The day after the election the British Polling Council announced it was going to have an inquiry into what went wrong with the polls, we’ve now got some more information about how the inquiry is going to proceed. Over on the National Centre for Research Methods website they have announced the membership of the inquiry team, timings and terms of reference.

The Chairman of the inquiry, Pat Sturgis, was announced earlier this month. The rest of the team include several names who regular readers will be familiar with: Steve Fisher from Oxford University who ran the ElectionEtc model and worked on the exit poll, as did Jouni Kuha of the LSE, Will Jennings of Southampton University who is part of the Polling Observatory team, Jane Green of Manchester University who is the current Director of the British Election Study and Ben Lauderdale of the LSE who did the ElectionForecast model that was on Newsnight and 538. The rest of the inquiry team are Nick Baker of Quadrangle Research, Mario Callegaro of Google and Patten Smith of Ipsos MORI.

The terms of reference for the inquiry are to assess the accuracy of the 2015 polls and investigate the cause of any inaccuracy, whether it’s connected to inaccuracy at previous elections, to look into the possibility of herding, to see if enough information was provided and communicated to people about how polls were done and what they meant and make recommendations on how polls are conducted and published in the future and on the rules and obligations of the BPC.

The inquiry are inviting written submissions via their website, and there will be a public meeting on the 19th June – it’s due to report to the BPC and MRS by the 1st March next year.

571 Responses to “Details of the polling Inquiry”

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  1. “Having looked at the figures again , I suspect the Tories would need circa 310 seats in 2020!”

    Given that we’re moving to a 600 seat house of commons I think they’d be quite happy with that.

  2. @Candy

    I wasn’t generalising about Indian Catholics – only providing an anecdote about Goa (which is a tiny part of India of 2 million people according to Wiki). The Goan Catholic I know identified as Brahmin, and said that politics in Goa split along caste lines with Hindu and Catholic Brahmins on one side and Hindu and Catholic non-Brahmins on the other.

    I think Brahminism and non-Brahminism are two opposing forces in India with each vying for supremacy and it’s been that way for several millennia.

  3. So, the ethnic vote is based on a poll in which oddly they managed find a lot more females and males, so then they downgraded the proportion of females and increased the male. The retuning is 20%. Now considering all the thing that they discuss in the report (implicitly about values) one would start to get itchy.

    Then on Q1 we learn that ethnic voters far outperformed the rest of the voters in turnout. Which is actually a bit of a problem for the overall message (Cons capturing more ethnic vote, probably true), because they are still labour leaning, and the Asian turnout – supposedly – 20% higher than the national average and even the Black voters outperformed the national average by about 15%.

    But hang on … The Conservatives won … Is there a problem in the sampling design? Should the tone of the report be toned down? No, the customer is the king.

    Oh well …

    I don’t know what to say without breaking the comments policies.

  4. Candy .

    Thanks-interesting thoughts-particularly your comparison of “class” & “caste” !!

    I am interesting in the Sikh aspect too.. Their belief in ” living in the world “, coping with life’s everyday problems, and doing good actions rather than merely carrying out ritual , also seems a very good fit with Christianity in UK.

  5. I just love these generalisations about India, Indian history, Indian religion(s) and Indian politics.

    I would like to see how all these sweeping statements would apply, let’s say, in West Bengal and Kerala.

    Also how all these are discussed in the narratives (and policies when in power) by the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata, the two Communist Paries, and the various alliances.

    The population is twice as big as entire Europe, more varied by languages, ethnicity, religion what have you …


    The Survation Poll re-weights for Gender-about 50/50

    How is the unweighted gender balance relevant to the Poll findings?

  7. @Colin

    I believe that Sikhism arose during one of the periodic non-Brahmin push backs (as did Buddhism) which may explain why they arn’t as Tory as Hindu Brahmins.

    Regarding the business of “class” and “caste”, I recommend a book called “The Son Also Rises” by Gregory Clark, which looks at elite surnames across the world, from the United States to Britain, Sweden, India and China.

    It highlights fascinating trends. For example despite the social democracy that has existed in Sweden for half a century, elite surnames dominate all the professions just as much as they did several centuries ago. And in India Brahmin surnames dominate over non-Brahmin surnames in those professions too, despite affirmative action.

    The most fascinating example was China. Despite Mao literally decimating the elite mandarin class (who had achieved dominance in the Qing dynasty through passing incredibly tough exams), and forbidding them from attending university till the 1980’s, the tiny amount of elite mandarin surnames that survived are disproportionately represented in the professions compared to their size in the population.

    Part of the reason China is having problems coming up with intellectual property breakthroughs may be because they killed off their elite “brains” class (unlike every other society on earth where this group has survived intact). Their current millionaires have achieved wealth through rentierism rather than innovation.

  8. CANDY

    I have no knowledge other than Wiki , of the roots of Sikhism-so can’t comment.

    But I do know a few Sikhs & admire them. When I was in business we had Sikhs in the factory-splendid people.

  9. ‘Given that we’re moving to a 600 seat house of commons I think they’d be quite happy with that.’

    There are reports in the press that Cameron is not going ahead with that reduction. If it were to happen the Tories would need at least 288.

  10. @ Colin

    Do you believe those turnout figures (considering that the Black voting was about 30% in 2010 if I remember it correctly).

    Do you really think that it is reasonable to reduce the female rate by 20% and increase the men by the same degree? Is it a reasonable extrapolation? Actually, you can’t find out the effect because the party voting is only for the weighed sample.

    I don’t have any doubt that the conservatives increased their voting share in the ethnic groups. My point is simple: this poll is based on highly suspect responses.

  11. I wonder if staff levels will be increased at the Passport office to deal with a rapid increase in EU Citizens taking the British Citizenship they are entitled to by virtue of residence length. so that they can both vote and also know they not a risk of deportation.

  12. Part of the reason China is having problems coming up with intellectual property breakthroughs

    Hauwei has a mere 26,000 international patents (roughly the same as Ericsson). G5 for anyone? In the science and social science journal index (5 star journals only), China based authors are second after the U.S. …

    China has a problem with high tech, which is largely an HRM issue.

  13. @ BM11

    Nice idea. It would involve memorising a textbook full of errors (doesn’t know for example the devolved matters for Scotland and Wales, and the figures are dated too).

    I will just resort to the status of being married to a British citizen.

  14. LASZLO

    I don’t understand your complaint about gender balance. The Poll findings are based on weighted Gender balance-whats the problem?

  15. My problem is the scale of reweighing.

    In the original sample the men are about 38%. This is then extrapolated to 50% (so you are introducing quite a bit of chance for error).

    Then from the resigned sample it makes the claim that 82% of males voted. More chance for error, and then of course it is reproduced on the female side as well.

    But where I got suspicious was the 73% turnout rate for Black voters. If it’s true, it would be great. Somehow I’m doubtful.

    So, in my view, all the claims in the report are spurious. These may well be VI rather than voting figures, but I doubt even that.

    However, I do think that there is a gain by the Conservatives among the ethnic voters.

  16. LASZLO

    So…….the whole report is “spurious” because you have “doubts” about ” Black turnout” .

    Best get on to Survation then :-)

  17. Laszlo – “Hauwei has a mere 26,000 international patents (roughly the same as Ericsson).”

    They bought them. See the following:

  18. You catch males that account for 38% of the sample of whom 31% said that they stated that they have never seen a white raven. If we calculate it with a hundred, that’s 38 people asked and 31 gave the response. Now we extrapolate it. So 50%’ of which 80% gave the answer. If there are 3 million males, then 2.4 million said that they have never seen a white raven (probably true :-)).

    What is the level of error by the two up scaling introduces. Are the 1 million votes credible?

  19. @ Candy

    So does Google. At the rate of about around two to five companies a week.

    Or Apple for that matter. Or any high tech firm.

    there is a major issue for China in high tech (essentially the ability to contradict, discuss, argue in a work environment), but not the elimination of the elite in the 1940s and 1950s.

    Anyway, Chinese technological innovation stalled towards the end of the 17th century, when the elite was still there.

  20. @ Colin

    I could be wrong, of course.

    Do you think those turnout figures are likely to be right (+/- 5%) for the whole ethnic population?

  21. @Laszlo

    China is lagging countries like Japan, South Korea, even India in home-grown intellectual property.

    And killing off their “brains class” has a good deal to do with it, especially as that class formed via an exam meritocracy over several centuries.

    A thought experiment. Suppose a madman went into every single university in Britain and murdered all the mathematicians. Would that impact British society over the long term in that area? Of course it would. There is a genetic component to intelligence. If you selectively remove people with certain genes from the population, where is the next generation to come from? You can’t legislate to make a plumber suddenly good at maths. You can only be good at maths if your parents are good at maths, and if you kill off all those people in the population you prevent those genes from passing to the next generation.

    And that in a nutshell is what happened in China under Mao. Except they didn’t just kill the mathematicians but people in general with brains in their great leap backwards.

  22. @Emptyness

    The seat cut probably isn’t happening. That was a 2010 manifesto post-expenses gimmick that never happened. Oddly they mentioned it again in the 2015 manifesto but on page 49 and press reports suggest they don’t want to do it. Doing it would mean upsetting a lot of their own MPs who would have to compete against each other or try for different seats. Personally I think it would be a bad idea anyway unless there was to be a parallel cut in the number of ministers – with about 200 MPs serving in some form of front-bench capacity or as a PPS you need 650 to make sure that you have enough enthusiastic and energised MPs to fill committees.

  23. With Candy’s notions, we’ll end up with the Mekon. Yes I have read Brave New World.

    It’s environment plus genetics, demonstrably.

  24. Bristolian Howard

    Were you also one of those rich kids who could afford to get the Eagle?

  25. @ Candy

    At this point I’m abandoning the discussion …

  26. @BristolianHoward


    I think the parallels between Imperial China and our society are interesting. Because we too are now an exam-based meritocracy.

    And the revolt in China was a revolt by the unmerited against the merited. So the chief target of the Maoists was the professors, the teachers, anyone who had passed exams. Because power in Imperial China flowed to anyone who could pass exams – the exams were open to anyone in the Middle Kingdom who wanted to sit them, and you could get great wealth and status by passing, so of course everyone who could had a go. Continue like this for several centuries and you get a brainy merit based elite and an merit-less underclass who resent that they are locked out through accidents of birth (this time lack of brainy genes).

    It was different from Imperial Russia which was feudal and controlled by a lot of well-born people with no brains and threatened by a lot of low born people with brains. Killing the aristocrats in Russia didn’t remove the brains in the population, but killing the mandarins in China did.

    I wonder if our merit-less underclass will also rise up? Surely the anti-Oxbridge sentiment is an example of this – because anyone can go to Oxford regardless of wealth, but those who do are immediately resented as the “elite” despite the fact that they needed brains and a lot of studying to get there.

  27. LASZLO

    @”Do you think those turnout figures are likely to be right (+/- 5%) for the whole ethnic population?”

    I have no means of judging.

    Presumably the client in question has though.

  28. @ Colin


    I started from here:

    And if there is an exception …

  29. @COLIN
    Sikhs, unquestionably the best soldiers from India in the old Indian Army. First rate men. I of course exclude the Gurkha’s, because they are Nepali.

  30. Bill Patrick

    Perhaps I have been too quick to dismiss Yvette Cooper, who, bluntly, I find excruciatingly dull and robotic. Perhaps leadership might allow her to develop a more sympathetic public image. But, you are right, she would unite Labour and this may be the most vital component of any leader. They possibly can’t afford the division that Liz K would bring.
    It is fair to say that Cooper is unlikely to put a foot wrong, but five years without smiling is a bit hard to take.

  31. LASZLO


    I note:-
    78:-” Registration rates for certain BME groups are substantially lower than for White British residents, but turnout for people from BME groups once they are registered to vote does not differ significantly from turnout for White British residents who are registered to vote.”

  32. Roly

    As a young subaltern, you must have welcomed their contribution in 1857. Ah, the great days of Empire you must have seen! :-)

  33. ROLY

    They have a fearsome tradition -if I remember correctly , in the 2011 London riots didn’t a group of Sikhs sort some of the yobbos out with their Kirpans?

    Yes-Gurkhas-what can one say except to be in awe at their exploits. What a tragedy in their native land-it must be heartbreaking for them.

  34. @ Colin

    Indeed. If they polled only the register voters, then the turnout figures are too high. But let’s assume that they correct, then the extrapolated number is wrong (1 million), as the average registration rate of voters with ethnicity from the Indian subcontinent is about 80%, and the Black voters about 70%. I don’t mention that apparently no Muslim voters voted for Respect.

    If they polled everyone and not filtered (likely due to the adjustments) then everything is wrong.

    I think this poll demonstrates most of the things that went wrong with cheap and cheerful polls.

  35. LASZLO

    You really need to take that up with Survation & the client so that we can assess their response.

    Otherwise these are just your opinion.

  36. ROLY

    A few seconds googling Sikhs in the two WWs produces :-

    “Over 138,000 Sikh soldiers fought in Belgium and France during World War I. More than a quarter of these soldiers became casualties. In the first battle of Ypres at Flanders in 1914 a platoon of Sikhs died fighting to the last man, who shot himself with his last cartridge rather that surrender. After the bloody battle of Neuve Chapelle in 1915 the Sikh regiments had lost 80% of their men”


    “When you go home tell them of us, and say, for your tomorrow, we gave our today.”

    Inscription on the Kohima Memorial , where :-

    “At the battle of Kohima, Burma, 15th Sikh regiment headed by Naik Gian Singh was facing defeat. As the merciless machine gun shots from the Japanese foxholes burst from the bush, Gian Singh pushed forward with his men behind him, he ordered his men to cover him as he single handedly cleared foxhole after foxhole. Despite being severely wounded, he continued to push through the intense fire and clearing a strategically vital road. The Japanese were forced to retreat.”

    Have you been watching The Greatest Generation on BBC2 Roly-incredible , awesome individuals.

  37. @ Colin

    I wrote to the client. I don’t expect any response :-)

  38. OldNat

    No, I used to read the Eagle at the Barbers, or sometimes at the richer friend’s house up the road (his dad owned two milk rounds). I was quite keen on Girl too. I always liked reading ‘Lettuce Leaf, the greenest girl in school’. Along with watching Gerald Campion as Billy Bunter on the box, it introduced me to a world I knew not what of.

    “I say you fellows”, stuff like that.

  39. Bristolian Howard

    I knew you weren’t all bad! :-)

    My exposure to the Eagle was at the barbers as well.

  40. LASZLO

    I hope you do.

  41. I’m wondering if polling is all it’s cracked up to be. Perhaps a new hobby is in order?


    @”No, I used to read the Eagle at the Barbers, or sometimes at the richer friend’s house up the road”

    Presumable emerging from your hole in it , to crawl in shame for your pitiful rags , up to your friends house.

    The Eagle cost 3 pence in 1950-or about 33p today.

    Your childhood poverty & deprivation was truly desperate Howard-did you ever eat ?. It must have scarred you for life & you have my deepest sympathy.

  43. I’m not quite the youngest on this site, but I am sure that I’m the youngest to have read most of the early issues of the Eagle. By far my family’s most interesting heirloom, at least as far as a young me was concerned!

    Great as Dan Dare was, I actually found the historical stories on the back most interesting. Thanks to them, I had quite a good idea of Churchill’s lifestory before I even went to primary school.

  44. And curiously, the best Dan Dare stories didn’t actually involve the Mekon. They were when there were mysterious robotic mini-fighters from Saturn and when they travelled to another star system and encountered a civilization ruled by a (massive and gloriously 1950’s!) computer.

  45. Colin
    No, no need for your welcome sympathy. I had the Topper, then the Beezer, then Tiger then Rover.. As an only child I could choose what I wanted. I thought the Eagle a bit shiny, and a bit oldy fash.

  46. OLD NAT
    Typically the Scots think they are something very special in military terms. Looking at the state of them nowadays, I am not surprised you only see fit to extract the urine from one who appreciates the efforts of great fighting soldiers.

  47. Colin
    Someone was proposing raising a new British Sikh Regiment. It was rejected because we need to integrate these excellent men, not separate them.
    My son the brand new Major tells me that things are a little better in Nepal now. His big problem has been the RAF and US Marine Corps choppers, blowing down what is left of a village, every time they take of and land. The Chinook is a masterpiece of utility, but its rotors are like a small tornado.

  48. @Roland

    “Typically the Scots think they are something very special in military terms.”

    Not the English? Strange statement.

  49. @Candy – “You can only be good at maths if your parents are good at maths, …..”

    Can’t begin to tell you what complete nonsense that is.

    Paul Dirac. Father – French teacher. Mother – librarian.

    Alan Turing. Father – civil servant, mother – no profession

    Werner Heisenberg. Father – classical languages
    teacher, mother – no profession

    Niels Bohr. Father – professor of physiology, mother – no profession but from a banking and political family

    Charles Babbage. Father – banker, mother – unknown

    Ada Lovelace. Father – poet (Byron), mother – no profession

    Pierre de Fermat. Father – leather merchant, mother – unknown (that is, we don’t know who his mother was)

    Pythagoras of Samos. Father – gem engraver, mother unknown.

    I could go on, but you get the idea. Making such nonsensical blanket statements might look good, but really is tosh of the highest order. There are far greater complexities when it comes to deciding who has the potential to be good at anything, and ascribing all of this to genetics only is sloppy in the extreme,

  50. Would it be possible to find a Sikh to lead the Labour party?

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