Closing up shop

Anyone who used to regularly read UKPollingReport has presumably noticed it has been many months since I have updated it. You’ve probably already assumed that it is being wound down, but the time has come to make it official. Over the next few weeks I’ll be archiving some posts I want to keep for another day, and then shutting the site down.

I started writing UKPollingReport in 2004, back when blogs were the new exciting thing on the internet. It was when I was an amateur observer of polls, rather than someone who actually carried them out. Over time my hobby became what I actually did for a living, which is nice at first (after all, who wouldn’t like to get paid for something they are interested in doing anyway). As the years go by it switched over though, and there comes a point when the last thing you want to do when you log off from work is to write about your work. UKPollingReport had long since become a chore rather than a pleasure, so it’s time to move on.

I hope I achieved something along the way. Opinion polling has become less opaque since I started writing (though that is largely because of the advent of the British Polling Council, rather than anything I have done), but it still remains something of a mystery to many people. Any poll that people don’t like still generates a thousand replies asking how come they weren’t polled, or everyone they know thinks different, or how polling companies are all run by lizards (plus, of course, the Peter Hitchens meme, which even Peter Hitchens appears sick of). Making polling methodology more open only helps if people want to understand how it works, and naturally enough, many people have better things to do, but I hope I provided a useful resource for those who do have an interest.

More realistic is spreading the message to journalists and political observers (and, indeed, to my own industry. Being called out by your peers should always be a good deterrent). What polls can and, more importantly, really can’t do. Why a question like that won’t work, or doesn’t actually tell you what it appears to on the surface. What that question is terribly biased and should be quietly ignored. Why that poll using sampling that is probably skewed and one sided.

I think newspaper reporting of polling has genuinely improved over the last twenty years. There is a habit of being extremely cynical about journalists and their honesty or ethics – “one cannot hope to bribe or twist, etc, etc”. I don’t subscribe to that point of view. Most of the political journalists I’ve worked with over the years have been my favourite clients. Pressure groups, campaigning groups, etc, inevitably have an answer they want to get (and we often have to spend long hours saying no to various ways they try to bias questions). Journalists don’t – they tend to be the clients who just want to ask a fair question and report the results.

Overall, I think the press treat voting intention polls far better than they once did – putting it in the context of other recent polls, not massively over-reacting to small movements. It is very easy to point to places where they have fallen over, but these tend to be polls that have been commissioned and spun by pressure groups, rather than ones where the journalist talks to the pollster (or worse, things masquerading as “polls” which have never been near a professional research company, like the Observer twitter poll last month!).

Nevertheless, I’ll keep on rolling the boulder up the hill in other places. I am hoping that not having the weight of expectations of maintaining a blog will mean I feel actually able to write more often, rather than less. I’m going to continue grumbling about polls on twitter (@anthonyjwells, if you don’t follow me already). I’m also planning to put the occasional longer form piece as a (free) newsletter on Substack for when I want to rant about something that’s too long for a Twitter thread. I’ll put some of the pieces I keep referring back to up there as well in due course, so I’ve still something to link to when I want to explain why a Twitter poll of 100,000 people is still worthless, and why agree-disagree statements are almost always a terrible way to ask a question. Subscribe (for free) to that at https://anthonyjwells.substack.com/. I hope to see you there.


474 Responses to “Closing up shop”

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  1. First.

    And last!

  2. not last and the last shall be first and the first shall be last as He said

  3. And the sneaks shall inherit the Earth

  4. Pair of tw*ts.

  5. That is not so nice CB 11

  6. Apologies Chrissy and Nicko.

  7. True in my case though.

  8. No problem, CROSSBAT11 !

    We supporters of mid table teams should show ‘solidarity’ in the words of our ‘dear leader’

  9. Logged into the new place today. It’s just a Twitter echo chamber, with party activists lined up to front their preferred lot. Was it always thus? Maybe it was. Sad.

  10. They’re not all like that, and there’s reasonable amount of analysis of polling and voting. Your contributions are miissed!

  11. Personally I think new site better. At least the owner is not either over-precious and banning or just not present.

    Palace in semis tomorrow!

  12. I’ve won the last post competition. Thanks for your efforts everyone.

  13. Well, that’s it then. Congratulations to Mecian.

  14. Deluded, as usual

  15. Can we stick to polling please.

  16. That ship has long sailed

  17. The other site appears to be down so might have to meet here for a smoke.

  18. Have you got a light, Nick?

  19. Use the brazier

  20. Hi folks,

    All day today I’ve been getting a message when I try to log on to the new site. It says it is being blocked by my defences because
    “…it was infected with HTML:Script-inf[Susp]”

    I don’t know how to contact Mark to warn him apart from through that site, so let’s hope he reads this or someone knows how to get him on Facebook or something.

  21. coffee time

  22. I’m now officially closing both this comments thread and the whole site too. A very big thank you to all those who have participated over the years and, in terms of this specific thread, commiserations to those who had attempted to post the very last comment

    That honour, quite rightly too, goes to my good self.

    Cheerio chaps.

  23. No.

  24. By the way
    My name is Smarty Pants
    I could win a man
    With just one glance
    And not too many men had escaped
    Do my man wrong
    Make him believe that he’s to blame

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