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Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Opinion poll fiasco

The reports in the press this morning ascribing the failure of the polls to predict the last election result to failing to connect with older or busy people don't quite, I think, capture the problems faced by opinion pollsters. 

Primarily, the true reason for the failure of the polls must be cost. The cheapest way of carrying out a poll quickly is by telephone, using low paid call-centre staff. The most expensive is to send out 1,000 enumerators to door-knock across the land to get 1,200 opinions. Secondly, time of contact is critical; Labour voters may be expected to be less likely to respond during 'Emmerdale' and Tory voters during the 8pm to 9pm middle class dinner hour. Now often including the 7pm to 8pm Aperitif hour.  To those persecuted by PPI calls, a pollster on the phone may simply be an opportunity to vent anger and frustration against a real person by telling them to 'bugger off'. In London, with over 30% single occupancy, and high employment rates, 7pm is the mean time that people open their front door. Answering a ringing phone before you've taken your coat off only to find that it's an opinion pollster also induces rage. Calling after 9pm is a no-no. So with our precious evenings out of reach of the telephone pollsters, one presumes their samples are restricted to the unemployed and bored housewives (if such things exist any more) before 6pm. 

I don't think the opinion poll is dead - but probably that the phone poll to house-phones has reached its Dodo stage. Alternatives cost a great deal more. Clients should be prepared to pay if they want more accurate polls.


Billy Marlene said...

Nothing to do with time of day, unemployed, bored housewives........

Simply, there are those who will comply with polls, surveys, studies - whether conducted face to face or by phone - and those who will not comply - no matter what incentives are offered. No amount of extra funding will change that.

I am an ONS interviewer but fall into the second category!

Dadad said...

Did you hear on R4 just after 06.30 this morning that, when asked to explain the 12% tory victory, that it was the 'Victor Meldrews' who told the pollsters to 'bugger off' and wouldn't answer the questions put.

So all the 12% were Victor Meldrews ?

Dan said...

I reckon that a lot of it was phone polling that didn't work. These days, whenever I answer the phone and hear "Hello, I'm from a research company and..." the immediate response is a hearty "Goodbye" and phone down pronto.

I simply haven't the time to help out some plonker who's going to waste my time with no reward. If I feel like annoying someone and a phone pollster turns up then hey, free entertainment.

That's how a lot of people feel about random phone trolls. I would hazard a guess that of the few who did reply, most simply professed a love of Labour precisely to mess up the statistics, much as so many people paid three quid to the Labour Party precisely so that the Party could be landed with a left wing moron for a leader.

Which is quite understandable, IMHO. And you must admit, Corbyn makes for quite wonderful entertainment.

Curmudgeon said...

Aren't most polls done over th'Interweb nowadays?

John M said...

There is of course another possibility. What if millions of the electorate, utterly fed up with both Politicians, talking heads and pollsters were telling them about voting intentions, all met in a pub and decided collectively to corrupt the whole system?

"Tell you what" said Jethro, our leader "If one of those plonkers calls you up just tell 'em you'll be voting Labour - it'll screw thier figures up and it'll be right f**king hilarious when the results do come out"

Unfortunately for those inside the Westminster bubble, the pollsters, politicians and London media nobs - they will never know the prank we played on them :)

Anonymous said...

What the fuck do polls matter, you vote Tory, Lib, or scum and get teh same fucking government.

Of far more importance to me, when are the British electorate going to wake up and realize that voting for the fuckwit mentalists in Westminster doesn't change a frigging thing?

Us and the Nutter extremists the Hard left of SWP/Corbynistas are coming at the same problem [consensus EU ordained - heavily manipulated influenced policies and Westminster patsies and the gimps of the media bubble claque] from ever so slightly different approaches.

Those of us who claim a Liberterian persuasion believe that, the present electoral system needs smashing, though by peaceful methodology mainly via the ballot box, violence should not be the very last resort, unless we sense insurrection and invasion.

Whereas, the Bolsheviks and Critical Theorists of Common Purpose and the scum party believe it is only a matter of time before the great British public realize the error of their ways and vote in the extreme left under the guise of Red Ken and Jezza. All of the left believe in violence as a way of life because for the left breaking the laws of the land is a right of passage, as are; deception corruption, nepotism and just about any other form of deviancy.

Contrast, the left's relaxed relationship with the truth as opposed to, the right, who fervently uphold the rule of law and champion a civilian force designed to the maintenance of law and order - we used to have such an institution.

Yet whose opinion is calumniated? Alas, who does the political claque, meejah and pollsters name as the "loonies"?

DeeDee99 said...

Availability and willingness to respond may be part of it, but I also suspect that the Pollsters have an agenda to promote. It may not be overtly political (ie Labour supporting, although one has to wonder about YouGov with Peter Kellner).

But a very tight race is likely to result in a demand for more polls to see how the public are reacting. So the pollsters have a vested interest in finding that voting intentions are very close.

As we know polls can influence politicians behaviour (Cameron and the Scottish Referendum "Vow" being an example) and can also impact voters' behaviour (concern over a Labour/SNP coalition) they should be banned in the 6 weeks leading up to the election/referendum.

TrT said...

The problem is likely with the British Polling Council(?) more than anything.

Its been all but confirmed that Labour knew "safe" seats like Morely were in danger a week before the election because of internal polls.
I know for a fact that Tory internal Polls were predicting a victory, I was shown them, and Gove announced them TV in an interview on Daily Politics or something like.

So we know that accurate polls existed on at least two sides, if not all sides.

So if private polling was broadly accurate, the problem lies with published polling, which has rules it must follow, which clearly create fairly wild inaccuracies.

Poisonedchalice said...

I don't think it's money, or time of day etc. Don't forget who the pollsters are - "meeja types" with definite left-leaning policies.

I think two things were afoot here: Firstly wishful thinking on the part of the pollsters and secondly a desire to throw the result in favour of Labour. Did you see their crestfallen leftie faces when the exit polls came in shortly after 10? I thought they were going to cry. I cried - but with tears of laughter!

Coney Island

Anonymous said...

Most people under 40 only have a landline because they have to have it for internet access. Most people under 30 don't do voice even on their mobile; its all whatsapp, fb and occasionally sms or email.
I don't plug a phone into the landline as it is only ever robocallers and I wouldn't answer the mobile if the number is not recognised. It's fifty-fifty whether I would open the front door unless you text me or I am expecting a delivery.
How are you going to poll me?