The recent anti-BBC billboard brouhaha seems to me to be founded in ignorance. The ones in favour of them evidently think they’ll move voters to Yes, and the ones criticising the effort clearly think they’ll have the opposite effect. Crucially, neither group has any firm evidence they’re right, which leads to people resorting to coorse language because they don’t have hard data to back them up.
(We saw the same during the Holyrood campaign earlier this year. Both SNP supporters and their Green counterparts were utterly convinced that giving the second vote to their own party was the right thing to do for the wider Yes movement, but the electoral system is so complex that it was impossible to settle the question logically once and for all, so instead people kept getting into heated arguments with each other instead of taking the fight to the Unionists.)
The interesting thing about the first Indyref campaign was that it was so decentralised. I don’t think anybody has a clear picture of all the campaigning efforts. We simply don’t know what happened, and we thus don’t know what worked.
What had the greatest effect? Door chapping? Yes Scotland’s billboards? Wings over Scotland’s Wee Blue Book? The TV debates? The BBC Bias demonstrations? The street stalls? Project Fear? We simply don’t know.
It would be really interesting to commission an opinion poll asking people when they moved from No to Yes, and if it happened during the campaign, what had the greatest effect on them. It might already be too long ago to get an precise answer, but it would still be indicative of the truth. The poll could also ask what was pulling them in the opposite direction.
Perhaps the poll could also ask the public about their current position. If we focus on the ones that say they might change their mind in the future, what do they reckon it would take? That the alternatives have been exhausted? A new White Paper? A recommendation by the BBC? Chatting to somebody on their doorstep?
It seems to me that we need to find out more, or we’ll descend into infighting because we all believe we’re right and everybody else is wrong. In the meantime, as I’ve said before, we should focus on converting No voters to Yes, not on criticising our own side.