Political

One set of opinion polls, two sets of interpretations

Crystal ball

Image by nvodicka from Pixabay.

Please print off, cut up and discard one as appropriate after the general election.

Interpretation A: Those political pundits were really dumb. The evidence about what was going to happen was there in plain sight. But instead, they all tried to be too clever by half and ignored what had happened before. When those polls started closing dramatically in the middle of the general election, it was obvious what was really happening. The reality? That the Conservatives were still cruising to comfortable victory.

So-called experts hugely overreacted to the occasional mid-campaign wobble for a party which is actually cruising to crushing victory. The Tories had that in 1987. Labour even was down to only a 5% lead in one poll during the 1997 campaign. People should have known not to get too excited this time about the wobble, especially given how much it rested on young people saying they were going to vote Labour. People who don’t usually vote much starting to say they will back a party can move the polls a lot but rarely moves the actual votes much. Just ask the Lib Dems what happened to them in 2010.

Interpretation B: Those political pundits were really dumb. The evidence about what was going to happen was there in plain sight. But instead, they all tried to be too clever by half and ignored what had happened before. When those polls started closing dramatically in the middle of the general election, it was obvious what was really happening. The reality? That the Conservatives were no longer cruising to comfortable victory.

So-called experts clung to all sorts of “clever” alternative pieces of data telling them the election wasn’t really changing. Like what MPs were saying they were hearing on the doorsteps. As if a motley collection of anecdotes from a few of your mates is more accurate than scientifically based rigorous research! Or other mystical statistics that are somehow meant to be a better guide to how people are going to vote than actually asking people that. They just clung to their pre-existing ideas in the face of the obvious, straight forward evidence: manifesto fiasco followed by people telling pollsters they were now going to do something different.

UPDATE: But, ahem, my punditry was accurate – though of course you shouldn’t read too much into that.

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