Many years ago Teletext (those of you over 25 will remember it) used to have phone in polls on issues of the day. On occassion they would ask voting intention, and it would invariably show the Conservatives on about 80% of the vote even in the midst of Blair’s greatest popularity – presumably because only elderly Tory voters bothered to ring into Teletext polls.

I was rather reminded of it by this from Sky News. Conducted on their own panel it has voting intentions of Conservative 43%, Labour 24%, Liberal Democrats 8% – repercentaged to exclude don’t knows and wouldn’t votes, it works out at CON 50%, LAB 28%, LDEM 10%, Others 13% – so while reputable pollsters are showing a Conservative lead of between 2 and 6 points, Sky’s panel are showing a lead of 22 points. That rings alarm bells to say the least.

This isn’t actually a voodoo poll in the purest sense, it was conducted using a panel, rather than an open access “red button” poll (although there is no indication of whether there was an attempt to draw a representative sample from within the wider panel) – but the sample looks very ropey and there is no apparent attempt at proper political weighting. There are sparse demographic details in the results, but the 2010 recalled vote break shows 44% of the sample voted Tory, compared to 17% Labour and 18% Lib Dem. For context, established polling companies like ICM weight their polls so that 25% of the sample is people who voted Tory in 2010, 21% Labour and 16% Lib Dem.

You sometimes get fun little red button polls on media websites, but they normally come with disclaimers that they are not properly represenative polls. In contrast, Sky have it as the headline on their website, liberally sprinkled with quotes from their Chief Political Correspondent Jon Craig about what it would mean if repeated at a general election. Sigh.

Ignore (and for journalists out there, this summary by Peter Kellner from the BPC website about when to pay attention to a poll is always worth revisiting).

UPDATE: Jon Craig’s blog here at least starts by acknowledging “Now I know the sniffy ones among you – yes, you know who you are – will say it’s not a wholly scientific, weighted opinion poll and all that.” On one hand, I’m pleased he’s added the caveat. On the other hand, one is rather tempted to reply that you shouldn’t bloody publish it then. Wanting polls to be scientifically weighted is not some odd personal fetish or the pedantry of pollsters and statisticians in ivory towers, it’s that all that makes a poll meaningful is that it is representative of the wider population, through proper weighting and/or sampling. A poll that doesn’t do that is just the views of an arbitary 1500 people, who do not necessary represent anyone but themselves.

74 Responses to “No, the Liberal Democrats are NOT on 8%”

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  1. Wayhey, I’m first!

    (No meaningful comment: just wanted to plant a flag)

  2. Sky News and Jon Craig should be ashamed of themselves but they won’t be becasue they take the Murdoch shilling and he hates the LDs and the Coalition.

    Subtle it is not !

  3. Say what you want about Sky, but at least they don’t pack their schedules with reality tv.

  4. @JAKOB

    Your’re right no realitty TV just pure fiction

  5. I like Sky News most of the time but this is an embarrassing mistake. I can’t believe they’ve actually made it – I can understand it getting so far in their editorial process but to actually go all the way through and out the other side is astounding.

  6. I’ve had Sky News on in the corner of the office and I haven’t seen them actually broadcast it. It may be “website only”.

  7. it’s just that 10% or even maybe 8% Libdem support is now remotely possible whereas previously not so. Perhaps if the double dip comes to pass? Or they get the blame for everything? Who knows.

    It’s like a stopped clock, funny polls like this are very occasionally right.

  8. When I saw this I thought of Anthony’s Voodoo Polling grumbles maybe this site is beginning to brainwash me !

  9. As someone doing a Masters in Social Research who one day plans to work in the field I honestly feel like my hoped for profession has just been completely rubbished in one foul swoop.

  10. @KEITHYP: This poll is like a clock stopped on 79 minutes past minus 4.

  11. I’ve been expecting a lot more voodoo polling. Particularly on AV/FPTP. So I’m not too surprised at this.

  12. Maybe we should have badges made saying “Sniffy One”

    What struck me most about it, was that it took them a week to get 1500 or so responses. I suspect the panel can’t be that big.

    Admit it though Anthony, the two decimal points must have made you smile. :)

  13. The Daily Mail won’t stand for it…

    Their next poll will be to Three Decimal Places!

  14. The voodoo polls are all coming out of the woodwork now because there isn’t going be an election any time soon to prove them wrong.
    Anyone got the phone number to Sky News? I’ll do their next poll for them at half the price they’re paying now. All I have to do is ask 1500 people what they think of things.

  15. Poor poll or not look at the underlying firgures, after excluding the dont knows; 44% voted conservative now 50% 17% labour now 28%, 18% lid dems now 10%. It is not that far from the Movement in other polls.

  16. Teletext still exists,although the ITV version is a disgraceful mess and has lost its news coverage. It is very useful for looking up what is on TV whilst you are watching. The BBC News coverage is also very convenient, and easier to access that online news, living aside that not everybody has a computer a t home. So please don’t refer to teletext as though it was a dodo. You will only encourage the BBC, which tends to be technology mad, witness its hellbent intentention to introduce digital radio, which has poor soverage, is unreliable wven when the BBC thinks you do have covereage, has inbuilt delays that prevent the traditional use of radio as a means of getting timechecks, and not least is obtainable on few car radios.

    P.S. I strongly suspect that the dreadful state of the economy is not becuase of banking failures but because our economic mechanisms cannot handle the dissemination of information, which is not a scarce commodity like manufactured goods. And one symptom is that we get voodoo polls because clients won’t pay for real ones: polls don’t leave a fixed capital asset.

  17. You will know Labour is in the lead when Murdoch change side.

  18. This poll confirms what I have always thought about Sky News. It is so poor, gimmicky and dragging down the reputation of impartial news standards.

    Sky News is like Fox Lite to me. I hope and pray the BBC never goes down that route.

    You know the rot has started when they take away the presenters chairs and give them a 30 feet Monitor to stand in front of….

  19. I should think Dave will whip back from Cornwall and call a snap election.

  20. So reweighting that simply by multiplying by actual general election percentages over recall, then scaling to make it add up to 100% gives something like C38-S44-L12-O6. Still very crude, but that makes it look like a very good poll for Labour.

  21. What else can we expect from Faux News UK :-)

  22. “Sniffy”?? I like that! I really dig the idea that it’s “sniffy” to expect a poll to be representatively sampled and therefore of any accuracy whatsoever.

  23. Hold hard doubters, my aunt Gladys tea leaves match this poll result exactly. Accuracy is assured.

  24. Oooooh, Anthony, you swore! How did you get that past the captcha code?

  25. Jon Craig’s in the wrong job. He should be selling used cars.
    Buyer; That car’s only got 3 wheels.
    JC; Jeez. You’ll be wanting one with a steering wheel next.
    Buyer; I was hoping for a car that actually goes.
    JC; (Tuts) But just take a look at the trimmings and leatherette seats.

  26. Perhaps being a subject of ridicule and lambasting on UKPR will make them think again next time.

    Yeah, right.

  27. Off-topic, but on Saturday there’s a General Election in Australia. Polls suggest the Labor Party has a slight advantage. My prediction is:

    Labor – 75-80 seats
    Coalition – 66-71 seats
    Others – 4 seats (including a Green Party win in Melbourne)

  28. There’s an understory here. Murdoch and Co are beginning to worry that the coalition will fail and they will be seen to have backed a loser. Therefore ANY vehicle for hyping somewhat sort of aura of success and acceptability for the coalition is worth a try.

    The whole exercise is pathetic.

  29. ICM Poll:

    Tories – 37%
    Labour – 37%
    Lib Dems – 18%

    The first poll to show Labour not behind the Tories since….

  30. On the subject of dodgy “polls” has anyone seen this interesting publication:

    ht tp://

    Closing up between the ‘t’s as usual.

    Question: what is missing from this report?

  31. @DAVID B
    Without this silly “poll” there has been some very comforting signs for the coalition today. If you have not taken the trouble to read the earlier thread you should for your own information. You will note that EOIN has posted a significant amount about how well the coalition are doing. It is as well to arm your self with the latest polls results before making a fool of yourself in public.

  32. ICM Poll:

    Tories – 37%
    Labour – 37%
    Lib Dems – 18%

    Ho Hum- now that REALLY is celebrating “one hundred days” :-) :-)

    ….wait for the ‘so that means the government is supported by 55%’ excuses…

    Yes I added it up to 55 % as well. Spookily its the same figure as people who have faith in the governments economic policy. Which as you know is overseen by the most popular Tory chancellor of all time. By the way, this is just one poll. Tories down a bit LDs up a bit, but still it comes out the same as yesterday and the day before and the day before that.

    But why worry Rob, there wont be an election for at least 3 or 4 years.

  34. @Bobby

    “The first poll to show Labour not behind the Tories since….”

    The Guardian reportage over at their website states:

    Many of these (lib Dem) deserters have drifted towards Labour taking its standing to 37%, and allowing that leaderless party to run the Tories level for the first time in three years.

    In other words since the resignation of Tony Blair……

  35. @Roland

    “But why worry Rob, there wont be an election for at least 3 or 4 years.”

    2013 is my prediction for the creaky edifice to collapse….so we are in agreement ;-)

  36. ICM Guardian poll for 9th August 1997- same moment in politcal cycle:

    Lab 55
    Con 29
    LD 12
    OTH 4

    Very interesting………..

  37. Well, well, well. Quicker than most of us thought.

    I don’t think anyone predicted a levels-your-devils until Labour had at the very least chosen a leader.

    And ICM too. that “gold standard” of pollsters.

  38. Sky News should be ashamed of themselves. The Lib Dems have been getting ridiculously biased and bad press across the media. Blamed for everything negative and never given credit for any of the things they’ve had influence over including today’s end to wheel clamping. Lynne Featherstone mentioned as Home Office Minister but not referred to at as a Lib Dem. Absolutely appalling. And to use rogue and unscientific polls like the 8% is dreadful. Unfortunately there will be a certain amount of people who will take it in and start parrotting it – and it’ll soon show in the main polls.

  39. I don’t care that it’s just one poll; I don’t care that Roland has called ATTAD. Labour are level, la la la
    ;-) 8-) :-P

    Keep up Rob the creaking edifice went last May. This amazingly popular coalition will, in my opinion probably do a full term. However, it will lose popularity a bit when the cuts bite, but then make a come back.
    The information that appeared earlier today suggests the great unwashed are quite prepared to gird their loins for the cause. IMHO, Millibloke should listen to Darling.

  41. @Epochery

    I think it is more accurate to compare the 44% recalled Con vote with the 43%, as both these sets of data include dont votes.

    On this basis, from their sample:
    Con was 44% now 43% down 1%
    Lab was 17% now 24% up 7%
    LibDem was 18% now 8% down 10%
    so Others must be up 4% to balance

    These are only movements within what was an unrepresentative sample. But applying these movements to the Gen Election result, the Cons would be behind! So much for the Sky News spin!

  42. Amber – I don’t care either.

  43. @Bobby
    Go Julia!!

  44. It really does seem that Iraq is now dead as a political issue. The level of flux between red/yellow is quite fluid. In that sense we can now probably judge the Chilcot hearings at least, a success.

    With ICM Since May 2010 Blue are level (excl. NI).
    Red are +7%
    Yellow are -6%.

    We await to see whether YG confirm ICM but they are usually pretty close.

    Yellows will be heartened by their 18%. Perhaps the recess has allowed something of a cooling period for the meotion sof May 2010 to settle down…


    If one takes a close look at the IPSOS MORI data there is something very revealing in it…

    34% of the public thought that Gordon Brown was the most statesmanlike during the coalition negotiations. A tiny proportion (4% of the top of my head) thought his party gained most from the talks outcome. I think that his conduct (irrespective of Murdoch’s coverage) has generated a lot of goodwill towards Labour. I also think that the public are crediting them for having a) A full field of contenders b) A long contest… Whatever reds themsleves think, the way the replacement to BRown has been organised does has the appearance of a very orderly, and tasteful affair. To this end the words exchanged between Balls and DM have been the most restrained.

    It remains to be seen the five big pillars of this gov. will pan out. That will decide the narrative as we move towards 2015

    1. Gove & Education
    2. Liberties legislation
    3. AV
    4. Afghan
    5. Economy

    DC’s term looks like one big anecdote at the moment that could take a lot of the sting out of polarising issues…

    Lisbon Treaty, 48 Day Terror, ID Cards, Iraq, Afghan, Equipment for soldiers – There is an endless list of things that got people very animated in recent years… The policy agenda of blues strikes me as very unoffensive to most…. Even their plans for council house were met in the YG poll with approval.

    I see no reason to doubt that we are entering an era of consensus politics.

  45. “The most popular Tory chancellor of all time”

    Nope sorry, I short circuited my brain with the sheer volume of witty reposts that came to mind.

  46. I’m not sure I understood much of that post Eoin. Did you mean antidote instead of anecdote? I didn’t follow you and couldn’t see how you concluded the consensus politics bit.

    As two of the big 5 you mentioned were down to events dear boy, I don’t see how this relates to removing stings?

  47. ICM Poll:
    Tories – 37%
    Labour – 37%
    Lib Dems – 18%

    This is what happens when you go on holiday DC. Rush back on some pretext immediately and make a lectern speech about the Big Society or something.

  48. Sue,

    which two am I to assume you mean events by? A lack of body armour, snatch landrovers and chinook helicopters caused quite a sting I can assure you.

    Economy is infinite… hardly an event

    Forgive anecdote/antidote… I am working on a publication deadline and my head hurts.

    This is the most consenual era of UK politics since the war… If for no other reason than the fact that we have two fair sized parties in government.

    On the NHS, immigration, EU, Crime, Devolution, NI, energy policy, nuclear weapons, the top rate of tax, we appear to have a substantial portion of agreement

  49. @ Anthony

    What’s the actual maths (or science) behind the weighting of polls, like the calculations and stuff. I’m curious (even though I probably won’t understand it :))

  50. This is just a bit of fun using the ICM poll results but using the Seats Predictor:

    Lab 318 seats
    Con 269 seats
    LD 37 Seats

    I bet Mr Cameron is rather keen to get his seats reduction and equalisation plan in place before another GE…….

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