If this is on a knife edge, why is YES 7/2?

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I’ve been in Scotland for a couple of days. Most people who don’t follow the betting were very surprised that there was such a big discrepancy between the odds for YES and NO, given that the media are telling us that this is variously a “coin toss”, “on a knife-edge” or “too close to call”.

Let’s look at yesterday’s three polls, all of which gave NO a 52-48 lead, excluding Don’t Knows. With the undecideds included, we have:

Pollster NO YES DK DKs for YES win
ICM 45 41 14 64.3%
Survation 48 44 8 75.0%
Opinium 49 45 6 83.3%

If these polls are an accurate picture of the electorate, then the nationalists’ best chance is to convert enough of those Don’t Knows to YES. The final column shows the percentage of undecideds who would have to go YES to pull them level. In my opinion, it is exceedingly unlikely that they will be able to achieve those numbers. In fact, political science tells us that it is much more likely that the opposite will happen and the undecideds will break for NO.

It’s worth pointing out that the improvement in the YES figures over the last two weeks seem largely to be a movement from DK into the YES column. So perhaps something different is going on in this referendum. The other main assumption that needs to be questioned is whether the pollsters really are accurately measuring opinion, given the unique nature of this vote. For a nationalist viewpoint on this, head for James Kelly’s blog.

On the other hand are there enough “shy unionists” to make a difference in favour of the NO campaign when it comes to the vote? Check out Stephen Fisher’s excellent review of all of these matters.

Can YES still win? Of course, but it’s unlikely unless the pollsters have got this very wrong. This certainly isn’t a coin toss and, if forced to make a prediction, I think we’ll see a reasonably comfortable NO win by around 55-45.

You can find all of the latest betting here.

UPDATE:

Reported Panelbase figures are also 52-48 to NO. Significantly, with DKs included, it’s 50-45-5. So YES would need 100% of the undecideds to draw level.

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Matthew Shaddick

Matthew Shaddick has been Head of Poliical Betting at Ladbrokes since 2008. He's a writer and odds-maker with particular expertise in UK and US elections. Also known to dabble in music, literary and other out of the way betting markets. Sometimes issues tips on horse racing and football, which are best ignored.