Pollsters really have no idea what’s going on. Let’s not encourage them to claim they do

Every week, This Blog receives multiple comments from people who refer to poll results to support their latest claims about the unelectability of Labour and the inappropriateness of its current leader.

And every week, a by-election result shows their claim to be absolute and utter waffle.

These people are trying to make us believe a lie because it suits their own narrow political agendas.

The pollsters all doctor their figures in any case, to reflect the numbers of people known to have voted at the last general election – even though Labour has changed hugely since that election took place.

Believe the facts, people – not somebody’s made-up statistic.

Yesterday, a poll was published claiming – based on a sample of around 1600 people – that only 51% of people who voted Labour in 2015 would do so if there was a General Election now. It also claimed that 73% of those who voted Tory would continue to do so.

Much was made of that by anti-Corbyn MPs and commentators, of course.

On the same day, unmentioned by the news channels, in a council by-election in Horsehay and Lightmoor in Shropshire – a county that, at the moment, has only Tory MPs – was won by Labour from the Conservatives on a 24,3% swing.

These figures mean that an area that previously gave the Tory party almost twice as many votes as to Labour, suddenly swung massively – and the supposedly dangerous UKIP lost share as well. To Labour – the opposite of what’s meant to happen if you believe the pollsters, pundits and laughably-called ‘Labour moderates’.

Can you draw conclusions about the whole country from a single council by-election result? Of course not. Neither can you draw them from 1600 people – not in the current melting pot, when all previous assumptions are unreliable.

Source: Few will admit it, but Horsehay shows pollsters have no idea what’s going on | The SKWAWKBOX

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13 thoughts on “Pollsters really have no idea what’s going on. Let’s not encourage them to claim they do

  1. Barry Davies

    The polls have been wrong on the big ones trump thumped Hilary despite her being way ahead, and the remoaners want us to take the polls as meaning something because they lost the only poll that mattered, who got what even a year ago is irrelevant because some of those voters are no longer with us and a whole new bunch of school teacher radicalised voters now can vote, by the next election this will be even more of the case so what happens now is very unlikely to happen by then.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Don’t try to belittle ‘Remain’ voters with a silly name. That’s bullying.
      You think new voters have been “radicalised” by school teachers? I’d like to see the evidence.
      I find it hard to understand your attitude here. You seem to agree with me about the polls, while taking the opportunity to bully ‘Remain’ voters. That’s not the point of this exercise.

  2. Paul

    A naive article, Mike.

    Council elections are not comparable to parliamentary elections. Firstly, because councillors do not make laws which affect the whole population of a country or the whole of the United Kingdom. (Councillors are very, very much less powerful than MPs.) And secondly, because there are very many more councillors than MPs, meaning that gains and/or losses are less significant unless they happen in big numbers. At the 2013 Census of Local Authority Councillors, there were roughly 18,100 councillors in England. The latest figures show 1,264 councillors in Wales, 1,223 in Scotland and 462 in Northern Ireland, a total of 21,049 for the whole UK, while there are only 650 MPs for the whole country. So one gaining one MP is worth 21,049/650 = 32 times more, in purely numeric terms, than a single councillor, ignoring the legislative power of MPs.

    Gaining one seat on one council is hardly significant at all.

    Were Labour to win a parliamentary seat in a by-election formerly held by an MP from another party THAT would be significant and show that Labour were in with a shot at regaining power. Why? Because THAT is what the party must do in a general election. Labour needs to win about 106 seats currently held by others to form a government and I hardly need to remind anybody that in two recent by-elections the party was worst placed than it was during the 2015 general election, ending up with the Liberal Democrats above them both times in the rankings.

    Labour were very unlikely to win Richmond or Sleaford but ending up beaten by the Liberal Democrats TWICE in quick succession is not the sign of a party on its way to government.

    The polls have been wrong in the recent past but never wrong enough to indicate that Labour has the slightest chance of winning the next general election. I’m afraid that the general public has also made up their minds about Corbyn’s potential as a leader too. Latest polls have Labour at 25%, the lowest that Labour have recorded since 2009 (the lowest in fact the party has had in opposition since 1983, though that should be seen in the context that there were fewer small parties in the 1980s and the big parties normally had higher scores than are typical these days).

    I don’t expect this comment to end up posted by am writing it for your eyes, Mike, hoping that one day in the near future the scales will fall from them and you will see things as they are. Labour is heading not only towards electoral defeat but political irrelevance.

  3. Martin

    The media have never reported individual council election results except in aggregate in respect to control of councils during periodic national council elections. The result you mention would have been reported by local media.

  4. Ulysses

    “73% of those who voted Tory would continue to do so.”

    Yeah, and this is always going to be the case. Instead of chasing floating right wing vote, hows about chasing and re engaging the Left wing voters out there that didnt bother, who feel disenfranchised and ignored by New Labour

  5. Jeffrey Davies

    It also claimed that 73% of those who voted Tory would continue to do so. thats 24percent who only voted tory oh dear polls hay trying to make out whot not happened yet but one thing corbyn gets stronger by the day its now about the local partys showing their contempt about these traitors to the labour by deselection has they wont change their spots

  6. Roy Partridge

    Look at the ownership of the polling companies, isn’t yougov owned by a Tory? It is easy to skew results of polls, who were those 1600 people, what questions were asked? Basically, don’t trust the results,

  7. I see the truth

    There was a turnout of 17 per cent in the said by-election.

    Councillor Mehta won 358 votes, followed by Conservative candidate Robert Cadman with 292 votes and UKIP candidate Denis Allen with 124 votes.

    So a Labour councillor won by just 66 votes. You say that the swing from the tories to labour was 20.5%, but that difference is between 2015 council election and this year. The swing from tories to labour is only 6% between 2011 and 2016.

    It’s obvious that trying to promote the labour party with Commie Corbyn in charge is like polishing a turd.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      The polling companies are constantly referring to percentages, so it is perfectly valid in this context, and a six per cent swing over five years is still big enough for one party to take a Parliamentary seat from another.
      Your figures show that, in a poll with around one-quarter of the turnout of last year, Labour retained around half its voters (down from either 722 or 661), while the Conservatives lost between two-thirds and three-quarters of theirs (either 950 or 1,280) and UKIP at least three-quarters of theirs (from 534 or 498). It’s a convincing Labour win.
      By-elections rarely, if ever, achieve the turnout of general elections (or, in this case, full council elections).
      All you have done is prove correct the assertion in my headline.
      Your last comment is, of course, in extremely poor taste and speaks volumes about your own quality. We expect a higher standard of behaviour here, so modify your language in future, please.

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