The Questions We Don't Ask

This is a quick mind dump over lunch, so forgive me if it's a little messy. A point I raised on Twitter resulted in some interesting discussion and some misunderstandings, probably due to the dreaded 140 character limit. This is what I said:

You know in any other nation if a result was the exact opposite of all the trends on social media we’d cry foul.

Referring of course to the Scottish Independence Referendum 'No' result and the extreme dominance of 'Yes' in social media, as others have pointed out this may well be down to demographics. However, my point was an attempt to illustrate that under the same circumstances in a different country there would be questions raised over the legitimacy of the result. That's not to say I think there was some sort 'No' conspiracy, I just find it interesting that had the same thing happened somewhere like Syria questions would be raised yet here nobody raises an eyebrow. That led to discussion of polls and media bias and so on, let's examine that a little:

  • Polls: Most recent polls have indicated a slight win for the 'No' camp, therefore the result should have surprised nobody. The example highlighted to me was YouGov: The problem with YouGov is that their methodology would give any serious statistician a heart attack. I've seen a fair few of their polls and they will almost certainly produce results that are far from representative. Though to accuse them of intentionally having leading questions and limiting possible answers might be falling foul of Hanlon's razor, and attributing malice to that which is adequately explained by stupidity. The other thing that should be noted about YouGov is that it was set up by and is currently run by people with incredibly close ties to the Conservative party. YouGov also enjoys a long list of clients and backers from the media, the city and political classes  - Can you trust polls that are backed by vested interests?
  • Free press: The press can say what they like, so the theory is that there's no room for foul play there. Though to my knowledge there was only one newspaper in the entire UK supporting a 'Yes' vote. - Are they really as free as we think? Such coverage certainly wasn't representative of the people if the polls or the final vote were anything to go by.
  • Fair & free elections: We have a long history of democracy here. Yet we know there was scaremongering, intimidation and willful ignorance of the facts by both sides. Thanks to the Snowden revelations we also know we live in a surveillance state - Can any vote truly be free under such circumstances?

So I'll pose a little question: If the vast majority of the media back one option, if the polls are run by vested interests, if the vote is run under conditions where voters are lied to and manipulated, where they cannot reasonably be expected to tell fact from fiction, under those circumstances can a vote truly be considered fair and free? Can the results truly be considered representative?

I suspect the answer most will give is some variation along the lines of: "Because UK", but why? Why should it be that circumstances which would raise serious questions in other countries be totally unquestioned here? I'm not trying to insinuate any foul play, just pondering why it is we don't ask such questions of ourselves when we so readily question the legitimacy of votes elsewhere in the world.