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The No campaign is hoping that opinion polls are underestimating its backing as supporters adopt a low profile in contrast to a more vocal and assertive Yes campaign .
That contrast is sharply evident in two bars on a Glasgow city centre side street. It is only early evening but the Yes Bar is already buzzing. Badge-wearing revellers stream into the favourite drinking venue for independence supporters.
The post-work crowd in the Horseshoe Bar opposite is more sedate. At the back, Alistair Wood is discussing over a pint with a friend how bad leaving the UK would be for Scotland. Unlike the Yes Bar regulars, however, the 43-year-old is not eager to broadcast his views.
Partly it is concern about the abuse his pro-union opinions might attract, at least in some settings. “I made a conscious decision not to go to Scotland [football] games until after the referendum. It would be uncomfortably bad.”
But mainly it is down to his personality. “I’m happy to make my views known – in private,” says the Orcadian. Despite how strongly the project manager feels about the advantages of staying in the union, he could not be persuaded to wear a No badge. “It’s just not me.”
Mr Wood is far from alone. Handing out No leaflets on a drizzly Sauchiehall Street, retired university administrator Myra Gray says: “A lot of people have said they’re voting No, but don’t want to take a badge.”
John Curtice, Scotland’s highest-profile psephologist, says an apparent propensity among No voters to keep their views to themselves is the Better Together campaign’s “favoured theory” about why neck-and-neck opinion polls are supposedly failing to capture support for the union.
Despite widespread anecdotal evidence that No supporters tend to be less vocal in public, however, he is sceptical about the extent to which that has any bearing on the accuracy of the polls.
“I don’t discount the possibility that the polls are underestimating the No side, but not necessarily for this reason,” he says.
Mark Diffley, director at Ipsos Mori Scotland, says there is no reason to suspect a prevalence of “shy Noes” means the polls understate opposition to independence.
“We stress the confidentiality of what we’re doing,” he adds. “There should be no reason why people shouldn’t tell us what they truly think.”
Polling companies have changed their methodology since 1992, when their failure to predict John Major’s election victory was blamed on reluctance among Conservative party voters to admit their allegiance. They now ask more questions and fine-tune the data accordingly.
Martin Boon, director at ICM, has gathered some data during the independence campaign that suggest No supporters are slightly less comfortable being open with pollsters.
However, the polling group does not adjust its findings to compensate. “The evidence is too thin,” says Mr Boon, although he adds: “There may be a little something to it.”
Quiet Noes include Kay Joyce. Eating a sandwich on a bench on George Square on a break from her supermarket shift, the 24-year-old initially says she is undecided. A few minutes into the conversation, however, it becomes clear she is minded to vote against independence.
Would she not show her support for the cause? “No, I don’t like conflict,” she says. “I want to get on with my life.”
Some younger No supporters feel they are missing out on the optimistic energy of Yes.
Some of Scotland’s trendiest bands, including Mogwai and Frightened Rabbit, performed to an electric Saltire-waving crowd this week.
“It does seem like more of a party for the Yes voters,” admits Kenneth MacQueen, a 28-year-old financial services worker. “Yes seems more sexy.”
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