COMPARING APPLES TO MOON ROCKS

by Christian Wright

A recent post in the New statesman

“The pro-union vote was a little over 55%. In a US presidential election (a fair comparison because voters there normally only have two options) this would be a landslide, and if you doubt this just remind me how many of the voting districts chose ‘Yes’.”

So goes the argument.

Cartoon understanding of the process leading to Mickey Mouse conclusions. Time this nonsense was debunked.

Voting districts? Meaningless. The referendum was a nationwide vote where the outcome was based on the popular vote, without reference to “voting districts”.

As for a landslide: This was not a US election. The popular vote does not decide US elections. There is an electoral college which decides the result.

Each state is assigned a number of electors commensurate with its population (and equal to the total of senators+representatives in Congress). The were no subdivisions into winner-take-all-states in indyref as in US presidential elections (not all US states are winner-take-all).

US Presidential landslides are characterised by the lopsided number of states and electoral votes won, which has damn little congruence with the actual popular vote.

A very small movement in some few districts can flip large winner-take-all states like Ohio to one candidate or another skewing the electoral vote count.

The winning candidate in that state gets all the electors even if he/she wins the state by 0.0001%. That is why a win or 51% to 49% in the popular vote in a US Presidential election can produce a landslide in terms of electoral votes and states won.

To equate the result of the independence referendum to a US presidential election “landslide” is to compare apples to moon rocks.

The referendum was a single issue plebiscite decided by the popular vote, where a bit less than half the population voted for independence and a bit more than half the population voted against independence.

It would take a swing of just over 5% to turn that majority NO to YES.

Indeed, over the past months excluding DKs, polls have been evenly split on the issue, with some showing in the range 52-48 for independence and others in the range 48-52 against. All within the margin of error.

That is to say, we have a statistical tie. We know therefore that there has been a definite, sustained shift in sentiment from NO to YES of around 5% since indyref.

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