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Are opinion polls good pointers to election victory?

In recent years, pollsters have wrongly predicted who is going to win various elections. Notably the victory of President Trump in 2016 U.S presidential election was not predicted or at least by mainstream media and popular pollsters across the Atlantic. Also during the referendum to decide Britain’s relationship with the European Union, no pollster saw it coming that Britain will vote to leave the union. Hence it is valid that scepticism be raised about whatever the pollsters have got to say right now, the caveat however was the prediction of Emmanuel Macron that was correctly predicted but given the person of Marie Le pen, it is perhaps not difficult to predict the outcome of the French election.

In recent years, pollsters have wrongly predicted who is going to win various elections. Notably, the victory of President Trump in 2016 U.S presidential election was not predicted or at least by mainstream media and popular pollsters across the Atlantic. Also during the referendum to decide Britain’s relationship with the European Union, no pollster saw it coming that Britain will vote to leave the union. Hence it is valid that scepticism is raised about whatever the pollsters have got to say right now, the caveat, however, was the prediction of Emmanuel Macron that was correctly predicted but given the person of Marie Le Pen, it is perhaps not difficult to predict the outcome of the French election.

Until Prime Minister May called a snap election on the 18th of April, the pollsters were reporting a double-digit lead for the conservative over the labour party

opinion poll image

Fast forward to 5 days to the election, the yawning gap has all but reduced to anything between 3-10% depending on which poll you are looking or believe, with YouGov predicting a hung parliament, while some Labour members are now so confident of outright victory that a caller to LBC Andrew Pearse show on 2nd of June said “if Labour did not win, the election is rigged” and Jeremy Corbyn declaring he would not go into coalition and called out the nation to back him outright.

  • corbyn may image 2

So what has changed?

Several questions spring to mind when considering events of the last six weeks in British politics, such as:

  • Is Jeremy Corbyn better than he was letting on prior to the snap election?
  • Did the polls wrong-foot the Prime Minister?
  • Are the changes in opinion due to the poor showing of the conservative at the on-going campaign?
  • If this election is about Brexit and who the nation wants to represent them at the negotiating table, which was the prime minister aim of calling this election, why was conservative manifesto so light on Brexit agenda? And heavy on domestic matters like social care and fox hunting?
  • Did Labour manifesto resonate with people so much so that Brexit issue was pushed to the back?
  • What about the Lib Dem? The “remain” party? They remained where they were before the election was called! Despite Tim Farron’s doom’s prediction if Conservative wins?
  • What about the SNP? Will they return to Westminster with 56 MPs? Or Scottish Conservative will reduce this?

In any case, regardless of the election outcome, some pollsters will certainly be disappointed because of wide variations in their predictions! As of today 3rd June, YouGov is predicting 42% or 313 seats for the Conservatives and 38% or 257 seats for the Labour party. If this turns out to be the case, this will represent a victory for the Labour party considering that they had 229 seats prior to the call of the election to 330 seats occupied by the conservatives. As of today, Data available on ComRes gives conservative 10 points lead compared to the 4 points by YouGov, bearing in mind that ComRes came closest at the 2015 GE election but YouGov is now claiming they have a new model that consider so many more factors which can make their predictions more accurate.

Of course, variation in predicting the result does not just exist between these two pollsters, we shall be comparing pre-and post-election polls of all the major pollsters! We shall aim to examine their methodology in due course as well. One man who knows for certain the impact of wrong predictions is Ed Miliband, the former Labour leader who stood against David Cameron at the 2015 election, he has tweeted to warn against predictions by pollsters! He tweeted “the pollsters have been off my Christmas card list since 2015”.

In conclusion, we think as the Prime Minister said, the poll that matters is the one coming up on 8th of June, however despite the caveat in the opinion polls, we do believe that there is a shift in people’s view and potentially shifts in the way they will be voting, which suggests that something has to change come June the 9th!

 

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