The pollsters got the big picture at GE2015 absolutely right provided you ignore the rubbish voting intention numbers

January 23rd, 2016

The polling inquiry should have considered alternatives to standard voting intentions

While everybody else has been obsessing about voting intention numbers I’ve been looking at how the pollsters did with their lead rating last May and the big picture is in the chart above. This shows the percentage in each of the samples that gave positive ratings to Mr. Cameron and Mr. Miliband.

In the final few days five pollsters asked leader rating questions and the results are featured above. Although their question formats were different the overall trend from each was very similar. Amongst all sampled Cameron had leads of 7% to 20%.

The final two column clusters look at the proportion of declared LAB and CON voters in the specific polls were prepared to give their man positive ratings. Here the LAB voter responses to Miliband are in a fairly narrow range from 68% to 76%. Cameron’s, meanwhile ranged from 81% to 96%.

    That Miliband was trailing across the board amongst those saying they would vote for him is very telling. Clearly the Labour vote was less committed to their leader and, I’d argue, less likely to turn out and vote.

This mismatch between the voting numbers and leader ratings has happened before and when it has the leader ratings have proved the best prediction. In a third of the six general elections in the past 24 years the voting numbers have been wrong. In all elections since 1979 the lead numbers have got it right.

My mistake was not to have produced this chart last May. I’ve learned.

Mike Smithson