Yesterday saw a cracking example of poor newspaper reporting of polls and a worthy recipient of the much sought after “UKPR crap media reporting of polls award”. Regular readers will recall Ipsos MORI’s monthly poll for the Standard, which showed topline figures of CON 29%, LAB 38%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 15%. This was a nine point Labour lead and if repeated at a general election then a uniform swing would give Labour an overall majority of 94 seats.
While in the context of all the other polling we’ve seen lately it wasn’t a fantastic poll for Labour (the lead was pretty typical and there were some less than positive finding on whether people thought Miliband was ready to be PM), on the whole it was still a poll showing the Labour party with a steady lead over the Conservatives which if maintained would give them very substantial gains and put them back in government with a healthy majority.
And how did the Daily Star report this poll? As “Ed Miliband Facing Election Wipeout“. The Star went on to say “The latest Ipsos MORI survey said just 40% [sic] of voters now supported Labour, the party’s lowest ratings in a year. Only a quarter of people think he is ready to lead the country.”
Now, I do try to be charitable to journalists – it’s a hard job with tight deadlines. They are not responsible for the headlines put above their work, and often I’ve seen a sensible and nuanced poll write up with a wrong-headed and simplistic headline. The rest of the article suggests that the “warnings of wipeout” at the next election was probably referring to the apparent criticism that Miliband had faced from Tony Blair and David Blunkett, not the poll. Nevertheless, the overall impression the article leaves, and the failure to point out that while Labour had dropped in the polls, they were still leader by a substantial and potentially election winning amount really does create the false impression that the polls are showing Labour heading for defeat.
Meanwhil the YouGov poll on Friday morning had topline figures of CON 33%, LAB 40%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 11%. I’ve been very wary over the last week or so about claims that the YouGov poll was showing Labour’s lead falling, but this is now the third single digit lead in a week, so perhaps there is something there. Keep an eye out for the YouGov/Sunday Times poll later on tonight or tomorrow morning to see if the trend continues. We should also be due the fortnightly Opinium poll for the Observer.
Finally Lord Ashcroft released some new polling of ethnic minority voters on Friday. Most of the poll doesn’t tell us much new, merely underlining the difficulties the Conservatives face with ethnic minority voters, but that these difficulties are not the same across the board (Hindu voters in particular seem to be far more well disposed towards the Conservatives than voters from other ethnic minority groups).
There was an interesting question towards the end though. A question and problem for the Conservatives to tackle is why they do so badly amongst ethnic minority voters. One the strongest predictors of NOT voting Conservative is to be a member of an ethnic minority. Some of this is due to socio-economic factors, or due to ethnic minority voters being more likely to work in the public sector, but even accounting for these factors ethnic minority voters are less likely to vote Tory. The obvious explanation for this is that the Conservatives are still associated with anti-immigrant language and policies and that ethnic minority voters assume that the Tories are “not for them”. I was being interviewed about this by the BBC a few months back and menioned Enoch Powell when talking about that historical legacy and the interviewer asked, reasonably enough, whether people really did still remember and were influenced by a speech given 40 years ago. Well, Lord Ashcroft asked that – 58% of voters said they had heard of Enoch Powell and knew what he said, rising to 64% of the black carribean community.