The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

Posts Tagged ‘opinion polls’

Australia: A Tough Call

Posted by The Futility Monster on August 20, 2010 @ 10:12

She bravely toppled her leader and called that election. That's the way to do it, Gordon.

It’s amazing just how much the Australian election has turned on its head. At the start of the year, it looked like Kevin Rudd, former PM, could do no wrong. So much so that I made a bold prediction: that he would win another landslide later in the year in a “double dissolution” election.

Now, the words “former PM” sort of give the game away about how wayward that one was.

But now it’s the case of the Welsh girl made, not good, but Aussie, versus a climate-change denying, right-wing firebrand. One of those, what we lefty types like to call, paleoconservatives.

And the polls put it on a knife-edge.

Why should we in the West care? Oz is a long way away, after all. Most of us would only care if it’s going to affect our plans to retire there, or go on a two year jaunt picking grapes on a “working holiday” visa.

I humbly suggest that, to those of us bothered about global issues like environmentalism, and economic regulation, it really does matter who gets elected. It would, for a liberal leftie like me, be preferable to see the Labor Party win, in the vain hope that they will stick to their guns and push hard for wider, faster, and deeper agreement on carbon reduction. The more voices in that camp, the easier agreement will become.

Perhaps that’s a little naive, though. After all, too many nations, especially nations as significant on the world stage for their mineral production like Australia, are only in it for their national interest. And that is what in the end did for Kevin Rudd. He wanted to be bold, and ended up battling against the vested interests so much that in the end he backed down, and looked a spent force. His replacement, Julia Gillard, learning the lesson, is not quite so strong on the issue; especially in the face of a rival who came to the fore exactly because of it.

The election will be close, but I’m going to stick to my guns. Labor will win. No landslide though.

And the reason? Probably because of these.

In modern politics, leader ratings are just as important as the party ratings. All things being equal – as they are here – I believe the people will plump for the leader they just “like” more.

It’s going to be a good test of the theory anyway. Watch and learn.


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Final Poll Round-Up: What Happened?

Posted by The Futility Monster on May 9, 2010 @ 10:31

Two issues to round up. How did the Monster’s Poll do, and how did all the other pollsters do?

For the answer to the second question, I defer to the human calculator that is Nate Silver of

First thing to say is I’m delighted that MORI did well, as they’ve been something of a whipping boy over the past few years. ICM too retains their crown as being seen as the “gold standard”. And credit to the newbie RNB Research, an Indian based polling firm. It seems they all deserve high praise for getting the Tories and Labour spot on.

The Lib Dem figure, however, is cause for embarrassment for some firms. How did they get them so wildly wrong, appears to be the universally asked question.

But let’s not be too harsh. Polls are +/- 3%. Those who had them on 26% could say they were within the margin of error. Even 27% is not hugely wrong. But 29%? 32?!

What seems to have happened is certainly that the LD waverers did not go to the Conservatives. The table above suggests that, in fact, around 1.5% of the total vote moved from the LD to Labour, and the rest either didn’t vote at all or went to another party (as “others” seems to have been underestimated). Perhaps that is a reflection of the fact that most Lib Dem support seemed to be coming from sections of the electorate (i.e. the youth) that are totally unreliable.

But the chunk that moved to Labour… my gut feeling is that it was LD sympathisers that nevertheless chose to rally back behind Labour in order to stop a Cameron advance. Sometimes this occurred regardless of the actual situation on the ground. That seems to account for the LDs bizarre inability to take the low-hanging fruits off Labour in Edinburgh South, Islington South, Watford, Aberdeen South, Hampstead & Kilburn and Edinburgh North.

Then there was the movement to the others. If we use RNB as our new gold standard, there was a 0.8% increase in Others. Now it seems that barely any of that went to the SNP or Plaid. Perhaps the more likely explanation is that from the general rise of turnout some of it went to the other others… UKIP and the BNP both had decent elections when examined on a GB basis. It would seem odd that LD support would go in this direction though.

Either way, the pollsters all have methodological revisions to do. The era of Labour overstatement appears to be over – and I now feel vindicated in dropping the Mike Smithson Golden Rule from my own polling prediction. Angus Reid on 24% (ignore the nonsense OnePoll) was clearly very wrong. I suspect they have a lot to learn about how to poll British elections.

Likewise, the era of Lib Dem understatement is also in jeopardy.

As for the final Monster’s Poll prediction, it doesn’t seem too bad. You know what they say, garbage in, garbage out.

The Tories over-performed their median figure by nearly 2%. Labour also over-performed by the same amount. The LDs underperformed their median by just over 4%. If I’d stuck to the Labour minimum and LD maximum, however, I would have been way, way out.

With that in mind, what might the prediction have been if I’d used Con MAX, Lab MAX and LD max over the final 10 days of polling…




The answer is that it would have given us Labour and LD almost spot on, and the Tories slightly over-stated. The total of them is 92%, which is too high. Approximately 2% needs to be removed from them and given to others. How about deducting that straight from the Tories and giving it to Others? Doing that would give an estimate that is pretty much exactly right.

Food for thought for future predictions. But would it still apply in future elections? Surely the conditions for this one were unique?

Probably. But hey, it was fun analysing it!

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The Battle Of The Pollsters

Posted by The Futility Monster on May 5, 2010 @ 23:25

Let’s face it, there are too many polling organisations doing political work.

But this year, one of them is definitely going to get it right (and by that I mean within 1% on each party) because of the wide spread of results. You pays your money, and you takes your choice. As you can see below…

These are the final polls for the named pollster.

Pollster Labour Conservative Lib Dem
Angus Reid 24% 36% 29%
BPIX 27% 34% 30%
ComRes 28% 37% 28%
Harris 29% 35% 27%
ICM 28% 36% 26%
MORI 29% 36% 27%
Opinium 27% 35% 26%
Populus 28% 37% 27%
TNS 27% 33% 29%
YouGov 28% 35% 28%
RANGE 24-29% 33-37% 26-30%

On top of all this, we have the monster exit poll to come tomorrow, which is going to involve NOP, who haven’t done any political polling for anyone for years, despite getting the 2005 election spot on.

There has been some convergence, so they’re either all going to look good, or all bad. I’m supremely confident that each party will get a figure within the range indicated. Why bother with polling otherwise?

Of all of them, the one that stands out the most is Angus Reid. They have a lot on the line tomorrow. Are they going to be rewarded for bucking the trend all year? Or are they going to find British polling a lot tougher than they thought?

I’ll be taking my final shot at the numbers tomorrow. With and without YouGov. Not because I don’t like them, just because my sample is so heavily biased towards their polls cos there are so bloody many of them.

Good luck to them all, anyway. But we may be wishing or or two farewell come May 7th…

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Pollwatch: T-Minus 2 Days

Posted by The Futility Monster on May 4, 2010 @ 22:39


LIB DEMS: 28% (-1%)

LABOUR: 28% (N/C)

Changes based upon last time (yesterday). Sample consists of all polls with mid-point fieldwork dates within the last 10 days, including today (n=29). Includes all British Polling Council registered pollsters. The results above are the median figure for each party.

This election has been like a rollercoaster. One day up, one day down.

The problem is that rollercoasters are under the influence of gravity. And, in the end, it returns to the Earth.

Just like the Lib Dems. Tonight’s polls continue to show their steady decline back to the norm. Bear in mind that good old Charles Kennedy notched up some 23% in very favourable circumstances last time. Now that expectations have been raised immeasurably, anything in this region would be very disappointing for Nick Clegg.

So what are we to make of tonight’s YouGov putting them on 24%. It feels like an outlier. We might find out tomorrow. But what if it’s not? Oh, I can’t take the stress any more.

This is what makes this election so cruel to us poor downtrodden Lib Dems. We thought we might be in with a shot. The polls were even mean enough to confirm our gut feeling that something special had happened on the night of that first debate.

And then it gets snatched away from us.

I’m trying to stay positive though, especially as it would be fickle of me to change my mind again after my post yesterday, in which I tried to cheer myself up.

The election, however, is even more wide open than before. If YouGov is right, and Labour get 30%, that will definitely be enough to ensure a hung parliament. I’m confident of that, because it will mean Labour don’t lose too many Lab-Con marginals; and if the LDs outperform their rating in the LD-Con marginals, it will make for one hell of scrap for power on May 7th.

The final polls tomorrow will be the ones to watch out for. Will there be the usual convergence? Even if there is, will it even mean anything, because 1% here and there when the polls are this tight, and in our electoral system, can be the difference between hung parliament and majority?

I love elections.

There will be no Pollwatch instalment at this time tomorrow, as it will be shifted forward into Thursday instead to make sure I don’t miss any of them being released on Wednesday night.

Be lucky.

Posted in Monster's Poll | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Pollwatch: T-Minus 3 Days

Posted by The Futility Monster on May 3, 2010 @ 23:59


LIB DEMS: 29% (N/C)

LABOUR: 28% (N/C)

Changes based upon last time (yesterday). Sample consists of all polls with mid-point fieldwork dates within the last 10 days, including today (n=31). Includes all British Polling Council registered pollsters. The results above are the median figure for each party.

Still, very little change. Tonight’s polls suggest the Lib Dem bounce has indeed run its course though, with two of them putting the LDs back in third place, and ComRes have a tie. That might be reflected in the coming days calculations. But stranger things have happened. Every time it seems someone is pulling away, the following days polls bring it back again.

But I’m going back out on a limb.

This election only has two questions for us now:

Are the Tories going to get a majority?

Will the Lib Dems pip Labour to second place?

I suspect yes and no, respectively. I have that depressing, sinking feeling.

Same as it ever was.

Posted in Monster's Poll | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Putting It In Perspective

Posted by The Futility Monster on May 3, 2010 @ 10:00

I have been wondering why I’m so frustrated with this election. Partly it’s the lack of substantive policy discussions, but mostly because I’ve been sorely tempted by what the polls have been showing.

Lib Dems in the high 20s. Such a result would be unprecedented in modern British politics.

And yet I’m still disappointed.

So this morning I’ve been trying to figure out why that would be. After all, if before this campaign someone had offered me the Lib Dems in a Royal Rumble for second place with Labour, I’d have bitten their hand off.

Because – let’s face it – the early polls, in the days leading up and after the election being called, looked a bit like this…

Or, in words, the Tories were floating around the 38% mark, with Labour just creeping over 30%, and the Lib Dems in a distant third with about 20%.

And now, with the polls as they are, I’m disappointed?!

I think, perhaps, my disappointment stems from two sources:

Firstly, that it’s not even better. After all, the best poll put the Lib Dems on 34%. That would be truly monumental. Not just a political earthquake, but an entire rearrangement of the tectonic plates. That got my hopes up just a little too highly. I knew it wouldn’t last, but it didn’t stop me dreaming.

But secondly, it is the fact that the polls have been cruel. Showing the Lib Dems safely above 30%, even showing them in first place, and then snatching it away again.

So I decided it was time for this reality check.

The Lib Dems are doing fantastically well. I always knew they would recover some support during the campaign – that is always what happens – but a year ago, when the polling was as bad as 15 to 18%, I thought all that would happen would be that they would just rise enough to ensure we aren’t destroyed. Here is my gloomy analysis from last year.

Instead, the Lib Dems have more than shown that they’re capable of winning voters from Labour and the Tories. That might just mean those LD-Con battleground seats, all of which I thought they’d lose, might just stick around for the fun. Oh please, let it be so. The loss of the legendary David Heath in Somerton and Frome would be a cruel blow!

The upshot of all this, the LDs are on course for a stunning level of support on Thursday. Of course, support does not equal seats, but it will help make the great case for electoral reform that might mean that, some day soon, I might actually cast a vote that counts for something.

That’s cheered me up a bit.

Now just don’t wreck it, Nick!

Posted in Musings | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Pollwatch: T-Minus 4 Days

Posted by The Futility Monster on May 2, 2010 @ 23:59


LIB DEMS: 29% (N/C)

LABOUR: 28% (+1%)

Changes based upon last time (yesterday). Sample consists of all polls with mid-point fieldwork dates within the last 10 days, including today (n=29). Includes all British Polling Council registered pollsters. The results above are the median figure for each party.

Hang on a minute. I thought Labour were finished after “bigotgate”?

Apparently not. At least, no one seems to have told the Labour voters to desert the sinking ship.

Instead, the polls have been remarkably solid. The good news appears to be that the ComRes poll which showed the Tories with a 10 point lead has not been backed up by other pollsters. Poor old ComRes haven’t had much luck with the sampling lately.

But the degree of similarity lately is remarkable. They’re all either going to be pretty much on the money, or all massively wrong.

My money is still on the former.

Right now, our poll medians are following the YouGov numbers very closely. That’s probably because the sample pool is littered with nearly half the surveys coming from the firm. With a bit of luck we might see some more variety in the coming days. If not, I’m going to look at the medians without YouGov to see what difference it makes.

Having said that, I think these numbers are very close to being right, though I think they may be a little generous to both Labour and the LDs. My guess at this stage would be a Tory figure of 35%, with Labour and LD both one lower than above, and the other spare 1% going to others. Because I still don’t think Others are going any lower than 10%.

There is still one other issue… whether the pollsters will converge in the closing days. Some have observed in the past that this is a common feature. Either they start losing their nerve about how right they are, and start to tweak the methodology a little, or suddenly people’s minds become set, and the pollsters begin to keep hitting the same blend every time.

Maybe it’s a bit of both.

Not long to find out though. Isn’t it exciting?

Posted in Monster's Poll | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Pollwatch: T-Minus 5 Days

Posted by The Futility Monster on May 1, 2010 @ 23:59


LIB DEMS: 29% (N/C)

LABOUR: 27% (N/C)

Changes based upon last time (yesterday). Sample consists of all polls with mid-point fieldwork dates within the last 10 days, including today (n=28). Includes all British Polling Council registered pollsters. The results above are the median figure for each party.

Still nothing happens. And there were four new polls today, as well… all of them suggesting that the Lib Dems are slipping and the Tories are gaining.

It’s an old cliché, but it’s beginning to come true. The more likely a hung parliament seems, the less likely it really is.

As the election draws nearer, and it seems like it’s going to be an inconclusive result, opinion starts to harden one way or the other. In this case, the country seems to be deciding, after it’s brief flirtation with the third party, to come home. Perhaps we just wanted to keep Cameron on his toes, make him prove that he is worthy of being PM.

Or maybe it’s just the fickle electorate once again.

Having said that, it’s probably too early to conclude just yet. The medians above haven’t moved, after all. And so they shouldn’t. More evidence is needed first, and there’s going to be plenty of that next week.

These shares, despite what UNS might say, are not far off a majority. Labour meltdown, plus more “wasted” votes going to the Lib Dems, and a disproportionate pro-Tory swing in the marginals, will ensure they get the seats they need.

It’s not over, but the writing is starting to appear on the wall.

Posted in Monster's Poll | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Pollwatch: T-Minus 6 Days

Posted by The Futility Monster on April 30, 2010 @ 23:59


LIB DEMS: 29% (N/C)

LABOUR: 27% (N/C)

Changes based upon last time (yesterday). Sample consists of all polls with mid-point fieldwork dates within the last 10 days, including today (n=28). Includes all British Polling Council registered pollsters. The results above are the median figure for each party.

Well, that was exciting, wasn’t it?

There has only been one post-debate poll released, and that’s the daily YouGov. That showed… nought but a 1% rise in the Labour share. Barely anything. And, though we still need more data, I’m going to stick my neck firmly on the block now and say I’m feeling pretty vindicated about predicting nothing will come of “bigotgate” .

Sunday is definitely the big day. There is bound to have been lots of polling in the field today, and more tomorrow, all ready for the final Sunday of the campaign. There will be much talk of whether these polls on a bank holiday weekend are accurate, but I trust the pollsters to get round any sampling difficulties. They know what they’re doing.

And expect next week to be a continued deluge. Be aware too, that of all the numbers coming out over the next few days, one of them is bound to be exactly right. And maybe more.

Scary thought, no?

The endgame approaches. Are you ready for it?

Posted in Monster's Poll | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Pollwatch: T-Minus 7 Days

Posted by The Futility Monster on April 29, 2010 @ 23:59


LIB DEMS: 29% (N/C)

LABOUR: 27% (N/C)

Changes based upon last time (yesterday). Sample consists of all polls with mid-point fieldwork dates within the last 10 days, including today (n=29). Includes all British Polling Council registered pollsters. The results above are the median figure for each party.

All very stable, but we’re in a holding pattern. The first, and only, post-bigotgate poll puts Labour on absolutely no change at all. But I told you that yesterday, so regular visitors (all two of you) should not be surprised!

The holding pattern is, of course, because of tonight’s debate. What will the impact of David Cameron’s “win” be? We won’t find out for sure tomorrow… for the full reality, we may have to wait till the opinion polls in the Sunday papers.

But so far, it’s a slight nudging forward for the Tories. And that’s all we will ever really see in these smoothing median samples. The direction of travel, then, is most important. Maybe we’ll see another point to them tomorrow… and that will definitely be a worrying sign for those of us hoping for a hung parliament.

Oh well…

Posted in Monster's Poll | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »