You can trust the polls in 2018, if you read them carefully

Midterm sticker on jumper

On the morning of 8 November 2016, many Americans went to bed confident that Hillary Clinton would be elected the nation’s first female president. Their confidence was driven, in no small part, by a pervasive message that Clinton was ahead in the polls and forecasts leading up to the election.

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Forecast error: Are polls getting worse at predicting elections?

Polling booths

Voting intention polls appear to have an accuracy problem. The UK House of Lords recently instructed the polling industry “to get its house in order”, citing its failure to predict the outcomes of the 2015 and 2017 general elections and the 2016 “Brexit” referendum. The Lords report stated that: “For each of those events, albeit to varying degrees, the polls ‘called it wrong’.” But is this recent poor performance a temporary blip? Or is it part of a longer term decline in accuracy?

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Visualising ages and life trajectories of Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom

Winston Churchill

Rick Wicklin, over at The DO Loop blog, published an interesting graph showing the ages of US Presidents at the beginning and end of their terms, from George Washington to the current occupant of the White House.1 Inspired by his analysis, we extracted data2 from Wikipedia on ages of the Prime Ministers (PMs) of the UK – from Robert Walpole in 1721, regarded as the first PM, to the incumbent, Theresa May.

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