Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Do you trust the polls?

Did you hear Ben Page, the Chief Executive of Ipsos/MORI on the BBC news say that "if the general public wake up to a hung parliament, a minority of about 35% or so will think it is a good idea and will want to see people working together". Doesn't everyone want to see people working together? He went on to say "but the majority of the poplulation want to see either a Labour majority or a Conservative majority". The problem with this is that he could just as easily have said that a minority of about 35% is often the most popular option if there is a three-way split and results are close together. He could just have easily said that a minority want a Labour majority and another minority want a Conservative majority. How did he come to his own conclusion that he wanted these two minorities added together?

My constituency will be counting the votes on the Friday and I understand that a significant proportion of constituencies are doing the same thing. It's a minor point but Ben is wrong to say that we will wake up to a result. I expect him to know that. More seriously, I expect him to know about the difficulties that are present when conducting surveys. I wrote on Friday about how difficult it is to be fair in the way that words are used. A much simpler error is how you deal with the figures. I would have thought that Ben would appreciate this already and not give such misleading statements to the press.

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