Tuesday, March 09, 2010

What a Strange Poll

On my way home last night I heard details of the Times/Populus poll which apparently showed Labour and the Conservatives neck and neck at 38% in the marginal seats. Except that it didn't.

All the media reporting I saw gave the impression that this poll was a poll of marginals. All marginals. Only in the small print did we discover that it didn't include LibDem marginals, or the top 50 Con-Lab marginals. It was a poll of the Con-Lab marginals from 51-150. Knowing that, it reads rather more encouragingly for the Conservatives as it shows a 6.7 swing to the Conservatives since 2005. Labour is down from 45.3 to 38.2% while the Tories are up to 37.6 from 31.4. This would enable them to win 97 Labour held seats, leaving them needing to win more than 20 LibDem seats to gain an overall majority.

What this poll confirms, despite the way it has been portrayed, is that the Tories continue to perform better in the battleground seats than elsewhere. Which is exactly what they need to do.

23 comments:

Sean Haffey said...

The first book I read when I started university was How to Lie with Statistics.

It's still an great read and this report is an excellent example of the practice.

BNPELECTIONRESULTS said...

I hear Denis McShane resigned the board of Total Politics in protest of your interview of Nick Griffin. Is this true?

Iain Dale said...

See here http://www.totalpolitics.com/blogs/index.php/2010/03/08/denis-macshane-aamp-total-politics

Benny said...

You know that Kerry McCarthy and her Labour tweeting buddies don't like to let facts get in the way of a #gameon hashtag.

p smith said...

Quite right Iain. The reporting of the marginals poll is abysmal although I think it is down to the kind of facile intellectually incurious journalism that increasingly has marked politics these days rather than some conspiracy theory. In the same way that the Tories benefitted from a free pass from a media that was bored with Labour, they now suffer from a media that wants to see a close fight and which will report things in a way that feeds that narrative.

As a Labour member I don't need false information to boost the spirits. The details of this poll confirm that the Tories are well placed to be the largest party albeit slightly short of a majority.

The real narrative here is that the guarantee of a Tory majority is gone (it may still happen but it is no longer probable or even likely). The target for Labour is to close the national gap to evens with a proportionate reduction on the Tory lead in the marginals but I don't see that happening till the election proper starts and the public make up their minds. Even then I suspect that only the debates or some surprise revelation (a leaked email exchange between Dave and George discussing how much they hate having to engage with the pikey public) can bring Labour back from defeat.

Benjamin Glass said...

It almost makes you wonder if the media have a plan to make the election vote closer than what it is.

BNPELECTIONRESULTS said...

Thanks for link. Do you have a date for when the Nick Griffin interview will be published?

The Purpleline said...

Iain- TP is better off without mcshame.

Hawkeye said...

You're well rid of McShame - sorry McShane. He has always struck me as a total weasel, second only to Liam "Mouth of Sauron" Byrne.

................................. said...

The Times is letting their vendetta against Ashcroft colour everything - even their distortions of polling in the marginals.

And I thought it was the Telegraph that was going downhill... Murdoch must be afraid of Ashcroft's post-election plans for a media empire...

Martin said...

McShane has big problems which he wants to hide, at least Griffin knows he's a dickhead.

Shinsei said...

Surely the way the poll has been written up shows that the media are trying their hardest to promote a close election. Hence the overwhelming emphasis on issues like Ashcroft, rather than focusing on Brown's underfunding of the military.

It's in the media's interest at current poll levels to talk the Tories down and talk up Labour.

titus-aduxas said...

It is typical of ZaNu Labour to turn everything possible into propaganda.

X said...

Has Murdoch dynasty done deals with Labour like the BBC appears to have? The Times has become sensationalist tabloid! It is time that DC starts talking about Immigration and Crime which Guido suggests are the issues voters care and I care. Michael Howard was right in concentrating on this during last election and he was rubbished. London looks and sounds like a third world metropolis like Mumbai.

Sean Haffey said...

I'd be interested (yes, really) in hearing Denis MacShane's view on the freedom of the press.

Man in a Shed said...

As X implies - there are a number of papers and of course the BBC who are doing their desperate best to provide the impression that the movement in the polls is very strongly pro-Labour.

Its time to start questioning their agenda's ( and its not just the usual suspects here ).

Roger said...

It is interesting how the political weathervane has swung over the past three months. When it was assumed that Labour was finished, the media actually started to show Labour in less than a favourable light.

Now the polls are closing, the political journos sound as though they have been told by the Labour spin machine to get back where they belong - attacking the Tory party for their Labour masters. At present, I cannot see any pro Tory press, TV or Radio coverage - just a consistently anti-Tory message.

I don't think the Tories have helped themselves either with weak responses to any attack on them, but this is getting ridiculous. I know of no-one who has anything but utter loathing of Gordon Brown and it is preposterous that Labour has any support outside its client state - though the numbers suggest that they have been very successful in bribing voters with their own (and their childrens') money.

THETIDOS said...

Somebody in this group just referred to a media plan. Journalists can't plan anything (look at their desks) or agree anything.

Annabel Herriott said...

"He who pays the Piper calls the Tune" The Times is paying the Piper, so the Piper asks as many subtley leading questions as he can get away with.
The only truly independant poll is the one probably on May 6th 2010 that is, provided the postal votes are not tampered with, nor the ballet boxes which may be held "securely" overnight! Hmmm!!

Osama the Nazarene said...

Typical of BBPravda. The propaganda (i.e. news) arm of this organisation needs a thorough cull after the election.

Eoghan said...

Sean Haffey is wrong with both his comments.

Firstly, the poll IS relevant and doesn't lie (well, as far as margins of error will allow, but the YouGov poll of marginals the other day had a Tory lead of only 2%, although those marginals were defined slightly differently).

The seats 50-150 are the most relevant to the election because the assumption is being made that most, if not all, of the Tory targets 1-50 will swing far enough to make them comfortable Conservative gains.

The real battlegrounds are 50-150 where the Tories need to take quite a few.

I don't know why the Lib-Den-Tory marginals haven't been polled yet but that's a completely different story, with different figures, which would reflect differently (ie a Labour squeeze as opposed to a Lib Dem one).

I don't know why Sean then makes a snide comment about Denis MacShane and freedom of the press. As I understand it, MacShane resigned from TP because he didn't want to be associated with an outlet for Griffin to spew his filth - not because he doesn't believe they shouldn't have the right to publish such an article.

Sean Haffey said...

>Eoghan

I am genuinely interested in MacShane's views on freedom of the press. It's a great principle, but most people (including me) run into issues when it comes to practising it.

As far as statistics are concerned, if you want to make a point or write a story, picking a subset of the data is a great way of doing it. I stand by my comment.

cyberboris said...

http://cyberboris.wordpress.com/2010/03/10/boris-upbeat-on-polls/

Boris johnson is still totally upbeat regarding the polls, and he backs the punters not he pollsters. The Standard yesterday discussed the merits of this.