2 truths about opinion polls

As we head into 2017 with the half of the media rabbiting on about how much of a triumph we are going to have in May. The other half of the media keep up the recurring theme of the SNP poll figures are about to collapse.

There are only two things we can be sure about.

One is that the polling industry got it so badly wrong in so many cases in 2016.

From the Scottish Elections through the Tory civil war which became Brexit to America failing the collective IQ test. They predicted, pontificated and pronounced to all and sundry; and they got it wrong with a consistency which was only matched by Kez.

But do they show a degree of remorse, even humility? Aye right!

The pollsters still carry on as if 2016 never happened. Expecting the media to carry their “predictions” as though they were tablets of stone brought down from on high for the betterment and guidance of we mere mortals and of course voters. But of course, the media need to pretend that the “predictions” have relevance because they are a wonderful replacement for actual news. The big problem with real news is that it requires real journalists who can understand the difference between for example a Labour press release and the meaning of exam stats. Or who can recall that the Tories (red, blue & gold) all ganged up to vote through more money for the Edinburgh Trams, when the Tories put out “Tram waste of money” stories.  And be “willing to call them out” as our transatlantic cousins say.

This refusal to employ real journalists was of course best seen here in the Brexit campaign. The blind refusal of news outlets on air and in print to tackle the blatant lie of £350 million for the NHS lead to ever more outlandish statements (from both sides) as the campaign wore on, and on and on…..

On the other side of the Atlantic, the need to “inject some interest” in the election meant that we now have a President Elect who thinks that running three tweets together constitutes a policy document. Quite how even Fox convinced themselves that he was Presidential material is something I will never understand in the proverbial month of Sundays. To go from Barrack Obama one of the most thoughtful, learned and intellectual Presidents to this poses real questions about the capacity of US commentators to explain issues and that actions have consequences.

To pivot from “the communicator in chief” as Bill Clinton was known to George W was bad enough! To follow Obama with the Trumpet is just downright embarrassing.

But do the US media and pollsters ask why they got it so wrong and what they can do to avoid repetition? If so then it’s not been on any programme I’ve seen.

But still we get the “predictions”. As I write the latest is a “leak” of internal polling by the British Labour Party in Scotland that they are going to be hammered in May and take only 15% with the Tories getting 25% and the SNP 45%. It’s possible but since we are still more than 4 months from Polling Day, and outside the political bubble, the real world couldn’t care less about the Council Elections, then forgive me for reaching for the salt cellar.

We will see lots of polls between now and May, some will be good and some not so good for the SNP, they will all claim certainty that they are reading the mood of the voters and all should be read with a great big sign which says “Remember 2016.”

I started this piece by saying that there were two things we can be sure about in regard to the polls. Obviously one is that they are, to be polite, less than reliable.

The other is the most important and is simply stated!

The only poll which counts is on Thursday 4 May.

Every other is a distraction. Do not let yourself become complacent by the good ones or despondent by the not so good. Do not let the media talk you into playing games with your votes. There is only one Party which says what it means and means what it says on the future of Scotland.

On May 4 it doesn’t matter if I am a candidate or someone else is, the only thing that matters is that we return SNP Councillors in huge numbers. The next 5 years will be tough in local government, the consequences of the No vote are now going to felt and they will hurt people. But I know that I trust SNP Councillors to do a better job of protecting our services than any other group.

If you share that belief, just vote SNP and don’t be distracted by polls.

1 Comment

  1. Good advice Stephen – just keep voting SNP .

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