan

    Siobhan McMahon is an elected Labour politician and a unionist campaigner. Anything she says about the NHS should be taken with a very large pinch of salt.
    As has been pointed out the NHS in Scotland is entirely independent in Scotland and always has been.
    The Labour Party on Scotland has committed the cardinal political error of lying to its own supporters and treating them like half-wits.
    They are all but dead in Scotland but not yet at post mortem remaining a shell of elected members, associated vested interests and a complicit media which is assisting the self destruct by generous and unquestioning promotion of Labour’s utter nonsense

    Even as a march in England against NHS privatisation is making Its way from Jarrow to London with support of the Labour Party in England and the Labour Party in England led by the Shadow Health spokesperson is agitating against NHS privatisation the Labour Party in Scotland is saying no such thing is happening.

    I know no senior or informed person in the health service in this area who is supporting “no”.

    Despite what the “polls” say I believe YES to be comfortably ahead with an increasing lead

    September 13, 2014 at 6:24 pm
  • chris wallace

    I have been a lifelong labour voter but can no longer accept the choice between Conservatism and conservatism( new labour)
    Scotland has an opportunity to break free from the class ridden, war-mongering Westminster control and demonstrate the values of a 21st century nation. Time for change

    September 13, 2014 at 7:37 pm
  • J. R. Tomlin

    “It seems to me that Scotland will lose the National Health Service…”

    Say WHAT? Where the heck did that come from? Scotland will most certainly not lose its own health service which it has had since the NHS was introduced. I don’t know your background. Are you by any chance American? You don’t seem to understand some issues such as devolution (not on the ballot) and the NHS.

    You may well be right that Yes will win. I certainly hope so but that is one of the more bizarre comments I have seen in this whole campaign.

    September 13, 2014 at 9:23 pm
  • angeallic

    This is a very interesting analysis, but it looks like the referendum campaign online might be different to US or mayoral election.

    If it was just a contest on social media, the Yes side are crushing the No side: over 2x Twitter followers for official streams (see http://angeall.com/blog/social-media/twitter/ ) and nearly 50% more Facebook likes for official pages. This activity generates a lot of traffic to websites through links.

    The lack of No window posters is very obvious, so a hypothesis is that Yes supporters are more willing to identify their support and No supporters more reticent, and this feeds through to web site data as well as social media.

    September 13, 2014 at 10:05 pm
    • Dixon Jones

      You are right, the lack of no supporters on the comments must say something. The SNP site linked to the post via tweets, so probably the debate on here is one sided.

      September 13, 2014 at 10:23 pm
  • Mick Fealty

    Dixon

    Planning to blog this on Monday. One thing I see is the powerful semiotics in the messaging. Picture editors in very pro union London papers prefer Yes signs over No. All very 2012.

    But the US polls were consonant with sentiment analysis. Of course this is the first time we have seen such intense polling in Scotland, and as such they’ve not had the chance to correct for bias.

    One thing I see is an normative bias in the online debate, which pro No friends have been complaining for the last two to three years. Dissenters feel rounded on and quickly withdraw from the debate.

    Northern Ireland is my home territory, and there we’ve seen nationalism colonise most online debate with little or no appreciable impact on the conduct of voters.

    We already know from the rise of YES in the polls that that’s not likely to be the case in Scotland. Besides, this is a genuinely ‘whip free’ vote.

    I’m intrigued to see what happens.

    September 13, 2014 at 11:21 pm
    • Dixon Jones

      I’ll be interested to read your blog post as well. Your observation on iconography is an interesting one – as it offers a PROXY to a poll. If it were possible to take every image, triage them into FOR / AGAINST / NEUTRAL and multiply each image by the readership, then we’d build up a picture of people’s subconscious intent, maybe? 🙂

      I only have link data to hand*, so that’s what I am working with. On the plus side, it’s measurable and scalable data.
      I was also interested in your point that “Dissenters feel rounded on and quickly withdraw from the debate.” I am not in Scotland, and not an expert beyond loving the walks and the lochs, but I can quite believe in the pubs and bars that the “YES” debaters are somewhat more vociferous than the “NO” debaters, given the issue. It certainly seems that way from the bias of comments to this post, which is hardly a fair sample. However – throughout time, the human population has tended to conform to the group rather than stand alone… so if the no-sayers are getting shouted down, it will be interesting to see if that reticence to speak up goes all the way to (and through) the ballot box?

      * For the benefit of the person who asked if I was American, I’m a Brit who spent 12 years in Hong Kong before the handover and I now hang out between Birmingham and Heathrow. I am a numbers guy, not a Scottish historian – as I can see the comments have duly noted! 🙂

      September 14, 2014 at 7:15 pm
  • Angus Graham

    Hi,
    Just a note on your business figures. Scotland does in fact have a separate legal system, this is enshrined in the original treaty of union. It is closely aligned with the system in England and Wales due to EU membership.

    September 14, 2014 at 4:14 am
    • Michael Bauer

      > Yes, Scotland has its own legal system but if you talk to Scottish lawyers they will tell you that it’s getting increasingly muddied with rUK legislation.

      September 14, 2014 at 11:40 am
    • Dixon Jones

      Hi Angus. Thanks and noted, but I am not sure that makes much difference to my observation. My data is not geographically specific. It looks at the influence of entities linking to the official YES site and the official NO site. My observation and hypothesis is that (with the coming week aside, when the whole world will get all worked up into a frenzy) people tend to coalesce into tribes – natural groups. The links to these sites can in theory tell us something about the people behind the connections. Only the Scots get to vote, but plenty of other interest groups have tried to influence the voters over the last year or two. More diverse groups seem to be influencing the YES camp than the NO camp.

      September 14, 2014 at 6:43 pm
  • Anthony Hayes

    Just seen this on twitter which would back up the Majestic SEO data
    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BxcuNBqCQAAows7.jpg

    September 14, 2014 at 5:20 am
  • Joe McParland

    I got as far as the third paragraph after the chart where you mention Westminsters 800 year history starting with the Magna Carta and had to stop reading. The Magna Carta is enshrined in English Law, NOT Scots law!!!
    To be fair I don’t understand the part about logarithms anyway but if you’re talking about anything like this you have to make sure that you’re talking about the correct legal system as they are very different in both countries.

    September 14, 2014 at 2:26 pm
    • Dixon Jones

      I think that rather misses the point of the observations on the data. But since you go there, the sentence to which you allude suggests that Westminster… not Holyrood… was affected by the Magna Carta.

      September 14, 2014 at 6:30 pm
  • bjsalba

    Interesting. Not sure how much it tells us.

    According to the last census (2011) there are 890,000 people aged 65 and over. While many older people do not have internet access, a lot of them do. I am one (born 1947). I am actively working for a YES – and have been for 2 years.

    There are two major changes in Scotland which will last regardless of the result.

    There is now a large segment of the population which knows two things.

    1. The media lies to them on daily if not hourly basis and is equally believes it right to deliberately manipulating public opinion by this method.

    2. All of the larger Westminster parties lie to voters all of the time and have absolutely no intention of keeping any promises at all.

    In the event of a No vote, when the next referendum comes around (as it surely will), then everyone will be digital.

    September 14, 2014 at 6:42 pm
    • Dixon Jones

      Thanks! Since you are in the over 65 bracket and also in the Yes camp, I have a question. Is this really an age specific issue? The comments suggest that the oldies will be under represented in this method of analysis and I guess my question to that is “why should over 65s think (statistically) differently to under 25s?” Can’t the same distortion be argued with an ICM Phone poll, where most youngsters only have mobiles and therefore may not be included or the argument that if you can’t afford a phone, you also aren’t included?

      September 14, 2014 at 6:51 pm
  • baranov107

    Hi, friends! What is Magna Carta. Please, introduce it for Ukrainian Seo programmist. Are you interesting in history Dixon Jones?

    September 14, 2014 at 7:29 pm
  • Andy Nimmo

    Can you confirm or otherwise info given to me re telephone polling.
    I have been advised that the vast majority of such polling takes place via landline calling between the hours of 9 and 5.
    Surely if this is true the vast majority of subjects polled must be in the over 65 range and, as previously affirmed more likely to be in the ‘NO’ category.
    Surely if this is the case, any poll result must be slanted wrongly and could be wildly inaccurate,

    September 15, 2014 at 3:59 pm
    • Dixon Jones

      I can neither confirm nor deny, I am afraid, as I am not a traditional pollster.

      September 15, 2014 at 8:25 pm
    • Sociologist

      > Poll results are filtered by age, as example the 28-35-35-45 over 50 over 65 and so on and the end results are calculated by giving each age group the weight they have in society in % of the population. So they are able to correct the results even if more old people are answering them. If you ask just enough people it should be no problem to make quite representative polls even if the elderly are largely over represented.

      The exact formulas how this is done are usually kept secret by the pollsters.

      September 16, 2014 at 11:06 am
  • Jeffrey W. Schultz

    What I wonder about is the pensions. I imagine that Quebec and Canada has the same problem. How do you transfer the pensions.

    September 15, 2014 at 7:15 pm
  • Kevin Gallagher

    Hi Dixon,

    Just 2 days before the referendum now. There is a poll of no on 52 and yes on 48. You said you thought yes were going to win based on internet traffic. I noticed that yes is ahead on almost every age group under 55 and no is ahead for those over 55. Are you overestimating the yes vote? Could be we counting yes voting teenagers using nationalist websites over and over again and ignoring many old women with no internet access who will vote no? This turnout will be very high. Is there any way of telling just how many new voters and re-registered voters are going to turn out? Thanks.

    September 16, 2014 at 11:21 pm
    • Dixon Jones

      Using links to look at the big picture means that my data is not age-centric – except that it is fair to say more young people build links online than old people. So in that regard it’s a fair criticism of the methodology to say that the data may overplay the “YES” vote. On the other hand, extrapolating from Wikipedia data, 16-55 year olds make up nearly 64-65% of the Scottish voting electorate, so I’m not ripping up my betting slip just yet. Allowing 16 year olds to vote may yet prove decisive.

      September 17, 2014 at 9:21 am
  • James Wilson

    Hello Dixon,
    Firstly thank you for taking the trouble to provide a more reasoned analytical approach to what is increasingly becoming a very difficult to call situation. It is bordering on miraculous that the YES campaign has done so well in the polls considering the huge media domination that the establishment has brought to bear on them. It seems that at least half the Scottish electorate favour a yes vote, yet bar one solitary voice { The Sunday Herald } all of Scotland’s newspapers have come out on the no side. The coverage by them and sadly even the BBC has been horrendously biased and one sided.

    I am genuinely deeply saddened by this as I always considered the BBC to a reasonably fair organisation. It has been similar to discovering an old friend lying to you. It not only effects your current relationship but makes you doubt all previous interactions and question if they are in fact just a government mouthpiece not unlike the state owned media in countries such as China or Russia. I guess it boils down to he who pays the piper calls the tune

    There are numerous examples of this from petty to very significant. As an example on the same day Jim Murphy was hit on the back with an egg, which was reported as if he had been shot an 80yr old yes campaigner delivering leaflets was seriously assaulted by a no voter to the extent of breaking bones, yet it never made any of the mainstream media. Yes, campaign offices have been set on fire and so on, there are fools and those prepared to be thuggish on both sides of the debate. If yes go onto win or even come close it will be very much despite the mainstream media.

    Mainstream polling organisations are now starting to come out with suggestions that they may have badly erred in their conclusions. With suggestions that so called “shy noes” people apparently to embarrassed to admit to voting no may swing it for the no side, while contrasting it they think the yes vote may have been underestimated as they suggest that the way they conduct the polls may well be missing out large chunks of the yes voter base.

    Personally, I hope with my heart { and head} that your analysis is correct, as I simply do not trust the London centric political machine to deliver on their at best vague “promises”.
    Jim

    September 17, 2014 at 9:44 am
    • Dixon Jones

      Thanks Jim – although in my own (personal, English Onlooker) POV I think the BBC have been pretty even handed myself. My data in the article also suggests that the Newspapers have been more likely to link to the “YES” campaign than the “NO” campaign, so I am not sure I support the suggestion that the mainstream media are all pushing for a “NO”. It may be, however, that the Sunday Herald has overwhelmingly linked site-wide to the YES camp, thus distorting our data. We’ll know soon enough now…

      September 17, 2014 at 9:54 am
  • Ducktoes

    Wow, you turned out to be right. I’m fascinated how you can look at the data and see this. I’m sure I’m not using Majestic Seo well enough.

    September 18, 2014 at 1:22 pm
  • Crispy Peking Duck

    Whoops, looks like you got that one wrong. Well, what did you expect? It was incredibly stupid of you to imagine that online clicktivism would in any way resemble the reality on the ground. It’s always the silent majority that decide these things.

    September 19, 2014 at 1:21 pm
    • Dixon Jones

      Wrong – yes. But I wouldn’t say stupid, I don’t think there’s anything stupid about looking at new ways to interpret data. There’s plenty that can be done to improve the modelling.

      September 19, 2014 at 2:59 pm
  • spanish

    Maybe distorted by Catalonia? spanish media have been overwhelmingly talking about Scottish polls. Of course not too much about better together… when mentioned, they’d probably would focus on the Spanish unionist representatives instead. Nevertheless, Bing predicted it right

    September 19, 2014 at 7:57 pm
    • Dixon Jones

      Yep – hats off to Bing on that one! They have some good data on location and age demographics, so they would be able to target well and account for age bias.

      September 19, 2014 at 8:45 pm
  • Kevin Gallagher

    hi, as a yes supporter I was devastated by the result. Since the referendum there have been allegations about ballot rigging. The no side publicly admitted they accessed the postal vote. Was this referendum done legally and fairly? Thanks

    September 25, 2014 at 10:00 pm

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