h1

Where’ve the opinion poll protestors been since 1992?

June 23rd, 2004

Kinnock Sheffield
Neil Kinnock: Sheffield Rally: 1992 General Election

    Labour bias +6.5% IGNORE; UKIP bias +4.9% PROTEST

For nearly a decade and a half the opinion polls have had, when tested against real General Election results, an average pro-Labour bias of 6.5% and there’s been hardly a whisper from Labour MPs. The bias led to political gamblers making huge errors and losses at the 1992 General Election in which Neil Kinnock, above, made what amounted to a pre-election victory speech a few days ahead of his own party going down on votes by 8%.

Now, for the first time since then, we have a pollster showing a bias to Labour that’s down to 2.1% and large numbers of Labour politicians are protesting in an ongoing campaign.

    Ostensibly they are focussing on an over-estimate of 4.9% in the Euro Elections for UKIP, but is their real concern that what has been a given of British politics for so long – the pro-Labour bias of UK opinion polls – is no more?

The essence of their position would seem to be that it’s OK for the polls to consistently over-state Labour by 6.5%, but not to make errors of 4.9% with other parties.

What pollsters report, particularly in the run-up to an election, has a huge effect on the voters and it is not always the party that’s reported to be in the lead that benefits.

  • Would Kinnock’s Sheffield speech in 1992 have happened if there had been accurate polls?
  • What part did the pollsters play in causing the turnout in the 2001 General Election to drop below 60%? In the weeks before Labour leads of upto 28% had been reported and voters could have been forgiven for thinking that the result was a foregone conclusion. In the end Labour won on votes by just 9%
  • The pollsters’ embarassment was saved by the distortions in the Commons seat distribution that left Tony Blair with a 165 majority even though his vote share was down significantly.
  • Figures that are just plain wrong help nobody and it is not just political gamblers who have got an interest.

      That is why the recent comments have made such depressing reading. They seem to be attacking some of polling firms because they are not reporting what they want to hear.

    The internet pollster YouGov has come in for stick and there is little doubt that it is not as good at predicting vote shares for the smaller parties than it is for the Conservatives and Labour. The UKIP figure was an exaggeration and YouGov seem to record the Lib Dems at much lower levels than the other polls or much higher.

    But for the first time in a decade and a half political gamblers have a proven and reliable guide to how the main two parties are doing. Let’s be thankful for this and be just a bit wary of the pollster’s figures for the Lib Dems and the smaller parties.

    US ELECTIONS UPDATE. The latest polls show big leads for John Kerry. This follows some recent polls showing a Bush recovery and has happened in spite of a huge anti-Kerry ad campaign by the Republicans. The latest prices have him at 2.1 or 2.2. For some reason the Iowa price has taken a steep drop. Our call is BACK KERRY.

    Picture – http://news.bbc.co.uk/furniture/vote2001/in_depth/election_battles/92sheffield_rally.jpg






    Comments are closed.