Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Polls and real results

Finkelstein comments in the Times this morning that opinion polls are a more accurate guide to the feelings of voters than tomorrow's election results will be. To a point, Lord Copper.

He's right of course that the way in which pollsters ask questions can skew results. The identity of the pollster on the other end of the phone may also skew the results; English politesse would tend to elicit an untruthful answer from a closet racist about BNP support if the question was framed by a friendly young Indian woman at the pollsters' call centre.

Pollsters also assume it's the big Issues of State that influence opinion. Crime, health, immigration, education; the polled are also often cowed into believing these ought to be the issues that sway them .

In practice there is little logic to the factors that put a cross in one box rather than another. A work colleague with whom I enjoyed a ciggie yesterday as we huddled in a light drizzle declared he would vote for Boris because of the smoking ban. And this is where I think Finkelstein has it completely wrong. The thirty seconds we all have in the polling booth from time to time are the only chance most of us have to protest. The incumbent government are perhaps the most illiberal in living memory; the hunting ban, the smoking ban, massive fuel taxes, stealth taxes, bin snoopers, nasty nanny, booze taxes and all the rest. There can hardly be an interest group in the country that Labour haven't given cause to want to kick back. And it's these little things that count.

So we should all be aware that tomorrow's results if they are as expected won't be as much of an endorsement of a Tory party policy - frankly, there isn't one - than a chance to kick out against £5 a gallon and standing in a soggy pub yard. And this is where the real results are always more accurate than the opinion polls.

1 comment:

Mac the Knife said...

A perfect, ringing, bell-like note as the hammer hits the nail squarely. Very nicely and accurately encapsulated...