Bing Weighs in on Scottish Independence Vote

shutterstock-201896488In a blog post, Bing says it is beta testing its Bing Predicts model, a service that uses search, social and other data to forecast the outcomes of events, to “leverage our algorithms against web/social data in the U.K. and Scotland to bring projections ahead of the historic September 18th vote” that will decide whether Scotland remains a part of the U.K.

According to the post, to see the Bing Predicts results, users simply type “Scotland Referendum” into Bing.co.uk.

What’s more, reports say Bing Predicts results can be seen by searching for “Scottish independence,” as well as “Scottish referendum.”

Curiously, however, even though Bing says in the post that it will update its tracker “all the way up to the election,” prediction results were displayed sporadically in Bing searches for the terms on September 17. 

As of that same date, the Bing Predicts results for Scottish independence are:

bing-scotland

 

A Bing rep did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.

“We are watching the debate with interest and look forward to being able to see how our data stacks up come the 19th September,” Bing adds in the post.

In the U.S., Bing Predicts provides predictions for NFL football games. It has also predicted the results of World Cup matches.

Bing says Bing Predicts uses machine-learned models to analyze and detect trends for events like sports, reality shows and elections.

Noting election-based predictions are not as easy as reality TV or as tough as sports, Bing says, “the key differences are that (1) individuals are more likely to freely share their true opinion on their favorite Idol contestant than they are on their political view in a public forum like Twitter and (2) eligible voters don’t perfectly overlap with users of the web…”

In addition, Bing notes there is no historical precedence for the Scottish Referendum, which brings additional data analysis challenges.

For the referendum, Bing says its U.S. engineering team is partnering with Kate Newton, one of Bing’s U.K.-based data experts who has been utilizing Microsoft’s marketplace search insights tool, Bing Ads Intelligence, to research search query sentiments.

“For the prediction, we start with the trends and sentiment determined from the web and social data, and we then adjust for biases and try to understand the true opinion expressed by a population most representing the actual voters themselves,” Bing says. “Algorithmically, we detect terms that are pro-independence and compare the aggregate sentiment against phrases which are pro-union to arrive at a prediction for whether the referendum will have a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote.”

In addition, Bing says its sentiment detector also identifies neutral keywords that potentially capture undecided voters.

Beyond prediction, when Bing looks at search queries from Scotland in the past 6 months, it says it sees “interesting patterns” in what people have been searching for. According to Bing, the top concerns of the Scottish people in their search activity related to the referendum include: currency, geo-political issues, nationality/identity, banks, oil, the BBC, golf and law firms.

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