Every fortnight or so there is an Angus Reid poll for PoliticalBetting, and every fortnight or so there is the same discussion in the comments here about whether they are right or wrong. Why do Angus Reid consistently show a lower level of support for Labour?

There probably isn’t one simply answer, I’ve seen several people spot a potential difference in what Angus Reid do, and decide on that basis that this *must* be the cause of the difference. Realistically, there are a lot of differences between what different pollsters do, and all these things can have an impact on the result. So –

Angus Reid word their question differently (from all the other companies)
Angus Reid do not have voting intention as their first question (unlike all the other companies)
Angus Reid do fieldwork online (unlike ICM, MORI, CR and Populus)
Angus Reid use their SpringBoardUK panel (unlike YouGov)
Angus Reid weight using newspaper readership (unlike ICM, MORI, CR and Populus)
Angus Reid weight using past vote (unlike MORI and YouGov)
Angus Reid weight using data collected at the time of the survey (unlike YouGov)
Angus Reid do not factor false recall into their past vote target (unlike ICM, Populus and CR)
Angus Reid use a squeeze question (unlike ICM, Populus and YouGov)
Angus Reid do not filter or weight on likelihood to vote (unlike ICM, MORI, CR or Populus)
Angus Reid do not reallocate Don’t knows (unlike ICM and Populus)

This is not to suggest that Angus Reid are more different than other companies – you could come up with lists of exactly the same length for any of the other polling companies. It’s just to demonstrate how variable the methodologies used by pollsters in voting intention questions are. For an outside observer it can be very difficult to isolate a variable and see what it’s effect is, especially since many of the differences are inter-related and have effects that cancel one another out.

Anyway, with those caveats aside, what are the most likely explanations for the difference? We can largely discount the effect of the question wording – my understanding is that Angus Reid have done parallel testing of the different question wording and it makes no difference to the result. We can also ignore the lack of a filter/weighting on likelihood to vote, since the experience of all other pollsters is that introducing this would make Angus Reid’s Labour figure even lower. We can also dismiss the squeeze question – Angus Reid’s tables show their results prior to the squeeze question being asked, and it does not normally make any difference to the level of Labour support.

Angus Reid’s decision not to ask voting intention as the very first question has the potential to skew responses (which is the reason no one else does it!), but I would be surprised if it had much effect in this case – most important issue is a non-partisan question that should not skew answers.

One factor that almost certainly makes a difference is Angus Reid’s weighting. The other three companies who weight by past vote target figures that assume a certain level of false recall (in practice, this means Labour are weighting to a higher level and the Lib Dems are weighted lower). In contrast Angus Reid weight their past vote to figures based on the actual shares of the vote in 2005, meaning their samples have a higher proportion of people who said they voted Lib Dem and a lower proportion of people who said they voted Labour than ICM, Populus or ComRes. They also weight people to who say they did not vote in 2005 to a lower level – this too is probably a factor, since the Conservative lead amongst those people seems to be lower.

Angus Reid’s tables do not provide a cross break by past vote, so we can’t work out for certain the difference it makes, but we can get a good idea of the potential impact. If you look at the last ICM poll and take their answers before likelihood to vote filtering and their topline adjustment, it gave shares of the vote of CON 39%, LAB 31%, LDEM 20%. Now, if you crudely reweight the past vote to the figures Angus Reid use you get CON 41%, LAB 30%, LDEM 21%. As we’d expect, Angus Reid’s weighting helps the Lib Dems and Conservatives and punishes Labour.

However, this doesn’t explain the whole difference, since Angus Reid do not in fact show higher levels of Conservative support , but they do show higher levels of support for “others” – the minor parties like the BNP, UKIP and Greens. What I suspect is that there are two factors at play here – *something* is pushing up their level of other support, and the remaining support is being skewed against Labour and towards the Conservatives by their past vote weighting.

As to what that *something* causing a higher level of support for others is, I really don’t know. I can’t see any obvious cause. It could even come down to Angus Reid’s sample, or the make up their panel – things it’s not really possible to judge from outside.

This brings us to the question of who is likely to be right. Several people on here have said that you can’t judge at all until an election, others have said that a pollster who is consistently different from all the others is more likely to be wrong. I wouldn’t necessarily agree with either. In 1997 ICM were consistently different from other companies and turned out to be correct. In principle it can be the outlying company that’s right and everyone else who is wrong, but an important caveat is that in 1997 we knew from the previous election that there was a problem, ICM turned out to have solved it and others hadn’t. In 2005 all the pollsters did pretty well, so for Angus Reid to be correct everyone else (despite their differing methods) would have had to have developed some problem with their polling since 2005 (or be unable to cope with changes in public opinion since then…)

The other question was whether you can judge a pollster before an election. In some cases you can. If, for example, a new pollster came along who weighted their sample so it was 75% male and 25% female we wouldn’t need to wait for an election to know they were doing something pretty seriously wrong. The failure of Angus Reid’s past vote weighting to account for false recall seems demonstratably wrong in the same way – the evidence of false recall is solid. Since Himmelweit et el first described false recall of past vote based on panel studies in the 1960s and 1970s it has been repeatedly tested in academic panel studies and we can be relatively certain that there a systemic skew in how people report they voted at previous elections. Weighting recalled past vote to the actual shares of the result should underestimate Labour support.

My view therefore is that Angus Reid are likely to be wrong in terms of the gap between Labour and the Conservatives. However – other polling companies have tended to overestimate Labour’s position, so we may yet find that Angus Reid are right for the wrong reasons. It’s also worth noting that the academic evidence for false recall is largely based upon face-to-face surveys, theoretically people could be more accurate in their recall in online polls. In terms of the other big difference between Angus Reid and the other pollsters, their higher level of support for “others”, I have little guidance I can offer you – I don’t know what the cause of the difference is, so can’t begin to say if they are right or not. Only time will tell.

Of course, this is just my opinion – I’m sure Angus Reid would disagree. No pollster produces figures that they themselves think are wrong, especially on voting intention, figures upon which reputations are built and destroyed. I normally try my best to explain the potential differences between polls rather than say which one is wrong or right – after all, I work for YouGov, so I have a natural bias in that direction. I think one can come to a legitimate view on which poll will be right ahead of an election based upon their methodology… but even then, you won’t know if that view is right until the day afterwards.

(BTW – there will indeed be a brand new ComRes poll for the Indy on Sunday later on tonight)

54 Responses to “Why do Angus Reid polls show a lower level of Labour support?”

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  1. I agree with your assessment that AR have got Labour’s rating more correct than the others; and also that they over-rate the Tories.
    I feel we are in far more Balkanised electoral territory these days, and a tenuous if not hung parliament is increasingly likely.

    Personally, I think they *feel* probably more accurate… perhaps it’s the pack of the others that are chasing the same hare?
    You’ve got to think about who is commissioning them and what their motivation is.

    To me, the newspaper ones are bound to be less credible because they are a bunch of poo-stirring trolls who’s raison d’etre is to wind the public up to sell more of their print-based narcotics.

    “As to what that *something* causing a higher level of support for others is, I really don’t know. I can’t see any obvious cause.”

    I think that “something” is a sense of betrayal.
    It’s not simply fatigue… the sense of betrayal by by both Labour and Tories over the last 30 years I think is tangible, and deeply engrained.

    Think about it… the upheaval of the Callaghan-Thatcher period… the boom then the bust… the period of Tory sleaze… and the final betrayal of the New Labour project.
    I think this “something” has been latent for years… the faith of Tory voters lost by the Maastricht Treaty and the 90s recession (which was long, and a big fall from the 80s boom for many).
    I think the public started to become weary of “politician-speak” during the 90s, and Blair offered to some a fin de siecle second coming type redemption… whilst for many, they had simply lost interest in voting… I think the rot set in in the mid 90s, thats’s where you can see the propagation of “Others” with the Refendum Party and embryonic UKIP (A response to Maastricht via the campaign for an independent britain thing); the BNP started to grow from then; the Greens have always been analogous to the Libdems… occasionally threating to poke through (Euro Election in the 90s they got 14%), but then failing to convince with their cardigans and messy hair.

    The metamorphosis of Labour into a cynical management consultancy reminiscent of the Tories in so many ways, despite the rhetoric has left many voters behind. The scandal just confirms people’s worse suspicions.

    I think though, the real things that have profoundly transformed the public’s relationship with the parties has been the media’s transformation since Watergate, into a depressing hysteria whipping machine.

    The other thing, from my studies in economics and politics, is that the one thing that can really trigger trouble is when people’s economic expectations are suddenly and dramatically not met (I can provide academic refs for research into that for anyone interested); stuff like immigration and sleaze/expenses and the media machine is just tinder for that to ignite.

    We are in the valley of a large economic cycle, which in systems parlance is called a divergent phugoid, and it has it’s origins in the early 70s with the first oil shock (easy to see for anyone who cares to look at such datasets).
    What the real problem is, is not simply the dramaticness (heightened by the media machine) of the “credit crunch”, but that the periodicity of the cycle is extending, which creates prolonged economic uncertainty, and is fuel for political uncertainty…. nourishment for “the others”, who are being helped no end by the uncertainty of the established parties, who themselves are quite lost as to how to navigate through the situation.

    Many polls, I think, are simply selling news to suit the narratrives of their customers in the media machine; Angus Reid, less so… what’s political betting selling? not the same thing as the media machine, that’s for sure.

  2. My contention is that the “Most Important Issue” question while non-partisan, *is* anti-incumbent. This is because it puts a lot of ‘negative’ issues up that the government of the day is ‘responsible for’. Any list that includes Iraq and Unemployment, let alone the rest of the laundry list, is going to produce a negative feeling towards Labour in the respondent, since as the government it’s “their fault”.

  3. Anthony,

    Well their goes my theory as I had plumped for the question wording and you have pretty well blown that out of the water.

    Still nobodies perfect so i’ll have another go. In the last two elections when the Tories were trailing badly and few expected them to mount a real challenge let alone win we saw the rise of UKIP and to a lesser extent other small parties.

    Could we be seeing the same here and what AR is picking up is a relatively small number of people who are turning away from labour to another party that reflects their views.

    Just as UKIP attracted eurosceptic voters who might have voted Tory so now it may be the greens and indeed the BNP who are turning from Labour to a party that they still feel ideologically comfortable with.

    In the AR poll results for Scotland there seemed to be indications that the SNP might be the biggest beneficiary of people who switched from Labour something I have long stated may happen if it looks like the Tories have it in the bag.

    What I am not sure and would like your opinion on is just what it might be that AR does that would pick up a move by Labor voters to the greens instead of Libdems or the BNP instead of the tories.

    Could it be that the voter weighting of the other pollsters is so focused on the shares of the big three ( okay two and a half….) that they are missing this smaller drift away from Labour?


  4. Jay,

    I like the idea that the issues question reminds people of whats going wrong and that it may well be anti incumbent. We’ll know for sure when AR polls when the tories are in….


  5. Peter – you’ve lost me somewhere along the line there. AR don’t weight by any additional measures that other companies don’t use, they just weight those things to different levels. They weight people who voted for minor parties in 2005 to much the same level as other companies.

  6. Anthony,

    Theory two bites the dust. So far Jay has come up with the best yet.

    I do think some people will turn from a less popular Labour party to others who reflect their views, but I j if that is what AR are detecting I can’t as you point out figure why they are detecting it and no one else.

    That does of course leave us with the situation where the YouGov prompt on others just before the Scottish elections gave an artificially high others result but as far as I can see AR don’t do anything unusual when it comes to asking about others.


  7. Anthony

    the issue you have not included in your analysis is whether the other pollsters tend to be right or wrong, so for example if the other polls were consistently overstating the Labour position when compared to real elections then Angus Reid would have more validity. The evidence is that Yougov tends to get very close to the actual results and that would suggest that their methodology is correct (or just lucky).

    I have tended to follow the yougov results rather than the poll of polls for this reason

  8. Anthony,
    Thanks for such a detailed analysis of the AR situation. Let’s hope it puts a stop to the ‘AR is wrong’ -‘No they’re not’ debates.

    Seal Pup
    I agree with most of your analysis apart from the bits about divergent phugoids, upon which I could not possibly comment :)
    However, it doesn’t explain why it appears to be only AR who are picking up even further disaffection with the main parties.

    My gut feel, for what it’s worth) is that there will be a low turnout and that therefore the minor parties will have a relatively high percentage of those who actually vote, because their followers tend to be more committed than the majority of big party voters.

  9. Reckon Jay has a point about the issue question being anti-incumbent, especially so for long term incumbents. With the weighting as well, seems a fairly sensible explanation for low lab.

    As for high others…..firstly, don’t all online polls get higher others than face to face? And possibly the issue question as well, when people are made to focus their minds on the most important issue to them…..if it’s the environment, immigration, europe, PCgawnmad…..surely likely to make them think of those near-single issue parties that make up the others?

  10. Peter – well, as I said in the orginal piece, the main cause is almost certainly the lack of false recall in their targets for past vote weighting. That should, all things considered, decrease the level of Labour support found in their polls as indeed it appears it does- and therefore at least partially explains the lower level of Labour support. It doesn’t explain the higher level of other support.

    The problem with the order effect argument is that if you look hard enough you can nearly always find plausible hypotheses as to how a question might be biased. That is not the same as actual evidence that it is doing that. As I said, while it certainly has the potential to have an effect, I doubt it actually does have a huge one (my own guess is that if it did, the effect would not be anti-incumbency, but to make people more likely to say they would vote for the party they preferred on the issued they had just named). We can’t tell for sure unless Angus Reid do parallel testing.

    Still, with good reason to think that past vote weighting is making their sample more Conservative and less Labour, there isn’t really a need to look for reasons for the skew against Labour. The question is more why they are picking up more support for others – I suppose the initial question could have something to do with that (as Wood suggests), but it could also be something like the panel or sampling which we can’t detect so easily.

    Wood – there is likely online mode effect in support for others, especially the BNP (some people may be less willing to admit supporting a fringe party or a party viewed as extremist when talking to a human interviewer). However, AR are picking up much higher levels of support for Others than YouGov, so mode alone seems unlikely to be the explanation.

  11. To be fair to Angus Reid I should add, for those who think that first question is at fault, that Angus Reid’s argument is that it leads people into the voting intention question more gently and puts them into the frame of mind they might actually be in when voting. If one agrees with them then it is perfectly possible to think that the first question both has an effect, but that it makes their figures more accurate.

  12. Thanks to Anthony for summarising the differences and writing down his thoughts!

    Much as I wish AR’s polls were true, Labour’s vote did seem too low, given their 28% in 1983.

    @ Seal Pup

    Whilst I’d avoid the “cycles determine our lives” view of economics, I do feel that our current economics woes are to do with economists’ now knowing about how to put off recessions, whilst deluding themselves that they’ve been avoided, rather than stored up for the future.

  13. Anthony, why is it then that all the other pollsters do not do this. I know you can not answer for them, but you could possibly do so in YouGov’s case.

  14. @Anthony Wells

    I think if this is a deliberate choice of theirs, it’s a very bad one, and not grounded in reality at all.

    When you get to the polling booth, they don’t peg up a list of issues for you to read right before you vote. Most people are *not* in the state of mind AR seem to think they should be when they vote.

    Maybe instead they should have the school parents in their sample have their kids shout at them for a bit to put them in the state of mind of ‘just picking up the kids from school then going into the polls to vote’. Or how about having the respondent walk around for a bit to simulate having to get to the polling booth.

  15. I have no idea which if any of the list of points is or is not responsible for the differing results of the AR polls .
    However I do think they are on the right lines with asking a warm up question . Thinking it through logically in fact perhaps pollsters should be asking a string of warm up questions . When people go and vote they ( unless they are tribal voters ) do not go and vote first and then consider the issues they do the latter first and and then decide which way they are going to vote .

  16. I see Mr Blanc has taken an opposite view – clearly a tribal voter LOL

  17. CLAD – to give a simple answer, I expect it’s because none of them agree with it!

    (Generally speaking, though I work for YouGov, when I’m writing here I’m not doing so on YouGov’s behalf, and try not to slip into doing so. Certainly in terms of methodology, theirs is not set by me and decisions like that would be made by Peter.)

  18. Fair enough Anthony. Just thought with your insider knowledge you might have been able to give a definitive answer as to why YouGov don’t do it.

  19. @Mark Senior

    A portion of voters will vote as they have always votes. A portion of voters will have made up their minds with surety now and will vote that way at the polls. A portion of voters will make up their minds over the time between now and the election. A portion of voters will only make their final decision within a week of polling. And a portion of voters will decide at the polls.

    I doubt that many of these voters make their final decision immediately after sitting down in front of a list of issues and picking out one as the most important.

  20. I have not,to date, commented in the AR debate because I regard it as academic. But I think a few rather abstract factures may be in play.

    1/ Is the sitting MP safe considering the expences scandle.

    2/ The current government is looks tired. people feel the need for a change

    3/ Turnout has been getting less and less over the years.

    4/ Party memberships are getting smaller.

    5/ 24 hour news tends to sensationalise

    6/ All three parties are “selling” in the centre ground

    7/ Others are getting more exposure thanks to 24 hour news.

    8/ The internet and blogashere continually stirs airing in particullarly minority views.

    I could probably come up with more ideas, but what I am saying that it is extremely dificult for pollster to encapsulate these in a few questions.

  21. I have to stress this… I don’t think it’s the business of pollsters, or any public researchers, to try to ‘get people in the right frame of mind’ when doing their poll.

    It’s like feeding a panel lots of salty snacks to get them in the ‘right frame of mind for deciding if they want a beer’. It alters the result you are trying to measure.

    Good polls should ensure they minimise how they bias the opinion of the respondent. The intent of the poll is to measure what people’s opinions are before they are polled. The poll should not induce the respondent into any kind of mindset that is different to the one they were in when they were contacted.

    People are as politically informed and considerate as they are. The AR poll artificially forces them to make some political considerations, and to me feeds them a set of ‘anti-incumbent’ buzzwords, just before asking them the voter intent question.

  22. CLAD – well, the default position is to ask VI first so there is not even the risk of skewing it. I expect most over pollsters have not even considered doing otherwise.

  23. Sorry for sounding dumb, I don’t know too much about all this but why would you wait by newspaper readership?

  24. **weight

  25. @ ALW

    Sorry for sounding dumb, I don’t know too much about all this but why would you weight by newspaper readership?

    Cos it woz the Sun wot won it! ;-)

  26. @ ALW

    Sorry for the dafty; I just couldn’t resist.

    I hope somebody can give you a properly informed answer.

    IMO that probably is quite a good way of weighting because people generally like their own preferences to be reinforced rather than contradicted.

    I wonder how AR weight those who don’t read a newspaper.

  27. @ JAY BLANC

    I think I agree with you, that the lead in question will have an effect. It would have an affect on me, make me less sure.

  28. ALW – YouGov do it for attitudinal reasons – Guardian reading Labour identifiers are attitudinally different to Mirror reading ones (and so on)

  29. Anthony? I am wondering about the effect of online polling vs telephone polling. I am aware that AR is not the only company to use internet panels.

    Is one not more likely to get folks on higher incomes on the internet? Not everyone has an internet connection.

    Likewise, not everyone these days has a landline. I personally don’t, as a student, and doubt many other students do.

    Can this be in play in voter intention polling in general, or do most companies weight by income bracket?

  30. @Pete B
    “I agree with most of your analysis apart from the bits about divergent phugoids, upon which I could not possibly comment :)

    Alright, basically, it’s a systems engineering term that can apply to any system – even an economic one – but is usually applied to aeroplanes.

    What it means is that a system is unstable such that it is oscillating with each peak and trough larger than the last.

    In an aircraft, this means that your plane get’s into a wibble that gradually extends beyond the pilot’s ability to respond to it; the plane ends up stalling and falling at the point where the oscillation is too great for it to remain airborne.

    In economics, the recent examples are the crashes of big banks like Merril Lynch et al. You can see the pattern in their stock prices.

    In terms of the UK economy, the divergent phugoid-ness is perceivable in the pattern of booms and busts since the 1973 oil shock.
    You only have to look at a graph of house prices from that time (for example) to see the steadily increasing oscillation.
    Our economy is very much at the top of the ski jump heading down… the recent spike in unemployment is advance warning this is the calm before the storm.

    The reason why I think this is applicable to the polling is this:
    Humans have a limited range of perception in general, and events to be perceived have to occur within a window of human-scale perception (this is not new age stuff btw!), the issue of the divergent phugoid is that the oscillations are now (i believe) too large for our political system to be able to respond to – events are playing out too slowly.

    In short, no party wants to make policy, because they want to wait and see and analyse the state of the “theatre” they are players in; but data is not coming in quick enough.
    This uncertainty feeds into the economy and the public mood, and feeds senses of fear and helplessness – that looks like apathy or disengagement.
    The memory of the build up to this… essentially the history of the phugoid pollutes the sentiment towards the main parties – they appear to be the problem, rather than the solution.
    All this plays in the favour of minor parties; and I expect Angus Reid to deliver the closest prediction of the election result, which may lead to problems for other polling organsations.

    The general sense is that although AR is divergent from the other polls, it’s results are not implausible. This implies that there is subconcious doubt about the veracity of the pack of polls – the troll polls as I’d call them!

    The election will be a partial catharsis by the electorate, but I’m quite certain that it will deliver a short-lived government, and no stability for another five years (roughly), until the next, and most worrying peak of the oscillation starts to emerge.

    It may be that a change of political system is the only way to bring some kind of stability back, and try and stabilse the phugoid (by setting maximum and minimum interest rate range so they stay at around 7% instead of oscillating wildly from past highs of 14% and current lows of 1%, which are not sustainable).

    @Richard Manns
    Cycles don’t determine our lives; systems do – because we ourselves are systems, and exist inside systems, and are comprised of systems ourselves.
    The divergent phugoid of which I speak is a rare event; not a habitual one, it is finite, and clearly connected to specific things that underlie the whole global economic system: oil; cold war; China; etc…
    It is a macro-event, and an awareness of it, helps place the deluded actions of a few financial engineers (not economists) into context…. the point being that they are only able to perceive events in a system that lie within their very human windows of perception.

    “However, it doesn’t explain why it appears to be only AR who are picking up even further disaffection with the main parties.”

    I think i covered that… AR are not serving the same masters; they are outside the groupthink that informs the kind of polling design and strategies that plague the pack.

  31. Anthony

    I did (as you suggested) contact Peter Kellner re the fact that YouGov, and others who use newspaper readership as an attitudinal factor, apply GB (in this case = English) assumptions as to the attitudes associated with specific newspaper readership quite inappropriately in Scotland.

    He didn’t reply.

    To move this outwith the Scottish context, have YouGov done any analysis to see whether the metropolitan assumptions on newspaper readership applies in the same way to those taking the Western Mail?

  32. Oldnat,

    more particularly given the decline in newspaper readership in general maybe the relevance of newspaper readership is declining in general.

    i’d be interested in asking about favourite news channel to see if their was a political preference amongst people.


  33. @ Forge Lindin

    “Angus Reid do fieldwork online (unlike ICM, MORI, CR and Populus)” – That’s form above. So i believe that it is just YouGov that have online panels. I am one of the 250,000 panels members, so i presume with that number they can get a pretty representative 1000 odd people. Quite a few people have internet access nowadays, and i would imagine the weighting might be less for income bracket and more for age (old people are less likely to be online). However all that said YouGov are usually pretty right so I don’t ask too many questions!

  34. Peter

    I’d have thought that the readership of the P&J was virtually identical to the North of Scotland, as the Courier would be for Tayside. Not a useful weighting factor.

  35. “North of Scotland” = “North of Scotland demographic”

  36. SealPup Why do you believe AR overstates Conservative support? In fact, in the period since 11 December(see UKPR list), AR show slightly lower Con. support than the average of the other pollsters.As for those on here who have been rejecting AR without evidence, perhaps they should look at to-nights ComRes poll, where the subsidiary questions lead to such an extent, that it is astonishing that a reputable polling company would include them. However, no protests – AR would be vilified here, if they did the same.

  37. Thanks for this article Anthony. I’m not sure I understand this statement though:

    “Still, with good reason to think that past vote weighting is making their sample more Conservative and less Labour, there isn’t really a need to look for reasons for the skew against Labour. ”

    On the crude ICM re-weighting, the Labour share is down and the Tory share is up, and by just 1%. But there is no evidence of the AR Tory shares being high, and the scale of the AR difference on Labour baffles me – 5-6%! So surely false recall can’t possibly be the whole reason, or even if fact, the main reason? Or are you saying that the AR weighting to actual vote share could bring the Labour share down by 6% and see no increase in the Tory share?

  38. from PB
    political betting . com/index.php/archives/2010/02/03/dare-you-bet-that-the-angus-reid-algorithm-is-wrong/

    “All the other UK polling methodologies have the effect of giving Labour more 2005 voters or party identifiers than actually voted for the party last time”

    Surely it’s the death of party loyalty that would add weight to this approach?

  39. @Seal Pup – your talk of divergent fugoids (oscillations of ever increasing severity) since ’73 doesn’t bear any relationship to actual economic history, here or elsewhere in the world. Some of your other observations about voter disengagement are more interesting, but one thing the last couple of years has taught us is that theories of economic management based on systems analysis are frankly rubbish.

  40. Statto – imagine the differences as two stages.

    Start with, for the sake of argument, CON 40%, LAB 30%, LDEM 20%, Oth 10%

    Imagine that a different weighting scheme shifted that to CON 42%, LAB 29%, LDEM 20%, Oth 10%.

    Then imagine that an unknown factor boosted the level of “others”, impacting equally upon all the other parties: CON 40%, LAB 27%, LDEM 18%, Oth 16%.

    Those particular figures are imaginary, but that’s my guess as to what’s going on. It should be almost certain that the weighting will produce a boost in Con support and a decrease in Lab support, so the fact their Tory support is the same suggests to me it being cancelled out by something else.

    Looking at it that way, I think it’s enough to explain most of the difference in the Lab/Tory lead (obviously, from what I’ve said above, I’m also assuming that whatever is driving up Others is also pushing down Labour, so I’m not assuming that the weighting is the sole thing responsible for Labour being lower.)

  41. Ok, so no false recall, combined with whatever causes AR to boost Others, perhaps disproportionately at the expense of Labour. Seems as good a theory as any I’ve heard. So the unknown is why Others show so high in AR, but not the other polls.

    Is there also a You Gov poll night as touted on PB?

  42. @Collin… I think AR reflects which parties people support not simply. who would they vote for.

    The Tory poll is to a large extent mainly an anti-Labour poll, there are few if any policies for people to be in favour of, and no signs of overwhelming confidence in the whole Tory team’s competence over Labours.
    The polls don’t consider where a Tory incumbent is tainted by the expenses row either.
    AR may be taking too many results from marginals and places where the Tories technically stand a chance, but have a tainted incumbent or a potent local single-issue campaigner candidate. There are quite a few naughty Tory MPs in safe-ish seats, so I think that’s likely to create a poll that is too optimistic for them.

    I maintain that turnout will fall again, nationally, except where there is a naughty incumbent MP.
    In areas where Labour is no threat; and where the Tories have no chance, the Tory turnout will IMO be lower than expressed, and UKIP and BNP will find some support by way of protest at each of those parties for their respective percieved betrayals.
    It’s important to remember that Labour did not really win by beating the Tories 1997, the Tories simply absolutely collapsed in the public’s estimation; and this time Labour is about to collapse at the polls. If it weren’t for the expenses issue, and the Tories drift towards Blairism, this would restore the 80s position; but instead low turnout + low loyality + fear + contempt for the establishment + disengagement, looks likely to deliver a weird set of results up and down the land IMO.

    I also think that the troll polls reflect the London state of play of the parties more than the national state.

    It’s places where the LibDems have a bad rep for their running of a local council that the Tories could perform.

    Alas, with Clegg rather than Cable, the yellow party seem likely to watch another golden chance slip through their fingers.

  43. @Alec

    “@Seal Pup – your talk of divergent fugoids (oscillations of ever increasing severity) since ‘73 doesn’t bear any relationship to actual economic history, here or elsewhere in the world. ”

    Incorrect, but I can’t post information about it on here as it’s not geared up for that (as well as being a digression).

    “…one thing the last couple of years has taught us is that theories of economic management based on systems analysis are frankly rubbish.”

    The events of the last couple of years have nothing to do with understanding and applying systems analysis; and everything to do with ignoring and failing to apply systems analysis.
    Furthermore, as well as simply not applying the regulatory controls already available and toadying up to the city in every conceivable way in order to try and sustain the New Labour regime, they let their hands off the wheel, and it is the short-termist politicians that are responsible for buggering the system up; it will take systems engineers of all flavours to fix it.

    Government policy to use unsustainably low interest rates to mitigate the ’97 Asian economic crisis in order to deliver a second Labour term is the source of the problem.
    Mr J G Brown (MA PhD “The Labour Party and Political Change in Scotland 1918-29” ) pretending he is an expert on economics, when he’s just a history lecturer following through on Maastricht to let loose the BoE and try to sustain the “end of boom and bust” by tinkering at the controls of a machine he simply isn’t qualified to understand.

    The idea that humanities people: historians, lawyers, and economists, understand control theory and can apply it to manage a system is frankly what is rubbish.

  44. Seal Pup
    Very interesting analysis, particularly as it amplifies my own ideas, though much more eruditely.

    The situation is reminiscent of the 1930s to me. Lack of trust in incumbent parties, financial crisis, the start of the rise of extremist parties of all kinds.

    Never mind, maybe a nice jolly WW III will come along to sort it all out for us. My bet would be on US and UK v China, with Europe sitting it out.

  45. Anthony,

    Surely your missing something big with ‘Angus Reid do their fieldwork online’; it’s well known that the vast majority of the ‘top five blogs’ are Conservative supporting or sympathising which probably tells us something about the online demographic and their potential tendency to favour the Conservatives?

  46. Hello Anthony,

    If you are still responding to comments on this thread which is very interesting) I would be delighted to hear your responses to these two points.

    1. AR apparently had consistently very good results using this methodology in Canada- in particular the absence of a weighting for false recall. It puzzles me as to why the Canadians should be less susceptible to false recall than the Brits- the trait, if it exists, is surely a fundamental psychological one and thus should be universal to all humanity! If you or anybody else for that matter has a polling expert chum in Canada who could comment on this it would be most welcome (perhaps your opposite number on “Canada Polling Report” or its equivelent).

    2. As a possible explanation that you havent riased for the high proprtion of others in the AR poll I seem to remember a similar phenomeon with Yougov in the early days. They had a relatively small panel and smaller party supporters were apparently over-represented. In Yougov’s case the problem ironed itself out as their panel grew larger. Perhaps the supporters of small parties have a tendancy to be over-represented among heavy users of the internet (possibly because such supporters are particularly engaged with particular Current Affairs issues) and thus more likely to be among the first to join a given internet panel.

  47. Darrell – online pollsters do not take random samples of online people, they construct samples to be representative. So it doesn’t matter that the online population is as a whole richer and younger, as long as pollsters invite people to their polls who are represenative.

    MaxU – there are three possible explanations to your first point. It could be that false recall isn’t a problem in Canada (or is a smaller problem that can be overlooked). Of course, as you suggest there is no reason to think that Canadians are any less forgetful, but if they just randomly forget false recall isn’t a problem. It becomes a problem in the UK because there is systemic false recall in one direction (overestimating Labour and under-estimating the Lib Dems). Perhaps a four (and recently five) party system in Canada means people do recall voting for a smaller party, perhaps there is not the same skew towards a particular party amongst non-voters. Secondly, It could be that false recall is not as much of a problem online. Thirdly it could be that Angus Reid got it right in Canada despite not factoring in voting intention, not because of it – they did something else that cancelled out whatever effect not accounting for false recall had in Canada.

    Secondly – yep, that’s the sort of thing I was thinking of when I mentioned panel or sample issues. I don’t recall YouGov ever having problems like that (there was once a fuss about UKIP trying to pack the YouGov panel, it was very easily stopped. YouGov overestimated the level of UKIP support in the 2004 European elections, but that was to do with question wording, not the panel), but such a problem is theoretically possible. There is no real way for us to tell if it is or not though.

  48. @Seal Pup – “Incorrect, but I can’t post information about it on here as it’s not geared up for that (as well as being a digression).” – very convenient. The point is that if you trawl the data you will find some examples of divergent fugiods. UK house prices being one of them. But there are a thousand and one metrics that don’t fit this pattern, but these are always ignored by mechanistic views such as yours. A much more appropriate view is that economic cycles are based on biological theories of climax ecosystems – where external conditions define the system until there is a significant external change leading to a new climax type. While you are correct in the assessment of too low interest rates and toadying to the city, this has little to do with mechanistic systems analysis and everything to do with changing paradigms – the financial systems engineers, helped by governments, were managing the system according to the last climax type (eg high inflation) and failed to understand exrternal circumstances had changed. The systems engineers were as guilty of this as anyone.

  49. are sample sizes of approximately 1000 sufficient to extrapolate a national prediction?

    With the variety and increase in number of Parties, such as UKIP and BNP, not to mention regional parties in Scotland NI and Wales, there must be a case for regional polling.

  50. Hi Anthony

    I have spent the last few days wondering what all these posts aabout Angus Read were on about, but feeling shy about posting a question about it ,and thus displaying my ignorance.
    So thank you very much for this exposition.
    I’m gonna print a hard copy!

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