Archive for the 'Pollsters/polling' Category


The wait for another full IndyRef poll goes on – there’s not been one for nearly a fortnight

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

Why are there so few Scottish polls?

Over the past few days I’ve been repeatedly asked when the next full IndyRef poll will be published and unfortunately I have no idea. The last full poll was by YouGov when fieldwork finished on August 15th – that’s 13 days ago.

In the same period we have had 14 Westminster voting polls for an election that doesn’t take place until May next year.

Given the momentous nature of what is being voted upon on September 18th the lack of surveys is amazing. Postal vote packs were sent out this week and for many the election has already started.

Quite why there’s so little being made available is hard to say. Clearly someone has to pay for it but the costs of polling have come down sharply with the widespread use of online fieldwork which can be carried out very quickly.

YES campaigners have been vociferous in telling us of the good reaction they are getting on the doorstep – but that is not a substitute for proper polling.

We did have the ICM small sample post debate poll but that was confined just to those who who had watched and was focussed on the relative performances of Salmond and Darling.

Mike Smithson

Ranked in top 33 most influential over 50s on Twitter


Take the Ladbrokes 10-11 IndyRef NO victory with turnout under 80% bet

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

The best value punt, surely, for those who think independence will be defeated

One of the problems for those wanting to bet on NO in the September 18th Scottish Independence referendum is that prices are so poor. About the best you can get is 1/6 which means that to make a profit of £50 you have to risk £300.

A far better wager has just been made available by Ladbrokes.Odds of 10/11 (almost evens) that the referendum will be lost and that the turnout will be lower than 80%.

That was the turnout prediction that Alex Salmond made in Monday night’s debate which to my mind is on the high side. At the Holyrood elections in 2011 the level was 50%. A year earlier at the general election 63.8% of electors voted north of the border.

What’s driving the high turnout prediction for September 18th has been the certainty to vote levels in the referendum polls. Ipsos-MORI, the only phone pollster, had this at 81% in its last survey.

    But you have to distinguish between the turnout certainty of those ready to take part in a polling interview or fill in an online questionnaire and the electorate as a whole.

    The very fact that people are happy to be polled, I’d suggest, inflates the certainty level.

I think that turnout three weeks tomorrow will be high, certainly in the 70s, but I’d be very surprised if it hit the levels seen in the polls.

I’ve had a bet with Ladbrokes at 10/11 and plan to put more on.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


Away from the IndyRef – today’s Populus poll sees UKIP up 4% to a record high for the firm

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

This follows an increase in the UKIP share in the ComRes online poll for IoS/S Mirror – published at the weekend and the last YouGov poll have Farage’s party up from its average for the month of about 12% to 14%.

We need to see more polls, of course, but the theory was that UKIP would fade after the May Euros and headed for GE2015.

Well these numbers suggest that that is not happening.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


Salmond’s ICM victory in the 2nd IndyRef debate triggers a 2.5% move to YES on Betfair

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

But did punters misinterpret the ICM voting data?

Three weeks ago during the first Salmond-Darling TV encounter the first indications that NO was having the best of it came on the Betfair betting exchange where full data on trading is made available instantly and where you are able to track it.

In the two hours of the STV hosted confrontation a lot of money was traded and YES moved sharply backwards from the 22% chance position it had reached in the aftermath of the Glasgow games. The ICM poll that came afterwards merely confirmed what punters had seen for themselves – Salmond was losing.

So last night I kept a close at the markets which barely moved throughout the 90 minutes of the debate. YES started at a Betfair price of 7.4 (a 13.5% chance) and finished at 7.4.

The movement came after the the debate was concluded and the Guardian published details of its ICM poll of 505 people who had watched it.

As well as the “who did best” the 51-49% leads for NO on referendum voting intention before and after the debate in the poll were widely reported. This led to an assumption on PB and elsewhere that the referendum voting intention findings now had YES and NO very close. People were mistakenly comparing the debate figures released with other ICM referendum polling.

With its debate results the firm issued the following guidance:-

“It should be stated this this sample was pre-recruited on the basis of watching the debate and being willing to answer questions on it immediately after the debate ended. While we have ‘forced’ it via weighting to be representative of all Scots, it SHOULD NOT be seen as a normal vote intention poll as it is premised on a different population type i.e the profile and nature of Scots who watched the debate is different to a fully nationally representative sample of Scots.

If punters moved to YES because the ICM debate sample appeared to be split down the middle they were drawing the wrong conclusion.

UPDATE: YES price back to almost where it was before debate started

The chart above has been revised.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


ComRes online poll sees Lab lead down one to two – But are the Tories losing their toxicity?

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014

The ComRes online poll for the Independent on Sunday and Sunday Mirror is out. 

Is the Tories’ toxicity no longer an issue?

ComRes note

“the poll’s Favourability Index finds that the Conservative Party is viewed more favourably than Labour for the first time, suggesting that the Tory brand is now seen as no more “toxic” than the Labour one.”

On a net basis, the Blues and Reds are tied, as ever this is just one poll, and we’ll need to see further polling, but if this remains the case, then the nasty toxic Tories meme may have been negated, and the tactical anti-Tory vote at the General Election might not be so much of an issue next time?

On the Leaders’ favourability ratings

On Expectations for the next government

Agree Disagree Don’t know
Labour is likely to be in government after the General Election next year 32% 33% 36%
The Conservatives are likely to be in government after the General Election next year 28% 36% 35%
The Liberal Democrats are likely to be in government after the General Election next year 7% 68%   25%


On events in the Middle East, ComRes note

More than half of the British public (55 per cent) think that if the “Islamic State” continues its advance into Iraq unchecked then it will pose a direct threat to security on British streets.

Most Britons (51 per cent) disagree that it is possible for a prime minister to make good decisions about international crises via a BlackBerry, as David Cameron claimed this week.

The poll found more support (40 per cent) than opposition (29 per cent) for British intervention around the world with military force if necessary in cases of humanitarian emergency.

Despite this, there is little support for Britain to do more in the region. Just 26 per cent of Britons think the emergence of the “Islamic State” shows that Britain withdrew from Iraq prematurely; 39 per cent disagree. Similarly, 26 per cent think the situation in Iraq means that Britain should consider delaying the current plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, compared to 40% who disagree.


ComRes interviewed 2,058 GB adults online between 20 and 22 August 2014



David Herdson wonders how much we can trust the referendum polls

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

How effective are the pollsters with such a one-off event?

Knowledge, information and judgement: the past, present and future of effective prediction.  The problem, as far as the Scottish referendum is concerned, is that all three are badly affected by the paucity of precedent.  There have been referendums before, both in Britain and elsewhere, but all have their drawbacks for comparative purposes.  (Prediction is of course only one half of effective betting; the other being able to spot value).

From overseas, we can study the independence referendums in Quebec, the EU Treaty polls in various countries, and the Australian vote on the monarchy; closer to home there were the 1979 and 1997 votes on Scottish devolution, the EEC referendum and most recently the AV vote.  All, however, have their drawbacks in making direct comparisons, whether that be the nature of the electorate, the size of the turnout and intensity of the campaign, the divisiveness of the issue in question, or the broader political and economic context in which each one was fought.  Put simply, each one is a one-off to a much greater extent than a general election is.

That fact not only makes it harder for analysts to work out the implications of the polling numbers but it makes it harder for the polling companies themselves to produce accurate data.  How do you weight responses to reflect what they say about their likelihood to turn out, for example?  The general rule on turnout is that it’s driven by two key factors: how close the vote is perceived to be and how important the result is perceived to be.  September’s vote scores so highly on both counts it may pip the 81.1% Northern Ireland recorded in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement referendum.  Ensuring the polls accurately represent those voters on the very fringe, who often will not be general election voters never mind other elections, will be no easy task.

Similarly, the methodologies used to try to ensure a balanced political sample become much more complex where there are apparently such disparities between how men and women are planning to vote, between those born in Scotland and those from outside.  Weightings can be and are applied but producing accurate figures is still akin to hitting a moving target, while standing on the back of a moving pickup truck, at dusk – which may account for the widely differing figures being published.

“Aha”, you might say, “then I’ll balance them out and take an average”, which is all very well except that there’s no guarantee that the average will be particularly accurate.  1992 remains the most famous example, but it’s not just a historic problem.  In 2010, every pollster overstated the Lib Dems and virtually every one understated both the Conservatives and Labour; five of the last six London mayoral polls in 2012 gave too low a share to Ken Livingstone, four of them by more than 3%; the Scottish election in 2011 saw the SNP under-reported for the regional vote in almost every poll, some by a considerable margin, even while those same polls got the SNP almost spot-on in the constituency section; most pollsters overstated those in favour of AV by 7-10% in the two weeks before the vote.

Put another way, even in elections for which pollsters have had a fair bit of practice, the methodology is still not perfect.  Worse, there’s been a tendency for all the various methodologies to be out the same way, if by different amounts.  In the Scottish referendum, they’ve had virtually no practice.

What does this mean for the vote?  My instinct would be to allow for a much wider range of possibilities than the polls are currently showing (and for once, perhaps because they can’t benchmark against their peers, there’s quite a spread already).  It may be that No has an even more commanding lead than the 22% YouGov found earlier this month; alternatively, it could be neck-and-neck, beyond even Survation or Panelbase’s findings.  We are in unchartered waters.  To that end, the value bet is with Yes – there is too great a degree of certainty in the odds at the moment.

David Herdson


Opinium poll sees UKIP up six

Saturday, August 16th, 2014

UKIP sees a six point surge with Opinium


The usual caveats apply, this is but one poll, we need to see other polling to see if this UKIP surge is occurring or not. My own thought is that, this is more a return to the status quo for Opinium with regards to UKIP, their last poll, a fortnight ago, had UKIP down to their lowest point since February 2013, and that didn’t feel right. This UKIP’s highest score with Opinium since May 2013.

This is only the eighth poll out 1,611 polls in this parliament to have the combined Con and Lab score to be 60 or below.

The Lib Dems will be delighted to be polling in double digits, with the pollster that has consistently given them some of their lowest scores in this parliament. The fact the Lib Dems are polling double digits is considered good news (by me at least), probably explains the dire polling situation the Lib Dems find themselves in.

Putting this poll into electoral calculus, the result would be a Labour majority of 36, and zero UKIP MPs, as first past the post, and UNS will theoretically disadvantage UKIP.

You can get odds of 20/1 of UKIP polling between 20% and 25% next year, and 5/4 on UKIP not win a seat next year.



Are we suffering from polling overload?

Friday, August 15th, 2014

Are we getting too many polls?

I know that might be a churlish thing for us polling addicts to say but the below graph shows the comparison of the number of Westminster VI polls conducted by BPC pollsters, in July 2009 and July 2014.

We’ve gone from eight polls in July 2009, to forty-four in July 2014, even if we remove the YouGov daily tracker, the number of non You-Gov polls has increased from five to twenty in the same period.

These figures do not include the various marginal/seat specific polls we get, or the Scottish Independence referendum polls.

Some days, we’re getting the same number of polls, that we would only get at the business end of a general election campaign.

So what’s the downside of all this polling?

I suspect, because there’s a newer poll out very quickly, and we move on to that before we’ve given the previous poll the care and attention that it deserves. Parties and their supporters don’t like one poll (an outlier), there’ll be one along shortly that will be more favourable.

Politics, is often about momentum, for example the last two Guardian/ICM polls would have dominated PB and the wider political narrative for a few days or longer five years ago,  in 2014 within a few hours, there was a newer poll, and we moved on from the Guardian/ICM poll.

PBer Gin1138 named it #MegaPollingMonday the two occasions last month we had four Westminster VI opinion polls on a Monday. Tomorrow night is a perfect example of what I’m talking about, I’m anticipating three Westminster Voting Intention polls, and at least two Indyref polls, so people will pick and choose the poll the suits them the best.

Polling maybe the epitome of less being more.