Friday, April 30, 2010

Are the post-debate polls grossly misleading?

It was striking on News at Ten last night that the average 'worm rating' awarded by the panel of floating voters to each of the party leaders showed a startlingly different picture to the instant polls (and indeed to Tom Bradby's omniscient pronouncements on the same programme). Clegg was the winner, with Cameron in a dismal third. Now of course this can perhaps be explained by the small sample size, but it's just as likely down to a more sophisticated method of measuring opinion. The instant polls are essentially first-past-the-post verdicts on what are (albeit rigged) three-way contests, with David Cameron being declared the 'winner' on the dubious basis that a larger minority of respondents thought he was the best of the three than thought the same about Clegg. But even in his most positive poll (YouGov) Cameron was the favourite of just 41% of respondents, and the figure is as low as 35% with both ICM and ComRes. This tells you absolutely nothing about what the remaining 59-65% thought of Cameron's performance. If second preferences or average scores out of ten had been asked for by the pollsters, I suspect we'd be looking at a much more nuanced picture today than the 'Cameron victory' being gleefully reported by the right-wing press.

Still, perception (however misplaced) is everything when it comes to generating momentum, and my fear is the reporting of last night's events may move the Tories closer to overall majority territory. Heaven help us all.

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