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The Six Polling Myths

John Rentoul

edimage 300x198 The Six Polling MythsAndrew Hawkins, chairman of ComRes, pollster for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday, gave a presentation at the CIPR pre-conference-season briefing last week, in which he listed the six polling myths about the next election. As I have been a purveyor of most of them, I though it worth reporting what they are:

1. UKIP won’t matter. The gist of his rebuttal was: “Oh yes it will.”

2. Ed Miliband is useless. He may be, but it doesn’t matter. Even when they are reminded who the leader is, people say they intend to vote Labour. Anyway, they haven’t seen Miliband’s new image (preview courtesy of General Boles).

3. The party that is best rated on the economy wins. Ipsos MORI found that the Conservatives led Labour as the best at “managing the economy” by 33% to 26% at the 1997 election.

4. Labour will be blamed for everything wrong with the economy. ICM found that more people blame Labour than the coalition, but even more blame the banks or the troubles of the eurozone.

5. The Conservatives will get the credit for deficit reduction. Given how few voters understand the difference between the debt and the deficit, Hawkins thinks this is unlikely.

6. A Conservative majority is do-able. Hawkins pointed out that no government had increased its share of the vote after a full parliamentary term since the war, not even Margaret Thatcher or Tony Blair: “If Thatcher and Blair couldn’t do it, why does David Cameron think he can do it?”

You will notice that each of these myths comforts the Conservatives, and that debunking them suggests that Labour’s prospects are better than most people think.

That is why I wrote in The Independent on Sunday: “Everyone expects the Labour lead to shrink as the election nears, which might be a good reason for thinking it will grow.”

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  • Hill244

    You underestimate the chances of yet another uprising as in August 2011.

  • porkfright

    7. If you elect one of the three main parties, you will get a different sort of government.

  • newfriendofed

    Peter Oborne in today’s Telegraph provides some arguments which suggest that Ed is anything but useless.

  • Pacificweather

    6. As we all know, in a post code democracy, it is not about voting share it is about where the votes are cast. In 1983 the Conservatives lost 1.5% of the vote but gained 58 seats. In 1987 they only lost a further 0.2% of the vote but lost 21 seats. In 1992, Labour gained 3.6% of the vote and 42 seats but the Conservatives lost a further 0.3% of the votes and lost 40 seats. Polls can cover what they think will be the key marginals but it a post code lottery it is anyone’s guess what the actual result will be.

  • reformist lickspittle

    Yes, because the most relevant stat there is not the Tory share but their lead over the second placed party. In 1983 it increased markedly (Labour falling by much more) but was then cut back significantly in both 1987 and 1992.


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