So what did the leading pollsters REALLY say?
Along with OGH (Mike Smithson) and one or two other PBâ€™ers, I attended the excellent polling conference held at the sumptuous British Academy on Pall Mall last week. Nearly all of the â€œbig hittersâ€ from UK opinion polling were there â€“ names such as John Curtice, Peter Kellner, and Andrew Cooper who should hopefully be familiar to most readers of this site.
Subjects included past vote weighting, telephone and internet polls, and exit polling (which had a brief diversion to Ukraine Presidential 2010!). The event was well worth attending and extremely useful in gaining a greater understanding of opinion polls, how they are put together and evaluated, and some of the issues surrounding them.
One of the most interesting parts of the day came towards the end, when the host asked the leading names present for an on-the-spot prediction of the general election (OGH by this time having had to leave in order to make his train). I made a careful note of the responses (the question asked was actually â€œwhat will be the Conservative percentage vote lead?â€ although the nature of the responses varied).
I was thus a little surprised to hear Steve Richards state on the Saturday edition of Radio 4â€™s The Week In Westminster (about 8:25 in) that â€œrecently a group of opinion pollsters got together and predicted the result of the election. On average, they pointed to a hung parliamentâ€. Now to be fair, he might have been referring to a different gathering, although I think this is pretty unlikely. But assuming that it was the 20th January event â€“ well I was there and my interpretation is a bit different.
For the record, here is what everyone said:
Martin Boon (ICM) â€“ Con share â€œone point higher than anyone elseâ€, Lab 30, LD 20
Simon Atkinson (Ipsos-MORI) Con 36 Lab 32 LD 22 (this would very likely be HP)
Nick Moon (NOP) Con 8% lead
Stephen Fisher (Oxford) Con 10% lead
Peter Kellner (YouGov) Con 40 Lab 30 LD 20
Paul Whiteley (Essex/BPIX) a â€œseriously hungâ€ Parliament
Andrew Cooper (Populus) Con 41 Lab 29 LD 21
John Curtice (Strathclyde) 10 point Con lead, 60% chance of a Con majority
Of these then, I think itâ€™s fair to say that only two of these responses (Mori & Essex) are unequivocally in hung parliament territory, with the NOP call being possibly on the outer edge of an HP, depending on your view. But with the other responses being of a Conservative lead of 10 points or more, I do think itâ€™s a bit misleading to report this as â€œon average” predicting a hung parliament. Either way, whether you agree with Steve Richards’ assessment or not, last week’s conference is a useful “marking of the card” as the election draws closer.
As well as being found alongside fellow Deputy Editors Morus and David Herdson on PB, my Election Game project is now also on the web at www.electiongame.co.uk