Friday, April 24, 2009

Polling clichés

While I'm waiting with baited breath to see how AM2 plans to persuade us that the latest YouGov poll somehow represents yet another unmitigated calamity for the Nats, it's worth pointing out Caron's rather desperate attempt to paint yesterday's two Lib Dem triumphs in local council by-elections as being more significant than the poll. Doubtless the SNP will be bitterly disappointed not to win the Inverness seat, but when Caron goes out of her way to suggest a specific local reason for this failure, it does rather counteract her efforts to portray the result as being of huge national significance! The line about the by-elections being more important because 'five times as many people voted in them' is a fairly tired piece of spin as well. It's rather like the individuals who seriously think they're undermining the results of an opinion poll of 1000 respondents by making objections like "well, which 1000 people was it?" or "hmmm...I note they didn't ask the remaining 4,999,000 of the population".

Back in the real world, there are several health warnings that need to be attached to a single poll - there's a margin of error of 3%, there's a 5% chance it might be a rogue poll, it's only a snapshot of opinion at a particular moment in time, etc, etc. But for all that and everything, we all know - and that includes Caron in her heart of hearts - that a well-conducted opinion poll is a better guide to the national state of play than a local council by-election.

"Who's soaring now?" asks Caron. If that's a serious question, the serious answer is the jury's out, but on the basis of the available evidence it's rather more likely to be the SNP than the Lib Dems.


  1. Indeed a local by-election is just that, Local. The you-gov poll is a far better indicator than some local sample in an area where the libs are strong. Btw James, this poll was sampled a day before the budget and on the same day as the budget, why did the SNP not wait until after the budget because it would have given a better indicator for the public mood.

  2. Lames,

    give up even responding yo am2 please - he loves it, it keeps him going. ignore him, he'll go off pester some hibs fans - and hopefully get what he deserves