The biggest loser of General Election 2015? The pollsters

At least Labour came away with a few seats

The biggest losers of this election are *drumroll please* the pollsters.

They couldn’t have been more wrong about the outcomes of the election.

Most of them predicted a hung parliament and forecasted complex permutations and combination of a coalition. They also showed a Conservative and Labour tie until the last minute.

Take a look at poll results before voting began:

YouGov poll – Both Tories and Labour on 34%

Lord Ashcroft poll – Tories – 34% & Labour 31%

Ipsos/MORI – Tories – 36% & Labour Party 35%

ICM – Tories 35% & Labour 34%

Here’s what might have gone wrong:

1. People have said one thing and they did something else in the ballot box

YouGov chairman Peter Kellner blamed the pollsters’ non-performance on the voters.

“What seems to have gone wrong is that people have said one thing and they did something else in the ballot box.”

He added: “We are not as far out as we were in 1992 — not that that is a great commendation.”

2. Politicians rely too heavily on polling companies

Kellner added that politicians “should campaign on what they believe — they should not listen to people like me and the figures we produce”.

3. Pollsters need to review their methodology

Andrew Hawkins, chairman, ComRes, admitted that pollsters need to have a good look at their methodology.

In a blog post, he wrote: “We have always been open and honest about the challenges facing us as pollsters at this and every other election.  We continually review how to fine tune our methods to ensure we can achieve the granularity we desire and you expect. 

“Polling organisations continually need to review and where necessary adapt to what is happening out in the country.  For example, in October of 2014 we took the decision to list UKIP as a separate choice in our voting intention polls at a time when it was not fashionable to do so.  We are humble enough to say we will review and make any adjustments necessary.” 

4. Small shift in the percentage share of the vote makes a big difference to the seat share

Ben Page, chief executive of Ipsos MORI, said: “One caveat is that a very small shift in the percentage share of the vote makes a big difference to the seat share.

“But nevertheless, [the political map] doesn’t look like the map of Britain people were expecting.”

He added: “There will be an examination of that. We need to understand that.”

 

The British Polling Council is setting up an independent enquiry to examine the polls

The final opinion polls before the election were clearly not as accurate as we would like, and the fact that all the pollsters underestimated the Conservative lead over Labour suggests that the methods that were used should be subject to careful, independent investigation.

The British Polling Council, supported by the Market Research Society, is therefore setting up an independent enquiry to look into the possible causes of this apparent bias, and to make recommendations for future polling.

We are pleased to announce that Professor Patrick Sturgis, who is Professor of Research Methodology and Director of the ESRC National Centre for Research Methods, has agreed to chair the enquiry, and will take the lead in setting its terms of reference. The membership of the enquiry will be announced in due course.

 

Pollsters’ bad performace stirred a debate on Twitter:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now read:

 

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