What do you get if you ask a Labour Party pollster and a Conservative Party advisor to predict the outcome of the 2015 UK general election? Two very different answers, of course. And so it was that during a debate at the Market Research Society annual conference this week, James Morris (a former speechwriter for Labour leader Ed Miliband) predicted a Labour victory, while Andrew Cooper (a former director of strategy for the Conservatives) predicted that Tory leader David Cameron would remain prime minister 'in some sort of messy coalition'.
Election season is now well underway in the UK and every scandal, botched interview and policy announcement is being elevated to profound status. These triumphs or disasters are then inevitably used to give narrative to the parties’ constant movements in the political polls. But are the pollsters really giving us an accurate snapshot of the national mood?
Which parts of Obama’s address particularly resonated with the public? One can judge the congressional response to each line by listening to applause in the chamber, but it's harder to know what the country as a whole thought. One way to find out is to look up every single sentence in the speech on Twitter and study each response. Yes, this took a while, and yes, I should probably find other hobbies, but the results were worth it.
The fallout has still not subsided from the shock YouGov poll during the Scottish Independence referendum that put the Yes camp in the lead by 51% to 49%. This single poll was enough to prompt the Prime Minister to claim he wanted to sue the polling companies for his stomach ulcers and led to a last minute revamping of the offer - 'the vow' - made to Scotland as part of the deal for remaining in the Union. Most recently, a Labour peer tabled a bill in the House of Lords that would create a statutory regulator of the polling industry.
Since 1964, the British Election Study (BES) has been surveying voters at each general election in an attempt to establish who votes for who and why. The study has evolved over time, yet the central focus on political preferences and values, attitudes towards political engagement, and the socio-demographic characteristics of voters has remained.