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. @CB11

    Cheers for the pointer. Watched some – very amusing.

  2. RIN.
    A naughty comment I think, funny though.

  3. @RiN

    Or could YouGov (and all of us here) be an unlikely beneficiary from the Sun’s desperate need to replace the copy no longer available from phone hacking?

  4. @Leftylampton – Local newspaper headline;

    One from the Teesdale Mercury [which Paul Croft should know all about] headlining a report into an Alzheimer’s Society nostalgia night fundraiser

    – “A Night To Remember”.

    A few weeks after this the same paper also covered a story about dog fouling, with the headline

    – “Council Vows to Stamp Down Hard on Dog Mess”

  5. A few points re Peter Kellner’s analysis.

    First, some health warnings. The source data is an outlier in terms of the polls that surrounded it before and after (a 10% Lab lead on 1st October was not typical). And does AW’s warning not to base too much on cross breaks (especially in single polls) apply to Peter or only to those of us who post here?

    But, regardless, here’s what strikes me about the data presented. It may make headlines by defining a particular group as the “squeezed middle” but I don’t consider why this group should nonetheless be a particular focus. What strikes me most about the data is that amongst the 3/5ths or so of the ABC1s who consider that they are not comfortably off, support for Labour was higher (at 46%) than amongst the entire C2DEs (at 45%). And also that support for Labour amongst ABC1s as a whole (at 39%) is only 6% below that of C2DEs.

    What this suggests to me is that while Labour has made big inroads into recapturing the ABC1 votes it lost previously, its polling amongst C2DEs should be the bigger worry to the party. Surely Labour can poll better than 45% amongst C2DEs (which, incidentally, is now down to 43% in today’s poll, still only 6% above the 37% for ABC1s)?

  6. @ 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.

    Although he is doubtless the most influential Leader of the Opposition in living memory and he has enjoyed extraordinary success in changing government policy (forcing Cameron to hold the Leveson Inquiry and set up the royal charter, stopping a war against Syria, ensuring equal marriage got passed despite the lack of a government majority, etc), it’s worth remembering that Ed Miliband is not actually in the government.

    The only thing he can do about energy policy at the moment is to focus public debate on it and highlight the problems with the energy market to encourage the Government to take action. Which is exactly what he has been doing. If you want him to do something more substantive, I’m afraid you’re going to have to vote him into office first.

    @ Lefty,

    “Book Lack in Ongar”


  7. @Spearmint,

    He didn’t manage to do anything about it while he was Energy Secretary. That despite the fact (according to Nick P) that the evidence of corruption in the energy industry is so obvious that you don’t even have to actually document it.

  8. I agree with everyone that the Watt article was itself as clear as mud to the point of being deliberately misleading, and the subeditor did him no particular disservice in saddling him with that headline.

    Has Nicholas Watt ever written a good article? I don’t just mean one that didn’t have anything actively wrong with it, I mean an article that contained a new insight or highlighted some hitherto under-reported political reality. I ask because I’m really struggling to think of one.

  9. alec

    Have you read “Barney Liar” in the Merc?

    Just dreadful rubbish – I keep intending to write in and complain on the rare occasions I see a copy somewhere.

  10. I just wish the first to Statgeek had been written by Neil A and the rejoinder to it from Spearmint. Good exchange though, now where were we?

  11. @ Phil Haines,

    Agreed. It’s not entirely unexpected, since the C2DEs are the group that have the most plausible case for feeling under threat from immigrant labour and who are most in competition for resources like social housing, and therefore the people who may feel the most ill-served by the last Labour government. They’re also the group most likely to be seduced away by Ukip.

    Still, when you consider Ed was elected leader partly because he made the best case for winning these people back… It’s clear that outreach either isn’t happening or isn’t making much headway.

    @ Neil A,

    Good point. Although at that stage everyone including the Tories was much more focused on raising green levies to encourage people to cut down on energy consumption and stop global warming, and he did do a fair bit of work on that. I suspect Miliband circa 2009 saw high energy bills as a feature rather than a bug.

  12. Anthony,

    This is brilliant! Please, please do a Bad Polling report every week – they really are great fun (much like Ben Goldacre does a Bad Science piece in the Guardian). If it was a regular piece it may just stop some of the excesses of the press (although doubtful if it would stop the excesses of the Expresses!). :-)

  13. PH
    Interesting post. Is it not likely that the social class breakdown is less fragile in the cross breaks than geography (remembering Mrs Trellice in North Wales who is a BNP supporter)?

  14. Neil A :He didn’t manage to do anything about it while he was Energy Secretary.

    That is completely irrelevant. The prices are going up now and have been doing so for the last few years.
    If the Tories keep peddling that line they will go further down in the polls.
    People want something done about it, now.

  15. Worth mentioning that the energy companies were not taking the pre as much under the Labour government, it was noticeable that as soon as the coalition came in the energy companies acted like they had a green light to take the pre, would energy bills risen so fast under a Labour govt? I think not

  16. Good Evening TROT 57.

    Do you know the old USSR joke:

    If Stalin and Trotsky are standing over a cliff, who do you push?

    Answer: ‘Stalin: Business before Pleasure’

    ROFL as they say nowadays

  17. @Rosieanddaisie – yes I have, and it is rubbish, as you say. It also looks like it puts you in mod. As it should be itself, in an ideal world.

  18. alec

    “@Rosieanddaisie – yes I have, and it is rubbish, as you say. It also looks like it puts you in mod. As it should be itself, in an ideal world.

    Report comment”

    Ironically that is the sort of pavlovian reaction we pups expect.

    Owr dad says he was a jolly good ballet dancer by the way.
    [Pavlov – not owr dad, he’s rubbish.]

  19. With mention of Stalin and Trotsky we must be dangerously near the application of Godwin’s Law – and we haven’t had the Friday round-up yet.

    Another old chestnut. Zhou Enlai (chou en lai) , Chinese Premier, was asked if the French revolution had been a success. He replied that it was too soon to tell.

  20. For those that think that it’s possible to get a good deal from nuclear operators, the experience from Japan should be enlightening


  21. I think it shows a hilarious lack of awareness to call it a Crusade. Are they going to stop the migrants by invading the Holy Land?

    RiN, there’s a reason Squaresoft based the evil corporation in Final Fantasy VII on them…

  22. Stalin use to get 99% of the votes!!

  23. Re today’s poll: UKIP are down to 10%, with only 12% support from 2010 Conservatives – the latter being noticably low by recent standards. Although 35% is quite good for the Conservatives, in reaching it they seem to have drawn down most of their 2010 voters that they could reasonably expect to get back from UKIP.

    @Anthony Wells

    BTW, can I echo the point that this is a great piece and this was the icing on the cake for me:

    “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.”

    Although it seems a bit superflous to make that comment specific only to their surveys


    In addition, it could be that UKIP have prevented some pre-2010 Lab C2DE voters (who became 2010 Con or LD or non-voters etc) from returning to the Lab fold.

  24. 2010 by social class (change since 2005).

    AB: Con 39% (+2), Lab 26% (-2), LD 29% (nc).
    Turnout 76%… Con>Lab swing 2.0%
    C1: Con 39% (+2%, Lab 28% (-4%), LD 24% (+1%)
    66%… 3.0%
    C2: Con 37% (+4%), Lab 29% (-11%), LD 22% (+3%)
    58%… 7.5%
    DE: Con 31% (+6%), Lab 40% (-8%), LD 17% (-1%)
    57%… 7.0%

    AB: Con 44% (+7%), Lab 23% (-4%), LD 27% (-1%)
    76%… 5.5%
    C1: Con 40% (+1%), Lab 28% (-1%), LD 22% (nc)
    67%… 1%
    C2: Con 33% (+1%), Lab 33% (-6%), LD 19% (+1%)
    58%… 3.5%
    DE: Con 32% (+8%), Lab 35% (-12%), LD 13% (+4%)

    AB: Con 34% (-2%), Lab 29% (nc), LD 31% (+2%)
    75%… -1.0%
    C1: Con 39% (+5%), Lab 28% (-7%), LD 25% (+2%)
    66%… 6.0%
    C2: Con 41% (+7%), Lab 25% (-15%), LD 25% (+5%)
    58%… 11.0
    DE: Con 29% (+4%), Lab 45% (-4%), LD 19% (+1%)
    56%… 4%

    This according to IpsosMORI.

    One thing Kellner is known for is his analysis that VI is massively less determined by class nowadays (compared to the 1970s). It is more down to what Gordon Brown used to call “values”.

    If we compare the above with what we know about the VI change since 2010, then we have to conclude that there has be less in the way of a Con>Lab switchers and more in the way of LD>Lab switchers in each social class.

    I missed out Others… but even in 2010 C2/DE males were disproportionately rejecting the big three, so perhaps here we might find a bunch of Con>UKIP swithchers?

  25. Does any body on this site even know anyone who buys/reads the Daily Express? My mother is a staunch Labour supporter ( albeit the tribal/wwc conservative variety) and buys the Daily Mail on a Saturday for the crossword and TV Magazine, but I honestly can’t remember the last time I met someone who reads the Express.

  26. I think the polling on standard of living is interesting but surely Labour are not doing themselves any favours politically in the long run. Why do I say this? If there is a cost of living problem, this means that disposable income is being squeezed. The electorate will be asked if they want a Conservative Government who can control government spending and mitigate any rise in taxes or even reduce them compared with a Labour party that in Government wants to spend more and thus will need to tax more or borrow more which would be differed taxation.

    Given Labour’s poor polling on the economy I can only see Labour’s cost of living platform backfiring on them. Funny to watch but how did a party get to such a position.

  27. Those Express polls.

    Got me scratching my head wondering what they reminded me of. Then it came to me Comrade Hoxha’s glorious victories in Albanian elections in the 60s.


  28. Paul A,

    I delivered papers for a few years and there were about the same number of Express readers on my round as Mirror readers.

    The Express readers were overwhelmingly poor, white and elderly.

  29. @Billy Bob

    “One thing Kellner is known for is his analysis that VI is massively less determined by class nowadays (compared to the 1970s).”

    Thanks and agreed, and he is by definition right in that.

    But I think he draws completely the wrong conclusion in then implying that the trend is here to stay and that parties’ appeals have to be without reference to class.

    The trend has now gone so far that it can’t really go further without Labour getting a higher VI amongst ABC1s than C2DEs, which would shame everything the party claims to stand for. The counter argument focusing on Labour’s lost “core vote” potential is based on the premise that the scale of loss from C2DEs is so huge as to point to a very obvious area of potential recovery from that same source.

  30. For anyone interested, some time ago I created a calculator to work out what the percentage of vote by each social class means in a GE. It was written without UKIP being taken into account.

    It’s at the bottom of the page:


    (The blog is now defunct)

  31. My old grandad, NUM official, Labour councillor, veteran of the General Strike, used to read the Express every day. Then in his 70s, he switched to the Yorkshire Post, whose comments writers have the opinion that they considered the likes of Franco, Pinochet and Stroessner to be dangerously soft-headed liberals.

    I know they say, “Know Thy Enemy”, but I think reading those papers was above and beyond the call if lefty duty.

  32. @Billy Bob

    Sorry, I tried to thank you for that only to fall foul of pre-moderation.

    Must have been something to do with having a go at the DE earlier.

  33. Just to set the record straight so as I’m not accused of libel, “have” in that post should have been “gave”.

    If I’m sued, I’m counter-suing Apple.

  34. @Lefty

    Counterclaiming against Apple. Let us not use US legal jargon (although please feel free to use terms from UK jurisdictions other than those of England and Wales if you prefer).

  35. @Phil Haines

    No problem, it was a laborious copy and paste from How the Voters Voted:



    It must have been a well guarded secret, but I only recently learned that one of my grandfathers might have been (whisper it) a communist… but then he had been working in the shipyards at around the time of the Russian Revolutions. Makes sense now I think about it, though I don’t remember having a single political conversation with him. It was always about knowing by doing.

  36. raf

    “(although please feel free to use terms from UK jurisdictions other than those of England and Wales if you prefer).”

    Don’t you mean oot-wuth ??

  37. @RosieandDaisie

    For example.

    I like outwith.

  38. RAF

    I openly and proudly admit that I am utterly ignorant of the fine detail of suitable language in legal matters. I learned the bits I do know from Crown Court and Petrocelli.

  39. RAF

    The term has survived in Scots English because it has a specific meaning in Law, As long as the meaning of terminology is clear, there’s no reason why people shouldn’t use the language appropriate to their own jurisdiction. Counterclaim is also used in our system.

    Different legal systems can share language but still have different practices. It’s been fascinating to see the English system at work recently, with a lengthy opening statement from the prosecution.

    Such wouldn’t happen here. All that would have to be led as evidence by witnesses. Reading the indictment is the only thing that precedes the prosecution leading their evidence.

    English Law has some significantly better practices than ours in a number of areas, but in that aspect I prefer our system. It’s the evidence, and only the evidence, that should lead to the decision on a verdict.

  40. The prosecution opening is intended to give the jury a grasp of the case so that they understand the context of the evidence they’re about to hear. I don’t suppose that’s necessary in Scotland as people are so much more intelligent there.

  41. NEIL A

    That was rather unworthy of you.

  42. 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.

  43. Bring

  44. BB
    Mine too, as a 18 year old in the General Strike.

    He softened to the extent that Moral Rearmament came knocking in the 60s (and left as quickly as they arrived).

    Communism was a noble cause to hitch your wagon to in the 20s. For my grandad though, having done that meant being refused a visa to ever visit the USA to see his sister who, ironically, married a nuclear missile engineer at Lockheed.

  45. @Oldnat

    I was having a minor go at Lefty for using US jargon on a UK site when he is from the UK. That was all.

    I was certainly not criticising or belittling Scots Law, or for that matter Irish or Nothern Irish Law. I regularly deal with litigation (civil) in all of these jurisdictions as well as in England and Wales.

    On the subject of Scots Law terms, there are many that will not be found elsewhere, not just outwith but sist, absolvitor, pursuer, diet on others. This shows the deep independent roots of Scots Law. That unlike other UK jurisdictions, it has not been heavily influenced by English Law.

  46. @Lefty

    Petrocelli – lol!

  47. ANN IN WALES and WELSH BORDERER may want to note that external assessment of today’s Tory/Labour devolution agreement announcement for Wales seems to have been a victory for the UK Treasury (regardless of what politicians might have been saying.


  48. RAF

    I didn’t think for a moment that you were!

    It was Neil A’s second sentence that I suggested was unworthy of a poster who is normally a source of intelligent commentary.

    Different systems have strengths and weaknesses. I’m surprised that he seems so sensitive about any other system having advantages.

  49. Paul A
    Don’t forget people buy papers for a variety of reasons, l had some very left wing friends who bought the Currant Bun everyday cos they collected ‘Hagar the Horrible ‘ cartoons !

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