Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Days Of Dodgy Polls Are Numbered

A flurry of opinion polls are putting paid to the well-spun, well-hung parliament narrative nonsense, which set tongues a-waggin' and moneymarkets a-jitterin'. A more realistic outcome is beginning to emerge. What will the chattering class find to talk about?

Push polls, masquerading as legitimate political polling and used as a political campaign technique, are nothing new. Used effectively during US presidential elections and the Obamathon, they have their uses. Driving headlines and pushing a particular political agenda with political propaganda in ways that would make Bush's Karl Rove blush.

Here they have had their day but served their purpose. Giving complacent Tories a kick up the backside, giving fag-end New Labour a ray of false hope and giving little boy Clegg the dream of being kingmaker on Fantasy Island.

Now election weary voters are beginning to make up their minds without slanted spin rammed down their throats.

The Orange Party has wearily beaten the drum over dodgy polls - only as good as the fishy weightings, sample size and questions asked. Projecting a uniform swing which takes no account of Tory inroads in key marginals was a mug's game.

Private party polls are kept well under wraps. But, as Lawson points out in the Indy today, polls come with a health warning and a sample error of around 3 per cent. You takes your opinion poll and takes your choice depending on political persuasion.

And what have the narratives, in the main, been based on? A single pollster, YouGov. There's been something fishy about the whole thing from the start.

From a ridiculous two points difference in a rogue poll for The Sunday Times a couple of week's ago, YouGov now has a seismic shift with Con 37% (0), Lab 32% (-1). You couldn't make it up.

Pollsters are not charities. Opinion polls are commissioned by the media, looking for a line and a headline to suit a political agenda.

A Guardian/ICM poll now shows Tories up three points as "New Labour fightback stalls" with Con 40 (+3), Lab 31 (+1).

Over at The Daily Express/Opinium, it's: Con 39 (+2) Lab 28 (-2).

Given the margin of error, a Tory lead of 39% to New Labour's 28%, whatever, can be read as Tory 42% to New Labour's 25% - or the other way around. Only Nowhere Man Clegg is going nowhere.

Once Bottling Brown finally gets round to naming the day, voter intentions will harden and pollsters will sharpen up their act.

The YouGov daily tracker will be joined by others and polls in the marginal battlegrounds more commonplace. And Smithson's rule of thumb over political betting will probably hold true: the pollster with the lowest Labour percentage will probably give the most accurate prediction.

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