Why the default assumption is against Labour
With two polls this morning showing very different outcomes and both apparently have taken place at the same it’s perhaps a good moment to bring PB’s “Golden Polling Rule” out again. Just to recall YouGov in the Sunday Times has the Tory lead narrowing to 5% while ComRes in the Indy on Sunday has it increasing to 12%. Eh?
For based on the polling record at every single major election since the 1980s the default assumption has to be that the survey with Labour in the least favourable position is the best indicator of voting intention
If ever this changes then the “Golden Rule” will be scrapped. The default assumption did survive Glenrothes because there wasn’t a proper poll during the campaign. But just look at the overall record which I have rehearsed here before.
Glasgow East in July. Two polls showing Labour leads of 14% and 17%. Labour lost.
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.
2008 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.
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.
2004 London Mayoral race. Two pollsters did surveys – the one with Labour in the least favourable position got it almost precisely right.
2004 Euro elections. Two firms did polls both of them overstating Labour’s eventual position.
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.
1997 general election. Labour won with 14% lead on votes. The best pollster was ICM who had Labour in the least favourable position.
1992 general election. John Major’s Tories won with a lead of just under 8%. The closest final poll had the party ahead by just 0.5%.