Mark Pack’s verdict on those ICM polls: “not sensible figures for anyone to draw a conclusion from”

by Stephen Tall on May 28, 2014

Mark PackMy former co-editor here at LibDemVoice, Mark Pack, has been taking a detailed look in his latest Liberal Democrat Newswire at those ICM constituency polls commissioned by Lord Oakeshott. Here’s his take on them:

It’s not only the attempted anonymous funding of the polls that’s questionable. So too is the way they were worded. Even reputable pollsters such as ICM given their clients some discretion over question wording, and in this case it was a matter of misleading by omission rather than an outrageously worded question in its own right.

The full data tables for the polls show they tested the popularity of Liberal Democrats MPs and even some of their named constituency opponents, but when it came to the voting intention question gave only the names of parties and not the names of the individuals.

Yet the names of individuals appear on ballot papers and it’s well established in previous constituency polling that Liberal Democrat MPs do better when named in voting intention questions than when they question is just a generic one about parties. Moreover, naming them gives figures that are better predictors of actual election results.

The only sensible reason for missing out candidate names in polls such as the one done in Cambridge, where the poll tested the reputation of Julian Huppert MP alongside the named Labour and Tory candidates but didn’t name any of them in the voting intention question, is if you want to get figures that make the Liberal Democrat position look worse than it really is.

And there’s more about how the polls were conducted.

Part of ICM’s usual methodology was omitted from the polls, for reasons left unexplained. As ICM (to their credit) have made clear:

Usually, ICM would add 50% of those who refuse to answer the vote intention question or say they don’t know to the party they voted for in 2010. We did not do so on these polls.

No reason is given for doing this, however, and this adjustment usually benefits the Liberal Democrats. That indeed seems to be the case with these constituency polls.

For example, in Cambridge on the initial raw figures, Labour leads by 23 people (103 to 80). Had ICM’s usual adjustment then been made, this would have become 110 to 102, a radical shrinking of the gap.

Add then to that the impact of not using names in the voting intention question which, bearing in mind the net 58% positive rating for Julian Huppert in the poll would not have been trivial, and you see how these two methodological decisions made a big difference to the headline results. …

The combined impact of all these factors means the figures are not sensible figures for anyone to draw a conclusion from save for one: the numbers have been together in a way that causes maximum damage to the party whilst doing much to obscure what the true level of support is for the party’s MPs in the polled constituencies.

You can read Mark’s Newswire e-newsletter in full here and sign up to receive future editions here.

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.