Sunday, 2 October 2016


Today's The World This Weekend had a closing segment on referendums. 

The final interview was with "an expert on referendums" (as Mark Mardell introduced him), Dr Matt Qvortrup of Coventry University. The good professor didn't sound overly keen on them, only praising the non "populist" exceptions-to-the-rule, such as the referendums in California where voters vote for tax rises (which Dr Qvortrup called a "good effect"), thus proving themselves "wise". 

The serious BBC bias point is that Mark Mardell seemed to be pursuing an angle here:
Mark Mardell: And the danger for politicians...and maybe, maybe not, maybe Brexit is an example of this...but they don't necessarily answer the question strictly on the ballot paper but what they think of the government?

Matt Qvortrup: Yes....
Dr Qvortrup has a formula showing that governments - especially second-term governments - are more likely to lose referendums, thus backing up Mark's suggestion that the unpopularity of the government might have brought about Brexit (i.e. that the vote wasn't about the EU or sovereignty or immigration).

Dr Qvortrup boosted his own credentials by adding, "I think I'm the only one, if I'm bragging a bit, to predict exactly the result of the referendum on Brexit, which I wrote in January would be lost by 4%"...

...which is impressive but strange because I'm presently reading an article from April where Matt Qvortrup was predicting a Remain win of 51.8%.

What was it Michael Gove said about trusting experts?

[Actually, I'm wholly willing to trust many if not most experts - at least until there are grounds to disbelieve them].


  1. Fair point. But in an earlier article properly refereed academic article I predicted the result "based solely on this statistical analysis the current government will lose the referendum by 4 percent" -

  2. But, of course, you are right. The other article got it wrong. It was based on a larger dataset that included Switzerland and Liechtenstein. This is obviously illegitimate. But, as I said, you are right to point out that there was a discrepancy. Well spotted. Respectfully, Matt

    1. Thank you, Matt. You've restored my faith in experts!

    2. ...though your prediction on TWTW that the Colombian referendum was likely - given your formula (and despite caveats) - to result in a 2/3 majority for the government didn't quite hit the mark.

  3. Unpopular second-term government hardly applies in this case. Furthermore, the Remain campaign (at least in Preston, where I live) was almost completely dominated by the Labour party.

    And as I understand it, Leave.EU predicted the referendum result accurately.