Poll nonsense.

All these polls saying this side or that side will win in any political situation… I have never been asked by these poll-makers. I don’t know anyone who has been asked.

Do they ask the same people over and over again? If so, are the results skewed by being produced only from people who volunteer for polls? Rather like the antismokers only asking the opinions of nonsmokers, or the antibooze lot only asking the opinions of teetoallers?

If the polls are based on a volunteer pool then they are not truly random. They require a character trait – being the sort of person who answers polls – which might be linked to other character traits, including one which could be the subject of a particular poll.

For example, if the trait ‘volunteers for polls’ is linked to the trait ‘hates cats’ then a poll asking ‘should cat ownership be banned’ would get a resounding ‘yes’. But a lot of people like cats. I don’t have one but there’s one who’s been trying to move in for the past few weeks. It practically lives in the garden and mews at the back door. I have tried explaining that it doesn’t live here and I have no cat food but so far, to no avail. It looks healthy so it’s getting fed somewhere.

Back to polls. The big-news one at the moment is the Scottish Independence Vote. It keeps coming out 50/50, and any swing of one or two percent is hailed as victory by the appropriate side.

Now it seems the whole thing might be total and absolute hooey.

The result we’ve been seeing is an average of four polls. Three are each linked to a newspaper, the fourth to the ‘No’ campaign and they currently look like this:

Panelbase/Sunday Times –  Yes 49.4%   No 50.6%

Opinium/Observer – Yes 47%   No 53%

ICM/Sunday Telegraph – Yes 54%  No 46%

Survation/Better Together – Yes 46%  No 54%

If you simply average the percentages you get Yes 49.2% and No 50.9%. The overall poll is claiming 49% Yes and 51% No so it looks like that’s what they’ve been doing.

The man who produces the overall prediction said this –

‘We are dependent on a pot of people which is defined, but we don’t know how big it is and in my view it won’t be big enough.’

Size matters, but not overall size. The size of each of those four polls matters a lot.

Let’s take an extreme example. Poll A reports 80% Yes and 20% No. Poll B reports 20% Yes and 80% No.

Averaging the percentages gives you a 50/50 split vote.

However, suppose poll A asked 500 people and poll B asked only 100. In that case, poll A reported 400 ‘Yes’ votes and 100 ‘No’ votes. Poll B reported 20 ‘Yes’ votes and 80 ‘No’ votes.

Which means that the real pool of data is 420 ‘Yes’ and 180 ‘No’. The real percentages are 70% ‘Yes’ and 30% ‘No’.

Averaging percentages is not going to work unless each poll asks exactly the same number of people every time. If you don’t know how many are in each of four datasets then averaging the percentage results is meaningless. If Poll B asked 100 of the people already surveyed by Poll A then it’s even worse – Poll B becomes entirely irrelevant! Any overlap between polls (and people who answer polls might well answer more than one) further complicates the calculation.

This is not complex maths. It’s well within the required ability of any kind of number-cruncher-based employment and a high ranking pollster should know this.

To work out the average of four polls you need to know a) how many people were polled and b) how many people answered more than one poll – and what their answers were. That last bit might not be so easy, if the poll is to be kept confidential, but even knowing how much overlap there is between polls would let you work out a plus-or-minus for the overall result.

It seems that the 50/50 we have been hearing about might be way, way off target. The result could be a slam-dunk one way or the other.

The final result is anybody’s guess. Even the pollsters now admit it.



27 thoughts on “Poll nonsense.

  1. They have these T.V polls on teletext here. You see what you explain happening on regular occassion.
    “Should foriegn trucks pay a motorway toll?”

    No =20%, Yes = 80%

    But only 40 or 50 people even bothered their arses to get on the tellingbone to have a go. From more than 80 Million people that COULD have done. (Take into account, that is the German population. These programmes are also available, and can be voted on, in Austria, Switzerland, Holland, and parts of France and Belgium.)

    So to say that it is the average opinion of the German people is total BOLLOX.

    We also had to do a survey as part of my sociology course at uni (doing history, a sociology unit is demanded. You can imagine how I went down in a group of giggling 18 to 19 year old wannabee social workers. (MOSTLY girlies, but some were deffinately suspect,) with a pc chip on their shoulder as big as a ten ton sack of King Edwards! Le(a)d Zeppelin springs to mind.)

    The question “Should cannabis be legalized.”

    The tutor told us where we should collect. One group got outside the main “MOD” theater with all the toffs coming out after a good dose of theater, or endles bagbipe catawauling, my group got going home time on the five Bridges (Edinburgh). Which is the main rout in the whole of Edinburgh for students returning to barracks after a…. hard days work (DON’T laugh!!)

    Of course, the “MOD” group got a resounding “NO!” WE got an 80 to 90% “YES!”

    This was then used by the tutor to show how to skew polls.


  2. Firstly, you don’t have a cat, the cat has a human!
    It’s probably suffering from a killing thirst, so try it on the whiskey, you will probably find the soft catfood in the foil packets is most acceptable.
    Cats used to be worshipped by the ancient Egyptians
    Cats remember this!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Government polls aka MSM polls always say what the government aka MSM want then to say and let’s not forget the entity that is counting the ‘votes’…the government so my prediction as in every election that I have noticed or taken part in over my time on this land ruled by the mob aka democracy is…the government has won..


    • “The drink was considered sacred, and its use was limited to certain classes of people.”

      Which is what minimum pricing will achieve. The rest of us can get our kicks drinking rain or for those who like the hard stuff, ice.

      History repeats, like a bad curry.


  4. People attracted to taking polls could be shown to share a certain attribute – just offer them money to do it. I know I’d definitely go for it.

    And if I was genuinely interested in the subject of the poll rather than bored stiff by it, I might even give honest answers instead of just ticking random boxes…

    While we’re on the subject of being bored stiff – yes, I know that it’s an important event and so it’d be inappropriate if the news media didn’t cover it, but do we really have to be subjected to endless discussions on bloody BBC Radio 2 (not my choice, I feel like spraying the sodding thing with an AK47, but I live with my disabled parents, who always have it on, LOUDLY), about things like what the Scots might choose as their national anthem, and whether or not it should include bagpipes?

    Fuck me…just turn off the TV and radio for the next day or so and just tell me what’s happened when it’s all over, will you?


  5. I worked briefly for Neilsen Market Research and when I lived in Reading used to do research for a couple of local firms. It’s actually quite complex and interesting.

    The groups are selected statistically to the mix specified – either by the client or the ‘experts’ in the company. They include things like political persuasion and socio economic group but then again no two groups are necessarily the same. Size of sample is also another factor. In theory, the larger the sample, the more accurate the result. In theory…

    And you are quite right of course that there is a huge difference between a simple and weighted average.

    At the end of the day, the only poll that really matters is the one at the ballot box.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. To be honest, the referendum its self is also rigged, by involving sub-adults in the poll. The question being asked is a complex socio-economic one, which ought really only be asked of people who are full adults and know about work, money, and have a fair inkling of how the world works. By including everyone from age 16 upwards, Salmond has included a sizeable percentage of children who he thinks ought to be more likely to vote yes, and whose minds ought to be easier to influence.

    I suspect that the referendum will also lack a quorate function, so even if only half a dozen people and a couple of sprogs turn up, the result will stand; an election where over half the population cannot be bothered to turn out is a tragedy and grossly unfair.

    As an aside, I would also wonder how long the Peoples’ Republic of Scotchland manages to survive, should it break away from the UK. Its fishing rights will need to be renegotiated with the EU for a start, as will most of the agricultural stuff and as it won’t be an EU member, it won’t be surfing on a wave of subsidies. These are some of the many things that the average sixteen year old doesn’t understand or even know of.


    • “of people who are full adults and know about work, money, and have a fair inkling of how the world works.”

      In other words the exact same people that, support, vote for, work for the abomination that is straddling these islands today…frankly I’d trust the young rather than those that believe they know shit any day.


  7. These polls are a load of poppycock as they don’t have anything previous to compare it against. For a true indication take a look at the Betfair betting market where the odds on YES is 2/9 (yes 2 to 9 ON) and the NO is around 4/1, as you can see it is pretty much a done deal for the NO camp.

    Personally I’m glad, I like the Scottish people and this is just a big fantasy by oily Al to try and play the king. It was completely unnecessary as we have been getting on fine for quite some time now. Hopefully oily Al will crawl back under his rock when it’s all over and take Sturgeon with him


    • Wobbler it appears Spain was raising a bit of hell over a possible entry of Scotland into the EU. Spain or Rajoy was saying any member state can block the entry of another new member……….Its likely the whole mess is just to break the UK up and eat away all of it into the EU piecemeal would be my guess. Scotland would no doubt not bring in its own money but adopt the EURO instead further degrading the pound of the UK.

      But then again Id say Scotland would likely be another welfare member save its north sea oil and gas holdings.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes buddy that was right about Spain, I’m just hoping that people see sense when they go to the voting booths later today. Apparently Cameron granted this referendum vote a couple of years ago as he was 100% sure that the (Scots) would want to remain part of the union.

        I still feel that No will win by quite a margin but the fallout from this is going to rumble on because there are going to be a load of pissed of people on the losing side, so all this will have achieved is to divide people for no good reason other than to give Oily Al his 15 minutes of fame.


  8. Apparently bookies have been paying out already on a NO vote??!!

    Couple of Head Pollsters (thankfully not Pete K – political polling is probably above his pay grade) on Politics Today or somesuch admitting that the same people ARE being surveyed repeatedly because the polls are online because the media’s too cheap to pay much and they can’t filter out the ‘professional respondents’ (a fundamental in any reputable research company is that you don’t survey those who’ve taken part in a survey within the past 3-6 months) or, in fact, rely on a representative sample.

    I’m an expat Scot so don’t get to vote (Salmond rejected the expat vote – no doubt some pollster told him we’d vote no :)) but in my heart I’d love to see Scotland vote yes and make a huge success of it….


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