A new poll by ComRes in Tuesday’s Indy tells a completely different story to ICM and MORI’s recent figures. The topline figures, with changes from ComRes’s last poll, are CON 37%(-6), LAB 36%(+4), LDEM 17%(+5). The poll was conduced between Friday and Sunday.

In recent weeks we’ve become used to polls showing differing results – methodological differences have resulted in some pollsters showing much larger Tory leads than other ones. However, until now polls have been consistent in showing the same trends – until last week the pollsters, despite differences in extent, were all showing the Conservative poll shrinking. The two polls published since the press reaction to the PBR, conducted by ICM and Ipsos MORI, both showed that trend reversing, with the Conservatives again gaining support. This poll is not just out of line with the figures other companies have been presenting, but also it’s the exact opposite of the trend ICM and MORI are showing.

Normally when polls disagree I look at the methodologies and try to explain the difference. There is no obvious explanation here. I’ve looked through the ComRes tables and there is nothing obviously freaky or wrong – the Lib Dems appear to have been weighted to a much higher figure than their previous poll – 12% of the sample said they voted Lib Dem in 2005, as opposed to 8% of the sample in ComRes’ previous poll – which goes a long way towards explaining the jump in the level of Lib Dem support, but not that of the two main parties: the overall shares of recalled past vote are pretty similar to those ICM use to weight their polls.

This is the first poll conducted since Damian Green was arrested, so theoretically it could be possible that the public reaction to it has been the polar opposite to the media’s, but that would be unusual. It could also be that the the increased Conservative lead we saw from ICM and MORI was just a reflection of the bad press coverage the PBR was receiving at the time those two polls were carried out, and the public reaction to the PBR now it has sunk in properly is actually more positive. The alternative possiblity is, of course, that either MORI & ICM, or ComRes are “rogue polls”.

I am cautious about the term “rogue poll”. It tends to get thrown around willy-nilly against any poll people don’t like and sometimes at companies with methodology people see as faulty. What is actually refers to is that the 3% margin of error commonly quoted for polls is at the 95% level of confidence. In layman’s terms it means that 19 out of 20 times the “real” figure will be within 3 points of the figure quoted in the poll. A rogue poll is that 1 in 20 where the figure is more than 3 points out. It is inevitable that these things happen, and happen to all companies – but realistically it is impossible to ever be certain whether a poll that looks out of line is a rogue poll, or the start of a new trend. We won’t know for sure until we see some other polls that confirm or contradict this one, but until then I will urge my normal caution against polls that show large changes in support, or sudden reverses in the trend.


195 Responses to “ComRes show Tory lead down to a single point”

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  1. Sorry Anthony for straying off topic, but can I dispel a few myths…?

    Alistair Darling PBR did not do diddly for small-businesses nor consumption. My cuppa-coffee is the same price as it was in November (so no multi-buys there)! Add to which my VAT has decreased by 5p.

    That 5p is – deservedly – going to the franchisees profit-margin. However das Stat is not going to be out-of-pocket.

    Why…? I now have less to offset against my VAT. So the 5p must now be treated as benefit-in-kind, on which I am taxed. Ergo, the little Darling has actually increased my marginal rate of tax…!

    I am sure that Guido could think of a term for our Chancellor. Can you…? :(

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  2. On The Daily Politics yesterday, a journalist guest said that the 2% Bank Rate is being ” paid by no-one”-hence the inability of Banks to cut lending rates.

    So millions of savers-many of whom rely on modest savings income-have seen it decimated ….for what?
    For the substantial benefit of a minority of mortgage debtors with tracker mortgages?

    There is something decidedly loopy about these reductions in a Base Rate which mainly disadvantages the thrifty, whilst businesses continue to have interest rates increased & credit lines reduced-prior presumably to making people redundant.

    The so-called “counter-recessionary” policies now being introduced will very soon produce huge schisms in our society, each with quite different perspectives on those policies.

    Presumably the Polls will reflect this-but underneath the headline figures will be a maelstrom of opposing forces driven by their new financial fortune or loss.

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  3. Coiln,

    The banks ae being risk averse and lending less. they are also trying to increase there margins and long term stability by getting out of borrowing short and lending long at low interest rates.

    For that to work and the system to satbilise and repair itself for the long term they will need for a number of years to lend less than before and make more on each loan while taking less risk.

    The upshot of that is that where as when interstrates were 5% they would lend at 6% risjing all for 1%, now that rates are 2% they will be looking at 5% so that for the risk they will make 3%.

    The Government talks about them passing it on and normal lending, but what the banks are doing how is normal lending it was the big long loans with narrow margins that was abnormal.

    Knowing that post crunch banks will want and need larger margins all the BOE can do is slash rates to record lows to get the rate to businesses down to acceptable levesl. therefore where as before to bring the Libor down a point or two took a point or twos cuts now it is taking three or four.

    All this talk from brown and darling about “passing it on” and “normal borrowing” is spin for the voting public. the reality is that the relationship between BOE rates and market rates has been forced to change and they know it.

    Peter.

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  4. The problem for the Conservatives with the bank bashing that is going on is that it is against all it believes to actually do anything. How many months ago was Osbourne repeatedly saying that the banks should have less government interference.

    Even yesterday on the radio he was struggling to critisize the banks for not passing on the bank rate and then blamed the government, for not giving the banks the ability to pass it on.

    This issue will always seen as a political negative for the Conservatives as explained above in the class politics posts,many still see them as the party of the rich, so when the banks are facing pressure and Osbourne states its the governments fault for them not doing it, rightfully or wrongly, many will see this as proof.As someone else stated yesterday on the radio, “if the Conservatives where in power, do you really think that they would put this much pressure on thier rich friends in the banking system, especially as they are private companies”.

    Does beg the question, would they have partly nationalised some of them considering that Conservatives and as said only a few months ago Osborne does not believe in Nationalisation or interventionalism?

    I think this is one of the reasons why Brown/Darling beat Osborne/Cameron in the polls for the team taking the country out of recession. Some of the big decissions needed such as interventionalism is alien to Conservative policy and maybe the public don’t trust them to take them?Just a thought.

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  5. Colin – Thankyou for those figures. A real eye opener.

    I was referring to whether other countries include PFI and PSPL in their debt figures, and whether this is the reason that our official debt % is lower than theirs even though our debt is referred to as third world and other countires not.

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  6. Mark M-
    Sorry I misunderstood you.
    It’s an interesting question about other countries.I don’t know the answer-but suspect PFI doesn’t feature much if at all. Would be interested to know how they deal with their State employees’ pension rights though.

    Peter-thanks.
    Yes I understand what the Banks are doing-and agree with you that Brown & Darling are making “soundbyte”-“vote positive” noises which they know to be empty rhetoric.

    The capitalisation of the Banks was not enough to re-jig their Balance Sheets for the effects of bad debts &/or house price collateral value falls. So-as you say-they are continuing to re-build margins.

    Yes I also agree that the Brown call for a return to 2007 lending levels is just plain stupid given the nature of what got us into this mess & the financial state of the Banks.

    It’s just that since Base Rate-as opposed to LIBOR-seems so detached from commercial lending rates ( which are a function of wholesale rates) , dropping it by these huge amounts appears to hammer savers , without the desired converse of helping commercial borrowers.

    The main gainers are a few mortgage holders.I don’t agree that this is the desired outcome-house prices will not rise because of it-mortgage lending will not rise because of it–and anyway house prices need to self-correct.

    I cannot help feeling that Osborn has a point with his idea of direct Government guarantees of commercial lending.To save jobs we need to keep companies afloat & liquid.The quickest route to that end is surely not via the uncertainty of engineered consumption , but by normal credit to sound companies.

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  7. Tony,

    In polling terms I think public perceptions are such that in the current conditions the public would be more critical of a Tory government even if it did exactly what Labour has done.

    Even if Osborne had had no choice but to put money in to the banks like Darling did Labour and the press would have had a field day with “Tories bail out Fat Cat Friends”.

    In a way Labour get off more likely because rightly or wrongly people see them as still less pro business and so the perception may well be that had no option because of the crisis and must have done it through gritted teeth.

    Having said that if Brown had bailed out a manufacturer and it had been seen as being at the behest of the Unions the Press and tories would have gone for the throat with “Back to the Bad old days” and ” Union Barons Run UK”.

    Peter.

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  8. Peter
    re your last para I think we are in “watch this space mode” right now.

    Mandelson is reputedly drawing up a list of the sectors which should & should not be supported!-back to the future!

    The absolutely riveting spectacle of the Big Three CEOs -begging bowls in hand-being disected by the US Senators is but a glimpse of what may happen here-starting with Vuaxhall.

    If I thought our politicos would apply anything like the forensic skill & gimlet eyed bloody mindedness that we can watch from Washington I would almost look forward to it.

    It’s going to be the usual Mandelson stitch-up here I expect. But yet again as we move into the recession proper, serious politics is going to emerge.

    I wouldn’t like to forecast how the voters will react to what’s coming next year-people & politics are going to become more divided & divisive I think .

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  9. Coiln,

    I think the “King of Spin” is trying to make a virtue out of necessity.

    This isn’t going to be over soon despite what Darling’s PBR statement says, so they will almost certainly come under huge pressure to support key industries through the slump.

    Mandy is trying to prepare us for the inevitable by making it look like it’s all part of a “Plan of Action”.

    It’s sort of ;

    “Lets try and convince the public that what we have had no choice but to agree to has actually been initiated by us, by talking about the need for it before it’s forced on us”.

    Peter.

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  10. And I thought I was given to cynicism Peter!

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  11. “That’s not to mention the other two recessions the Tories created during their 18 years of government.”

    Which two would those have been then, in addition to
    1980-81?

    There was one other recession – 1990 to 1992.

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  12. No sunday polls? Bloody disgrace

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  13. Jakob,

    Some retailers are using the VAT cut as a marketing ploy while some retailers are obviously not passing the cut on at all. Also as food and children’s clothes are not subject to VAT people will struggle to notice any difference when doing their weekly shop at supermarkets.

    When my wife and I went to ASDA’s there was nothing to suggest that they had implemented the VAT cut. It was a matter of luck that we noticed that a £25 jumper had been reduced to £24.46.

    We actually discussed this with the cashier. Her response was that Brown had done nothing for her and that he would definiately not be getting her vote.

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  14. went shopping today and noticed that a lettuce that I brought last week for 98p is now £1.09. VAT cuts may help the price reduction on some items but many are still rising. No reduction on gas/electric/food/childrens clothing

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  15. I despair when people base their political arguments on very crude economic variables. The economy does not reset every time a new government is elected, it has its own cycle. Moreover, if there is a global oil crisis there isn’t much that a UK government can do to avert recession, just as when the financial system collapses we cannot avoid recession. So arguing along the lines of ‘well we’ve only had one recession whereas you had two so therefore we’re better’ is pretty trivial. What you have to try and do is judge the effectiveness of what the government has done.

    On another note I just cannot agree with those who believe that the labour recovery is going to continue and give labour the overall lead. What we have here is a prime minister who has average poll ratings during a recession and one of the worst poll ratings of all time outside of a recession. That does not seem to me to be a solid platform on which to stand and say “I’d like to have four more years as PM please.” From my perspective I think we’ll see the Conservative lead stay at 2/3 points up until either an election is called or the initial feeling of ‘crisis’ has passsed and then it will open up once again. Could be wrong but that’s my view.

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  16. The PBR Fiscal package has received a pretty bad Press today-by & large judged inneffective.

    Worse-the Monetary interventions are now under critical review:-The mixed messages to Banks from Government-Buy more Gilts-but lend more to the public/ Pay 12% on Government Prefs but cut rates to borrowers ./-The damage to savers of a possibly precipitate reduction in Base Rate./ The resultant freeze on credit despite Government’s fine words-etc.etc.

    The Mortgage Interest scheme looks like a hurried attempt to gain votes rather than a serious measure of help to significant numbers of people-it is even reviewed as a recipe for financial disaster in a falling house price market.

    The dark clouds of company failure & job losses gather on the post-Christmas horizon.

    Having read all of this a Martian would surely conclude that the Government would be hugely unpopular.

    If the upcoming Polls don’t concur with Martian logic, I for one will begin to doubt mine.

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  17. Adrian’s quip about the lack of polls today is an imporant point. Indeed, leaving aside the political housekeeping storm, however important, about the raid on Damien Green’s office, there appears to be a general dearth of political, as opposed to economic, issues reported in today’s Sunday papers. This is particularly remarkable given that this is the first Sunday after a Queen’s Speech.

    I have justed posted on a slightly aged “Early Election” thread to point out that traditionally a thin Queen’s Speech is a harbinger of an early election. One may also speculate that Labour thinks that “do nothing” will minimise their unpopularity following the economic crisis. Probably rightly as polticial news tends to be the result of Government mistakes, and several longer-term Government initiatives appear to be unpopular by general consent, the difference between Labour and opposition parites being in relation to their necessity.

    Why this Comres poll should be out of line in trend as well as in the size of lead is beyond me. The problem with dismissing this poll as a rogue is that the variation between polls, as Anthony Wells indicates, appears in general to have increased recently. This isn’t just a matter of one in twenty polls being out of line.

    The swing reported between this poll and its predecessor is unusually large, as others have pointed out.

    Methodological issues may be one reason for recent discrepancies in polling results. I am afraid that another possibility, and I mean possibility rather than actuality, is that something or somebody is manipulating the data, with varying power over different polling organisations. I stress again that I have no evidence that any such thing is happening, but simply on the data being reported the polling organisations would be wise now to recheck the security of their own polls, and indeed that discrepant polls by other Polling Organisations are not the result of actions that will bring the polling industry into disrepute. I post this in principle, although I find it hard to believe that a poll published in “The Independent”, a paper for which I have a high regard, would be defective (excepting possible limitations due to comparative lack of financial resources).

    I agree with Anthony’s commentary on this poll in relation to the Damien Green affair. More generally, this poll just does not feel right in relation to what people on the ground are saying in ordinary life. The ICM and MORI ones are more credible by the “gut feeling” test.

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  18. Peter / Colin,

    With the Prince of Darkness one always has to be careful, but I think that the work he is doing in his official ministerial capacity ( as opposed to his behind the scenes media manipulation) is probably correct.

    It would seem that Mandy’s stint as EU Trade Commissioner has actually taught him the importance of having a manufacturing base, hence he is genuinely looking at what industries are crucial for our country’s future, and which can be allowed to fold.

    The tragedy (for our country) is that this is the first time in over 11 years that the government has focused on the wealth-creating parts of the economy – as opposed to their fixation under Blair with moving wealth around – or under Brown with redistributing it from productive to unproductive areas, or just simply consuming it.

    However, while Mandy may identify the right industries worthy of “support”, I susect that the Gov’t will baulk at the most logical – and cheapest – reform of all – free them from regulation – and will instead resort to their usual ploy of throwing (taxpayers’) money at them.

    We can only pray that Mandy gets this right – and that it keeps him so busy he has less time for his preferred media manipulation.

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  19. Generally I think it is an indication of our position within the long wave electoral cycle that polling popularity has become disconnected from policy, so there are plenty of opportunities for the sharp operator (which is probably why Mandelson is seen as a positive for the fortunes of Labour).

    Adrian,
    lettuce is a season vegetable so you should expect price variations over the course of the year, and as greens have a habit of becoming more expensive towards Christmas due to their unavailability you come off sounding like you are trying to beat the govt with a floppy middle-class celery stick.

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  20. Middle class celery stick. Love it. Does that mean that anyone who eats celery is middle class, or does that mean that Morrisons sell ‘middle class celery’ as opposed to ‘posh’ celery or ‘working class celery’. hahaha. If it can across that way then I apologise, what I meant was that in my work I buy alot of food, and the price of many items is still rising and that whilst we gain with the VAT cut, we lose with rising food prices. Better than losing with rising prices on both, I know, but perhaps the VAT could have been bigger or other tax cuts would have been better.

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  21. “We can only pray that Mandy gets this right ”

    My God!-has it really come to that?-

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  22. ‘Gov’t will baulk at the most logical – and cheapest – reform of all – free them from regulation – and will instead resort to their usual ploy of throwing (taxpayers’) money at them.’

    Nope, industry must have regulation otherwise its sole purpose is to make money; government needs to intervene to ensure sensible policies on wages / health / safety / environment / national concerns etc are followed. Industry has no morality when left to itself as its sole purpose then is profit. One may argue as to what regulation is needed/ how much etc but regulation is needed.

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  23. This thread had hit new hights….the anti-Labour celery and the cashier who call the election.

    Well I was speaking to a left handed screwdriver maker the other day and I interrupted him eating his clas A Iceberg, none of this working class crappy stuff from Lidl, and he said that he had collected all he pennies up he had gained from VAT, put it on the Euro lottery , won it and has give the lot to Labour, so I think that means that Labour will win by a landslide.

    If we don’t get a poll soon, the posters on here will be looking at tea leaves to say the Conservative will win.

    With regards Mandy, the mans a political genius. You can question him morally, but hey, that is a positive when you are a politician.

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  24. Adrian – Vat couldn’t be any lower, as it cannot go lower than the European limit of 15%.

    Cue anti-Euro debate.

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  25. ” government needs to intervene to ensure sensible policies on wages / health / safety / environment / national concerns etc are followed. Industry has no morality when left to itself as its sole purpose then is profit. ”

    Evening Fidel.
    How is the cigar business holding up in these difficult times?

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  26. Ha Ha, my thoughts exactly Colin!

    Hey Jack, nature ‘regulates’ itself just fine without the use of any centralised bureaucracy.
    Do you advocate a system to dictate to the Lion on what and when it can feast?

    Without such control its ‘sole purpose’ is to eat!

    Terrible!

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  27. Colin,do you think there should have been no intervention for the banks? I’m sure those shareholders would have been extremely impressed if Darling was to say in a free market government should not interfere or regulate a private company.

    Or do we bend our beliefs like certain Mr Osbourne who was only telling us a few months ago,repeatedly, that bank intervention and regulation is against everything a free market stands for.

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  28. Tony Jones,
    food has a zero VAT rating, so it definitely couldn’t go any lower with or without the EU.

    Are you the famous rebel independent cllr?

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  29. Jack

    By your logic, people should only work for the minimum. After all, after they have paid for food and lodging, trying to earn more is just simply greed – like the profit motive. Can’t have that. No wonder Brown has to regulate people with Tax Credits to make sure they don’t try to get rich and greedy.

    Sorry – but the profit motive is what creates weaklth. It applies to individuals as much as to businesses. For the government to interfere only holds back teh generation of wealth – which is hardly in anyone’s ineterst – excvept thsoe politicians who want to control everyone else.

    Rant over, but deregulation would create more wealth for minimal public expenditure.

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  30. Famous or infamous?

    They could give food away for free, but would people take it as it would be a state handout?

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  31. Paul H – so those banks that the government have intervened in should have gone to the wall then?

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  32. Paul H-J,

    You’re setting up a false dichotomy between completely stifling the profit motive and allowing it to run wild. There is such a thing as a mixed economy.

    What I took Jack to be saying is that the profit motive has negative consequences as well as positive ones, and it is wise for the government to regulate so that the negative consequences are mitigated.

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  33. Ivan,

    ” nature ‘regulates’ itself just fine without the use of any centralised bureaucracy.”

    Nature doesn’t have money or trade either, do you think we should get rid of those too”…..

    Peter.

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  34. Anthony
    Tee hee
    At least you read my message re the ‘you gov lady’-thanx for that

    I think the polls have underestimated Labour’s support.
    Over the summer I would have been a bit embarassed to say I was a Gordon Brown supporter, given the meeja onslought against him.
    Now, I think his granite like features are more appropriate for this financial crisis.
    I’m sorry, but the thought of boy george running the countryy’s finances just beggars belief. I don’t think I’m the only person who thinks that, by a long chalk.

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  35. This wait for the next set of polls is becoming interminable!
    Or is this the hand of meddlesome Mandelson at work on the media, just hoping and waiting…. for the next sensationalist headline under which to bury the governments unpopularity… !!?
    By the way, that was an attempt at satire, so no-one need take it too seriously!

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  36. “Colin,do you think there should have been no intervention for the banks? ”

    I believe the Banks were in critical need of new capital & government was the only source of enough capital quickly enough to save them from collapse.

    I believe that it was wrong of the Government to pretend that the recapitalisation would be a source of resumed flow of credit to borrowers. It patently is not.
    The Banks & the Government are now engaged in a weird dialogue about being more prudent, but lending more-shoring up their capital base but lowering their margins-buying more government debt but supporting more private & commercial debt-helping people to borrow against falling house prices.

    I don’t know what the answer to this is.

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  37. There is not, and never has been a free or unregulated market for most industries. Oil, coal, gas, nuclear, telecomms, space, defence, pharamceauticals, IT – all have been massivley subsidised by the government to achieve political or economic aims, and indeed many began as government programmes. The idea that industry can just be allowed to regulate itself is ludicrous. While we may debate the type or degree or regulation, simply deregulating industry would only put us further into the hole we are already in.

    The ‘market’ is very good at optimising an existing situation, ie how to make money with the cards it has. It is not very good at long term innovation, or coping with social or environmental factors. I would have hoped that given the environmental catastrphy we are currently falling into, we could all agree on the need for balance in this area.

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  38. Anthony: Any way you can block some of the obvious Trolls? There is always a lot of partisan commment on here, but in the past it was obviously independent thought. I know Mike Smithson has some trouble with those claiming to be “possible floating voters” etc. etc., but i had hoped they wouldn’t start populating this site. The most stupid one to date is the IDIOT VALERIE who said she had received a call from YouGov!!!!!!!!

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  39. Nigel – I know you weren’t addressing me, but I must say The Oracle surely takes the biscuit rather than “Valerie”.

    Calling people “trolls” and “idiots” only puts you in the same category and renders any opinion you have less valid.

    Leaving aside the personal attacks, Valerie’s point that Brown is more suited to this financial crisis is one that I agree with and explains his improved standing. He’s a man for a crisis.

    When calm returns, so (I fear) will his popularity ratings to pre-crisis levels.

    I’m pretty sure that satisfies Anthony’s comments policy.

    If you want to cast me as an idiot or troll, I’m sure that wioll say more about you than me.

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  40. john TT: “valerie” told a barefaced lie – so calling him/her an idiot (definition of someone who is without knowledge ) is perhaps less offensive than calling him/her a liar. Either discription could be true. You on the other hand just have a political view that, whilst I disagree with part of it (ie Gordon Brown being a man for a crisis) certainly is not offensive, and is for the most part relevent to the subject of polls. I look forward to continuing a discussion with you on other threads. Best regards Nigel
    PS: Even though I am, as you may guess, right of centre, I too find many of M”TH O” Richardson’s posts quite ridiculous. He does, though, try to keep it relevant to the POLLS as he would wierdly say!

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  41. Tony Jones,
    if that is you then I’m happy to meet someone I’ve shaken hands with in the real world.
    As for whether you are famous or infamous, I’ve never been in your front room, so I couldn’t say, but anyone who can get national coverage for their assertion of independence is deserving of wider support, at least in my book – don’t say you’re having second thoughts now!

    People will always take freebies, but we would be right to be suspicious of any strings attached and it would depend anyway on whether the assistance is actually helpful.

    Our elected authorities have built up a large debt of mistrust, so I doubt the public will be as forgiving of well-intended stupidity as it has been till now and I think there is growing attention on ulterior motives.

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  42. I’ve been polled on the phone before and a week or so later when the poll comes out I’ve found that I’ve bben telling people it was ICM when it was Mori.

    It’s a simple mistake to make as unless you are paying attention to who’s asking rather than the questions it’s easy to not care who it is.

    So I am prpared to give Valerie the benefit of the doubt and say she just got the name of the pollster wrong.

    Peter.

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