Time for some bad poll reporting, or more specifically, bad poll headlining (Nicholas Watt’s actual article is eventually perfectly clear about the details of the poll). Tonight the Guardian report that “Labour support up 14 points after Miliband’s energy pledge”. Now, one might very well interpret that as meaning Labour’s share of support in the polls has risen fourteen points since Ed Miliband made his pledge on energy prices. Of course, this isn’t the case. Labour were up in the high thirties before conference and now they are in the high thirties – perhaps a tad higher, it’s still unclear. What the poll actually shows is that amongst middle class people who say they are struggling to make ends meet Labour are up 14 points since the general election in 2010. Given the vast majority of Labour’s increase in the polls happened in the tail end of 2010 or after the omnishambles budget in 2012, it’s fair to assume this was not the result of Ed Miliband’s energy pledge.

That said, 14 points is a big increase considering Labour are only up about 8 or 9 points overall. Once
Peter’s actual article and the tables are out it will be interesting to see the contrast between those people who are struggling and those who are doing well (Though its worth considering that correlation will not only work one way – people who feel badly off may be more likely to support Labour, but I suspect people who support Labour are also more likely to say they are struggling. Poorer people will already be more Labour anyway, the interesting contrast will be the changes). It’s not up on the Progress website yet, but presumably will be in the next few days.

Today’s papers also have some ropey poll reporting from a different source in the the Telegraph. It reports a poll of Countryside Alliance members, but headlines as if it were representative the views of rural voters as a whole. Again, the problem is the headline, Steven Swinford’s actual article is fine. Needless to say, the membership of the Countryside Alliance is not interchangeable with the entire population of rural areas, for reasons which I would hope were blindingly obvious (it’s a pressure group, so it attracts more politically active and engaged people. It grew from the campaign against the hunting ban, so it attracts more pro-hunting people. It doesn’t restrict it’s membership to people actually from rural areas, etc, etc). The Speccy has got very excited about the same poll because it shows 13% of Countryside Alliance members saying they’d vote UKIP… so, roughly the same proportion of people as in the country as a whole. If anything, one might have expected a more rural and conservative demographic to be more supportive of UKIP than the population as a whole, in fact, they seem to be exactly the same. It strikes me a bit as a “Pope in no more Catholic than anyone else shocker”.

Finally, while I’m picking on people, I might as well waste a few pixels being horrid to the Daily Express, which today claims 98% of people think Britain should close its doors to all new immigrants. It seems almost superfluous to point out that almost any survey in the Express is complete tripe, like making the effort to write that things in the National Enquirer may be untrue. Perhaps so, but I feel the need to point it out occasionally – it would hardly be fair for me to pick upon upon the motes in the eyes of the Guardian and the Telegraph and ignore the forest sprouting from the Express. Express “phone polls” are premium rate numbers they put in the paper, to get people to ring up to vote yes or no (multiple times if they wish), presumably after reading a foam-flecked Express rant on the subject in question. There is obviously no attempt to get a representative sample and they always show around 97%, 98% in agreement with whatever the Express’s line is. On the Express’s old website they used to have a wonderful archive of them but they don’t seem to be put up online anymore, presumably to stop people laughing at them.

174 Responses to “Bad poll reporting corner”

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    My son used to get the Record because it had the best coverage of Scottish football. apart from our women’s national team, ‘Hagar the Horrible’ is a really good analogy!

  2. My ex used to buy the Hate Mail ‘for the women’s pages’.
    A contributory factor to exness.

  3. @R&D

    Ballaké Sissoko was worth turning the volume up for. Graham Parker not what he was in 1976 though

  4. RUM & COKE
    Completely disagree.
    Labour will almost always win out over the cost of living argument simply because they’re perceived as being more left-wing than the Conservatives.
    Left-wing politics is about quote-unquote fairness [1] and the perceived cost of living crisis is about distributional fairness.
    Now, it may be the case that adjusting distributional unfairness is economically illiterate and make things worse [2] but the population in general isn’t very economically literate [3] and generally politics is an act of ‘the feels’ rather than rational discourse.
    Unless they make some difference in practical terms [4], they’ll always lose out on a distributional (which effectively ‘squeezed middle’ is) narrative.
    Think the 1%/47% argument from the US election.

    The Conservatives need to frame things either in right-wing terms or small-c conservative terms.
    So make a case that Labour wouldn’t support those who want to work hard and get on in life (which means some new policies to help those at the bottom more – potentially something like a NI cut along with the rising tax allowance) or spook the public over the safety of the economic recovery (i.e ‘The job isn’t finished yet – we can’t trust Labour to keep the economy safe’).[5]

    [1] Can we please not get in to the semantic argument dressed up as a philosophical one of, ‘But what even is fairness? *Beard stroke*’, I assume people know exactly what I mean.
    [2] I disagree with this statement – but I know straight away that somebody on the right will bring it up.
    [3] If we were working under the assumption of long-run maximising agents, economic crashes just wouldn’t happen.
    [4] Which may occur, with a return to economic growth.
    [5] A note to lefties – this isn’t to say that these narratives are *factually true*, only that the Conservatives at this point would win out on those narratives compared to Labour trying to use the same narratives. Politics is about ‘the feels’, not rational behaviour.

  5. “@ rosieanddaisie

    Later with Jools Holland is awful, I end up turning volume off after 10 seconds for everybody.

    …… and why oh why do all hook lyrics now have to be repeated ad nauseum? It doesn’t make them any more meaningful, whatever soppy faces they put on.

    Nring back the 60s.”

    There was some great music on last night. John Mayer, Lissie, London Grammar. Did not like The National, as I find their music monotinous.

    I think your musical taste is a bit like your politics. Stuck in the past. ?

  6. @TimMontgomerie: Via @StephanShaxper: By 2to1, voters think economy would get worse if Labour won… and other opinion poll nuggets – http://t.co/jORCbY9kbx

    Is this true? I am not reading the article as it is behind a pay wall. But since we are on the subject of bad poll reporting. I think 66/33 split seems unlikely

  7. I think these long poll-bashing pieces are less interesting than simply reporting the poll.

    Perhaps it would be a good idea for people reading this site to make up their own minds about the validity of the poll or not. I am perfectly capable of working out that an increase in the labour lead “could be an outlier”. and don’t need to be told every time it happens. Or that the views of the countryside alliance may not represent the country as a whole.. Most of us are.

    Although hopefully it’s less likely, any poll can be quite wrong.as has happened on several famous cases in the past.

    ALL polls are an attempt to guess what will happen in the future, and doomed to only partial success if they are lucky.

  8. “After power furore, now focus turns to above-inflation rises in water bills
    Government drawing up moves to stop water companies ripping off customers


    Moves to stop water companies ripping off their customers are being drawn up by the Government in an attempt to curb above-inflation rises in bills.

    The plan, which forms part of a drive by David Cameron to see “household bills coming down”, emerged as Ed Miliband signalled the water firms were also in his sights.

    The Labour leader stopped short of calling for a freeze in their charges, although he warned the industry needed to be properly “scrutinised”.

    The increasing cost of water is set to become a political background following skirmishes over the last month between party leaders over the cost of gas and electricity.

    Average bills have leapt by 60 per cent over the last ten years to nearly £390 despite reductions by many major companies on the amount they spend on repairs.”

    “The Independent understands the department has finalised plans to help the poorest consumers with their bills and to ease the burden on customers who have accumulated large debts to the water companies.

    Talks will also continue over the weekend between Downing Street and Defra over how to ease the pressure on average families’ budgets from water bills. It is considering ways of boosting competition within the industry in an effort to lower charges to customers.

    Ofwat is also expected to be given more power to stop companies overcharging customers.

    Separately the Treasury examining plans to force water companies to pay more tax following accusations they are building up large debts which they can then set against tax.”

  9. The article Couper 2802 mentions is an interview with Stephan Shakespeare, Chief Executive of YouGov, headed “Growth might not be enough for Cameron”, which lists ten factors which operate in favour of one party or the other. The final point ten is headed “The outcome of the next election is the hardest to predict in a generation”.

    I do not have a Times sub either, but the interview is carried on page 34 of the print copy.

  10. @Carfrew

    Probably a bad idea to freeze the water…

  11. Don’t be giving ’em ideas, Statty!!…

  12. ““The outcome of the next election is the hardest to predict in a generation”.”

    Unless you can count, inwhich case the collapse of the Lib Dem vote together with the rise of the UKIP vote, the Con failure to get a majority in 2010 and the effect of Lab favourable boundary spread, all makes the election the result very easy indeed to predict.


    But it’s there and it’s obvious.

  13. Peter kellner from YouGov site:

    All the Government needs to do is ensure that steady growth is maintained AND spreads to all parts of Britain AND feeds through to rising living standards; AND ministers must avert any more nasty shocks like the rise in energy prices AND persuade voters that the Conservatives are on the side of normal people, not just the rich AND safeguard the quality of the key public services such as schools and hospitals AND translate steady growth not only into more jobs but enough decently-paid full-time jobs AND make the Help to Buy scheme work for young couples trying to get on the housing ladder without inflating a house price bubble.

    The key one there is “persuade the voters that the Conservatives are on the side of normal people”.

    Too late, and has been for over 20 years.

  14. Nick P

    [snip] As I am no clairvoyant I make no predictions this far out as to the result of the next General Election . If you think Labour are a shoo on with a slender 5 point lead in what is still mid term and with a leader who is widely considered as not up to the job then you are merely setting yourself up for a fall which I for one won’t hesitate to remind you about come election day.
    I will allow myself one prediction -more fool me-and that is I think it very likely that there will not be a national swing but instead one that varies as between regions and more importantly in the marginal seats and between the types of marginal seats but still ending up with a result that the canny public want.

  15. Look forward to that, Nick Keene.

    Marginal polling favours Labour even more than the national polling.

  16. @NickP
    You are right – again.

    Perhaps Stephan Shakespeare’s point is that things can change. They do sometimes. I have just been looking at the results of the euroelections of 2009. Labour achieved third position with 15.7% of the poll and looked like being trounced in the 2010 election, but came close to winning in the event.

    Perhaps the head of a distinguished polling organisation has to be cautious as well? We do not – assuming we do not work for a polling organisation – just reasonably non-partisan.

  17. “you are merely setting yourself up for a fall which I for one won’t hesitate to remind you about come election day.”

    Gosh !!!!! That’ll show him.

  18. @ Nick P,

    No, no, Shakespeare’s right. It’s impossible to predict whether it will be a Labour minority government, a Lab-something coalition, or a Labour majority at this point.

  19. On the marginals, and of course subject to events as Alister1948 suggests, current polling suggests a horror story for Tories.

    Con-Lab marginals will go red
    Con-LD marginals will stay LD where LD currently hold
    LD-Lab marginals will go red

    Nightmare scenario of no gains even if they maintain 2010 vote.

  20. ” still ending up with a result that the canny public want.”

    Except, of course, that in our system the majority of the “canny public” will always be on a variety of losing sides – not sure if that IS what they want.

  21. New thread

  22. R&D:
    Yes, a bizarre argument in a system where 30% of the canny public don’t vote, and none of the other canny 70% don’t get a party in government they want at all.
    The people have spoken!
    No they haven’t.

  23. ‘Moves to stop water companies ripping off their customers are being drawn up by the Government in an attempt to curb above-inflation rises in bills.’

    I just find it amusing that the party which said privatisation will solve all our problems – and so most recently flogged off the Post Office at too low a value – is now realising with energy companies that capitalism’s sole aim is profit and so is now interfering with free market capitalism This is why traditionally utility companies were owned by the state ; that people’s essentials should be controlled by the state….

  24. AW- I consider that today’s questions in the sun on unions are really leading. They are hardly open ended. Think you might criticise if another pollster had run them.

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