What went wrong

In the fullness of time I am sure much more will be said about why the polls overestimated the level of Lib Dem support at the election, but there was an interesting nugget from Andrew Cooper of Populus on More or Less on Radio 4 earlier. Populus’s final poll, conducted on the Tuesday and Wednesday of election week, had the Lib Dems on 27%. However, according to Andrew in the fieldwork conducted on Tuesday the Lib Dems were in the high twenties, in the fieldwork conducted on the Wednesday they were on 24%. That looks like evidence of late swing – that the polls weren’t wrong, people just changed their mind right at the end.

However, there is also some evidence that casts doubt on late swing. Because they published in the Evening Standard on Thursday and had a later deadline Ipsos MORI’s final poll of the campaign had the latest fieldwork of all the pollsters – all their fieldwork was conducted on Wednesday… yet they still had the Lib Dems at 27%.

Also illustrative is Ipsos MORI’s post-election poll. Most companies use some form of past vote weighting, so their post-election polls will be calibrated to the new results and won’t really be directly comparable to pre-election polls. Ipsos MORI however don’t use any political weighting, so their post election polls should be conducted in exactly the same way as their pre-election polls. In their post-election poll for the News of the World MORI asked how people had voted in the election on May 6th, and found figures of CON 35%, LAB 31%, LDEM 28%. No sign there of a big drop off in Lib Dem support compared to pre-election polls.

Of course – we know all about the problems of false recall, there may be people claiming to have voted Lib Dem who didn’t actually do so, so this isn’t conclusive either, but it isn’t screaming out late swing.

410 Responses to “What went wrong”

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  1. @Owain,

    I attach a link:

    h ttp://www.civicyouth.org/?page_id=241

    Youngsters just dont seem to vote. Mid-terms are Nov. in US and the youngsters still dont make it off their behinds.

    back to square one.

  2. Regarding the youth vote in the US. I have copied some fo the most useful data for those interested.

    In the 2008 election, the gap in turnout by educational attainment remained large; young people without college experience were much less likely than those with college experience to vote. Youth without college experience make up about one half of the young adult population. In the 2008 election, 36% of youth without college experience turned out to vote, compared to the 62% with college experience.

  3. @ Eoin

    I don’t see anything there comparing dates for turnouts. I’m not suggesting youth vote would jump to 90% if elections were held at a time other than May, but having them then may be an additional disincentive.

  4. @Owain,

    They are always held in November. It is a good point of contrast with your May theory. There are no exams in November.

  5. @Owain,

    this may help you

    MORI estimates of registered young people (aged 18-24) who voted are 39% at the 2001 general election and 37% at the 2005 general election. Exact figures are not available because information about the identity of voters is kept secret.

    Now all you need are your figures for 2010 and you would have a like for like comparison.

  6. Don’t be silly Eoin, it’s an entirely differentt country and political system. To compare one variable as many others as possible must be kept constant.

  7. @Owain

    Forgive my sillyness.

  8. @ Eoin
    “this may help you

    MORI estimates of registered young people (aged 18-24) who voted are 39% at the 2001 general election and 37% at the 2005 general election. Exact figures are not available because information about the identity of voters is kept secret.

    Now all you need are your figures for 2010 and you would have a like for like comparison.”

    Ah thank you. I’ve been searching for such breakdowns in vain, presumably because they’re secret.

  9. I think the far greater influence on student turn out is location.
    I had a postal vote, but if I had been forced to find out where I had to vote, and travel half an hour to get there then wait in line for an unknown amount of time my probability of voting would have plummeted.

    My point is that access is far more of an effect than studying for exams.
    I suspect good weather may be a turn off from voting too, but that is most definitely student choice, not marginalisation :)

    Make it easy for a student to vote, and they they just might do so.

  10. RE: Labour Leadership

    My preferences are:
    1. Andy Burnham
    2. Ed Miliband
    3. David Miliband (purely on electability)
    4. Ed Balls (at 4 because of tight election result)
    5. Dianne Abbott (at 5 because she doesn’t have the experience of government the others have)
    6. John McDonnell (he is unlikely to get the 33+)

  11. Amber,

    That is a good game :)

    Mine ?

    Ed Balls
    Ed Miliband
    Andy Burnham
    Diane Abbot
    John Mc D
    Dv Miliband

  12. @ Owain

    I understand your question. No, students were not revising on the 6th – my experience is based on one of the largest universities in the country. But many could have been on their way back to their home.

  13. @ Laszlo

  14. @ Laszlo

    “No, students were not revising on the 6th – my experience is based on one of the largest universities in the country. But many could have been on their way back to their home.”

    Many students have exams much later than 6th May. For example University of London, Leicester, QUB, Edinburgh, Nottingham, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Glsagow, Cardiff.
    What happens at your uni may not be entirely representative.

  15. @ Éoin

    Labour Leader

    I hope others will join in our preference game. It will be interesting to see some polling – but I’m guessing they won’t do much polling until the nomination stage is finished. 8-)

  16. Ed Balls? Isn’t he kinda… dead inside?

  17. “Ed Balls? Isn’t he kinda… dead inside?”


    Actually-he appears to be going through some sort of rebirth :-

    ‘For the first time I’m free to be myself. And he (Gordon) knows that as well.’

    “‘I had more blazing rows with him than anyone. You had to do that sometimes to shut Gordon up.”

    “Gordon would have had a better campaign and a better time of it if he had spent a lot of time in public, having those conversations. You can’t do politics through the speech and the delivered message.”

    ““It ( the Iraq war ) was a mistake…………the public were misled by devices and tactics”.

    Wow!- The scales ( not to mention Loyalty) have fallen with a resounding thump on the road through Damascus to Opposition.

  18. One of the moments from the election I remember most is when the results of Ed’s constituency were announced by the returning officer and his expression remained entirely unchanged and neutral throughout. DEAD INSIDE! ;)

  19. @ Eoin

    My list is almost the same, except that DA is the last – her performance on Newsnight was decisive to me (I could have overcome her weekly sitting sessions with MP.)

  20. @ Owain

    I said it in my earlier post my students will take their exam next week and after (it’s one of you listed). They did not revised. I had an extra revision session with them on the Monday after the election. 3 of the 82 had not started revision for the exam that gives 60 credits for them (of the120).

  21. Sorry, hurried in my previous post.

    Only 3 of the 82 started the revision.

  22. Let’s hope that the party machine does not kill Ed Balls. His speeches are acutally logical and built up (whether it’s him or his speechwriters is a different question).

    I think he can play both the conman and the honest man. Unusual… As Eoin said, he has the skills to unite quite a few demographic strata (though he would alienate some) – also he is not really bound by whom he chooses as his collaborators.

  23. @ Laszlo

    I would hazard a guess that that partly depends on the subject area as well as the students. As I said, I know -many- students who were busy revising and/or finishing final coursework and even dissertations around 6th May.

  24. @ Owain

    I would agree about the coursework, I protested against exams.

    However, it raises an interesting question, slightly related to Eoin’s point about identity, do students approach elections exactly in the same way as their assignment? Their social role dictates their behaviour.

    Just to add, in my classes the non-UK citizens are disproportionate. Those with right to vote, the ethnic minorities voted disproportionally – according to their own statements. I had no intention of asking it and I have no intention of finding out if it is the truth or not.

  25. OWAIN

    I watched that night-hoping for a Portillo moment.

    I noted the Balls visage- fixed stare, clenched teeth, facial muscles immobile.

    At the time I thought it signalled ” I made it-*ollock* to the lot of you”. I think he was entitled to that.

    He seems to be struggling for support.

    Is it that easy to ditch GB & all his works, in order to become Leader, without risking accusations of hypocrisy ?

    I was amused that he is cabable of saying Labour lost the ability to communicate with the electorate………and then advocate something called “progressive universalism” !!

    I really hope they elect him.

    But it looks like Miliband D ( anagram of I’m Bland I )

  26. @ Colin

    Nice to see an opposite opinion. And I mean it :-)

    What if EB can do both at the same time? Appraising the heritage and seeking threads that should be cut and threads that they (Labour) intend to nurture? It would be quite a coup, I admit, but it’s doable.

  27. LASZLO

    If I was Labour I could only vote for one of these candidates-no contest for me.

    But as I said-I sincerely hope that New Balls is elected.
    I really do ;-)

  28. Just for the sake of it. Those who argue about body language.

    Clinical psychologists tried to show causalities. They failed. The relationship between body language and the internal state of mind has such individual variance that makes such assumptions implausible. Reception of body language, according to studies, depends on the predetermined disposition paths of the receiver. So, if you don’t like the person, then irrespective of the body language, you will receive it negatively, even more you will attribute body language to the person that was not even there.

  29. @ Colin

    I’m not Labour, though I’m probably the closest to them ideologically.

    I don’t think any of the candidates are “ideal”, mainly because of the compositio of the Labour party. Of those that put forward themselves, well I can imagine EB to be able to win a contest and become a decent PM.

    I do understand that you would like him to win :-). But I do think you are underestimating the man’s abilities – I hope for the detriment of the coalition :-)

  30. This will sound partisan, but it’s in the context of explaining my ranking of the contenders:

    I think that every labour governement has been an unmitigated disaster for the country, no matter what their good intentions, Therefore this list is in the order of the people most like to lose them the next election in my opinion.

    1. Abbott
    2. Milliband D
    3. Milliband E
    4. Balls
    5. McDonnell
    6. Burnham

    Another angle has occurred to me. I understand that a high proportion of the Moslem vote goes to Labour. Does anyone think that the fact that the Millibands are Jewish will affect that vote?

  31. @ Pete B

    The answer to your questions is: No. There is no need for explanation.

  32. Laszlo – I’m completely with you re body language. Like much “scientific” examination of human behaviour over the last century, the data produced by experiments is unreliable to say the least.

    The most you could say is that if a person says one thing and looks/sounds/seems to be concealing another, then they will not be trusted.

    Hence, there is some mileage in controlling oyur own body language so that it is consistent with what you’re saying – BUT BUT … it’s probably better just to try and BE a good , trustworthy person

  33. @ John TT

    I agree. It’s a behaviourist heritage in psycholgogy, picked up and carried by some New Age “schools” and then made a “common knowledge” by magazins and the TV.

    The research is quite unambigious. There is no causality (hence my horrifying when BBC invited a body language expert – it was equivalent of inviting an astrologist). The difficulty is the diad of the relationship (or multiplied diads in the case of TV).

    The implications are quite disturbing though. Let’s say, one wonders if Nixon had said, you think I’m a crook, well I’m a crook – had he gone down better with the electorate?

  34. Laszlo I don’t think Nixon believed he was a crook at any stage, so an exhortation to be honest should not have affected his technique.

    His facial tics might have given large-fee-earners a route to larger fees and I’m sure people have used his TV appearances in their expensive seminars on how to communicate better.

    Feeling you’ve lost the trust of the electorate (or team or colleagues) should lead to action to repair, rather than action to change the voice/twitches etc. Not thought of as honest ? Then be honest…

    I’m quite hopeful that charlatans are on the wane – the Internet is a great place to bust Myths (and a chap called Mehrabian has helped via the Internet to bust the myth that enveloped his little experiment and led many coaches astray for 30-odd years).

    Perhaps Taylor and Elton Mayo are next to be de-bunked…


  35. This is my first post I’ve been following for about a month. Labour voter genrally but not always. My preferences are same as Amber Star

    @ Eoin

    Could you give reasons for your order

  36. @ John TT

    I would love to see both debunked. And I can continue with “transformational leadership” and others. Having said that most of the factories around the world are based on Fordist principles.

    As to Nixon, Halberstam kind of claims that Nixon watched himself too much on the television (like Johnson) to “correct” himself. While some of his stuff is problematic (Powers that Be), but it sounded plausible to me.

    I fully agree with your middle paragraph as well. I’m a bit more hesitatant about Internet – it depends on how you use it… It can reinforce myths, but indeed there has never been better time to show a huge number of people what are the problems with those myths.

  37. 1. D Miliband – international standing, will not frighten the ‘elites’, intellectual power, command of language, quick intelligence(nimble at the dispatch box), authority in HoC, I see him not as a russian doll, but strikingly different, charisma.

    2. Ed Balls – strategic mind, solidity and resilience, forceful, commited and trustworthy – will find it difficult to manipulate/win over the media, can be wrong-footed/slow in interviews, sometimes stumbles over words.

    3. Ed Milliband – good grasp of issues, perceptive – too young, not enough clarity, good team player as opposed to leader.

    4. D Abbot – indefatigable, original, normal, a communicator – tedency to be tangential, not consistent enough.

    5. A Burnham – straightforward and trustworthy, able, sincere, appealing – “monotone and robotic” (the words of a Newsnight focus group) lacks ‘spark’ and
    breadth of vision, or should I say he lacks the sixth sense that politicians need.

    6. J McDonnell – conviction politician, integrity – too intransigent for the centre ground.

    I am overstating the case to be made for or against the candidates, partly in the interests of balance, and partly just to be provocate.

  38. Hi Colin,
    I hope you are well and fully recovered from the GE. We must sit back and keep an open mind about Ant & Dec. It was exactly the peoples choice (bloody fools), that has come to pass. At least for Tory boys like us it could have been worse, much worse.
    I quite agree, Balls is the man to lead Labour and keep us in power for years, with or without Dec, or is it Ant ? Sorry not to clear on the difference at the moment.
    Do you know why Burnham wears mascara ?

  39. Wow! I agree with Colin

    Ed Balls all the way! :)

  40. @Roand Haines

    You are wrong. It is not Robert. :)

  41. @pete B,

    They are athiests.

  42. @Roland,

    Have you seen Eric Pickles?

  43. Laszlo – It won’t be long before the ideas (epitomised by Toyoda’s mis-interpretation of kaizen) of the old managerial elite hit the buffers. Because the brakes don’t work :)

    Managers try to do things right.

    Leaders try to do the right things

    Motive plays a major part in the success of each, I believe. I’m pleased you in your field want to see wrong ideas de-bunked, but I have to say it is partly up to you to do it.

    Ford was a leader, Taylor a consultant, whose ideas he might have nicked, but only for supposed credibility. Any reference to his own common sense and world-view would have led him down the same (wrong) path.

    This is only relevant to polling because of that issue of credibility. Do we really represent people or are we in it for another reason? The whole idea of research into work-place behaviour was founded on the idea to save money (though Taylor pretended the workforce would share the benefit)

    The whole idea of choosing representatives to make decisions and vote on our behalf in whipped conditions is to save the money it would cost to consult us properly.

    Democracy results in domiantion of minorities by majorities unless we put a check in place. Unfortunately, that is and has been an administrative elite that is trained to manage rather than to lead.

    Good luck, Laszlo, you are not alone, and I believe the internet lets cats out of bags that are going to be reluctant to get back into the bags!

  44. Excellent post John TT

  45. Eoin Clarke, Roland Haines

    “Have you seen, Eric Pickles?”

    I have seen N Soames, and he makes his Rolls look like a pedal car.

  46. Eoin
    “@pete B,

    They are athiests.”

    I presume you mean the Millibands. My point though, is not whether we approve of the attitude or not, but would Moslem Labour voters be deterred by the Millibands’ Jewish heritage were either of them to be elected? Posters on here are, I am sure, above such motives, but not everyone is as perfect as us. It just seems to me that some Moslems might be deterred, and the question is, how many?

  47. Eoin Clarke – thanks, I willl now sit back and watch the second half of the European Cup Final, and (try) not (to) comment further (although I will continue to read with great interest!)

  48. Laszlo – watching yourself on TV – not good – sounds plausible to me too. The 2nd Leaders debate had Cameron seamfully changing focus from in the room to in the lens. You need to be an expert not to look false. Why bother trying to perfect technique when you could spend the time that takes doing something useful instead?

  49. @ John TT

    I might… would like to invite you next year to my class :-).

    As to the credibility. I try… to teach organisation analysis to MBA students. It’s built on lectures & workshop (the latter one is on obscure cases – both private and public sector – and the layout of the workshops is highly competitive). The lectures are based on a triad: what the theories say (let’s say Taylorism) – what the critique say (let’s say Toyotaism) – what happens when it’s put into contexts (what are the hidden assumptions, what are the unchallanged assumptions, what are the fallacies in the conclusions – yes, MBA students are encouraged to think critically and on the basis of constraints). We try to do it through all the key organisational issues: motivation, leadership, control (the most important), culture, whatever. I have to say, the students enjoy the class a lot – then in the exam they replicate the old stuff :-(. The first part satisfies me, because it is the only reason I’m doing this. The second part sends me to dispair, but a couple of years later I get the reward, when the once students step out of their silly roles and being in business they need to think. Very much like an election – adjusting answers to expecations.

    The parellel with credibility… It’s more than interesting. Jack Welsh CEO of GE, students put up the share price graphs as a “proof”. They attribute the whole lot to him – moreover, to his personality. but they don’t attribute the fall in the share price to him, they don’t attribute the fall in share price to the time-determined characteristics of GE’s strategy he instigated and institutionalised. They have a vested psychological interest to see that Jack Welsh did it all. Now I do think that there is a strong link with the polls.

  50. Pete B

    Reading one or two comments on the internet about David Milliband and there is some racist/conspiracy bile directed at him, unlikely they would vote labour. One poster who was very enthusiastic about the leadership bid, declared that he was a muslim and “not all jews are bad, just as not all muslims are good either”

    The Daily Telegraph on the other hand limited themselves to an aside: the brothers both had eyes that were “slightly close together”.

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