Introducing the PB.C live conversations

Introducing the PB.C live conversations

    First into the Hot Seat – Controversial US pollster, Frank Luntz

Frank Luntz.jpgWith polling, focus groups and other methods of testing opinion playing such a big part for those who like betting on or just predicting political outcomes the site is launching the “PBC Live Conversations”.

The plan is to go beyond and be more focused than our existing discussion forums by inviting prominent figures, particularly pollsters, to take part live in on-line conversations at prearranged times.

I am delighted that Frank Luntz, the sometimes controversial US pollster whose entertaining focus groups on BBC2’s Newsnight have been the subject of much lively debate here, has agreed to be the first guest. I am in discussion with him at the moment and will flag up the event here as soon as details are confirmed.

Luntz’s famous “metering” first became known to UK audiences before the last General Election when we saw him show clips to small groups who were asked to press on hand-held electronic boxes to register their response to what they were being shown. The group’s reactions are then aggregated and we see a chart superimposed on the screen as the politicians talk.

His best known focus group was screened on the Monday of the Tory party conference last year and played a big part in David Cameron’s successful leadership bid. In the course of an hour the Cameron betting price tightened from 9.5/1 to 5.2/1 as punters changed their view of the race. You can still watch it online.

My judgement at the time was “..What was being presented suggests that Cameron appears to resonate with people of all ages and political persuasions in a way that no other UK politician has done since the emergence of Tony Blair. If the young ex-Etonian does make it to the final membership ballot then there can be little doubt that he will win easily.”

Shortly before last month’s local elections Luntz was back on the Newsnight screens causing fierce debate on PB.C. There were some harsh things said particularly by Lib Dem bloggers who seem to be more upset than anybody by Luntz’s approach.

In the April films Ming Campbell was dismissed as being “old” and not appearing to “have it”, Blair was almost universally opposed while there was modest support for Gordon Brown it was on nothing like the scale of that for the Tory leader. The response to Cameron was summed up by one panelist who declared “pity he’s a Conservative”.

    Re-reading the threads it is clear that there was often confusion between a focus group which is qualitative, a voting intention opinion poll which is quantitative and a TV programme which has to be entertaining. Luntz’s judgements have been largely borne out by election outcomes and the quantitative polls.

No doubt all this will come out during what promises to be a lively conversation on the site. Watch this space for details.

Mike Smithson

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