Making the polls better

Making the polls better


    Establishing whether those in polling surveys actually vote

One of the obvious ways that the polls are flawed is that currently about 70% of those interviewed say that they voted last time but we know that less than 60% actually did so. Thus one in ten are either telling lies, wishful thinking or have poor memories. Whatever it must distort the polling outcome.

    Would it be possible, we have been wondering, to devise a research project to identify this group and to examine whether they have different characteristics from the rest. Thus are the non-voting people who say they vote more likely to, say, be declared Labour supporters than those of other parties. If we knew that for sure polls could be made better.

An ideal research project would be to find a means of verifying what those who were interviewed in the surveys actually did on election day. Clearly within the confines of a secret ballot that is not possible. But there is a way of mounting a research project that could provide information that was nearly as good.

It is not widely known but after each election a copy of the “marked register” is made available by the authorities. This is a public document and shows those who have voted and those who have not. Many smart local campaigners use this use this data to plan future operations.

Is it feasible if after the election the polling organisations in conjunction, possibly, with some University politics departments could seek to verify whether all of those interviewed in selected surveys actually turnout? To cross-check this with polling data could provide a mine of information that would help create better polling methodologies for the future.

This could work with pre-election polls on the “likely to turn-out question” and on post-election ones on what those in the surveys actually did.

    Thus it might be that 90% of Labour voters who say thay are “100%” certain to vote actually did so compared with, say, 96% for the Tories and 94% for the LDs. For future polls you could then weight the turn-out reply for each party.

In post-election surveys it would be invaluable if you had data that showed, say that only 85% of those saying they had voted Labour had actually turned out. These are all hypothetical figures to demonstrate the value of the data that could be obtained from such a survey.

  • Is such a project worthwhile?
  • Is it possible or is there an obvious flaw?
  • How could it be taken forward?
  • General Election spread prices are unchanged and Labour has still to return to the 346-354 position of late July following the Leicester and Birmingham by-elections when it was just 1% ahead in the polls. LAB 345-353: CON 200-208: LD 71-75

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