Predicting the Referendum Result

Today’s the day.  Today Scotland goes to the polls to decide its future and by tomorrow morning we will know whether Scotland has chosen to become independent or to remain within the United Kingdom.  There’s no telling which way the nation will vote at the moment, but I’ve tried to use recent polls to give an indication of what might unfold as the counts report their results tonight to make the process a little less nervy and uncertain!

First things first, there is no doubt that the independence referendum is too close to call accurately – with so many factors making traditional polling even more erratic than usual and no real way of gauging public opinion other than to wait for the results.  But in the efforts to give tonight’s results some sort of context and to make some sense of the council-by-council vote tallies as they come through, I’ve built a prediction of the result based on recent polling data.  For full disclosure, I have voted Yes today in the hope that Scotland will choose to become independent, but that should in no way affect what I believe to be impassionate and objective projections.

ICM, Survation and TNS have provided voting intention by electoral region on their most recent polls and I’ve taken an average of these results (including the most recent 2 from ICM and Survation and the latest TNS poll) and applied them to councils that would fall within that region to provide an estimate of how the vote will go across the country.  I’ve also adjusted these numbers so that they fall more closely in line with an overall poll of polls that includes four other polling organisations so that they fit in with the broader picture as well.

Doing this is not fully accurate by any means.  First of all, the polling samples are often very low for individual electoral regions, and there have been vast fluctuations between different polls, so the figures might not align fully with the public opinion in each area.  Secondly, some councils don’t fall neatly into just one electoral region, so they might be caught in the middle of either Yes or No dominated areas.  And finally, some of the results just seem plain wrong.  My averages show that the Highlands and Islands will only narrowly support Yes, when my feeling from living there over the summer was that Yes would win comfortably.  Dundee is also shown as voting No when it is widely considered to be a Yes stronghold.  Glasgow is also odds-on to vote Yes with the bookies, but these polls suggest it will be a No.  Whether these are issue with the polls or my perspective of the debate, I can’t be sure, but we will definitely find out either way tonight!

Despite the flaws of this method, given that the polls give us a nationwide idea of what to expect we can use these breakdowns to sense the general trend of whether the Yes vote or No vote is performing better than expectations and we can use that to more accurately project who will win overall before we know the ‘final score’ at some point tomorrow morning.

Here are the current figures for each electoral region of Scotland (with their related councils) and how the polls currently suggest they will vote:

Yes No
Central Scotland 51.51% 48.49%
 – Falkirk, North Lanarkshire, South Lankarkshire
Glasgow 48.12% 51.88%
Highlands and Islands 50.16% 49.84%
 – Argyll and Bute, Highland, Moray, Na h-Eileanan Siar, Orkney Islands, Shetland Islands
Lothian 43.35% 56.65%
 – East Lothian, Edinburgh, Midlothian, West Lothian
Mid Scotland and Fife 47.02% 52.98%
 – Clackmannanshire, Fife, Perth and Kinross, Stirling
North East Scotland 46.76% 53.24%
 – Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Angus, Dundee
South Scotland 41.49% 58.51%
 – Dumfries and Galloway, East Ayrshire, Scottish Borders, South Ayrshire
West Scotland 54.48% 45.52%
 – East Dumbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Inverclyde, North Ayrshire, Renfrewshire, West Dumbartonshire

To build my prediction for individual councils I’ve made some assumptions.  We know that the overall electorate has gone up to a record high of 4,285,323, 97% of the eligible population, but the most recent figures broken down by council area come from March 2014, with 164,892 fewer people.  However, I’ve managed to find a breakdown on Twitter that would appear to be from a newspaper pull-out that claims to be more accurate (despite the total being higher than the stated figure above).  Also, as we have no real way of measuring turnout until the polls close, I’m making the assumption that the much quoted figure of around 85% will be true across the country.  Although this figure may not matter before we include real results in the projection, it is helpful in predicting the total number of votes either campaign needs to win and can be updated easily as the night goes on and more accurate numbers come in.

Here is the full table of my projections for each council (along with the expected time they’ll announce their result (courtesy of the Press Association):

Turnout: 85%

Council Projected Percentage Expected Time
Yes No Yes No
Aberdeen City 69,853 79,526 47% 53% 06:00
Aberdeenshire 82,075 93,439 47% 53% 03:00
Angus 37,185 42,334 47% 53% 03:00
Argyll and Bute 30,696 30,505 50% 50% 03:30
Clackmannanshire 15,976 17,998 47% 53% 02:30
Dumfries and Galloway 44,069 62,143 41% 59% 03:00
Dundee City 47,189 53,724 47% 53% 03:00
East Ayrshire 35,149 49,564 41% 59% 03:00
East Dunbartonshire 40,212 33,598 54% 46% 03:30
East Lothian 30,189 39,452 43% 57% 02:00
East Renfrewshire 33,802 28,243 54% 46% 03:00
Edinburgh 139,065 181,736 43% 57% 05:00
Falkirk 53,609 50,476 52% 48% 03:00
Fife 120,756 136,036 47% 53% 04:00
Glasgow 198,870 214,416 48% 52% 05:00
Highland 81,335 80,829 50% 50% 04:00
Inverclyde 28,934 24,175 54% 46% 02:00
Midlothian 35,599 46,522 43% 57% 03:30
Moray 32,047 31,848 50% 50% 02:00
Na h-Eileanan Siar 9,766 9,706 50% 50% 02:00
North Ayrshire 52,756 44,079 54% 46% 04:30
North Lanarkshire 117,634 110,758 52% 48% 02:00
Orkney Islands 7,467 7,421 50% 50% 02:00
Perth and Kinross 47,971 54,041 47% 53% 02:00
Renfrewshire 62,394 52,132 54% 46% 03:00
Scottish Borders 33,692 47,511 41% 59% 05:00
Shetland Islands 7,893 7,844 50% 50% 03:30
South Ayrshire 33,465 47,190 41% 59% 03:30
South Lanarkshire 114,331 107,648 52% 48% 03:00
Stirling 27,592 31,083 47% 53% 03:00
West Dumbartonshire 32,929 27,513 54% 46% 03:00
West Lothian 50,927 66,553 43% 57% 03:30
Total 1,755,430 1,910,045
48% 52%

Tonight I’ll be hosting a live count page which I’ll update with all of the latest results and update my projections.  This means that each time a result comes in from a council area I will alter the predictions for each electoral region based on the size of the electorate in that area and apply the new predicted Yes-No balance to other related councils.  This will mean that we can more accurately predict who will win the referendum before the expected final result is announced around 7 or 8am on Friday morning.

It’s going to be a fascinating night regardless of what the result is, even if a Yes vote will be more cause for celebration in my eyes.  Never before has Scotland had such a chance to change overnight, and tonight the fate of the nation will be declared before us on TV and online.  I am massively excited by this prospect and I think that the moment when the result is announced will be ingrained in our national identity for decades and generations to come.  After a long campaign, the direction of Scotland’s future will be decided tonight.

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