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Can we rely on pollster figures after last year’s general election failures?

Cast your mind back to the 2015 General Election – opinion polls were all over it and the majority had the Conservative and Labour Party pretty much neck and neck…it didn’t quite work out like that!


In light of last year’s polling debacle, monumental failures were highlighted. Not one of the 92 polls accurately predicted the 7% lead the Conservatives would actually achieve, weighting schemes were widely criticised and key groups of voters were massively underrepresented.


To say confidence in pollsters was damaged would be an understatement and with what is arguably one of the biggest ever voting decisions soon to be arriving on our doorsteps, can we trust pollsters to keep us in the loop?


I think we can – like a phoenix rising from the smouldering ashes of the general election, pollsters have a chance to make amends.


There should certainly be more focus on quality rather than quantity but measures are being introduced to reduce the possibility of a repeat performance. Patrick Sturgis, a professor of research methodology at Southampton University, undertook an independent review for the British Polling Council. Sturgis’s final report will include detailed recommendations on what pollsters need to do differently.


A more focused British public might also benefit pollsters.  With only a few months to go to the vote, continual media coverage will keep the Eurozone under the microscope.  The outcome of such coverage will have one of two effects, it will either enhance people’s opinions and awareness as to what’s at stake with this vote, or it will drive them nuts!


If we look back to one week prior to the general election, 40% of voters were undecided. In a recent poll on the EU referendum, only 10% of those asked stated that they were undecided.  There’s no doubt it’s going to be a tight call.  51% want to remain, 39% want to leave (sample 1000 UK adults) according to the latest from ComRes.


The challenge for pollsters could be perhaps tracking a swing in opinion; with such a contentious subject  any one of a number of macro factors could trigger a swing towards a ‘remain’ or ‘leave’ decision.


With David and Boris going head to head, it’s shaping up to be some sort of presidential personality contest to grab the undecided 10%.  As things stand it looks good for team Cameron. The undecided masses tend to stick to the status quo – venturing into the unknown  is likely to  put plenty of people off.


‘Team Boris’ are picking up momentum however, and with such an enigmatic character leading the charge, who knows what will happen. Luckily we will hopefully have a group of reinvigorated pollsters helping us gauge the outcome.


Dale Henry

Allto Consulting


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