The 3% margin of error- and how it can change a political debate

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As I’m writing this post right now, we’ve been knowing for sure for several hours: with 55% of “no” votes, Scotland is staying in the UK. On a quick look at my Twitter feed, I’m getting a mixed bag of relief, celebration, introspection, ‘what next’ concern and that rant from Trainspotting (nsfw).

The one comment that caught my eye, however, came from Sussex Uni fellow Ben Stanley.

We surely do remember that YouGov poll:

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Monday Graph: The Scottish Independence Referendum and the collapse of the Conservative vote in Scotland

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Well here we are, just 3 days lef to the Scottish Independence Referendum. Just until last month, it looked like the “Yes” vote was hardly approaching 40%, let alone stand any chance. Then September came and suddenly the possibility looks much more real; with that one Sunday Times Poll showing the Yes Campaign taking the lead with 51%; followed by two Survation and one ICM/Guardian polls indicating the No Campaign is back ahead- but only by an ever-so-slightly margin. (You can track Independence Referendum poll results here)

So, in other words…

How did we get here? A thought-provoking article on the Economist’s ‘Graphic Detail’ blog suggests that “An energetic campaign by the nationalists over the past months is one explanation. But the underlying causes go back much further. They lie in long-term shifts in the Scottish electoral landscape.”

Let’s look at the graphs published by the Economist:

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