Opinion polls

Poll update: how to make sense of not very much

The opinion poll averages for each of the main parties so far this month are Labour 33%; Conservative 31.7%; Ukip 15.8%; Liberal Democrats 7.6%.

This is barely a change on the averages for November, and represents something of a slowdown after the movements of the past few months – as this graph shows:

January - December poll averages

Making sense of movement in poll trends is an elusive business. There can be as many answers as there are people interested in the question. It’s also self-determining. I have chosen to depict poll trends in monthly averages. But I could illustrate them in other ways.

For example, I could useĀ the averages of all the polls published during the last seven days. This produces scores of Labour 33.6%; Conservative 32.3%; Ukip 14.9%; Liberal Democrats 8.1%. Compare these with the averages for the whole of December so far, and the seven-day scores are slightly better for Labour (up 0.6 points), the Tories (also up 0.6) and the Lib Dems (up 0.5), while being slightly worse for Ukip (down 0.9).

I could also look at the averages for the past four weeks. This produces scores of Labour 33.4%; Conservative 32.1%; Ukip 15.7%; Liberal Democrats 7.5%. Again, slightly better for some parties and not for others. But when I put the three sets of figures side by side, you get a sense of how small are the differences:

Poll averages compared

What does all this show? That the opinion polls are not moving an awful lot at the moment. We seem to have entered a period of relative calm.

But remember these are nationwide polls, and do not reflect variations in support at a local level, in particular in Scotland. They tell us nothing about the state of play in each constituency; nor are they predictions of the result, merely snapshots. In short, they don’t tell us much about the election that is actually useful. Bear that in mind the next time you read a newspaper headline about an opinion poll “shocker”.


One response to “Poll update: how to make sense of not very much

  1. If you want to report a real opinion poll shocker do a comparison between these standardized opinion polls and the results from the survey that people can complete at “Vote for Policies.” Why is this so important? Because when people vote for the policies that they believe in they are making a conscious decision to examine what is really important to them without the distraction of popular or unpopular personalities and grudges over the perceived betrayals of the past. All of the current political parties have betrayed our trust in the past and perhaps we need a totally new approach, but not a knee-jerk reaction. Although the conventional so called “Opinion Polls” represent a number of highly committed discerning voters, they also include large numbers of extremely gullible “sheeple” who are being easily manipulated by the press.

    The obscene over-reporting of UKIP ranting on about migrants has warped the real picture of genuine concern over other issues, drowning out anything of major nationwide importance to voters. There are a multitude of problems that citizens care passionately about that are being sidelined, like creeping privatization of the NHS, the looming increase in austerity measures so that we can still fund a new generation of worthless Trident nuclear weapons and a whole lot more. The people are outraged by the chasm between ordinary wages in poorly paid jobs with zero hours contracts while a limitless slush fund continues to dole out massive pay raises and bonuses to Bankers and CEOs. Even our politicians are getting ready for a sizable pay hike while they support having the bedroom tax penalize the disabled, and those who struggle to care for them. This must end.

    These are the major issues that have prompted thousands to sign petitions or take to the street in huge marches and protest demonstrations. People camped out around St. Pauls for months on end in protest; will their concerns be taken seriously by those who seek election? Migrants have become the scapegoat for all our politicians have done to mismanage this country; no one is braving our frigid climate to camp out over immigration. If the taxes that immigrants from the EU paid had been spent to increase the capacity of the services needed to accommodate them, NHS, schools and housing, we would not be in this mess. Instead their tax money helped fund an illegal foreign war. It is grotesquely unfair for politicians to blame migrants for placing a strain on basic services that they contributed to paying for, but were cut to fund aggression overseas. We need a party that is solidly committed to diplomacy not nuclear weapons one that we can trust not to drag us into another unnecessary conflict.

    Farage wants only the cream of the crop to be allowed into the UK; In reality he wants the best and most highly qualified professionals that we can scavenge from countries that could ill afford to train them! He also wants to cut our Foreign Aid budget. What is so wrong with this picture is that it is totally morally bankrupt. We are continuing to take a lot more from developing world countries in human resources than we are giving back in our, oh so generous, foreign aid. A sizable chunk of our aid money is still used to pay UK consultants and British NGO functionaries anyway.

    The doctors and nurses scavenged from numerous countries in the developing world have, in many cases, crippled health care services in their own countries, leaving them unable to face medical emergencies due to such seriously depleted provision of care. How many healthcare professionals have we taken from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea? Certainly these nations would have been better equipped to deal with Ebola before it took hold, if other nations had not recruited so many of their trained staff in the first place; just as well we are pitching in to help now.

    It cost a awful lot of money to train health professionals, but if we are continuing to scavenge these key personnel they must be getting decent training before we accept them here. We need to find a fairer more equitable way of funding this vital training, to mitigate the impact this has had on desperately poor countries. Ebola should be a stark lesson to us all, those who we might believe are less worthy of receiving proper healthcare represent an Achilles heel that will foster a deadly nidus of infection that could kill us all. This weakness has already been demonstrated in the US with the rapid resurgence of TB and drug resistant TB. So if UKIP help persuade other politicians that denying health care to migrants is a good way to save money they will put us all at grave risk.

    We need evaluate such harebrained policy ideas more thoroughly and stop relying on opinion polls to tell us who it is worth voting for. Punitive or reactionary voting might just create a radical far right alliance between UKIP and the Tories, I think they are forging an alliance right now while keeping us distracted over migration. More tactical voting will lead to five more years of misery in the UK. Watch “Bite the Ballot – Leaders Live” debates with the prospective candidates, read the party manifestos for the 2015 election and take the survey on the “Vote for Policies” Website to see who has earned your allegiance, but most importantly get registered to vote.

    I will vote Green for the Greater Good, in England’s GREEN and Pleasant Land.

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