‘Freaky Sunday’ tale of two polls shows why only one means anything: #GE17

The front pages of two of Sunday’s newspapers tell a remarkable story. It’s not the story either of them is trying to tell:

two polls

The picture is extremely murky and difficult to unpick. The Daily Mirror is traditionally a Labour newspaper, but its recent history is one of attacking Labour’s leader Jeremy Corbyn. In a General Election campaign, the supposedly left-wing tabloid is carrying a front page featuring a poll that supposedly shows the Tories reaching 50% in an opinion poll.

The Daily Mail is a poisonous right-wing publication that delights in trashing the Labour Party, has a history of supporting British fascism and fawning over Theresa May. It carries a poll showing that the Tory lead has halved almost overnight because of the Tories’ chaos and hubris over planned tax-increases.

In other words, it’s almost as if the two had undergone a ‘Freaky Friday’-type mind-swap, with each behaving as you might expect the other to.

What’s going on? Are the two publications each trying to pull off some convoluted reverse-psychology? Are they trying to fire a warning shot across the bows of their respective preferred party for some reason? Are they genuinely trying to undermine the electoral credibility of their respective preferred party? Did they commission polls with a brief designed to achieve a particular result for whatever reason? Something else?

Who knows.

But one thing stands out as absolutely clear: both of those polls cannot be right. Theresa May cannot have both increased her lead to 50% and lost half of it.

Perhaps neither poll is correct. But if two polls on the same day can give such diametrically opposed results – an increase and a huge fall in Tory polling at the same time – then how can any poll be considered reliable?

Given the clear media bias – documented and attested by respected academics – why should we assume that any poll they either commission or report be considered a remotely realistic indicator of the voting intentions of the public?

And if they’re not measuring, then they’re trying to influence.

All of which means that Corbyn’s storming start to his campaign and Theresa May’s evident fear of being seen in direct comparison with him are even more relevant and telling.

And that anyone who tells you the result is a foregone conclusion is either gullible or misleading – and if the latter, then for the purpose of discouraging campaigners and voters to make the prophecy self-fulfilling.

The reality is that nobody knows – and nobody will know until the result of the General Election. Polls have been badly wrong more often than remotely right recently – and tomorrow’s front pages will carry evidence that that doesn’t appear to have changed, in spite of the insistence of pundits that polls tell a clear story.

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  1. The polls are confusing, but the local by-elections, held most Thursday’s, are actual polls. Whilst you can’t look at one local by-election result in isolation, the trend is showing the Labour results are 8% down on the 2015 G.E. result, with the Tories 6% up, which effectively gives them an approximate 20% lead. 3 recent polls have shown a 20% Tory lead; the one showing the Tory lead halving may be the most recent, and may be the start of the trend. The only polling company that is consistently way out with their predictions is YouGuv, who made a pigs ear of predicting the 2015 G.E, the EU Referendum, and the US Presidential Election.

  2. Need to get a message to Labour about the voting counts because as you’ve shown in your previous articles there is something really dodgy going on. Labour dont seem to have the front to call them out on it and I dont want to let the Tories cheat there way in to government. If Copelands anything to go by they need a better counting system in place before the people go to the polls.

  3. All media is supposed to state clearly how many respondents there are to any poll or survey when you read ‘68% of UK believes (Whatever they want you to believe) of 358 respondents. But those who only pay attention to corporate media believe this nonsense. I’ve only found one link to information but maybe SB could cover that
    7. How can you possibly tell what millions of people think by asking just 1,000 or 2,000 respondents?
    In much the same way that a chef can judge a large vat of soup by tasting just one spoonful. Providing that the soup has been well stirred, so that the spoonful is properly “representative”, one spoonful is sufficient. Polls operate on the same principle: achieving representative samples is broadly akin to stirring the soup. A non-scientific survey is like an unstirred vat of soup. A chef could drink a large amount from the top of the vat, and still obtain a misleading view if some of the ingredients have sunk to the bottom. Just as the trick in checking soup is to stir well, rather than to drink lots, so the essence of a scientific poll is to secure a representative sample, rather than a vast one

  4. Labour & the Mirror are trying to inject panic into Labour voters to get them out voting for them on 8 June. The Mail are trying to do the same thing for the Tories

  5. If you look on the You Gov page it says that May 48% and Corbyn 24%. Then you scroll down the page and there is an opinoin page asking who will you be voting for in the GE and Labour are way ahead..

  6. Polling was invented by marketing companies in the US in the 1930s to give advertising a veneer of scientific objectivity. Here is how it works. You tell people that x is the best soap, you then poll people, who now say that x is a better soap than y, you then publish the poll and say ‘look x is really the better soap because 51% say it is the better soap’, you repeat this process ad infinitum. Polling has nothing at all to do with democracy. It is part of the process of manufacturing consent. Politics is about values and communicating them. Let the polls looks after themselves.

  7. The interesting thing for me is that about 20% of 2015 GE Labour voters are now Don’t Knows. In other words, they haven’t gone to the Tories but have probably been put off by the internal fighting…. this might be reversed by good canvassing. The other thing is the polling companies weight according to likelihood to vote. All the evidence is that older voters are more likely to vote and of course they are much more likely to be blues (Thatcher’s bulge)…. again LP need to GOTV (get out the vote).

  8. The one swing that Labour cannot do anything about that is hurting Labour is the ukip swing back to the Tory arsehole from whence they came.I estimate this will increase the Tory share of the vote by 3-6 %,largely because May is a ukip PM who favours ukip policy on Brexit,free movement and immigration and ukip policy of grammar schools in every county.As long as she sticks to her hardline neo-fascis line,these ukippers will back her because ukip has gone down the toilet and Labour has never been an option.
    Add to this that John Curtice’s work shows a trending average swing currently at 8% Labour to Conservative and the Lab-Lib Dem switchers,maybe another 8%,and it shows Labour needs to convince a lot of former voters to even counter the effect of the ukip-Tory switchers.
    Tories also could take 10 seats from SNP in Scotland.
    It’s not looking good!

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