We political pollsters have come in for a lot of criticism in recent years – some justified, some arguably a bit over the top. (For example, it’s common to see people state that the polls got Brexit wrong – in reality there were plenty of polls showing narrow wins for either side, and very few showing a clear Remain win.) Similarly, 2017 Westminster polls may (in general) have overstated the Tory victory by a few percentage points but the miss was emphasised because the upshot was a hung parliament rather than overall majority. The accuracy of the actual numbers wasn’t really lower than usual – despite most polls being very low-cost online polls rather than much more expensive telephone surveys. Furthermore, the polls correctly reflected the poor performance of the Conservative campaign, with pollsters consistently showing a steady narrowing of Theresa May’s lead over Jeremy Corbyn week after week.
Well, we redeemed ourselves in 2019, with pretty well all of the BPC pollsters correctly calling a comfortable win for Boris Johnson over Jeremy Corbyn, and average errors ranging from 0.3 to 1.6 - well within accepted margins of error.
When all’s said and done, political polls are the one type of survey where we are very publicly tested against real world outcomes. Telling a client that their brand awareness measure has gone up from 60% to 65% is unlikely to be clearly disproven. Having your name attached to an election poll which comprehensively plonks the wrong person in 10 Downing Street is a very visible, incorrect call. It’s high pressure, scary at times, but it’s also about as exciting as research and insight can get.
We’ve been conducting polls for the Sunday Times since 2007 – the team here set up and still manages Panelbase’s political polling operation. As well as regular opinion polls for the ST, we’ve worked for Wings Over Scotland, The New European, the SNP, the Scottish Greens and numerous other private clients. Our MD represents Panelbase on the British Polling Council.
If you want to take the nation's political pulse, drop us a line on firstname.lastname@example.org