Confusion might be best for those wanting a bet
Here at PB we generally like pollsters (especially if they drop by to read and boost traffic numbers). I’m sure many of them are lovely people (a couple have even retweeted me occasionally) but it’s mostly the polls they produce that we like (sometimes with the slight undercurrent of getting a fix supplied). As a site where we mix polling and betting good data on likely outcomes is valuable as well as interesting.
So it seems a little odd (and possibly ungrateful) to suggest that perhaps the outcome we should hope for is that the pollsters should get the independence referendum badly wrong, but at the risk of their tweeted wrath I think it might be worth considering.
Polling has seen a great growth in prominence in recent years, something that’s been particularly noted in the USA, and the advent of cheaper online polls has caused a massive surge in the number commissioned by media outlets over the current electoral cycle.
As any punter knows the key is not just having good information, but having an edge in information (or understanding) over those you’re betting against (whether bookmakers themselves or other punters on an exchange) and the progressing prominence of polling erodes some of the edge we’ve tried to tease out from datasets and weighting changes.
The task for them is undeniably greater than at a normal election. Pollsters relies on the evidence of past elections and previous voter behaviour to tweak their methodologies towards an accurate snapshot of public opinion, a one-off referendum is not such a different beast that all previous work should be discarded, but it is different enough to make things tricky.
This also means that an innaccurate set of final polls wouldn’t be a reason to downgrade your expectations of the pollsters performance in the upcoming GE2015, but if it did occur then it might create some unjustified decrease in confidence in pollsters and return a little bit of edge.
So perhaps PB punters should raise a glass of Scotch (while it’s still British) and toast to some temporary confusion to our friends?