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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  1. Voodoo Poll…..quite apt for tonight :-)

  2. While the Express’s online archive on it’s wonderful voodoo polls is no more, I just found this selection from July

    http://ohitsscottbryan.com/2013/07/23/in-the-daily-express-each-day-there-is-a-poll/

  3. I am surprised Daily Express readers can use the phone.

    I am waiting for one asking:

    Ed Milliband wants to allow all immigrants to have a free six bedroom house, a free flat screen tv, a free BMW and £500,000 a year in benefits by raising income tax to 90% for all UK citizens.

    If you agree ring :0771123345
    If you don’t agree ring: 999

  4. When is the new game of thrones book coming out?

  5. When GRRM finishes writing it. On past performance it could be *years*

  6. The Graun piece annoyed me. I couldn’t believe what it seemed to be saying so I started looking for Kellners piece before reading on…and not finding it…..and having to go back to the Graun for further clues, only to find the real story near the end of the article.

    I felt Watt was sexing up the story to the point of being willfully misleading – not the first time I’ve seen him do this either.

  7. Amazed that no paper jumped on the 24th to 25th YG poll changes in London.

    Con 29% Lab 43% became Con 43%, Lab 32%

    “12.5% swing from Labour to Conservatives overnight!”

    (London mentioned in 2nd paragraph, as per headline-grabbing journos)

    …or as we prefer to call them…”outliers”.

    So what’s worse? The bad reporting of the polling or the partisan “won the battle” statement?

  8. So journalists edo naughty things to us as well as each other. Who would have guessed?

  9. “98% of Express readers agree”

    The other two dialled the wrong number.

  10. “edo” is a Middle English term which should be aspirated in a poor attempt to replicate rustic speech.

    “do” would have been a better choice.

  11. AW

    Can you go round and give him a kick up the backside, I don’t like waiting

  12. Mind you I shouldn’t complain, I have a new discworld novel to look forward to, only a few days now I think

  13. To be fair to Nick Watt, I’m not certain he writes the headlines for his own reports; I’ve seen ATL writers for the Graun use Cif to say that the headline above their piece wasn’t written by them.

  14. There have been a fair few misleading politics-related headlines in the Grauniad lately.

    Exhibit A was just after Tristram Hunt was appointed. The next day the Grauniad ran a headline saying ‘Labour embraces free schools’ and then a few day later ran a headline screaming ‘Hunt denounces free schools as dangerous ideological experiment.’

    However it you actually looked closely at what Hunt said you’d find nothing contradictory at all.

    I expect drivel like this from the red-top gutter dwellers. To read it in a paper I’ve always respected is pretty disappointing.

  15. Amber – he won’t (that’s why I’ve made the distinction between the headlines and his and Steven Swinford’s articles). Subeditors do the headlines.

  16. YG

    Labour 43%
    Tories 30%
    UKIP 13%
    LD9%

  17. Anthony

    “Subeditors do the headlines.”

    I realise this has been the tradition ever since the Daily Ra had “Polls say Amun sucks” chiselled above Tutankhamun’s cartouches, but since the Press is somewhat short of income, as their sales plummet – why do they continue with the tradition?

    Firing them first, then any journalist who doesn’t follow the party line would be much more cost efficient.

  18. R huckle

    Please make clear if you are posting a prediction or a real poll, thanks

  19. @R Huckle.

    I’m hoping that’s a prediction?

  20. Maybe it’s an example of bad poll reporting

  21. @ R Huckle

    That’s your “bad reporting” of a poll that hasn’t been released yet, yes? :-)

  22. Mr huckle, you are a tease, you post a provocative post and then disappear

  23. YG

    Lab 86
    Con 7
    LD 2
    UKIP 2

  24. Bad poll reporting or prediction ?

    We will see tomorrow morning.

    Off to bed !

  25. Found Getsmuchworse = Daily Express in a slang dictionary today, but find can nothing on the internet, so it must have fallen out of use when referring to this low rag of a linen draper.

  26. Anthony

    I hate to tell you this, but if you are going to start complaining about misleading headlines on the Guardian website, you’d probably better be prepared to give up on all other activities. Among the first comments on any CiF thread some will usually point out all the errors that the subeditors have managed to pack into a few words. No doubt the comments on this article would be the same if the whole commenting system hadn’t collapsed – probably under the weight of sarky comments about subediting.

    Of course the whole purpose is to rachet up the clicks – it’s the political equivalent of the Mail’s Sidebar of Shame.

    The article itself looks like the usual stuff we expect from Progress – advocating that Labour follow exactly the same policies as the coalition, but with a Nice Smile, but until we see the article and tables we won’t actually know if Kellner meant this or if it’s just quote-mining to fit Westminster conventional wisdom.

    On the subject of Kellner’s articles he did an interesting one earlier in the week:

    http://yougov.co.uk/news/2013/10/21/why-northerners-dont-vote-tory/

    where he aggregated all the September polls and presumably weighted correctly for each region (though the article refers to North and Rest of South. It would be interesting to see the tables for that as I don’t think they’ve appeared on the archive.

  27. “YG

    Lab 86
    Con 7
    LD 2
    UKIP 2”

    My usual caveats apply. Let’s just wait and see if there’s a trend.

  28. Only on that kind of vote share does someone finally take Orkney and Shetland.

    Oh, and the Tories get -1 seats. Fix the swingometer, AW!

  29. It’s virtually a landslide. Or, from a different perspective, neck-and-neck.

  30. @Roger

    Can a poll influence VI?

    If so, can a mis-reported poll affect VI?

    I feel AW is spot on in his criticism of this poll reporting headline. Having said all that, the people who generally read the linked paper, or it’s political opposite papers tend to have a voting intention that they might expect.

    (Or in other words, why try to whip up support from within the supporters?)

    The thing I find most galling in this ‘energy story’ is that Miliband is using the whole thing to attack the government, while managing to do nothing at all about it. Equally, Cameron is doing nothing at all about it. Their vacuous politicking is producing no solution, and no sensible one will pop up before the winter, I feel.*

    There will be people this winter who will go without at Christmas to ensure they have comfort, and there will be others who will be faced with a ‘heat or eat’ choice. Meanwhile, the paper linked finds sympathy for ‘the squeezed middle’, who will have to choose between Lambrini a more upmarket sparking wine for the Christmas dinner table. Oh woe!

    * This is just the sort of problem that we might expect the SNP to solve, as they would love to show the rUK how to run things. I doubt they will, but they would love to show the modern socialist society in action. Here’s hoping someone can come up with a solution, other than mindless government interference.

    Sitting thinking about it, I have two three ideas that would alleviate the least well-off, but would not drastically affect share prices for the energy companies either, however, we know how unreliable they are when it comes to shifting the prices to suit the retail demands. If people change their usage habits the companies change their pricing structures to make up the lost revenue.

    Time for bed.

  31. Latest YG

    Con 35%, Lab 39%, LD 9%, UKIP 10%; APP -26

    Same old same old – Lab steady con varying.

  32. So funny some of those polls… The express makes the mail look like morning star.

  33. The Lab VI seems to vary within a range less than the expected dtandard deviation, although I haven’t done the sums. The last 20 or more have, I think, all been 38,39,40.

  34. @TheSheep

    Richard Richardson tells a story of Gloria Swanson arriving in Southampton on a Monday, complaining about an awful voyage and that she had been violently seasick. The sub headlined it ‘Sick transit Gloria, Monday’.

    Claud Cockburn’s autobiography also has some funny stories about his time among sub-editors in pre-war Printing House Square.

  35. Martin Coxall – not a leftie by any stretch of the imagination – once organised a successful Twitter campaign to get an Express poll to show that most people wanted gypsies and oyjerr travellers treated on the NHS with priority over “ordinary people”.

  36. Sorry folks. Could not resist, given the title of the thread.

    Labour must be happy that they are maintaining their polling near to 40% and that their strategy re energy pricing/cost of living is working. Next week apparently there is more information to be released about cost of living and I can see this running throughout the Winter.

  37. Statgeek

    “The thing I find most galling in this ‘energy story’ is that Miliband is using the whole thing to attack the government, while managing to do nothing at all about it.”

    What do you think he can do about it considering he is not in Government?

  38. Latest YG
    Con 35%, Lab 39%, LD 9%, UKIP 10%; APP -26

    Good poll for the Tories although we’re probably just witnessing some variance within the MOE limits.

    As JimJam says, same old same old really, with a Labour lead of 5-6% probably the mean.

    It’s no wonder that our discussions on these pages occasionally stray into “the meaning of life” territory when, in essence, there’s so little to discuss about polls that remain stubbornly monotone.

  39. Very top end of Tory range – back to 32

  40. @Statgeek

    “Their vacuous politicking is producing no solution, and no sensible one will pop up before the winter, I feel.*”

    Vacuous politicking undoubtedly goes on, but I don’t think there’s anything remotely vacuous about proposing an energy price freeze while the market is restructured to make it more competitive. Now, it might be frustrating, galling even, for Miliband’s political opponents to see him gain traction with this policy proposal, and there may be legitimate criticism to be made of its economic viability, but he’s making a serious attempt to address a real public concern.

    Isn’t that what politicians should always be doing?

  41. Today’s poll looks like an outlier: small sample, lots of weighting in certain groups, non-voting questions stable

  42. Regarding the Daily Excess

    I too have found that around 100% of people who agree with me agree with me!

  43. @NickP,

    Some might argue it is putting the cart before the horse.

    Miliband, and Labour (and John Major) have decided that the energy companies are definitely overcharging and they have excess profits which can be shorn away from them through a price freeze or windfall tax.

    I would say that it is better to identify whether they really are profiteering first, and to explore how they manage to get away with that (vertical structuring etc). Then we can look at ways to remove anti-competitive elements from the market. If that proves impossible, then would be the time to either nationalise the companies or apply punitive measures.

  44. How many express readers does it take to use the phone

    Only One of Course but it requires a team of dedicated cleaners to clean up the venom left on the handset after use!

  45. neil a

    ah, the naivety.

    We know they are ripping us off because we are paying more and they are not.

    Freeze and investigate. Then dismantle maybe even nationalise. Perhaps even fine and jail.

    But NOT freezing when Ed suggested ahs seen totally unjustified price hikes based upon no increase in wholesale prices or green taxes whatsoever.

  46. I think at the GE – the ‘we are in it together’ slogan will be challenged and analysed not just in terms of where the cuts of fallen but in terms of where benefits of the undoubted growth are being enjoyed.

  47. Anthony

    Have you turned into a Lib Dem?

    I see you have been posting on LDV – I would like to warn you that there are some who don’t like pollsters over there.

    The latest discussion of polling was that you are underestimating the LD by 15% and overestimating Labour by the same amount.

  48. Neil A

    Sensible post, it amazes me how many on here just hate business without it seems knowing anything about it. Bills go up so the companies “must” have excess profits! I sincerely hope that there is a full enquirey into the Energy Industry and that the costs and profit margins of both generating and retailing energy are clearly identified. The we will see if excess profits are being made.

  49. My favourite headline was in a local paper in a north-east suburb if London, commenting on a library closure: Book Lack in Ongar.

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