A rogue poll, or are we kidding ourselves?

by Stephen Tall on September 25, 2007

There’s no point obsessing about every poll, but… having reported last week’s ICM survey for The Guardian showing the Lib Dems with a 20% share of the vote, balance compels me to mention tonight’s Channel 4 YouGov poll showing the Lib Dems with just 13%, the party’s lowest YouGov rating since January 2006.

YouGov has (as Lib Dem chief executive Chris Rennard remarked on LDV last week) been consistently recording lower vote-shares for the Lib Dems than other pollsters for some months now.

Personally, I find it hard to believe that – if this poll is accurate – Labour is now more popular than they were in 1997 (when they won 43% of the national vote), nor that the Lib Dems are faring as badly as they did in the chaotic aftermath of Charles Kennedy’s enforced resignation 20 months ago.

The poll was conducted, according to Channel 4, “after Gordon Brown finished his keynote address yesterday”, and is likely to have been skewed by the media coverage his speech attracted. As Anthony Wells fairly notes on his Polling Report blog:

… it’s a snap poll, taken while Brown’s speech was still rumbling in respondents’ ears, there is very clearly a conference speech boost to Labour’s support, largely at the expense of Liberal Democrat voters. Gordon Brown’s first speech may very well give Labour a lasting boost in the polls, but this isn’t it – my guess is that this is just the transitory boost from the speech, exaggerated by doing the whole poll within 24 hours straight afterwards.

If you look over at the voting intention graph, you’ll see a similar sudden spike in Labour’s support at their last conference that put them equal with the Conservatives from being 7 points behind a week before. It faded away, I expect this one will too.

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8 comments

You get some weird polls around conference time as the publicity is so uneven.

There was one at the 2003 conference just after Brent South that put all 3 parties on 31%!

by Hywel Morgan on September 25, 2007 at 11:29 pm. Reply #

Yes, stupid poll to have after a PM speech. Even though, a bit worrying – a right-wing and illiberal speech as imaginable and the only party he takes vote’s off of is us – d’oh

by Steven Ronald on September 25, 2007 at 11:54 pm. Reply #

“votes”

by Steven Ronald on September 25, 2007 at 11:55 pm. Reply #

Many people know that these sort of polls have a “margin of error” of +/- 3%. What this actually means in statistical terms is that the 95% confidence interval is +/- 3%. In plain speak that means that we should expect about one opinion poll in 20 to be wide of the mark by more than 3%, sometimes called a “rogue poll”.

by nigelashton on September 26, 2007 at 1:01 am. Reply #

I do not think the speech made much difference. Ming Campbell gave a very good speech last week, yet that hasn’t made any significant difference either. The country is just relieved that Tony Blair has gone and now feels it is OK to vote Labour again. Labour without Blair looks a different proposition. Although of course the usual caveats apply: Labour still have a minority share of the vote and the turnout at the next election will be low, so it only takes a relatively small number of people to change their mind for Labour to establish a big lead.
The recent news over the party conference has been over personalities rather than the issues, and when the spotlight falls on the issues Labour may well find the polls return to how they were.
The Lib Dems need to show how they are distinctive and worth voting for, and have left it rather late to get the message across.

by Geoffrey Payne on September 26, 2007 at 8:02 am. Reply #

Minor things in the news at the time polling is done can make a huge difference

Bob Worcester (MORI) once wrote about analysing the poll Mori were doing over the weekend Tony Blair’s new son was born. POlling was done on Sat & Sun and the birth was announced on Saturday evening.

Looking at the two day’s figures seperately Blair’s personal ratings were massively higher on the Sunday.

by Hywel Morgan on September 26, 2007 at 11:32 am. Reply #

I guess what’s happening is that the pollsters are under representing the Lib Dems and there’s a Brown bubble where people who won’t vote Labour in the end (or won’t vote) are saying the will.

On this poll you are always going to get silly results polling just after one leader has given their speech.

PS Ming’s speech was much better.

by Ralph on September 26, 2007 at 11:53 am. Reply #

From the day Blair announced his resignation to the closure of the tory conference we have a highly unusual media focus on politics. The saturation media coverage of Labour ( who have handled the whole thing brilliantly in my view)is bound to skew results. I’ll look at the polling cycle in late october to see what real underlying shifts have taken place. The really worrying thing though is to date although the tory vote share has been forced dwon to 2005 levels its no worse. Its our vote share that is substantially below that mark. I’ve felt for some time that the party has fundamentally misjudged the iraq factor. Its like a £10k windfall that needed to be invested wisely for future growth. Instead I think many thought of it as a £10k pa pay rise that could fund ongoing and permanent political projects. We’ll see.

by David Morton on September 26, 2007 at 1:54 pm. Reply #

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