Political

UKIP’s rise revives an old lesson about by-election polls

The level of support for candidates in a Parliamentary by-election the weekend before polling day is only a modest guide to the likely final result. That’s the lesson the Liberal Democrats repeatedly demonstrated during the party’s by-election winning heyday.

Whether tracked through public data such as opinion polls or private data such as canvass returns the picture was often the same: a huge swing in the last few days.

Which is why talk now about the opinion polls in Heywood and Middleton were “wrong” to show a large Labour lead, when in fact Labour came so close to losing it there was a bundle check, is itself wrong.

The polls were, on the scale on which large by-election movements of opinion take place, conducted a long way out from polling day. The election was on Thursday 10 October but the opinion poll fieldwork concluded on 4 October (Lord Ashcroft) and 30 September (Survation).

In calmer by-election times that works. In the past that would have often failed – so the first reaction to the polls in Heywood and Middleton shouldn’t be to say they were wrong, but that they were too early.

Advertisements

There are no comments

Share your views

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments and data you submit with them will be handled in line with the privacy and moderation policies.