Wednesday, April 1, 2015

It's not all grim for Jim - he has neigh problems with the equine vote

Just before we leave the topic of the ComRes poll entirely, I thought you might be amused to hear about a particularly extreme example of a "control question" that I found buried within the datasets.  Some of you will recall a previous discussion on this blog about a question of that sort - a few months ago, YouGov created a fictitious Cabinet minister (I can't remember the name they used) to help put in context the personal ratings of real politicians.  For example, if 23% of respondents claimed to recognise the bogus minister, that would make Anna Soubry's 27% recognition rating look considerably less impressive.

ComRes appear to have a rather less subtle approach to control questions, though, and have bizarrely asked each respondent midway through the question sequence whether or not they are "a horse".  I can only assume the purpose of this is to make sure that people are actually paying attention to the questions, and aren't just randomly giving any answer to get the survey over with as quickly as possible.  But what makes it particularly strange is that this was a telephone poll.  Non-attentive respondents are generally much more of a danger in online polls, where there is an incentive of a small monetary reward if the poll is completed (usually 50p).  It must have been very awkward for the telephone interviewers to innocently enquire whether or not the person at the other end of the line is a horse - if anything, I'd have thought that would make it more likely that the call would be abruptly terminated.

ComRes poll, 26th-28th March (Labour-held constituencies only) :

Are you a horse?

Yes 2%
No 98%

It's rather alarming that as many as 2% of the sample were dozing off to such an absurd degree, and in a way this calls into question the credibility of the poll's other findings.  However, I suppose it's possible that some people may have been taking the attitude of "a stupid question deserves a stupid answer".  The most entertaining part of all this is that we've ended up with a unique "horse" crossbreak throughout the datasets, meaning that we're able to see how the attitudes of "horses" differ from their human counterparts.  For the most part, there's nothing of any statistical significance, but there is one intriguing exception...

Jim Murphy's net satisfaction rating by group :

Men:  +2
Women:  -5
Horses:  +37

So if things don't quite work out for Jackanory Jim in May, all is not lost.  Perhaps he should take a leaf out of Cliff Richard's book and recognise that there is so much More to Life than naked ambition.  There is, for example, horses.

*  *  *


Someone asked me yesterday if I was ever going to update the Poll of Polls again.  Your wish is my command (well, within reason).  Today's update is based on eight Scottish subsamples from GB-wide polls - three from YouGov, two from Populus, one from Ashcroft, one from TNS-BMRB and one from ComRes.  Yesterday's Scottish poll from ComRes is excluded, because it's not a national poll - ie. the fieldwork only covered 40 out of 59 Scottish constituencies.

Making its debut (and quite possibly its swansong) in the Poll of Polls is the new Middleland Integrationists party, which somehow managed to register 1% support in a YouGov subsample last week.  It's an eccentric fringe party that was set up last year, having drawn inspiration from Rory Stewart's BBC series about the fantasy kingdom of "The Middleland" (twinned with Narnia).  Basically they want Dumfries & Galloway, the Borders, Cumbria and Northumberland to secede from Scotland and England, in order to form a fifth (and naturally ultra-unionist) constituent nation of the UK, presumably with Rory's cairn as the capital city.  Rory himself has had to disown them, though, because they're planning to put up candidates against the Tories in May.

Scottish voting intentions for the May 2015 UK general election :

SNP 43.6% (-1.7)
Labour 25.5% (n/c)
Conservatives 16.1% (-1.6)
Liberal Democrats 7.6% (+2.7)
Greens 3.4% (+0.2)
UKIP 3.3% (+0.4)
Middleland Integrationists 0.1% (+0.1)

(The Poll of Polls uses the Scottish subsamples from all GB-wide polls that have been conducted entirely within the last seven days and for which datasets have been provided, and also all full-scale Scottish polls that have been conducted at least partly within the last seven days. Full-scale polls are given ten times the weighting of subsamples.)

*  *  *

Many thanks to Brian Nicholson on the previous thread for pointing out the most shocking misreporting of a poll that I've seen in a long, long time.  Both David Maddox of the Scotsman and Magnus Gardham of the Herald have taken the ComRes voting intention figures for Labour-held constituencies only, and pumped them into the Scotland Votes calculator as if they were national figures, thus producing an utterly nonsensical seats "projection" of SNP 30, Labour 27.

Holy Jesus.  Even on a uniform swing, the ComRes poll suggests that the SNP would take 28 of the 40 Labour seats.  Here's the thing, Magnus and David - the SNP already hold six seats.  So if you add 28 to those six, you've already got 34.  Surely that very basic piece of arithmetic ought to have been enough to set alarm bells ringing about your "projection"?  In reality, the SNP would also be winning at least seven of the 11 Liberal Democrat seats, plus Eric Joyce's Falkirk seat, so there's no conceivable national projection based on the ComRes poll that would give the SNP fewer than 42 seats.


  1. As Edwin Morgan said: I am horse, unhorse me.

  2. Daily Record has a story that Jim Murphy is running the London marathon wearing full Highland dress, including a claymore and targe.

    1. Check the calendar...

      In fairness, that's not bad for them.

  3. The ComRes poll wouldn't make difference even if it were included. Extrapolated to across Scotland would give approx SNP 44, Lab 28, Con 16, LD 7, UKIP 2, Greens 2.


    YouGov sub-sample today is SNP 47, Lab 28, Con 18. That run of lower SNP scores has stopped and the 10-poll average has started to increase again.

    1. That's the figures I saw earlier, but they seem to have changed to 45/25?

    2. I see, that's two separate polls that appeared on Wikipedia around the same time.

  4. Can't think which one is the April Fool...

  5. Good April fools article in the Record this morning:

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband plans zero-hour limits as Ed Balls promises budget to ditch austerity

    Almost had me.

  6. I was me who got Horse question right!!!

    But I never voted for Murphy - Am no that daft.

    My great- grand dad was a stage coach driver. Then that god-damn rail-road came...

  7. This is an April Fool.

    I am a horse and, although me and my stable-mates, Golden Shower and Where's the Gimpmask, admire Murphy for his vegetarianism, we'd never vote for such lying turd.

  8. I heard Maddox and Gardham apologised and corrected the misinformation.

    Hah, April Fool!

  9. You had me for a while.....................

    However the April Fool was on BBC Radio 4's Today programme bleating on again about the largest party. He does not come over well.

  10. Perhaps those 2% thought they were asked if they were hoarse

    So we could say "I'm hoarse, I'm hoarse, I'm F...king furry hoarse"

    I'll get my coat.

  11. James, the fact they use a 2010 recall question not including SNP in the question, would that tend to inflate or understate the SNP figure they produce for 2015, and is there any way to tell by how much?

  12. I suppose they counted a neigh as no?

  13. A horse is a horse, of course, of course,
    And no one can talk to a horse of course
    That is, of course, unless the horse is the famous Mister Ed.

    Go right to the source and ask the horse
    He'll give you the answer that you'll endorse.
    He's always on a steady course.
    Talk to Mister Ed.

    People yakkity-yak a streak and waste your time of day
    But Mr. Ed will never speak unless he has something to say.

    A horse is a horse, of course, of course,
    And this one'll talk 'til his voice is hoarse.
    You never heard of a talking horse?

    Well listen to this: "I'm Mister Ed".

  14. Thank you James for the updated Poll of Polls. As for everything else I'm reading today, I find that I'm struggling more than usual to separate fact from fiction...

  15. If the latest two YouGov polls had been included it would have been a better result for SNP.

  16. Some nameless one speaking on behalf of "Scottish" Labour says the polls are bad for the SNP as they got 45% in the Referendum and are polling less than that for the GE.

    Where to begin.

    OK, the best opposing Army you can fight, is the one still trying to fight the last war which they really lost but declared that they won.

    Dontcha just luv 'em?

  17. Imagine two entirely independent journalists working for entirely separate publications both making the same utterly laughable mistake.

    It's almost as if they are just writing what someone else tells them to. But that can't possibly be the case, can it?

    1. Doesn't say a lot for whoever is analysing polls for the Scottish Labour press department then.

  18. Here's a graphical poll of polls for Scottish Electorate:

    1. UKIP winning Orkney with 37.71% of the vote ?

    2. I agree, it looks wacky but it's what the numbers say given that in Scotland UKIP are polling now polling around 4.01%, which is up 5.74x from the 2010 result of 0.7%. In 2010 6.3% of Orkney and Shetland voted UKIP. Hopefully I'm wrong.

    3. Love the graph. Excellent work.

  19. Interesting that Professor Curtice took a more optimistic (for the SNP) / more pessimistic (for Labour) view of the ComRes poll than the ITV expert. Curtice reckons Labour would only hold 5 seats based on the poll.

  20. So here is the thing if 45 SNP Mp's are returned. Then we are effectively operating in two different political states. The Tories and Labour are irrelevent, and do not represent Scotland. Yet one of those two will still be running Scotland!

    Is this a legitimate claim for Scotland to leave the union, as the state no longer represents the people at any level.

    1. Yes November 13, I think that's at the root of the inevitability of Independence should the polls be correct. It could be relatively quick, or it may drag on and on via house to house constitutional skirmishes, but if the Scots electorate have really actually changed and continually return non Unionist political representation, then the Union is finished.

      Once this voting pattern is established and (importantly) accepted by both 'nationalists' and unionists alike, the first real test of sovereign power (national interest) perceived won unfairly (by either side) will result in a voluntary end to Union.

      I think it's an inescapable mechanism, under the current (and historic) Westminster fetish of absolute Parliamentary Sovereignty. The establishment that it gives complete power to have always chosen to lose territory (and its' democratic irritant) rather than have to address the UK'' (empire) structural democratic deficit, at the expense of absolute power, in order to retain percieved territorial integrity. See, India, Australia, Canada, NewZealand, Ireland, etc etc.


  21. In the five constituencies that the Middleland Integrationists are running, do we refer to their candidates as the M!5?

  22. On a more serious note, it seems to me that those who move away from one political party to another often go through a transition. They start as Party X strong, move to Party X weak, then to undecided, on to Party Y weak and finally end up in Party Y strong. This usually takes a series of elections to manifest.

    In Scotland, the referendum seems to have accelerated that transition with many former Labour YES voters now supporting the SNP. From the recent polling, it appears that most of those are now SNP strong rather than SNP weak, and thus will be hard, if not impossible, to be pulled back to Labour. Coupled with that is the small number of undecided voters showing up in the polls. This would seem to indicate an electorate which is hard wired to its current voting intention with very little room for movement.

    This does not bode well for either Labour or the LibDems. The SNP vote is growing and only the Conservative and Unionist vote seems to be immune to transition,

    It would be a great benefit if a poll were to dig deeper into party support to determine the relative strength of that support.

  23. Maybe this is one Rev Stu at Wings could put in one his future polls? However, I guess any wording to guage the depth of party support would need a great deal of thought to produce any meaningful answers?

  24. James, thanks for that about Comres and Herald totally blooping it. In defence of Magnus, the Scotsman comes out with its stories earlier, and Magnus clearly takes those articles and rewords them, same for one or two other newpapers. Sloppy and lazy work. Normally I find he tries quite hard to balance his own articles.

    I was first in commenting on the first article and pointed out the error, confidently expecting a correction - instead a second with the same rubbish came out after I went to my pit. I did put in a reply to soeone along the lines of "Magnus is usually factual but got it wrong on this occasion", but it was deleted. So at least the moderators got the message! I also put in about Scotland's second psephologist and Scot Goes Pop, suggesting the Herald always checked here first to make sure it didn't get it so badly wrong. Also deleted! Ah well, it's not often I get deleted as I stay away from criticising editorial policy of journalists, so I hope they get the message.

  25. @ yesindyref2

    Or perhaps they both get handed 'press releases' from the Labour Party, and so both of them printed the same blooper?

    1. Yes, quite possibly. But with Labour in Scotland becoming so desperate, they're quite likely to burn any press contacts they have in their attempts to survive, so the journos should make sure they don't get their fingers burned.

  26. In these serious times, a small bit of humour is always welcome.

    My apologies to Ernest Lawrence Thayer ( author of Mighty Casey at the Bat)..........

    The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Labour crew that day:
    The polls stood four to two, with but barely time to play.
    And then when Blair sent packing first, and Brown did follow same,
    A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.
    A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
    Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
    They thought, if only Murphy could get but a chance to wear the hat -
    We'd put up even money, now, with Murphy at the bat.
    But Gray preceded Murphy, as did also Johann Lamont,
    And the former was a lulu and the latter was founding want;
    So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
    For there seemed but little chance of Murphy's getting to the hat.
    But McTernan wrote a jingle, to the wonderment of all,
    And McDougall, the much despised, joined tall Jimmy’s stall;
    And when the dust had lifted, and the men saw what had occurred,
    There was Jimmy safe in office and Kezia a-hugging Byrd.
    Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty cry;
    It rumbled through the valley, it rattled across the sky;
    It knocked upon the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
    For Murphy, mighty Murphy, had advanced and took the hat.
    There was ease in Murphy's manner as he stepped into his place;
    There was pride in Murphy’s bearing and a smile on Murphy's face.
    And when, responding to the cheers, he shyly climbed his crate,
    No stranger in the crowd could doubt 'twas Murphy at Gallowgate.
    Ten thousand eyes were on him as he filled the air with dirt;
    Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped egg from his shirt.
    Then while the writhing listeners ground their teeth in never-ending grip ,
    Defiance gleamed in Murphy's eye, a sneer curled Murphy's lip.
    And now another putrid egg came hurtling through the air,
    And Murphy stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
    Close by the sturdy crate the eggs unheeded sped-
    "That ain't my style," said Murphy. "Day one," the Nat man said.
    From the media benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
    Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore.
    "Kill him! Kill the Nat!" shouted someone from his band;
    And its likely they'd a-killed him had not Murphy raised his hand.
    With a smile of Christian charity great Murphy's visage shone;
    He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the day go on;
    He ignored again the picture, and once more the polls shone through;
    But Murphy still ignored them, even as McTernan cried, "Vote Blue."
    "Fraud!" cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered fraud;
    But one scornful look from Murphy and the audience again was awed.
    They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
    And they knew that Murphy wouldn't let the Nats fly by again.
    The sneer is gone from Murphy's lip, his teeth are clenched in hate;
    He pounds with cruel violence his fist upon his pate.
    And now the voters are in the hall, and now they make their judgement so,
    And now the air is shattered by the result of Murphy's show.
    Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
    The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
    And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
    But there is no joy in Labour - mighty Murphy’s been found out.

  27. Re: the question about 'depth of support' I'm pretty sure that polling has shown SNP-intending voters are more likely to have firmly made up their mind than Labour-intending voters: albeit the difference isn't too big.

  28. Tomorrow's Sun You Gov poll has

    Con 36 Lab 34 Lib 8 UKIP 13 Green 4 - 95%.

    1. SNP 42 Lab 27 Con 23 Lib 3 UKIP 4 Green 2

  29. Populus UK Scotland subsample:
    44% SNP
    28% Lab
    16% Con
    8% Lib
    3% Green
    1% UKIP

    Only a small SNP down-weight.

    All's quiet on the western front.

  30. Just took part in a (very short) Panelbase survey:

    VI for WM 2015
    Past constit vote in H'rood 2011
    Past vote for Indyref 2014
    VI for hypothetical future indyref
    When/whether Scotland would be independent
    Should there be another indyref and if so when?
    Agree/disagree if 4 major parties support making Scotland a more equal society.

    Didn't take notes so might not have remembered everything.

  31. SS where the heck are the Libs getting 8% from!

    1. It's just the nature of Populus and the fact its a subsample. Populus use a spiral of silence reallocation of DK back to 2010 which benefits pro-union parties.

  32. It's being reported that Jim Murphy is predicting a last minute surge to Labour, as people realise it will be Cameron or Milliband, yada yada yada.

    A lot of people are worried that him saying this is an indication that he knows Labour are planning a postal vote fraud.

    I'm not so sure about this, as I just think it's classic Labour Speak.
    They can't say, hey it looks like we have got no chance because we have thrown the kitchen sink at Scottish voters with threats of Tory's getting into power, and the meltdown of our NHS, but the polls simply aren't budging.

    He has to keep his activists enthused, and he definitely needs to keep a lid on the simmering, divisions within the Labour Party, that would break out into full scale war, if they become sure they are about to lose their seats.

    Just look at the leaks to the press about Maggie Curran, getting all the funds directed to her seat because she was worried that she might lose.

    Our good friend Duncan Hothersall, had an on line Twitter exchange with a Labour activist, after Labour had began to rule out a coalition with the SNP, and some suggested they were ruling out any formal deals.

    She told him that she had met with other activists that day, and they were all very angry at Milliband for doing this.
    She told Duncan that they all felt betrayed and demoralised, explaining that this would not go down well with Scots, so Scotland had been sacrificed, for the Labour vote in the South East.

    Duncan assured her that although the polls were looking bad at that time, this move would in fact change it into Labours favour, as Scots would see a vote for the SNP, as a wasted vote.

    She asked him, when they should start to see the turn around in the polls, his reply:

    At the beginning of April.

    Oh dear, looks like Labour are already missing targets, and they aren't even in power! lol.