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Did Lib Dem support just melt away on the day?

May 24th, 2010
Rank Pollster CON LAB LD Error
1 RNB India: Phone 37 (+0.1) 28 (-1.7) 26 (+2.4) 4.2
2= ICM phone/past vote weighted 36 (-0.9) 28 (-1.7) 26 (+2.4) 5
2= Ipsos-MORI: phone 36 (-0.9) 29 (-0.7) 27 (+3.4) 5
4 Populus: phone/past vote weighted 37 (+0.1) 28 (-1.7) 27 (+3.4) 5.2
5 Harris: Online 35 (-1.9) 29 (-0.7) 27 (+3.4) 6
6 ComRes: phone/past vote weighted 37 (+0.1) 28 (-1.7) 28 (+4.4) 6.2
7 Opinium: online 35 (-1.9) 27 (-2.7) 26 (+2.4) 7
8 YouGov: online 35 (-1.9) 28 (-1.7) 28 (+4.4) 8
9= Angus Reid: online 36 (-0.9) 24 (-5.7) 29 (+5.4) 12
9= BPIX: online 34 (-2.9) 27 (-2.7) 30 (+6.4) 12
9= TNS-BMRB: face to face 33 (-3.9) 27 (-2.7) 29 (+5.4) 12
12 OnePoll: online 30 (-6.9) 21 (-8.7) 32 (+8.4) 24
Actual GB share 36.9 29.7 23.6

Were the postal votes indicating that the polls were right?

We all remember 10pm on election night when the exit poll came out projecting a result that was completely out of line with peoples’s expectations.

We also remember prominent figures pronouncing with apparent confidence that the exit numbers were wrong and how one prominent blogger threatened to “run down Whitehall naked” such was his take on what had happened. Thankfully we were spared that!

The unspoken reason why “those in the know” were able to talk with such apparent certainty, I believe, is that party HQs were getting information from from the earlier postal vote openings across the country that was pointing to an outcome in line with the final polls.

The fact that the final surveys were so at variance with what happened, I would suggest, is because large numbers of voters who had been planning to opt for the Lib Dems changed their minds on polling day itself,

This, hopefully, will be looked at in more depth during the serious post-mortems on the 2010 polls. For as can be seen from the final version of the PB Table, with all the polls included and the rankings, every one of final surveys understated Labour and all but two understated the Tories. All twelve over-stated the Lib Dems in varying degrees.

In all the analysis that we’ve seen so far there’s a PB comment from over the weekend by political scientist, Robert Waller that is worth highlighting.

“..Essentially the view is that the campaign polls were not wrong, but when confronted with an actual choice of government on the day, voters turned away from the ‘lighter’ alternative stimulated by Clegg and the debates, to make a very serious decision between the two main contending parties about who to trust to govern for the ensuing years.

This view, which is not unknown on academic circles, has always struck me as valid. Voting is not a consumer choice between packets of cornflakes, more like choosing professionals to represent over a long period of time.

It is backed up by evidence not only from 40 years of British elections but also from Australia, where voting is compulsory, so it suggests it is not a question of differential turnout so much as genuine late changes of mind between what is said to pollsters during the froth of the campaign and the serious ‘priced’ decision (one which actually has consequences, which answering polls does not) in the voting booth.

When I was a pollster, I very much believed in this distinction. for example, people always say they would welcome tax rises to pay for more and wider services. Their actual voting behaviour often suggests otherwise…”

There’s a methodology issue as well. Five out of the top six surveys in the table were from telephone pollsters. Five out of the bottom six surveys were online. Were respondents being more correct about their intentions when being questioned by a real interviewer?

Mike Smithson