Which pollster do you most trust on the economy?

Which pollster do you most trust on the economy?

Is Gord 10% ahead or 7% behind?

No doubt in the next few days we will see another round of “economic confidence” polling where respondents are asked to rate who they trust the most.

There’s a tendency for so called “expert” commentators to regard poll findings such as these as a commodity – that they are all the same and that one can be compared with another. That is total tosh and the following examples show how these non-voting findings have to be handled with care and probably don’t tell us very much.

Thus over a period of just over a week here were five polling surveys which asked respondees to rate Cameron/Osborne against Brown/Darling on the economy. The findings ranged from a Dave-George lead of 7% to a deficit of 10% and provide an object lesson on the pit-falls of non-voting intention questions. Yet at the same time the same pollsters featured below reported Tory leads in a very narrow band – 12% to 15%.

As can be seen below there are two issues – whether the pollster is using the standard procedures for ensuring politically balanced and samples and the wording of the questions. Just look at how the five surveys shaped up.

  • Populus – October 5th.(Politically balanced sample) The pollster’s standard question which might have been adjusted slightly for the latest survey is: “..if Britain’s economy were to face problems in the months or years ahead, who would you most trust to deal with it in the best interests of Britain, David Cameron & the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, or Gordon Brown & the Chancellor of the Exchequer Alastair Darling?”

    Outcome: Cameron/Osborne 38% – Brown/Darling 31%

  • YouGov – October 3rd (Politically balanced sample) This was the question that was used: “Gordon Brown has said, referring to David Cameron, that the current financial crisis is ‘no time for a novice’. If you had to choose which of the two men would you prefer to see in charge at the moment?”

    Outcome Gordon Brown 39% – David Cameron 40%

  • ComRes – October 2nd (NON-politically balanced sample) The wording was: ” Putting your party allegiance aside, who do you trust most to steer Britain’s economy through the current downturn?”

    Outcome Brown-Darling 40% – Cameron-Osborne 34%

  • ComRes – September 28nd (Politically balanced sample) The wording was: “Which one of the two main party leaders do you think is..most trusted on the economy?”

    Outcome Brown 43%% – Cameron 33%

  • ICM – October 2nd (Politically balanced sample) Wording: “Irrespective of which party you yourself support, which team do you think is better able to manage the economy properly, Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling or David Cameron and George Osborne?”

    Outcome Brown-Darling 35% – Cameron-Osborne 37%

  • So much here is dependent on the precise wording of the question and, no doubt, Tory supporters will favour the Populus approach while Labour ones will like ComRes. As ever people tend to choose the pollsters whose findings they most like.

    I prefer to stick with the voting intention questions. These are the numbers which can be tested against real results and the pollsters tend to put a lot more work into getting their approaches absolutely right.

    Mike Smithson

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