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:

PollsterNOYESDKDKs for YES win
ICM45411464.3%
Survation4844875.0%
Opinium4945683.3%

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.

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.

After four polls on Saturday, the betting markets remained largely unchanged, continuing to give YES something under a 25% chance of victory.

The last Saturday of the campaign saw the familiar pattern of Scottish based customers being more likely to back YES, but only just; English punters continued to side more strongly with a NO vote.

I’m flying up to Edinburgh today, for the Ladbrokes Referendum Race at Musselburgh tomorrow, and to spend a day in the city on Tuesday. Probably standing outside some Ladbrokes shops with some odds scrawled on a blackboard.

The odds for a YES vote moved in again today, to 7/2 from 4/1. That’s a fairly significant shift since the second debate, when the odds were 9/2.

I’ve seen an argument recently that the betting markets don’t really reflect opinion in Scotland, because large staking English punters are backing NO and skewing the odds. Let’s have a look at all of the money Ladbrokes have taken on the outright result since the debate finished on Monday night, broken down by country.

That seems fairly conclusive evidence  – Scottish money has overwhelmingly been for YES. In terms of numbers of bets taken, the same pattern appears:

So, even though most bets from England are for YES, a few bigger bets mean that the actual total stakes are more in favour of NO.

Based on all of the bets we have taken this week, there is certainly some evidence to back up the claim that a small number of wealthier, English punters are keeping the YES odds at a higher level than they would otherwise be.

Does that mean the betting markets are “wrong” and underestimating the true chance of a vote for Independence and missing the real “feeling on the ground”? Maybe, but it’s also perfectly plausible that people who have less emotional capital invested in the result are forming a more objective opinion on the likely outcome.

 

Salmond’s clear cut victory last night saw the odds of a YES vote cut from 9/2 to 4/1 with Ladbrokes. History tells us that any post-debate boost tends to mostly fade away pretty quickly, and there is no particular reason to think this will be any different. The odds on the exchanges dipped a bit immediately after the first debate poll, but rebounded pretty quickly. Most other bookmakers also cut the YES price, some to as low as 7/2.

The snap ICM poll last night seemed to indicate that it hadn’t changed the overall picture, but it will be interesting to see any polls later this week with fieldwork from the days after. If one of the more YES friendly pollsters is surveying today and tomorrow, it’s not inconceivable that we could see a tie, or even a YES lead. That really would shake the betting markets up.

There has also been a flurry of money on a high turnout after Salmond’s confident prediction that it would be over 80%. The odds of it being between 80 – 85% were cut from 7/2 to 3/1. I’ve written some more about turnout betting here.

Even though a NO vote would suit Ladbrokes’ betting position more at the moment, we were quite pleased that Salmond won as it helps keep interest in the outcome high. Another Darling victory might have sucked a bit of life out of the market.

Buzzword Bingo Results

For anyone who had a bet on our buzzword bingo debate market, we’ve settled the following as winners:

  • 1/100 Currency
  • 1/5 Plan B
  • 1/2 Tuition Fees
  • Evs Norway
  • 7/4 No Going Back
  • 3/1 Arc Of Prosperity

 

It’s Round Two for Salmond v Darling tonight. The good news is that those of us outside of Scotland will be able to watch it live on BBC2 (you can get 25/1 that either candidate mentions “STV Player” tonight). You can find our latest debate odds here.

Salmond was 2/5 favourite to win the first contest, but Darling put in an unexpectedly aggressive showing and did a good job of pushing the First Minister into the corners before hammering him on the currency issue. Presumably, Salmond will have a better response worked out this time and the expectations bar is set much higher for Darling tonight, so we’ve still got Salmond as narrow favourite.

We’ve also issued some Buzzword Bingo odds – just predict any word or phrase that either candidate will use at any stage of the debate. Will either of them decide to mention “Ice Bucket” at 5/4; that’s already been backed in from 2/1. Perhaps Darling will want to poke a bit of fun at Salmond for his mention of attacks from outer space in the first debate; “Aliens” is 6/1. I note there is a campaign to get “The Proclaimers” to Number One in the charts on the week of the vote – it’s 25/1 that they get a name check. If anyone’s got any suggestions for other buzzwords, post them here and we’ll add the best ones to the betting.

On the actual result of the referendum, we cut the odds of a YES vote from 5/1 to 9/2 yesterday following a week of non-stop support for a vote for separation. The NO camp will be pleased if Darling just gets through this one unscathed.

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