Why Labour should always assume the worst from the polls
This is Deborah Mattinson – Labour’s polling advisor who was part of conference session at the weekend on the polls trying to make the case that Cameron has “..yet to seal the deal”.
I don’t know about that but the lesson from polling history is that Labour’s default position should be that the most accurate poll is the one with the party in the least favourable position – what I term “The Golden Rule”.
Remember Glasgow East in July. Two polls showing Labour leads of 14% and 17%. Labour lost.
Remember Crewe & Nantwich in May. Two pollsters did surveys showing that Labour would lose – but in each case the margin predicted was lower than the outcome.
Remember the London Mayoral Election. Four pollsters carried out surveys and three suggested that it was neck and neck between Labour’s Ken and Boris. The fourth had Boris ahead by what turned out to be the precise margin of victory.
Remember the Blaenau Gwent by-election in June 2006. The only poll had Labour regaining the seat with a margin of 12%. The independent, Dai Davies, won by a margin of 9%
Remember the 2005 general election. All the pollsters bar one had Labour with a bigger vote lead than was actually achieved. The one exception, NOP for the Independent, got it precisely right and then got dropped by the paper.
Remember the Hartlepool by election in September 2004. The one poll during the campaign had Labour a whopping 33% ahead. The eventual winning margin was 6.5%.
Remember the 2004 London Mayoral race. Two pollsters did surveys – the one with Labour in the least favourable position got it almost precisely right.
Remember the 2004 Euro elections. Two firms did firms both of them overstating Labour’s eventual position.
Remember the 2001 general election. Labour won with a 9.3% lead on votes. None of the pollsters had this in single figures and one campaign poll had the party 30% ahead.
I could go on but the message is the same. Anybody advising Labour on polling has to make the default position that the survey showing the party doing the worst has proved to be the most accurate.
The next occasion where this will be put to the test again is the Glenrothes by election. A weekend poll had Labour and the SNP on 43% each. My money will be against Labour.