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So much has been happening politically and yet there’s so little data for us to assess the reaction

April 6th, 2018

For poll watchers this has been a frustrating period

There was a discussion last night on Twitter about the fact that we seem to be seeing so few polls at the moment and this is felt more because so much been happening and those who follow the numbers want to get a sense of whether things are having an impact.

How, for instance, is Labour’s vote holding up in the face of the ongoing antisemitism narrative which still rumbles on. The answer is we don’t know. The last published poll took place only a couple of days after the first serious story broke and since then we have had nothing.

We’ve also got this year’s locals in under four weeks.

One of the issues is that we are getting fewer polls. Just look at the chart for the same period in 2017. I think that this is is happening for several reasons.

Firstly polls after the apparent failure and 2015 and 2017 have become less newsworthy. So when polls have been published they tend not to have been given the prominence that they would have in earlier times. Quite often you find the numbers of a new voting poll tucked away and about paragraph 15 on another big political story.

This has two effects. The case for the media to use use budgets fund polls becomes that much less. Also the incentive for pollsters, who often supply national voting polls at something like less than cost, is less if the they are not getting the attention that they would hope.

We’ve also gone through Easter and in the past there was a fairly strong bias amongst pollsters about carrying out fieldwork during major bank holidays. There is a history of samples and being distorted and not so long ago I recall polls taken over bank holiday being routinely dismissed precisely for that.

Mike Smithson