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Should David Laws take a polling history lesson?

March 18th, 2009


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Why’s the LD schools spokesman getting it so wrong?

You’ll have to indulge me if you think I’ve banged on about this too much – but I have a real “bee in my bonnet” about the phoney invalid polling comparisons that journos, pundits and politicians are rushing to make when they compare the polling position at the moment with what went on in 1996/97.

And the person who has got under my skin this afternoon is someone I usally have an enormous amount of respect for – David Laws the LD shadow for Ed Balls – who at lunchtime was on Daily Politics doing the post PMQs inquest. True to form, for he’s said this before, he raised the comparative poll issue without mentioning that all but one of polls were different in those days.

It was as though getting one over on the “hated Tories” was more important than making a fair assessment.

This was a pretty dumb thing for a Lib Dem to do – for the vast poll ratings that all but one of the pollsters were recording for Labour in the run-up to the 1997 Labour victory had methodology that boosted Blair’s party mostly at the expense of Paddy Ashdown’s Liberal Democrats

Just look at this table of the polls from the start of the 1997 campaign that I published here on Monday.

One pollster was totally out of line – ICM. Then, as now, it mostly had higher ratings for the Lib Dems and much smaller shares for Labour. And guess what happened on election day? Its approach was proved right.

Can I suggest that Nick Clegg makes Monday’s two posts, here and here, on polling methodologies required reading – certainly for his front benchers.

It also does the Lib Dems no good to be undermining, in however a roundabout way, ICM polls. This is the firm that yesterday had Clegg’s party on 20% compared with just 14% that a MORI poll taken at the same time recorded. It’s all down to the methodology and the former has the track record with LD shares.






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