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After 30 years the curtains close on regular Guardian/ICM polls

October 30th, 2018

The longest lasting poll series in British politics comes to an end.

This is something of a sad moment in British politics. The longest lasting polling series, ICM for the Guardian, has come to an end after a total of 30 years. Polls have been running from the firm in the paper at least monthly since January 1989 when ICM replaced Marplan as the paper’s voting intention provider.

The first one, as seen in the chart above, was in January 1989 when Mrs Thatcher was still heading the Conservative Party and showing a 4% lead.

Andrew Sparrow of the Guardian political team tells me:“We couldn’t justify the cost given that scepticism about the reliability of polling makes them less newsworthy than they used to be in the past.But we haven’t cut our links with ICM and will still be commissioning polling from them on a more ad hoc basis”

During the three decades of running polls for the paper ICM established a formidable reputation. It was the first to take action after the GE1992 polling disaster when none of the firms got it right. Under its then boss, Nick Sparrow, it pioneered past vote weighting to deal with what was then a systemic bias towards LAB in voting polling caused partly by what was described of the spiral of silence amongst CON voters.

For a long period Guardian/ICM polls were regarded as the “gold standard” a reputation that did not survive GE2017 when its final had the Tories with a double digit lead.

A notable correct prediction in more recent times was the ICM/Guardian poll for AV referendum which was correct to 1 within decimal point.

ICM also did remarkably well with the Brexit referendum with it last polls published online and phone surveys more than a week ahead showing Leave 4-5% ahead.

The pollster that’s still around  doing voting intention surveys the longest is MORI, now Ipsos-MORI, which began in the run-up to Mrs. Tharcher’s victory at GE1979.

Mike Smithson