back to article From landslide to buried alive: Why 2017 election forecasts weren't wrong

In the aftermath of almost every recent election, two types of story get written based on the outcome. One is how the polls "got it wrong", how the forecast – surprise! – failed to match the actual result. The other, usually written by someone with at least basic statistical skills, explains why the polls mostly didn't "get it …

  1. jake Silver badge

    The phrase "lies, damned lies, and statistics" ...

    ... or a variation on the theme, has been around since at least 1891. Most members of the public have heard it. Most probably think they understand it.

    Unfortunately, most can't apply it to reality.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: The phrase "lies, damned lies, and statistics" ...

      Better yet, sum up the article thusly: "All politics is local".

      The national polling in the US turned out to be almost exactly on the mark - but we don't elect a president by national popular vote. In the UK that's taken as given, but if you apply a uniform formula everywhere equally you won't account for localized phenomena like the DUP or Labour's results in Wales.

      The problem is that it is a lot harder to poll per state in the US or per seat in the UK - the number of contacts you need to make is far higher, and you won't get enough to get the error margin down as low as in your national polls. When you have states with a 4%+ margin of error and a 2% lead for one candidate, that state is basically a tossup but journalists who don't understand statistics won't write it that way.

      1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
        Boffin

        @DougS Re: The phrase "lies, damned lies, and statistics" ...

        Sorry but there's a bit more to this...

        You can take a larger sample size, but you would still be off.

        The issue when polling Trump supporters is that those who are true supporters will openly express an opinion in favor of him. Of those who ultimately voted for him were the undecided and those who didn't want to be outed as Trump supporters. And then there are people who tell the pollsters to F-Off!

        That's the real issue. You are assuming that you're getting a random sample, when you are not. Did the polls take in consideration that most people who responded to the poll tended to be Democrats?

        As to the popular vote... doesn't matter. Polls are done at the local level.

        If you look at the map, Trump won most of the country. The map county by county showed Red.

        Bottom line, Clinton ran a bad campaign. And she's a crook and criminal.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The phrase "lies, damned lies, and statistics" ...

      Yet the exit poll got it almost exactly correct which shows that polls can be done correctly.

      1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

        Re: The phrase "lies, damned lies, and statistics" ...

        The exit poll showed what someone who had voted (as opposed to deciding not to bother), had actually voted, after they did it (no possibility of changing their minds).

        No wonder they got it right..

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The phrase "lies, damned lies, and statistics" ...

        > the exit poll got it almost exactly correct which shows that polls can be done correctly.

        No it doesn't. It just shows that their results were close to the actual vote, something that can happen purely by chance.

        As the article argues, the issue is not polls being done incorrectly, it is them being misused, misinterpreted, or just plain not understood.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The phrase "lies, damned lies, and statistics" ...

      Complex systems can appear to be simple for periods giving nice correlations with simple mathematical functions such as Jupiter's spot however if you have to keep changing your paradigm then it was never true and the imagined predictability never extended beyond the head of the statistician.

      Statistics as a subject ignores the real relationships and attempts to lever the simple relationships which everyone knows are stochastic. Whilst they keep getting paid they will continue to make stochastic predictions that turn out false and true to everyone's surprise.

      For me it has always been a shame that so much talent is still being wasted in what is little better than alchemy, until they can make a single paradigm that is always true then it is just shamenism

  2. Julz

    Stories

    The media and people want a story, the polls give them that. What am I responding to? Q.E.D.

  3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    So when will the politicians learn?

    Which really just shows that it's time the politicians stopped making policy based on polls, and tried actually promoting what they believe is the right thing to do. It will make them leaders, not followers, which is much harder work since it requires principles and the ability to defend them, but it would be a far healthier system. It is one reason that so many people voted for Corbyn, whom they like despite his ludicrous economic policies, and against May, who is widely detested even by people who support the Tories.

    1. AMBxx Silver badge

      Re: So when will the politicians learn?

      and now everyone is twisting the result to fit their personal narrative - whether it's about Brexit/Austerity/Socialism etc etc

      May moved left (energy price cap FFS) to capture some of the middle. In the end, she just validated some of Corbyn's positions.

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: (energy price cap FFS)

        on that subject (energy price cap FFS) Who do these politicians think they are? energy is a real world , finite resource that there isnt enough of . Putting a fixed value on it is akin to trying to change the time the sun comes up , or the value of Pi , or , classically, stopping the tide coming in.

        1. Smooth Newt Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: (energy price cap FFS)

          on that subject (energy price cap FFS) Who do these politicians think they are? energy is a real world , finite resource that there isnt enough of . Putting a fixed value on it is akin to trying to change the time the sun comes up , or the value of Pi , or , classically, stopping the tide coming in.

          Energy is a near-infinite resource whose availability is controlled by cost. If there was a market for electricity at £5 a unit, you could be sure that every green space in the country would sprout a solar panel, every industrial estate a power station and even hamsters would be turning little generators. There aren't enough suppliers in the market for proper competition, so there is a considerable amount of price gouging and screwing the customer, which is why Government intervention is needed. Markets can be powerfully influenced by Government policy - look at train tickets, heroin, and mobile phones for obvious examples.

        2. roytrubshaw
          Headmaster

          Re: (energy price cap FFS)

          "classically, stopping the tide coming in"

          Can we, once and for all, leave old Canute alone: he was trying to point up the absurdity of his sycophantic courtiers,

          He was well aware that he couldn't control the sea.

          1. JimC Silver badge

            Re:well aware that he couldn't control the sea.

            Which demonstrates that the art of taking your opponents words and twisting them to mean something quite the opposite to what was intended is probably as old as politics. Nothing new about fake news...

        3. Sid Valley

          Re: (energy price cap FFS)

          The price of energy is artificially high because all parties (except Ukip) are committed to Ed Miliband's Climate Change Act and the fixation on renewables. This is not "real world" economics.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: (energy price cap FFS)

            The climate change act is good - and not because of sea level changes; there are nastier bogeys waiting if we don't slash our carbon emissions. (See: 'anoxic oceanic event', 'leptav sea methane emissions' and 'storegga slides', then work out what the impact of 1-5GT of methane bubbling off the siberian continental shelf might be)

            Fixation on renewables is double unplus good. Even with the country carpetted in windmills and solar panels there isn't enough electricity production available to replace all carbon-emitting processes, by a factor of 6-8. Yes you could just replace all carbon-emitting power generation but factoring in transportation, heating and industrial processes makes "just replacing current generation" woefully insufficient.

            The amount of money being ploughed into renewables in _this_ country alone could pay for at least a dozen nuclear power plants which would produce far more reliable power (we need about 60-70 of them) for a far lower environmental impact than renewables.

        4. Loud Speaker Bronze badge

          Re: (energy price cap FFS)

          I distinctly remember a leading politician, possibly a cabinet minister at the time, saying "the truth is what I say it is".

          That was in a TV program discussing their philosophy of life, not an election campaign.

          Since then, I have discovered that a significant percentage of the UK population believes that you can make something become true by pretending it is, or that something is automatically true if someone older than you says it is (even more widely believed in the Middle East, I suspect).

          In both cases, their definition of "true" does not require the "truth" to persist for more than a few minutes.

          If you support these ideas of "true" you can easily support the idea that the price of fuel can be set by authoritarians with guns - this has been tried under various regimes around the world with the predictable consequences - price of fuel drops in the short term, but in the longer term it si the availability that drops.

          However, there is always the get out clause that "it was the Imperialists/communists wot done it".

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: So when will the politicians learn?

        "May moved left (energy price cap FFS) to capture some of the middle. In the end, she just validated some of Corbyn's positions."

        Indeed, but bear in mind that she started off in her first speech by very firmly parking tanks on Labour's lawn in terms of spoken policy - which had people hoping that the conservatives might have actually seen the error of their ways, but then U-turned on that and went full blown "nasty party" within weeks.

        When that was shown to be unhelpful, she may have moved left again (and Corbyn's policies aren't that extreme - the conservatives used many of them 60 years ago), but having rattled her core "grey" voters with the level of proposed nastiness(*), I'm pretty sure that all subsequent U-turns were taken with a large dose of salt by them and middle-ground electoral slugs, especially when the Conservatives were selling uncosted policies which would drive 80-90% of the population into poverty whilst decrying Labour's relatively well costed out plans as unworkable - and responding to anyone in the media pointing it out by simply attempting to shout them down.

        (*) I'm fully and painfully aware that pensions policy over the last 50 years has been a £100 trillion ponzi scam(**) and that my retirement age will be 75 if I'm lucky, but I was aware of that back in the early 1980s and have been expecting it since I was 18 - most Boomers and early GenXers simply believed what they were told instead of crunching numbers on birthrates.

        That said, the level of cutbacks on elderly healthcare and proposed effective financial penalties rank pretty high on the Grinch scale. GenX and GenY are likely to suffer retirement of 75 or beyond (if they can actually afford to retire). Millenials may see it reduce again, but it's unlikely to ever go below 70, or be compulsary (which was done to ensure Boomers had guaranteed jobs to walk into. The window on that was closed even before GenX entered the workforce)

        (**) right across USA/UK/AU/NZ and many other "developed countries" - where the population was encouraged to spend more and save less. The oncoming trainwreck was forseeable from the mid-late 1970s and makes Bernie Madoff's antics look like child's play. Boomer grandchildren and great grandchildren are going to be served with a very large bill and there's a risk they may choose not to pay it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: So when will the politicians learn?

          Concur.

          That said, actually in AU they substantially fixed the pension Ponzi scheme decades ago. And doubled down by refusing to deregulate the banks. Resulting in the undoubted fact that not even the dodgiest of the Australian banks - and some of them make the worst US and UK banks look like pillars of rectitude - came close to collapse in the GFC.

          While successive Australian governments of all parties deserve almost zero credit for anything good in the world, I have to give them credit for those two achievements.

      3. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: So when will the politicians learn?

      and tried actually promoting what they believe is the right thing to do

      A politician thinks of one thing only. Their next election . (possibly their sub-processes include troughing at the public purse , fiddling their expenses , lining up corporate boards to sit on)

      The chance of them doing "the right thing" are pretty slim, especially if it will make them unpopular.

      1. strum Silver badge

        Re: So when will the politicians learn?

        >A politician thinks of one thing only.

        I think you'll find that they think about an awful lot of things. But most of them mean nothing, if not elected.

        Very few of them are 'troughing at the public purse'. Mostly, they're just trying to get enough spondulicks to run a campaign - to get elected (which is where we came in).

      2. whileI'mhere

        Re: So when will the politicians learn?

        "A politician thinks of one thing only. Their next election."

        I guess Jeremy Corbyn is not a politician, then.

        1. codejunky Silver badge

          Re: So when will the politicians learn?

          @ whileI'mhere

          "I guess Jeremy Corbyn is not a politician, then."

          The same Corbyn who would never push the nuclear button and is totally against Trident. Right up until the unions complained. Then he wanted to build the subs but not load them with nukes.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: So when will the politicians learn?

            Oh, Corbyn is definitely a politician. Manifesto says X, voters put him in. He does Y. Then there's a referendum: campaigns on A (very quietly, admittedly), voters in his constituency say A is what they want, and say so with a significant majority. He does B, and orders other MPs to follow B as well, even if that means totally ignoring their constituents' wishes too.

            Don't ever doubt that he is a politician.

    3. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: So when will the politicians learn?

      May's manifesto was grim, it had to be because she expected to win and would have to stand by what was in it.

      But Labour, knowing they had no chance of winning could fill their manifesto with vote-bribes and vote-bait without having to worry about fulfilling them.

      This Labour strategy worked as it damaged the tory majority, but it was extremely unethical.

      A great play though, presumably by Corbyn's advisers as I am pretty sure he doesn't have the smarts to come up with it himself.

      1. Far out man
        Thumb Down

        Re: So when will the politicians learn?

        He has had enough smarts (/) to fight the PLP and get elected twice, whilst being the whipping dog of a media that has no morals or ethics. FUD has unfortunately become the norm.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: So when will the politicians learn?

          He has had enough smarts (/) to fight the PLP and get elected twice, whilst being the whipping dog of a media that has no morals or ethics. FUD has unfortunately become the norm.

          He doesn't need smarts to fight the PLP, he just needs smart people behind him.

          1. John G Imrie Silver badge

            Machiavelli

            Machiavelli said there where 3 types of rulers:-

            The first had the smarts to rule on their own, these where excellent but rare;

            The second had the smarts to listen to their advisers and to be able to pick the best advice from the conflicting advice. These where good and common.

            The third couldn't rule on there own and couldn't decide which advice was the best. These where bad and didn't last long.

            I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader which category May and Crobin each reside in.

            1. harmjschoonhoven
              Boffin

              Re: Machiavelli

              Niccolò Machiavelli said of the secretaries of princes, Il Principe (Florence, 1513), Cap. XXI.

              E perché sono di tre generazione cervelli, l'uno intende da sé, l'altro discerne quello che altri intende, el terzo non intende né sé né altri, quel primo è eccellentissimo, el secondo eccellente, el terzo inutile.

              There are three different kinds of brains, the one understands things unassisted, the other understands things when shown by others, the third understands neither alone nor with the explanations of others. The first kind is most excellent , the second is also excellent, but the third is useless.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So when will the politicians learn?

        "This Labour strategy worked as it damaged the tory majority, but it was extremely unethical."

        As opposed to the "strong and stable" strategy that tried to cast the Labour leadership as terrorist sympathisers, both current and historic.

        "But Labour, knowing they had no chance of winning could fill their manifesto with vote-bribes and vote-bait without having to worry about fulfilling them."

        The "economically competent" Tory horse bolted that stable quite a while ago.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: So when will the politicians learn?

          Chill, I'm not arguing for the tories, just pointing out how things played out. The Labour manifesto was clearly a massive vote-bait and there was no way they would be fulfilled. But that didn't matter because they knew they wouldn't need to.

          And I don't think tories had "Corbyn is a terrorist sympathiser" in their manifesto - that tended to be a pro-conservative media thing.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: So when will the politicians learn?

            >And I don't think tories had "Corbyn is a terrorist sympathiser" in their manifesto - that tended to be a pro-conservative media thing.

            Rather like 'Strong and Stable' and 'Magic Money Tree' it was used by every minister whenever security came up. Be interesting to see if they stick with Sir Lynton's 'broken record technique' and empty manifesto in the next election - which can't be long off.

            Originally it was Cameron @ 1922 Committee when he was pressuring his back-benchers to vote to bomb Syria/Daesh in 2015..

            "You should not be walking through the lobbies with Jeremy Corbyn and a bunch of terrorist sympathisers,"

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: So when will the politicians learn?

            "Corbyn is a terrorist sympathiser"

            Even if that was merely a media trope, it's backfired spectacularly on the party of government. Especially as it referred to Northern Ireland... and now the Prime Minister is in bed with the DUP...

            You really couldn't make this up. Antony Jay, your imagination needs a reboot.

        2. Arctic fox
          Flame

          Indeed AC............

          ..................."As opposed to the "strong and stable" strategy that tried to cast the Labour leadership as terrorist sympathisers, both current and historic."

          Then after fucking up in this election big time they are now trying to get into bed with the political wing of the banned UDA and UVF in order to preserve some kind of majority. Their hypocrisy in attacking Corbyn for talking to Sinn Fein about a peaceful way forward a couple of decades or more ago when he was followed thereafter by John Major and then Tony Blair (respect to them both in this particular context regardless of my political disagreements with both of them in other areas) is nauseating. The Tories are putting at risk the entire peace process in NI just to preserve their nasty political arses.

          1. YARR

            @ Arctic fox

            "some kind of majority" ... "just to preserve their nasty political arses"

            What alternative is there when the Tories have more seats than all potential opposition parties combined?

            I don't see how this situation can be described as "not a majority government" yet an individual MP can win their seat by one vote and not have to power share. It looks to me like the Tories have a clear majority despite alienating their core voters, while Labour pulled out all the stops with false promises designed to lure young / inexperienced voters.

            1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
              Unhappy

              "t looks to me like the Tories have a clear majority "

              There are 650 seats in the House of Commons.

              If your party holds 326 of them you have an absolute (but wafer thin) majority, provided none of your MPs are Speaker or Deputy Speaker (who by convention abstain from votes).

              Anything less is a minority.

              The Conservatives hold 317 seats.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Indeed AC............

            with the political wing of the banned UDA and UVF

            The political wing of the UVF is the PUP (Progressive Unionist Party), and that of the UDA is the UDP (Ulster Democratic Party), though I doubt if either is very progressive or democratic. The DUP may be a bunch of unpleasant fundamentalist bigots (although somewhat less so since the demise of Paisley senior) but they can't really be described as a "wing" of any of the current paramilitary groups.

      3. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        "May's manifesto was grim, "

        It was also completely uncosted.

        Which she though was not a problem as "They will vote for me and the Grey vote is naturally Conservative. "

        Successive govts have been generous to pensioners. Historically they were not well paid. Now that has changed a lot.

        Community care is a problem for all governments and those of the UK have kept on ignoring it for decades. Who pays and how much are very difficult questions and it needs cross party support to avoid stop/go polices.

        The elderly tend to need multiple medial specialists and social services support. Better communication between all of these would be a start but we're talking serious money.

      4. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

        Re: So when will the politicians learn? @werdsmith

        You open your comment by suggesting a politician would "have to" stand by their manifesto, and yet somehow expect to be taken seriously? I don't think politics is your strong suit, friend.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: So when will the politicians learn? @werdsmith

          You open your comment by suggesting a politician would "have to" stand by their manifesto, and yet somehow expect to be taken seriously? I don't think politics is your strong suit, friend.

          I can see you also have weak suits.

          This was not my first general election and I am aware of what happens to manifestos. I also recall the flak that the parties have to take when they go back on manifesto promises.

          1. hairydog

            Re: So when will the politicians learn? @werdsmith

            The whole point of this election was that May was seeking to dump manifesto promises and return to power with a mandate unconstrained by promises not to increase tax and NI, and with policies like cutting pensions, taking winter fuel allowances, bus passes and the like from pensioners, and taking ownership of people's homes away (and their heirs' inheritance) as a punishment for needing home care.

            Mean, nasty and economically illiterate policies driven by dogma.

      5. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

        Re: So when will the politicians learn?

        "This Labour strategy worked as it damaged the tory majority, but it was extremely unethical."

        I can see that this is the first time you have ever paid attention to a UK General Election.

        Making unsustainable policies before elections is what Oppositions do. They know the Government will break its promises if re-elected, so there's no point in doing anything else.

        The only rule is never upset people with long memories, which is what did for Clegg (and will do for anyone in the DUP who tries to modernise the party).

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: So when will the politicians learn?

          "Making unsustainable policies before elections is what Oppositions do."

          And what sitting governments do is to start tossing sweeties to the marginal electorates about a year before the planned election, knowing most voters have short memories about shitfests that happened longer ago than that.

          The Conservatives didn't get a chance to actually start throwing things around in the electoral lolly scramble, which didn't help them.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So when will the politicians learn?

      Policies that were fully costed and backed by a lot of economists unlike the Tories insane austerity agenda.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: So when will the politicians learn?

        Policies that were fully costed and backed by a lot of economists unlike

        LOL.

        Economists with a fine track record.

    5. Zare

      Re: So when will the politicians learn?

      Cannot upvote this point enough. I am trying to promote the same point.

      Politician that triangulate peoples opinions and polls are not leaders, but, almost per definition, followers. They like to call themselves leaders but they are followers, and even worse, followers of the lowest common denominator out there.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: So when will the politicians learn?

        "Politician that triangulate peoples opinions and polls are not leaders, but, almost per definition, followers."

        To some extent I can sympathise with this. However the last several years should have taught us one thing: politicians of all parties - here and in the US - got completely out of touch with what the electorate was thinking. You can't lead if you take peoples' willingness to follow for granted. Leadership needs more than sound-bites.

        1. breakfast
          Megaphone

          Re: So when will the politicians learn?

          We have had twenty-five, maybe thirty years of spin-based politics, where marketing crept into election campaigns and became a driving force. But in that period marketing crept into everything else as well and now we have a generation who grew up being marketed at so hard and so constantly by everyone that it is just noise to them. The smart political move now is to have clear convictions that you are willing to stick to and argue for, to be the person you claim to be and to step away from the tired marketing and spin-doctor tropes that have lead our electoral narratives for so long.

          It feels like a breath of fresh air to have some actual politics back in our politics, instead of just buffed surfaces and used-car-salesman slickery.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "despite his ludicrous economic policies"

    ... as opposed to the "cut your way to growth" policies that have been so successful in reducing the national debt and promoting economic growth? Such austerity policies have also worked remarkably well for big orgs like IBM ... in that the people at the very top get vastly richer whilst those at the bottom suffer, and the organization as a whole goes in the general direction of the drain.

    1. jason 7

      I was in London with my Dad when the Labour manifesto* was released. My Dad just said "Huh he just wants to take us back to the 1970's etc. etc."

      To which I replied sarcastically, "But Dad, the current system is just working so well for so many of us!"

      The fact is that the world now runs on debt. The more debt you have the better. Has Greece been abandoned? No, it's still there. The deeper you look into the world economy and how it's run, basic common sense economics no longer apply.

      Until we abandon this evil mutated form of Capitalism that just allows the top 1% to make all the profit instead of everyone involved getting a bite of the cherry, the craziness will just continue.

      First step - Get all the money out of politics.

      * - Manifestos just go straight in the bin by 7pm Election Day.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        The rich will always protect themselves, because they can afford to. There is no easy solution to them hoarding money and assets.

        And politicians are ego-centric, ambitious narcissists and sociopaths by nature. They have to be because, let's face it, who else would want to do that job? This is fine as long as we know this is the case, but I find it especially distasteful when they attempt to present themselves as caring people wanting to make a difference etc, when we know they are all about themselves and their behaviour proves as much.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          > politicians are ego-centric, ambitious narcissists and sociopaths by nature

          Except the bit where Corbyn has constantly stuck to his principles for 40 years.

          Have you considered the problem is you? Stop voting for sociopaths, and reject the media's narrative that politicians have to look a certain way.

          1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

            "Except the bit where Corbyn has constantly stuck to his principles for 40 years."

            I thought Corbin couldn't find a seat.

          2. werdsmith Silver badge

            Except the bit where Corbyn has constantly stuck to his principles for 40 years.

            Have you considered the problem is you? Stop voting for sociopaths, and reject the media's narrative that politicians have to look a certain way.

            I see you have been suckered in by Corbyn, I don't believe he is any different in his motivation. Only his approach. Plenty of politicians stick to principles, it doesn't change why.

            As for the problem being me, that's exactly the point I am trying to make. I do reject the meda narrative and I 100% distrust all politicians.

            I just can't understand why there are so many people that will dismiss the lies and propaganda from one side, whilst blindly accepting the same from their own preferred option. Why not use some introspection, understand your own cognitive bias and challenge them all?

            Take notice and don't get upset when the oversimplified specious crap you always believed is easily debunked.

            1. sabroni Silver badge

              When I was a teenager I used to believe that all the political parties were exactly the same, none of them had anyone else's best interests at heart and "Whoever you vote for, government wins". Of course I had no idea what a better system would look like, I just knew what was wrong with the existing set up.

              You seem pretty confident in yourself werdsmith, what specifically are you proposing as an alternative?

              1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                "Whoever you vote for, government wins"

                Yes, but that's meant to emphasise the government is the civil service, the leading political party is the opposition and the trailing one is the opposition-in-waiting.

        2. strum Silver badge

          >I find it especially distasteful when they attempt to present themselves as caring people wanting to make a difference etc

          In my experience, nearly all of them do want to make a difference. But they need to be (re-)elected before they can do squat.

          If electorates responded to reasoned arguments, then that's what they'd get. But they don't - so they get Murdoch.

      2. werdsmith Silver badge

        Has Greece been abandoned? No, it's still there.

        But Greece is now facing 30+ years of enforced austerity. Not a 10 year programme by choice.

      3. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Basic common sense

        I'm by no means an economist.

        But I have enough training in other fields to query whether the common sense analogy of a domestic budget really applies with a national/multinational multibillion governmental budget. And when we think about how banks work, they run almost completely on debt. A bank holds enough cash to meet demands, and creates the rest of it's product (money) by creating debt. Banks lend money they don't have, because it's all just numbers. Unless there's a run on the bank - which is why they have to have enough real money to cope.

        As to austerity, cutting costs by cutting capital jobs ( road mending, education, health care as examples) just creates a different kind of debt for the future to struggle with. Those roads will still need to be mended if we want transport. Those schools will need staff and buildings if we want kids who can read and do sums. Those nurses will need to be trained. And so on. Instead of leaving our kids a debt in the national bank, we leave it in the national Tarmac

      4. Alan Brown Silver badge

        * - Manifestos just go straight in the bin by 7pm Election Day.

        Which I'm sure sunk into to a hell of a lot of Brexit voters when Nigel Farage openly laughed about the policy claims the following day.

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      policies that have been so successful in reducing the national debt and promoting economic growth?

      I'm not a supporter of these policies, but what we need to know is, what the rate of increase in the national debt is, and is it slowing? Because the tories propose that it will start to reduce in 2020 and it is expected to grow at a decreasing rate until then. If that's the case (I don't know) then the policy is working correctly. It is just too simplistic to look at the national debt as a simple number.

      And economic growth for 2016 shows UK ahead of Netherlands, USA, Germany, Austria, Canada, France, Finland, Italy etc.

      I think a lot of people have a specious understanding of what's going on.

      I'm no fan of these policies myself, I would invest in education as this should give a return in the future, and health of course. But objectively I don't believe the UK can afford all it covets.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Can't afford police and nhs but can afford a huge corporation tax cut ? Same old Tories.....

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          But what is corporation tax? Who pays it?

          I'll give you a clue, it's not the shareholders.

          The corporations pass the cost down to their customers and employees, the money always comes from the sweat.

          And frankly, UK doesn't have much to offer in the way of attracting investment.

          Same old tories, same old labour.

          I'll never be a tory or a labour person, I just don't get why people polarise and then rabidly and blindly support one party regardless of how many lies they tell and how shit they are. Like it's their lifelong football team they always supported, or their religion. It's pathetic.

          This lack of objectivity is hurting democracy. Why can't people take a step back and use balance instead of bias?

          Breaking news: All our politicians are shit. Including yours.

          1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

            I just don't get why people polarise and then rabidly and blindly support one party

            spot on werdsmith.

            I dont think we need polictical partys at all . Why Is Teresa May inviting a bunch of gun toting terrorists in just to make sure she has a majority?

            A majority of what? well blue rossette wearing automatons programmed to vote the way she says.

            Surely if the things they were voting on were in any way reasonable then some of the poeople wearing other colours would vote for them?

            Why cant we just chuck all the colours away , and each of the 650 constituences votes for someone to represent them , and that person votes on issues according to what his people want.

            What we have now , with the colours, seems to be some sort of vote rigging , price fixing , racketeering scam! If youre not in a gang , you dont get a say , but you have to follow the gang rules , and you have to shoot the other gang down on sight.

            All the houses of Parliament need is a theme tune by Ice-T and you've got:

            Colors (1989)

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              each of the 650 constituences votes for someone to represent them , and that person votes on issues according to what his people want.

              Which was, of course, the situation prior to Tony Blair. Party affiliation wasn't allowed on the ballot paper, you were supposed to know who you wanted to represent you. It was Blair that insisted on the party being the main thing on the vote, leading to the hilarious upset caused by the "Literal Democrat" candidate in one constituency.

              1. strum Silver badge

                >>each of the 650 constituences votes for someone to represent them , and that person votes on issues according to what his people want.

                >Which was, of course, the situation prior to Tony Blair.

                Was it bollocks.

              2. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge
                Facepalm

                "Which was, of course, the situation prior to Tony Blair. Party affiliation wasn't allowed on the ballot paper...It was Blair that insisted on the party being the main thing on the vote, leading to the hilarious upset caused by the "Literal Democrat" candidate in one constituency."

                Richard Huggett stood as a "Literal Democrat" in the European Parliament Election, 1994.

                Tony Blair was elected PM in 1997.

              3. Alan Brown Silver badge

                "It was Blair that insisted on the party being the main thing on the vote"

                The day you accept that people elect _parties_, not individuals is the day you accept that proportional representation is needed.

                My personal preference is for the MMP(also known as "AV") with 4-5% threshold option as this gives best proportionality and has worked well for decades in the countries that have tried it.

                There is _nothing_ intrinsically wrong with a party not holding a majority in parliament. This forces government by concensus and reins in the more ideologically extreme policies. Problems arise when they're desperate willing to do deals with extremist minor parties to gain a majority as it gives those minor parties a degree of influence vastly in excess of their size (See "kingmakers")

            2. strum Silver badge

              >each of the 650 constituences votes for someone to represent them , and that person votes on issues according to what his people want

              They'll all happily vote for the goodies to be handed out - but they'll be less happy to vote to pay the bill for them.

              That's the thing - government requires *both* - and that requires a plan, a manifesto (and party heavies to enforce it).

        2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Can't afford police and nhs

          Nobody can afford the NHS. You could dump the entire GDP into it and it could still spend more. That's the problem with open-ended issues like "health", there's always a limit, and someone is always on the wrong side of it.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I'm not a supporter of these policies, but what we need to know is, what the rate of increase in the national debt is, and is it slowing? Because the tories propose that it will start to reduce in 2020 and it is expected to grow at a decreasing rate until then. If that's the case (I don't know) then the policy is working correctly. It is just too simplistic to look at the national debt as a simple number.

        The policy was to clear the deficit for 2015, then 2020, now its 2025. If it was working as intended, it would be cleared by now, but it isn't. It either needs tweaking to find a working policy or abandoning for one that will work if that is the government intention. All austerity seems to have done is make lots of people poorer (not just financially, also in terms of available government services), while making the very rich, vastly richer.

        >And economic growth for 2016 shows UK ahead of Netherlands, USA, Germany, Austria, Canada, France, Finland, Italy etc.

        Slowest in the EU so far in 2017, and inflation at its highest level in several years.

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "But objectively I don't believe the UK can afford all it covets."

        But your downvotes should tell you how widely that fails to be understood.

      4. cantankerous swineherd Silver badge

        the national debt is never paid off, economic growth renders it negligible in the long run.

        1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
          Facepalm

          4 billion per month is negligible? and thats just the interest.

          An economy based on permanent growth is an unsustainable ponzi scheme in a variety of ways

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            "An <thing> based on permanent growth is an unsustainable ponzi scheme in a variety of ways"

            Which is just one of the reasons the NHS, pensions and care for the elderly are going to soak up more and more money: for years, a Ponzi scheme where the contributions came within range of the outpayments, but only if the demographic balance stayed the same. When people started to be healthier, live longer, and when medicine got cleverer and also more expensive, that started to look a bit ropey, and honest politicians would have pointed that out.

            What am i saying, "honest politicians". That's like saying "fair and balanced Daily Mail editorial".

            I apologise.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      the people at the very top get vastly richer whilst those at the bottom suffer,

      Not borne out by the facts, though. Sure, the rich get hugely richer, that's just maths. Add 20% to a multi-millionaire & you get a lot more than if you add 40% to a minimum-wage burger flipper. What you're ignoring is the huge group in the middle which is also steadily moving up. The average middle-class family is far better off in real terms than it was in the 1960s.

  5. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Getting the wrong demographics adjustments

    Brexit, Trump and this election polls got it wrong because they did not perform the demographics adjustment correctly.

    BrExit got the pensioners voting in droves. I will always remember a cute pair on that day. She, in a wheelchair, draped in a Union Jack blanket. He, pushing the chair and sucking on a Union Jack sticker-ed oxygen bottle in the pushchair tray. The Romanian nurse changing their nappies, the German surgeon who replaced their hips and the polish delivery driver bringing the new oxygen bottles on a weekly basis "took their jobs". The polls failed to predict the lack of engagement with the younger generation (courtesy of the fat cat club that ran Remain) and the droves of angry pensioners going to the polls.

    Trump win was predicted by a couple of sociologists, but was not publicized at all prior to the vote. They quite correctly noted that the only 19% of the white males in the mid-west and rural regions elsewhere vote and it will take Trump only pushing that to ~40% to win by a landslide. No poll performed this adjustment so rather unsurprisingly the results came up as a shock.

    This election was won by the younger generation. It traditionally swings left and it was most spectacular in university cities. The usual university city battles are between Tories and Liberal Democrats with engagement standing at sub <60%. Instead of that we had >75% (going into 80%+ in places) and Tory vs Labor. Students voted. They have not seen how a country run by a proper left government looks like as they were born after that (Blair's "left" is somewhere around Atilla The Hun so it does not count). It now depends if Labor manages to keep that engagement (not particularly difficult at the current tuition rates and easy to counter by rolling them back).

    In all cases the demographic adjustment and the failure to correctly account for changes in voter engagement for specific demographics was that turned the cart.

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: Getting the wrong demographics adjustments

      'This election was won by the younger generation.'

      Well not really, Labour still lost, it's just the Tories didn't win either.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        "'This election was won by the younger generation.'" "Well not really, Labour still lost, i"

        True, but the young have been reminded that they can make a difference.

        In the 60's 80% of both the young and the old turned out.

        Now the old turn out and the parties polices (of all side) aim to keep them sweet.

        The young? F**k em, they don't vote.

        Now they have. The question is can they keep doing so? It's a habit they'd better acquire again if they don't want to be sidelined and generally ignored.

        1. Smooth Newt Silver badge
          Meh

          Re: "'This election was won by the younger generation.'" "Well not really, Labour still lost, i"

          The young? F**k em, they don't vote.

          Now they have. The question is can they keep doing so? It's a habit they'd better acquire again if they don't want to be sidelined and generally ignored.

          No, they won't vote in such numbers next time. The Conservatives have learnt their lesson. The next election will be called for a university holiday period when the students are out of reach of both their polling stations and the students' unions exhorting them to vote. And postal votes are delivered to their term time addresses.

          1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

            Re: "'This election was won by the younger generation.'" "Well not really, Labour still lost, i"

            The next election will be called for a university holiday period when the students are out of reach of both their polling stations and the students' unions exhorting them to vote.

            Fair point.

            I believe she would love to try. If she does, the result may be different from what she seeks. She will win the battle, but lose the war. It will solidify the young generation swing to the left for decades to come as they will see her (and the Tories) as THE enemy from now onwards.

            1. Yugguy

              Re: "'This election was won by the younger generation.'" "Well not really, Labour still lost, i"

              I sometimes wonder if more young came out to vote because for the last 2 years us old folk have been calling them lazy bastards for not bothering in 2015.

      2. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

        Re: Getting the wrong demographics adjustments

        Making Theresa May realise that she is not, in fact, a dictator, is a big win.

        We'll see how long it takes before she reverts back to playing Thatcher in a B-movie again.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Getting the wrong demographics adjustments

      It's impossible to predict voter turnout. Because many opinion poll respondents "overestimate their likelihood to vote", as the pollsters politely put it. And they've done this for decades. So the pollsters can only make a guess. Although the ones who got closest (eg Yougov) were the ones who adjusted their models at the last minute to dial down their previous accounting for differential voting between young and old.

      With margin of error, the polls will always struggle to call a close vote. And with something like a one-off referendum they're even less reliable, as they've no precedent on which to base their models.

      You also need to know what the polls are showing. So if lots of people made their mind up about Brexit at the last minute, it could be that the polls were right, as they had the result going more leave towards the end and called it close. The final sampling is done over the last few days of the campaign, so can never fully capture late swings.

      But anyway, on Brexit the polls were withing the ballpark. On Trump they were correct (not wrong as many people claim) as they called Trump losing the popular vote correctly - which he did.

      As this piece says, getting the overall percentage of the vote correct still doesn't account for the vaguaries of a constituency system, where non-uniform swing can lead to people piling up large majorities in some constituencies and losing others narrowly.

      However the UK general election polling for the last two elections has been rubbish. Which is a problem. And young people turning out this election is an excuse, but the sampling errors of 2015 were purely down to the pollsters.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Getting the wrong demographics adjustments

      "Instead of that we had >75% (going into 80%+ in places) and Tory vs Labor. Students voted."

      Many students wanted to remain in the EU and were pretty shocked to realise that their votes might have actually counted for something last year, but were overcome by apathy. So this year, they came out in droves and voted for the party promising free university tuition, not the party appearing to be taking away their inheritance for their parent upcoming care costs.

      Naturally, there were many other factors, all of which add up to significance, but the above does seem to be a significant one in it's own right.

    4. fajensen Silver badge

      Re: Getting the wrong demographics adjustments

      Brexit, Trump and this election polls got it wrong because they did not perform the demographics adjustment correctly

      Maybe. Another thing is: Who do these pollsters ask?

      Who will answer the phone when caller-id is blocked or the number is unknown? Old people, morons and people waiting specifically to be contacted by a doctor or such! Who answers on-line-polls? Morons! Who will stop in the street and talk to "facers"? No-one who has anything better to do, that's who!

      The other thing is that the people doing these surveys are temps, students and call-centre drones. They have performance metrics, "x calls per hour, y surveys done per contact" or we take your chair, desk then the sack (my sister worked in a call centre). Why not make up some stuff, go home early and collect the money? It's not like anyone really Checks (my sister worked in a call centre)!

      So the sampling is pretty skewed, I think. And the data pretty dodgy too.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As Liberal Party of Old would have told you

    The purpose of Opinion Polls is not to measure Voting Intentions, but rather to Manipulate them to the author's desired eventual outcome.

    1. Christopher Reeve's Horse

      Re: As Liberal Party of Old would have told you

      Which is a shame, because those all that effort going into exit polls lasts <24 hours, as the 'actual' polls get counted.

      Guess it's just taking a gamble, hoping to justify the narrative, and possibly being able to say 'told you so', and 'look at us, finger on the pulse, our news is the best news' etc..

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: As Liberal Party of Old would have told you

        That's all conspiracy theory bollocks. The press don't pay the polling companies enough to make a profit on political polling, they only use it to give them some relatively cheap things to talk about. The pollsters are doing it as a combination of public service and advertising their wares. So if the political polling is way out, it makes them look bad. Unfortunately there isn't enough money in it to do really top-notch polling.

        Although even when Lord Ashcroft spent some serious cash on a couple of hundred constituency level polls in 2015 (the first time this had ever been done) - they didn't turn out any more accurate than polling nationally.

        1. fajensen Silver badge

          Re: As Liberal Party of Old would have told you

          So if the political polling is way out, it makes them look bad.

          It may make them look bad, but in no way does this stop the stupidity because (as you said) the point of polls is to have something to talk about AND someone to blame for ones failures! Repeated failures just put the pollsters in the same bin as Economists, who have for too long absolutely cornered the market for prediction fails and done very well for themselves too. Even penny-stock tipsters manage to live, thus the pollsters can relax: There is plenty of space at the bottom!

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: As Liberal Party of Old would have told you

            Actually your right in your comparison of pollsters to economists. Both are unfairly maligned and have their results misused by everyone else. Only to have those same people complain when the results they failed to bother to understand turned out never to have been saying what they thought they did.

            So both polling and economics are inexact sciences - requiring good use of statistics but also a lot of judgement in how to use them. In a world when good statistics don't actually exist because they're too expensive, and often literally impossible, to gather accurately. Also the stats are usually out of date when you get them, meaning you're trying to forecast the future when you don't even have the information to know what's happening in the present - only the past.

            Oh and proper scientific testing is impossible, without access to a parallel universe.

            If you're careful, both economics and polling can tell you useful things. But you must know the limitations of both.

            Journalists will ignore all the caveats, then complain when the stuff they were told about and ignored, happens.

            If you compare the errors in everyday polling to the high levels of accuracy of the exit poll and the British Election Survey and British Attitudes Survey, you'll understant what can be achieved with the right resources.

            The BES for example got the result of the 2015 election broadly correct. Now admittedly it was done after the election, but when the pollsters re-contacted their samples after the election they still got the wrong results. Showing they had a sampling error problem, not a people lying to them problem.

            However, the BES knocks on people's doors. Semi-random houses picked to give good demographic coverage. When they first knocked on the door, they also got the result wrong, as crudely most of the Conservative voters were out. But they went back up to seven times, until they got to speak to the person from the electoral roll they were after. Something pollsters can't afford to do.

            I suppose Lord Ashcroft could, as he's a billionaire who's interested in polling. But it would make a significant dent in even his cash to do it regularly.

      2. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

        Re: As Liberal Party of Old would have told you

        Manipulation of opinion polls is a running theme in To Play the King.

  7. kmac499

    First Past the Post

    Following on from injecting statistical honesty, can we please stop calling our system First Past the Post. There is no Post.

    A true FPtP system would set the same finishing point for all constituencies, and the winners would be the first ones to cross that line.

    What we actually have is a Furthest From the Start system, i.e. when all the votes are counted the winner is the one with the biggest pile in that election. There is no concept of a quorum of voters or a minimum percentage of available votes. So in theory a constituency could be decided by one single vote, e.g, Jon Bercow being unnopposed as the speaker.

    Calling our system FPtP adds an air legitimacy to the winner even though they may be elected on a sizeable minority of votes cast,

    Renaming the system would focus attention on the actual electoral support the winners have.

    I know this argument begs the question for a transferable vote or french primary system but surely the whole point of a voting system is to elect representatives who genuinely represent their electorate.

    1. Mark 110 Silver badge

      Re: First Past the Post

      kmac - great point. Not one I, as a pro PR type, have never heard before. Not sure what you got down voted for. Probably by Tories with a vested interest in keeping the current unrepresentative system.

      The Tories got a little over 40% of the vote in the election but 48% of the seats. Go figure . . .

      1. SkippyBing Silver badge

        Re: First Past the Post

        'Probably by Tories with a vested interest in keeping the current unrepresentative system.'

        Or Labour under Blair, or in fact anyone who forms a Government as once you achieve power under the FPtP system it suddenly doesn't seem so important to change it. At lest the Tories* gave the option of changing the system, even if the choice wasn't that great, which is more than any other party has done.

        *Okay the Coalition, but it would be interesting to see if the Lib Dems remained so enamoured of electoral reform if they ever got an outright majority under FPtP.

        1. Mark 110 Silver badge

          Re: First Past the Post

          Agree. Have an upvote. The Tories properly shafted the Libs on that PR referendum. And the Libs didn't help themselves by not picking a better type of PR. Labour have always been against PR for the same reason as the Tories. I think they may have to change their minds if the tories get their boundary changes through though.

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: First Past the Post

            Labour and the Tories might be against PR for reasons of self-interest, but I think there's a pretty good argument to say that so are the voting public. I admit that some called AV a miserable compromise, but even so - there was no public appetite for it. Hence it went down in the referendum. And PR doesn't appear on any of the top ten (or even top 20) policy priorities, when you ask voters.

            Also, as the Lib Dems found out, our voters don't seem particularly patient with the policy compromises that PR forces. In first-past-the-post you get less control of who and what you can vote for, but you get a known manifesto at the end of it. You are also able to vote for the anyone but so-and-so candidate, so it enables you to kick out the people currently in power.

            PR doesn't give you that negative (but I'd argue really important) option and also leaves you mostly with a coalition government, so you don't even know what policies you're going to end up with. That also has its advantages of course, but to claim that PR is a panacea for all our voting problems is just silly. It has as many problems as any other system.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: First Past the Post

              "Also, as the Lib Dems found out, our their voters don't seem particularly patient with the policy compromises that PR forces."

              It was they who suffered, quite unfairly, I think by this. It would have been grossly irresponsible in 2010 to let the country slip back into the hands of Brown or to saddle it with a government too weak to start sorting out the mess that Brown had left behind. Sadly their supporters haven't forgiven them for temporarily becoming more than a party of protest.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: First Past the Post

                "sorting out the mess that Brown had left behind"

                Showing your political colours there. The mess was caused by the banks, the same banks the Tories wanted to reduce regulation on prior to 2008. Brown is respected around the world for his response to the crisis. The economy was starting to grow by 2010, at a faster rate than under the Tories.

                The voters opinion of PR was also irrelevant, we were not offered PR, but a form of alternate vote.

                1. codejunky Silver badge

                  Re: First Past the Post

                  @AC

                  "The mess was caused by the banks, the same banks the Tories wanted to reduce regulation on prior to 2008"

                  The global financial crisis was due to the banks. The financial position of the country with its lavish overspending during a boom is not the fault of the banks.

                  "The economy was starting to grow by 2010, at a faster rate than under the Tories."

                  Easy to do until the credit dries up. Until the bill is called it is easy to live beyond your means. Brown did that through a boom and thought he had defied economics that there would be no bust.

                  1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                    Re: First Past the Post

                    "The financial position of the country with its lavish overspending during a boom is not the fault of the banks."

                    There wasn't that much overspending - especially compared with the amount of oil money pissed against a wall by successive conservative governments in an attempt to woo voters.

                    The double whammy was that the crash happened AND the oil money started drying up about the same time. Deregulation made the crash inevitable, given that the regulations in question were created in response to (and to prevent recurrances of) virtually identical crashes in the past.

            2. I am the liquor

              Re: First Past the Post

              "Labour and the Tories might be against PR for reasons of self-interest, but I think there's a pretty good argument to say that so are the voting public. I admit that some called AV a miserable compromise, but even so - there was no public appetite for it. Hence it went down in the referendum."

              What that referendum really showed was that a large majority of the electorate don't care what voting system we have.

          2. Roj Blake Silver badge
            Headmaster

            Re: The Tories properly shafted the Libs on that PR referendum

            Repeat after me: Alternative Vote is not Proportional Representation

            1. I am the liquor

              Re: The Tories properly shafted the Libs on that PR referendum

              "Repeat after me: Alternative Vote is not Proportional Representation"

              Politicians seem utterly terrified of PR, which leads me to conclude that it must be a very good thing. Even when someone tries to force them to put PR on the table, they will do anything to wriggle out of it. Example, offering us AV in the "PR" referendum. Or implementing the party list system for European elections (it's proportional, but it's not representation).

        2. strum Silver badge

          Re: First Past the Post

          >Or Labour under Blair

          You forget that Blair did try to work a deal with Ashdown, on PR - but his party vetoed it.

      2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: First Past the Post

        The Tories got a little over 40% of the vote in the election but 48% of the seats.

        42.5% of the vote, but that's splitting hairs.

        More interesting is that in the constituencies with the closest results, only 400 switched votes made the difference. 800 more Tory votes shared out around the right places (like Kensington) and the Tories would have had a majority of seats.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: First Past the Post

      "but surely the whole point of a voting system is to elect representatives who genuinely represent their electorate."

      This. It depresses me how many people said they were voting for May or Corbyn when they are actually voting for their own local MP. There's nothing in the rules to say a party can't change their leader, and hence who becomes PM, 5 minutes after the election is won. Blair made "personality politics" most blatant in recent history, but May took it to a whole new level with her campaign posters omitting the word "Conservative" entirely and barely mention the party in the manifesto. So much so that even the press started calling the Tory Manifesto the May Manifesto.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: First Past the Post

        "This. It depresses me how many people said they were voting for May or Corbyn when they are actually voting for their own local MP."

        Why shouldn't they vote that way. It might make a difference if their local MP makes it clear they're going to oppose the party leader on some topic or other. I corresponded with my local MP over surveillance. He stuck by the party May's line. I told him I wouldn't vote for him as long as she remained leader and I didn't.

        "There's nothing in the rules to say a party can't change their leader, and hence who becomes PM, 5 minutes after the election is won."

        Probably not 5 minutes after it's won. After it's lost is a different matter. In any case if a leader who voters aren'tt prepared to support is replaced then the voters can act accordingly.

        "So much so that even the press started calling the Tory Manifesto the May Manifesto."

        In which case what's wrong with refusing to vote for her proxy, the local candidate?

      2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: First Past the Post

        It depresses me how many people said they were voting for May or Corbyn when they are actually voting for their own local MP.

        There's a difference between the constitutional niceties and reality. In reality was are voting for the Prime Minister. Has there ever been a case of a party winning an election and changing leaders five minutes later? No. And for the same reason. They can, but the public would be pissed off with them if they did. Who the leader of the party is has always mattered, and always will matter. And there never was a golden age when it didn't, until you go back into the distant days of a loose party system, tiny electorate and still large influence for the king.

        The PM in this country is very powerful. There's an argument for having a separate election for PM and Parliament I suppose - although the only places I can think of that do that are Presidential systems. Oh sorry, Israel has elected the PM directly for about 15 years now. It was done on who could form a coalition in the Knesset before.

        1. Arrgh. It wasn't me!

          Re: First Past the Post

          Has there ever been a case of a party winning an election and changing leaders five minutes later?

          Well, yes.

          Back in the 80s Labour won the GLC election and promptly ditched their 'moderate' leader to install Ken Livingstone.

          This may or may not have accelerated the abolition of Metropolitan Borough Councils

          1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

            Re: First Past the Post

            That wasn't Labour ditching their leader after winning the GLC elections, but the Livingstone Clique implementing a coup after the party won the election. link

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. kmac499

        Re: First Past the Post

        " they were voting for May or Corbyn when they are actually voting for their own local MP."

        Quite so, Another minor niggle. The number of times we hear usually the Brexiterrs moaning about the unelected EU commissioners (they are elected of course.) or any MPs moaning about the unelected judiciary, House of Lords etc. frustrating their mandate.

        When the biggest bunch of unelected 'civil servants' are ministers (cabinet and junior) and the Fisrt Lord of the Treasury aka the PM. All appointed by patronage and or horse trading. At least the select committees feign a form of democracy even though the candidate list is a carve up between parties.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: First Past the Post

          Another minor niggle. The number of times we hear usually the Brexiterrs moaning about the unelected EU commissioners (they are elected of course.)

          kmac499,

          EU Commissioners are not elected. They're appointed by each EU government picking one and the EU Commission President then giving them a particular portfolio. There's then a hearing into each one from the relevant committee of the European Parliament, though they don't actually have the power to reject them. However the Parliament does have the nuclear option of rejecting the whole Commission, so usually if someone is particularly objectionable the Commission President goes back to the relevant government and asks for a new candidate.

          So they're basically appointed in exactly the way you object to with cabinet ministers. Even though the majority of them have been elected to Parliament individually. As well as maintain a majority support in Parliament or the government falls.

          The EU Commission President is appointed by the Council of Ministers (heads of government of the member states), although also subject to the approval of the Parliament.

          In an odd twist, at the last elections a bunch of the Parliamentarians got together and created a new wrinkle in the system. Without authority of the treaties they asserted the right of the Parliament to pick the Commission President. In order to either insert some democratic legitimacy, or assert some power for themselves. Or both. This was called the Spitzenkandidaten system, as I think it was dominated by German MEPs. Each European party therefore picked a candidate, and said they'd veto any other the governments picked, than the one from the largest party. The Council of Ministers chose not to fight this, hence we got Juncker, as the candidate of the EPP. Even though the EPP didn't stand in all members of the EU.

          It's not particularly democratic, partly because the Commission can often ignore the Parliament, but mainly because it's so remote from the people, who aren't really heterogeneous enough to form a demos anyway. On the other hand, it's clearly not an anti-democratic outrage either. Anyone using EUSSR so misunderstands the system as to be worth ignoring, in the same way I ignore all comments using "sheeple", "MMT", "Lamestream media" etc.

          1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

            Re: First Past the Post

            "EU Commissioners are not elected. They're appointed"

            Like Theresa May then?

          2. strum Silver badge

            Re: First Past the Post

            >It's not particularly democratic

            It's significantly more democratic than the British system.

            The Commission are, effectively, the civil service, led by the equivalent of Cabinet ministers (except that the Commissioners have to be approved by the European Parliament).

            The EU Parliament is much more representative than Westminster (and of course, we have the ludicrous House of Lords to explain away, too).

      4. Yugguy

        Re: First Past the Post

        I have predominately been a conservative voter. But in this election I voted Labour, not for Corbyn but because I believed our local labour candidate would be a better MP than the conservative one.

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Unhappy

          "I believed our local labour candidate would be a better MP "

          Which in the the UK system is about the only real decision you can make, beyond voting the runner up to keep someone out.

          1. codejunky Silver badge

            Re: "I believed our local labour candidate would be a better MP "

            @ John Smith 19

            "beyond voting the runner up to keep someone out"

            I do dislike this form of voting. The only certainty of the outcome is someone winning that neither of you want. If people would vote for who they want then at least they can be happy if they win and accepting if they lose. If someone votes for someone they dont want to keep out someone they dont want then they are firstly a protest vote and secondly unhappy regardless of the result.

            1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
              Unhappy

              "I do dislike this form of voting. "

              If you're a British voter it's the only real choice you have to effect change. If you just want to feel you supported a candidate you like then vote for them instead. The odds on bet is you won't make a difference but you'll feel better and you complain about the result. IMHO (as with all elections) anyone who didn't vote should STFU.

              This might sound a bit like the US Presidential system where people voted Trump as "The lesser evil."

              In which case you'd be right.

              It's a fact that no place else in Europe uses this system. Even places that have had absolute dictatorships didn't think it was a better idea. So pretty much anywhere in the immediate vicinity of the UK would give you a greater chance to express your preferred choice than simply voting to keep someone else out.

              But apparently the British people cannot cope with ranking their preference so they all they can have is the binary system.

              1. codejunky Silver badge

                Re: "I do dislike this form of voting. "

                @ John Smith 19

                "The odds on bet is you won't make a difference"

                I voted UKIP and we not only got a referendum but also a vote to leave. I do agree that under a more representative system UKIP would have had much more direct influence over how. I seriously agree with people who dont vote dont really have much right to complain, if they cannot be bothered being heard then why should anyone listen.

                "This might sound a bit like the US Presidential system where people voted Trump as "The lesser evil.""

                I do dislike the idea of voting against Hillary but I can see a good reason voting for Trump (and once my favoured candidate dropped out I thought Trump would be a good idea) because he isnt either of the parties. To me Trump and Sanders were the same extreme and bluster but at the opposite extremes. I wanted Trump to win, not because I thought he would be any good, but because it will hopefully force US politicians and parties to improve.

    3. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      "in theory a constituency could be decided by one single vote,"

      And in the days of "Rotten boroughs" there could literally be a single voter to make it.

    4. MGJ

      Re: First Past the Post

      Hooray, someone else who gets that electoral systems (and their names) are important. France has first past the post; you need to be elected with 50% of the votes, or the top two go into a run off. UK elections use plurality - 'most votes wins' - for each constituency. As a form of shorthand, FPTP made sense when there were two parties, now we have three and four way marginal, and it doesn't. Call it most votes wins, but even that doesn't work (as in 1951, where Labour got more votes overall, but lost the election). Its not like there aren't better systems to use with all the advantages (named representation is still a big thing) such as the Additional Member system used in Scotland. The disadvantage of that being that there is a likelihood of coalition unless one party gets an overwhelming support (Scotland in 2011 for example) but it has to be better than a system that allows a party with barely 40% of the vote to be propped up by 10 orange loyalists, whose opinions seem to count for more than they should.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This election probably had more tactical voting than usual. People in anything other than a safe seat could vote not for their preferred party - but for a candidate with the best chance of beating a disliked incumbent MP or party.

    The 1950s through 1970s had the two main parties with similar left/right of centre policies. The chasm between them opened up in the 1980s as they both lurched further to their left or right. The result was the formation of the left of centre SDP - which came very close to "breaking the mould" in a similar show of support that Macron is experiencing with his new party in France. The Falklands War was probably the unexpected event that prevented the SDP consolidating their position.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Joke

      "but for a candidate with the best chance of beating a disliked incumbent MP"

      OMFG this could be a real story!

      "IQ of British Electorate appears to be rising. 'We stopped wishing for Unicorns and started looking at what we could really get.' Full story at 10"

      I'm feeling a little feint. I may have to lie down.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    YouGov seem to be the diamond in the turd

    They started predicting no overall majority nearly 2 weeks before the election, and they remained true to that even when other polls were hinting at a 50+ Conservative majority.

    I was interested to see the BBC exit poll was actually almost bang-on the money, unlike 2015.

    However, we need to be careful drawing conclusions. I used my one advantage of being a floating voter to vote Labour to keep the Tory loons out. However, I have absolutely no support for Brexit whatsoever. Something they will need to bear in mind when the next election comes before Christmas.

    I've already contacted my Labour MP and told them this ...

    1. Jane Fae
      Stop

      Re: YouGov seem to be the diamond in the turd

      Ye-es....though if you check my twitter feed, i was suggesting that based on the trend - not any one poll - a reduced majority or even no overall majority was on the cards from about three to four weeks out.

      But that was not an election "forecast" the way a lot of traditional pollsters tend to regard it. Rather, it was more along the lines of what i used to do, as a statistician, coming up with risk assessments: looking at the data and determining which outcomes were feasible, which more likely (as opposed to "which would happen").

      Two points, therefore: the Tories have acted with criminal irresponsibility in only considering how to deal with one set of outcomes (on Brexit and on this latest fiasco) and utterly ignoring possible counterfactuals.

      And second, the point of my pie3ce: the polls CAN'T do the sort of forecasting that the media try to pretend they can....so in that sense, your response heads off in the wrong direction. It's not about who got it rightest....but why we even begin to imagine anyone can.

    2. Naselus Silver badge

      Re: YouGov seem to be the diamond in the turd

      Actually, no, they didn't.

      Yougov produced 2 models - the 'standard' model and the 'seat-by-seat' model. The seat-by-seat model was actually pretty good, because they weren't trying to weigh it very much. The standard model was still producing absolute bollocks on the day of the vote; it predicted a 6% Tory lead in the popular vote.

      This wasn't actually true to their raw data (which had Labour about 1 point behind), but like all the other polling companies they massively deflated young voter turnout predictions, far more than was actually likely, to try and correct for underestimating the Tory vote in 2015. Some pollsters were taking a 1% lead in the raw data and inflating it to 10% or 12%.

      The only major pollster who just reported their raw data was Survation, which was continuously showing a very tight race (and even they still underestimated Labour).

  10. Spod

    Even if a poll prediction was accurate at the time it was taken, given the available data, the act of publishing and publicising the data could affect the outcome, assuming enough people object to the outcome and vote against it.

    The fact that a landslide was predicted could have persuaded some people to vote Labour when they might not otherwise have been bothered to go and vote. And how would we know? Nobody took a poll to ask them...

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      "Even if a poll prediction was accurate at the time it was taken,"

      So poll prediction like any database.

      Begins to go out of date as soon as someone has run a query across all of it.

      Should this be a surprise to anyone here?

  11. A K Stiles

    Not forgetting...

    ... the effect of tactical voting - I might vote for this person even though I most closely align to someone else because they stand the best chance of stopping the incumbent I really don't want to win (Least worst option - hmm, single transferable vote anyone?).

    I also wonder what the effect is of the pollsters getting responses along the lines of "Do one, my voting intentions are none of your business sunshine!". Do they just discount them completely, or have they calculated that one party's followers are more likely to decline the poll so allocate them that way?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Meh

    For better or worse, this is a period of voters punishing incumbents

    Trump, brexit, this election - the voters are doing the stick wielding. It would be interesting to know if it's the same general set of people who normally vote, or wither there's another section of the UK and US populations who's getting very pissed off with the status quo. Also how much of this is happening elsewhere too - the French election looks interesting in itself, and I suspect Merkel needs to remain very vigilant.

    Like it or not, this is at least, very much democracy in action.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: For better or worse, this is a period of voters punishing incumbents

      The French election was very similar. Macron is being regarded as the continuity candidate, because of relief that Le Pen didn't win.

      But the socialists went from government to something like 7% in one election! And it looks like they're about to get slaughtered in the Assembly elections too. The right might have won, had not their candidate got mired in a corruption scandal. So of the top 4 candidates in the run-off, who all got about 20% we had:

      Macron, an independent who started his own party only 2 years ago. Although he was briefly a middle ranking minister in the Socialist government, but brought in as an outsider.

      Le Pen, from the anti-establishment (possibly ex-fascist) right.

      Valls, from the Republicans, standard opposition right wing party.

      Melenchon, quite far left anti-establishment. Nicked most of the Socialist's remaining voters that Macron didn't get.

  13. Christopher Reeve's Horse

    Sample size

    I've never been canvassed for an opinion either when exiting a polling station or at any time beforehand; furthermore I’ve never even seen anyone else being canvassed. Who is being asked?

    You’ve got to wonder where all the data comes from, surely getting an accurate poll for all the constituencies would involve canvassing across a range of times of day to get account for voting behaviours in different demographics?

    Personally I like to completely ignore it all till the final results are in. And even then...

    1. Jane Fae
      Boffin

      Re: Sample size

      This is, sort of, the underlying point. In order to compensate for what they consider to be demographic skews, polling organisations either aim to carry out quota sampling....only including set proportions of specific demographics. Or they grab the best sample they can and weight it according to what they believe to be the likely turn-out.

      So, you have two sets of weightings:

      - weighting for how accurate a Tory/Labour/LibDem preference represents a Tory/Labour/LibDem preference, and

      - wrighting for turn-out by demographic.

      In the absence of a vaildation process, both these weighting sets, no matter how cunningly contrived are really just educated guesses.

      Add that this process requires larger and larger samples for the same level of accuracy.

      And then add, too, that you can't know, in advance, which demographic factors are dignificant for analysis purposes and....

      ....well the impossibility of "accuracy" becomes clear.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sample size

      I've never been canvassed for an opinion...

      They ask me, and as a middle-England, life-long, true-blue Tory supporter I feel entirely qualified to speak for the rest of the nation (except Wales, but we all know they're a bit off).

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Sample size

      "I've never been canvassed for an opinion either when exiting a polling station or at any time beforehand; furthermore I’ve never even seen anyone else being canvassed. Who is being asked?"

      Same here. I suspect that in terms of exit pols, they chose swing seats. If, like me, you live a safe seat constituency, they don't bother because they don't have the resources to monitor all constituencies. I wonder if Amber Rudds constituency was seen as safe enough to not bother with exit polls?

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Sample size

        The exit poll is different to all the other opinion polls. It's why it was so much more accurate in 2015. I think it's only been really wrong in 1992.

        Other opinion polls ask a sample of the population, then check how well that sample compares with the known demographics and try to correct for errors by weighting accordingly. You can fudge the sample a bit in face-to-face polling by making sure you fill out your quota or older and younger people, by approaching more of them. But most polls are done online or by phone, as it's cheaper.

        The exit polls is done at certain set wards in set constituencies, where they poll every election. This gives them a much better knowledge of the trends, as they're broadly polling the same people every election cycle. Obviously boundaries change, as do safe seats - so they may add/remove the odd place each time, but they try not to. This, and the fact that you're asking people a few seconds after they voted, makes it much more accurate. They'll poll some marginal and some safe seats in each area, as it gives a much better idea of differential swing / differential turnout.

        You'd be amazed, but there's a gradual "winner" effect. The further you get from an election, the more people remember voting for the winning party. Obviously they can check this now with online panels, where they have records of how people answer each poll they participate in.

        Anyway the exit poll is, as I said, very different. It's much more expensive to do, but the broadcasters all pay for it, as if they didn't they'd have nothing to talk about between 10pm when the polls close, and when results start coming in.

  14. codejunky Silver badge

    Hmm

    But who would tell the truth anyway? Having a view that differs from the 'accepted' is so unforgivable and unacceptable that they cannot stand any other view. Then people complain about shy tories or shy corbyn/labour.

    Another thing that bugged me was the number of idiots posting on social media how people with differing views need to remove them for being so intolerant (the irony seemed lost). So I did and dropped a few people, all of them the peace and love labour/remain voter. I dont care what they vote nor their political views yet they cannot even tolerate people with different opinions.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Hmm

      I noticed an attempt by the Labour side to guilt trip tory supporters and cast them as uncaring, selfish, etc.

      And a counter attempt by tory supporters to cast Labour supporters as weak, gullible, pie-in-the-sky snowflakes.

      I observed quite a few tories billboard posters and signs getting defaced, but didn't see a single labour one getting the same treatment.

      1. Naselus Silver badge

        Re: Hmm

        I did notice the entire Tory party trying to smear just about all of the Labour leadership as stupid, naive, pacifist, weak terrorists though.

        So, y'know. Swings and roundabouts.

        1. codejunky Silver badge

          Re: Hmm

          @ Naselus

          "I did notice the entire Tory party trying to smear just about all of the Labour leadership as stupid, naive, pacifist, weak terrorists though."

          Absolutely and thats what we expect from politicians. And the people on the ground backing up 'their' party and trying to convince the others of being wrong. But instead of that last part there was a lot of people who seemed to be so fragile in their views that they couldnt allow themselves to listen or even be around someone of a different view. I found it sad because a lack of ability to discuss their position showed how fragile it was. And they had no problem pushing their constant stream of propaganda as long as it wasnt questioned.

          I dont care what party anyone supports, at that point it is fanaticism.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Hmm

        "I observed quite a few tories billboard posters and signs getting defaced, but didn't see a single labour one getting the same treatment."

        In my area the only ones I noticed being defaced were the ones illegally placed on public land.

        Apparently the tories are entitled to use roadside verges as their advertising space whilst noone else is allowed to do so. Others might call it flyposting but I can't possibly comment.

  15. 2+2=5 Silver badge

    > I've never been canvassed for an opinion either when exiting a polling station or at any time beforehand

    Neither have I. But then I live in a constituency with a large Tory majority so there is little point - a 30% swing against the Tories would be required to unseat him.

  16. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Chaotic system?

    Implicit in this is that there is a lot of instability in the system. A small change in sentiment can have a significant affect on the outcome, if that sentiment is relevant to the population in marginal seats. Likewise it can have a large affect on who turns out to vote on the day if it effects a group who are not usually voters (Or who become disenchanted by it).

    The referendum had a significant effect on a large group of individuals who were often not particularly politically aware or even bothered by policies, but saw themselves as down-trodden English, Often "true blue" in a sense that had more to do with a kind first-half of the 20th C flag waving patriotism than Toryism. People who saw their world had changed dramatically and thought this was a way to set the clock back. May's strident "Brexit means Brexit" may well have delighted them, but the reality was always that only just over half of those who voted in the referendum were choosing to change the status quo. And the referendum non-voters, while they did not join the Remain voters, were almost by definition, not motivated supporters of a Hard Brexit either. But falling wages, social care, education funding, tuition fees, excessive wealth and executive pay rises, off-shore tax dodging, property speculation. These are things that people feel in their everyday lives.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's quite simple, people enjoy lying to pollsters to fuck up their forecasts in the hope they'll stop bothering them in the future.

    If you ever want to see a brilliant satire on pollsters, catch Peter Cook's "The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer". Added bonus in that it has the beautiful Valerie Leon starring as well.

  18. James 51 Silver badge

    We need something like the single transferable vote to apply in generation elections throughout the UK. It's a sensible compromise between something like PR and the mess that first past the post has become.

  19. jason 7

    Mandatory voting.

    Well why not?

    And on a weekend too.

    1. Mark 110 Silver badge

      Re: Mandatory voting.

      I would prefer to see a fairer voting system firsts. Pointless forcing people to vote when it can have no effect on the outcome where they live.

      I believe we would see a much higher turn out under a PR system.

      And yes - definitely weekend voting. Weekday voting is always going to mean a higher turn out by the old retired people who have time on their hands.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Mandatory voting.

        "Weekday voting is always going to mean a higher turn out by the old retired people who have time on their hands."

        There's not many people who can reasonably claim to not be able to spare the time sometime between 7am and 10pm, even on a weekday. IIRC, the biggest deciding factor on turnout is the weather, not the day of the week.

        1. hmv

          Re: Mandatory voting.

          There's a bit of a difference between having some spare time on a weekday, and having enough spare time at the weekend to encourage those on the cusp of not bothering to vote. There is really no reason for elections to occur on a Thursday other than for the convenience of politicians.

          Seeing as we haven't had an election on any day other than a Thursday for quite a while, it's kind of difficult to say how big an effect it would have on turnout.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Mandatory voting.

          "There's not many people who can reasonably claim to not be able to spare the time sometime between 7am and 10pm, even on a weekday. "

          There are many who can reasonably claim to not be able to access one particular polling station, which is one of the requirements at the moment.

          I grew up in New Zealand which has a Westminster democracy. You are entitled to walk into any polling station in your electorate and vote without hassle. If you're outside your electorate you can walk into _any_ polling station and cast a "special vote" (which are handled separately, counted and then dispatched to the home electorate for confirmation). Voting is always on weekends.

          The result is that the _lowest_ electoral turnout the country has ever had since WW2 was about 85% (and resulted in a lot of navelgazing about why people weren't voting), with figures usually being closer to 90%

          The current way things are done is almost ideally setup to discourage voting.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Mandatory voting.

        "when it can have no effect on the outcome where they live."

        That old chestnut!

        So many young voters took that view a year ago, discovered where that had got them, changed their minds and found that in a lot of constituencies it had a substantial effect.

        1. Mark 110 Silver badge

          Re: Mandatory voting.

          I wasn't saying turning out can't effect the result. Its just fining people for not turning out seems a bit harsh in many constituencies where, under FPTP, it won't make a difference. If you made turn out mandatory in my constituency then labour would just win by more votes than they currently do.

          If we had a decent PR system (I'm thinking AV+ or DPR but there are others) Labour would win by more votes and get more representatives. Votes for smaller parties would also be represented in parliament. There are no wasted votes.

          1. A K Stiles
            Coat

            Re: Mandatory voting.

            Interestingly, with a PR system and these results (out of 650 seats) the tories would have got 276 seats (318 FPTP), Labour 260 (262 FPTP), LibDems 48 (!2), SNP 20 (35), UKIP 12 (0), Green 11 (1), DUP 6 (10), etc... My point mostly being that under a PR system either the Tories or the Labour party would have had to form a coalition with at least two other parties, and it would probably have been a Labour lead coalition (with SNP and LibDem?) as there likely wouldn't be enough right-of-centre support to break 326...

            Interesting to see the breakdowns by district / polling station and how they fall into the new 600 seat constituencies.

            Of course, the results would probably have been different with a Single Transferable Vote per constituency system as there wouldn't have been the tactical voting between the anti-tory sections...

            What does it all mean? no idea - I stopped diving down statistical-rabbit-holes many years ago.

            1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

              Re: Mandatory voting.

              "with a PR system"

              Which which PR system?

            2. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Mandatory voting.

              Regarding voting patterns with PR: "Of course, the results would probably have been different"

              Absolutely. All you need to do to verify that is look at voting patterns in New Zealand before and after they switched from FPTP to MMP ~20 years ago.

              The really interesting part is how minor parties(*) manage to spectacularly self-destruct when they get a few seats and find the relentless gaze of the media unearthing the less-than-savoury pasts of various members.(**)

              (*) Particularly the Christian fundamentalist variety - who have tended to respond by erasing the people in question entirely from their official media as if they never existed.

              (**) convictions and investigations for large-scale fraud, child abuse and domestic abuse figure highly.

      3. Alistair Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: Mandatory voting.

        Observational bias?

        "And yes - definitely weekend voting. Weekday voting is always going to mean a higher turn out by the old retired people who have time on their hands."

        "And yes - definitely weekend voting. Weekday voting is always going to mean a higher turn out by the lazy unemployed youth who have time on their hands."

        --- And yes, I've seen BOTH of those arguments. In one case, from the same body.

  20. blueprint

    Rubbish. The polls - quite specifically and unabashedly - try to guess what the vote will be. You don't need a mathematics degree followed by a doctorate in statistics to know that almost all of them got it comically wrong.

    1. Jane Fae
      Mushroom

      Unless you are some sort of psychic, you have no way of knowing that:

      1. Polls close to election day were well within bounds of statistical margin to what actually happened

      2. Polls further out were not: but how on earth do you know whether the polls were wrong OR voting intention was more pro-Tory four, three, two weeks prior to the election?

      1. Naselus Silver badge

        "1. Polls close to election day were well within bounds of statistical margin to what actually happened"

        I'm sorry, but that's just rubbish.

        There was a 2% gap between the parties on the day.

        THE DAY BEFORE:

        ICM published a 12% gap

        BMG published a 13% gap

        Comres published a 10% gap

        ORB said 9%

        Ipsos Mori and Panelbase both claimed an 8% gap.

        This is the day before the vote. And, in most of the above cases, their raw data was within statistical margins - but they inflated it toward to Tories instead (BMG added 12%, ffs; Ipsos Mori's raw data was dead level and they published an 8% Tory lead).

        If you're saying 10%+ out is 'within statistical margins'... well, no, it's not. You should be well outside the margin of error there. Especially when it's clearly been adjusted AWAY from the result by the statistical model in question. This wasn't a matter of simply statistical errors. It was using friggin' witchcraft to make the models.

  21. Dick Kennedy

    The polls in France have been very accurate, in both rounds of the presidential election and the first round of the general election.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Yes. That was a point I was going to make, but got sidetracked. The polls in the US weren't too bad either. Although some of the state level polling wasn't so hot. The Dutch polls recently were about right as well.

      To be fair, it's always hard to know whether the polls are accurately following the voters changing their minds. For example, as polls tend to be sampled over 2 or 3 days, and you can't publish them on election day after 7am, polls are always crap at picking up late changes in voting intention.

      They're also not good at showing tactical voting when an election isn't due. As although they ask "who do you intend to vote for at the next election", most voters seem to interpret that as what party do you currently support. Some pollsters ask twice, once to capture that, and then a second time concentrating on the voter's constituency, to try and pick up tactical voting trends.

      But for some reason UK polling is rather off at the moment.

      Partly it's a problem because the pollsters still do joint Welsh, English and Scottish polling, rather than large enough samples in each area to have a decent margin of error. And voting patterns are totally different.

      Partly it's because our turn-out is changing quite a lot at the moment, with GE turnout going up, and the two recent referenda being very well attended. The AV one, not so much.

      But in general, I think the pollsters learned the wrong lesson from 2015. They tried to correct their samples statistically, even though they know their samples are bad. Because it was too hard to get new, more accurate, samples. And to be fair, the post-mortem final report was only issued a couple of months ago, as they thought they had time until the next election.

  22. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    "there was a margin of error of around 2 to 3 per cent for any forecast"

    As there usually is.

    IOW the Brexit vote for Leave and Remain were both in the tails of statistical noise.

    This suggests any futures such polls should mandate a wider spread to ensure people know they have to work for it IE 6% should get a clear mandate.

    1. Jane Fae
      Boffin

      Re: "there was a margin of error of around 2 to 3 per cent for any forecast"

      But all that is needed is for MSM to give the bounds, rather than focus on the central estimate. The CE is more likely, in absolute terms, than any other single outcome....but not the most likely result overall.

      In my last piece, pre-election, i gave an outcome estimate based on interpretation of polls at the time and while i was still a bit optimistic towards the Tories, i included hung parliament as one alternative.

      If you look at polling that way....as indicating scenarios that may occurf, then it makes planning for what happens just a bit easier.

      One of the worst aspects of the Brexit vote was the complete absence of a plan B for what government would do if there was No vote. Utterly irresponsible.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "there was a margin of error of around 2 to 3 per cent for any forecast"

        "But all that is needed is for MSM to give the bounds, rather than focus on the central estimate"

        I think they (or at lest used to) do this in the US so you get newsreports stating "Latest polls show X on 53% and Y on 47% so it still a statistical dead heat"

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: "there was a margin of error of around 2 to 3 per cent for any forecast"

          "Latest polls show X on 53% and Y on 47% so it still a statistical dead heat"

          Similar in many countries where the margin of error is specifically mentioned and explained periodically.

          The difference in this country is a wildly partisan press wanting to push the agenda of their party and willing to selectively interpret what pollsters give them to make it so.

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        "One of the worst aspects of the Brexit vote was the complete absence of a plan B"

        Do governments every do effective contingency planning?

        All outlying outcomes (my favorite was the oil price rising 4x in the early 70's. I read somewhere 1 oil company had run a business game with this scenario but no one took it very seriously. They expected to just stick the results in a filling cabinet) will almost certainly never happen.

        Until they do.

  23. dajames Silver badge
    Headmaster

    "disaggregate"

    Really? Disaggregate?

    The word isn't new, but I cannot see that it brings any shade of meaning that wouldn't be covered by the simpler (and easier to spell) "segregate".

  24. Mage Silver badge

    Simple

    The only poll that counts, are the actual valid votes cast.

    Ban all polls once an election is called.

    1. I am the liquor

      Re: Ban all polls once an election is called

      It's not a bad idea. What actual use are they, after all?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Simple

      "Ban all polls" - I thought Paul Nuttall tried to do that?

  25. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    I think much of the Conservative party find the DUP pretty sound on most things.

    IE their rampantly homophobic anti-abortion pro creationalism views.

    But where things might get a bit sticky is how many DUP voters work for various bits of the NI government. IE subject to the public sector pay cap (don't call it a pay freeze, it's just not at or above the rate of inflation for the last 8 years. Which is a totally different thing). Arlene Foster may have a few suggestions on this for Mrs May. Basically there are 2 options.

    a)Raise (or eliminate) the cap for all workers it applies to. This could get quite expensive given the 8 years of below inflation pay rises they have had.

    b)Raise (or eliminate) the cap for all workers it applies to in Northern Ireland. Much cheaper.

    Either May swallows a big increase in government spending (not exactly "fiscally responsible") or shows caters to the DUP supporters exclusively, showing she is solely concerned about remaining in power.

    It's one of those "Still beating your wife?" questions that politicians dream of getting their opponents into a position where they have to answer.

    Option a) would cause the most trouble to the Treasury but option b) is likely to cause the most trouble come the next election, as it would be a tacit admission that public sector workers are not being paid enough but they are not going to get more because they don't have the "special relationship" the DUP has with the government.

    That would be unlikely to be forgotten before the next election comes round.

  26. strum Silver badge

    One factor - the likelihood of voting isn't just an abstract number. A major function of a party organisation is 'getting the vote out' - not just by exhorting them to do so, but my sending cars/buses round to take voters to the polls.

    That was Labour's not-so-secret weapon - the largest party membership in the world, mostly enthusiastic, mostly mobile.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    For the last few elections, the UK has votes ...

    ... for the maximum embuggerance of the political classes, of all parties.

    The Brexit vote was a classic example, costing the jobs of most of the UK's political party leaders. And May (not over-endowed with brains, even by politicians' standards!) has followed Cameron by calling an election only to see her support crumble; she will survive as Tory leader only as long as the job is still seen as a poisoned chalice.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      "she will survive as Tory leader only as long as the job is still seen as a poisoned chalice."

      My guess is May tried to bail shortly after the results were known but (as Stieg Larsson observed) "An amateur is a gangster who can't take the consequences."

      Yes she's "Going to fix this" alright, because they won't let her leave until she does, since she called this election in the first place.

      After that her days are numbered.

      There's no way she's going to last 5 years.

      the only question is how long will the "Coalition of Chaos" (not TM) last?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "she will survive as Tory leader only as long as the job is still seen as a poisoned chalice."

        I reckon she'll last about until about 5 seconds after the final deal with Brussels comes out, and it turns out not to contain the moon-on-a-stick that the Brexiteers were expecting.

  28. Runty Dog
    Devil

    Royko on lying to pollsters

    http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1992-10-28/news/9204070637_1_pollsters-public-radio-show-cheap-shot

    nothing new here.

  29. Tom Paine Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Like

    Like like like, like like; like likeitty like-like. With knobs on. Ignoramuses making sweeping dismissals of polls are a pet peeve.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  30. aurizon

    Once we saw it was a poisonous snake, it was stepped on.

    Apologies to other, nicer sneks - which I quite like.

    She revealed her agenda on the internet - sort of like a Red Chinese wall. Once she spoke of that, her support melted away.

    She has not learned, she will never learn.

    I want and authorize all her party faithfull to cross the floor(just for a minute, mind you) and throw her in the dust of history by making her lose a confidence motion.

    Do it!!!

  31. Nehmo

    For those of you in the US, I'll make a prediction. In 2020, assuming Trump is alive and runs again, the polls will predict him to lose. But he'll win.

    The author doesn't address the most important factor: political parties believe voters want to vote for the winner. If the voters perceive someone to be the probable winner, they will vote for that one. There is an opposite influence (voting because you believe you _need_ to vote_), but it's not as strong. Thus, the pollsters, who are owned by one party or another, predict their candidate will win.

    There are numerous ways to force the outcome of a poll.

    IOW, it's as Lenin said, what counts is who counts.

  32. Bethsheba

    Most of the Polls were Tory owned

    The simple truth of the matter is that most of the polls are Tory owned and Tory-run.

    YouGov, ComRes, Opinium, Gfk are all owned or ran by Tories.

    They were pushing the polls just as the newspapers were pushing the idea that Corbyn was 'unelectable' and that a Tory landslide was 'inevitable'. They only started to really panic a week or so before the election because they knew after the election that the game would be up, but even then they still hoped that by over-estimating the Tory lead they could push the electorate.

    Did you know that Nick Moon - the secretary of the British Polling Council is a former Conservative councilor? How in hell does anyone expect the polling watchdog to be impartial?

    Or how about Anthony Langham - MD of Opinium who is so 'bi-partisan' that he gave £3,500 to Owen Smith during the Labour leadership challenge?

    There's something extremely rotten in the 4th estate when private individuals like myself have to search out the facts of their conspiracy and collusion.

    1. Drewc (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: Most of the Polls were Tory owned

      Let's not turn this into Yet Another Conspiracy Theory. The political persuasion of the owners is irrelevant to outcome. Pollsters are looking to get an accurate snapshot of voting intent - they lose credibility if they are proved very wrong.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        "Pollsters are looking to get an accurate snapshot of voting intent"

        They might be.

        I'm not quite so sure about some of their clients.

        I'd be prepared to bet they all came up with various questions their people could ask and their clients could choose which ones were used.

        Which, along with the who you ask, can make a huge difference to the result.

        I'll leave others to decide how much wish fulfillment was involved in some of the polls commissioned by some clients.

      2. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

        Re: Most of the Polls were Tory owned

        If you can persuade one wing (say young left leaning voters) that they might as well stay at home playing PS4 games, because their vote won't make any difference, then the poll may well have been effective.

        There are many ways small biases (biae?) can creep into polls to make them suit their customers.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Most of the Polls were Tory owned

      "The simple truth of the matter is that most of the polls are Tory owned and Tory-run."

      so setup an alternative then.

  33. Louis Schreurs BEng
    Happy

    Swing when you're winning

    I speed-read: Swing when you're wHining

  34. Louis Schreurs BEng

    This article read/felt like it was written by a statistician.

  35. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    My main surprise in this election was the large turnout, which shows that young people have realised, after the Brexit disaster, that they must engage politically right now, rather than later or never. Some constituencies had 80% participation.

    How lovely if some of the old stuffy backwards MPs can be further cleaned out in a soon to come re-run!

    Sure, Corbyn sometimes sounds like some Chavez Light, but given the systems in place in the UK there is no risk of an actual Venezuela situation. A mild course correction towards the Scandinavian model is about as extreme as it will ever get here.

    1. codejunky Silver badge

      @ anonymous boring coward

      "Sure, Corbyn sometimes sounds like some Chavez Light, but given the systems in place in the UK there is no risk of an actual Venezuela situation."

      Really? Venezuela a middle income country with oil being boned by a lack of economic competence. Corbyn and his clan at one point discussing printing money for the gov to spend unlike QE which can be rolled back. Corbyn who wants to nationalise everything. Corbyn who thinks he knows how people should spend their own money better than them so would steal it to fund a labour spending spree.

      It is very dangerous to put such a clueless nutter in charge and think he cant drag us back to a ruined country.

      "A mild course correction towards the Scandinavian model is about as extreme as it will ever get here."

      Except that isnt on offer. Instead of more referendums, local power (not central gov), local taxation for local spending, homogeneous population and accepting that the socialist model doesnt work in a vacuum but through free market.

      Last time this country tried to please socialists it was begging to the IMF and barely working. That does not sound like success nor something I would want to live through.

      1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

        Re: @ anonymous boring coward

        You are comparing some dictator in a undeveloped country with extremely uneducated people (even worse than the UK), with one of the worlds oldest democracies. Chavez wasn't above stealing ("nationalising") resources. I don't see that happening in the UK. You are afraid of the Bogeyman as depicted by the Tories.

        1. codejunky Silver badge

          Re: @ anonymous boring coward

          @ anonymous boring coward

          "You are comparing some dictator"..."with one of the worlds oldest democracies"

          Nope. I am comparing economic stupidity with the same economic stupidity. Centralising control to bring about a socialist vision where the real world and the utopia dream do not meet. It doesnt matter how they reach the bad idea, only that its the same bad ideas. Unfortunately the Tories suggested a stupid idea of their own on energy price caps. Anyone can have a bad idea, its the constant repeating of the same bad ideas that irritates.

          I am also certain the Venezuelans didnt see it happening there. Nor everywhere else it is tried over and over.

          1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

            Re: @ anonymous boring coward

            Do you have any idea how far to the right the Tories are vs, for example, Scandinavian countries? A few years of course correction won't hurt. A hard Brexit with May the OCD (strong and stable) PM will hurt many times more.

            1. codejunky Silver badge

              Re: @ anonymous boring coward

              "Do you have any idea how far to the right the Tories are"

              Yes. Under Cameron they were centre left authoritarian (intentionally to deny labour returning to the centre ground). Under May they lurched centre right authoritarian.

              "vs, for example, Scandinavian countries?"

              You mean the countries which have until recently been homogeneous and is now starting to deal with open racism? The place where referendums and local taxation for local use instead of our authoritarian central model? The places which tried a socialist model, then retreated a fair amount when they realised it doesnt work, and still contends with the serious difficulties of lower growth, underperformance, greater privatisation of public services including health, etc? Sorry you were making a point...

              "A few years of course correction won't hurt."

              Your right. How long do you think it would take to destroy success and make it a failure? How long of economic incompetence (we are not discussing becoming Scandinavian but instead Venezuelan) will it take to drag us all down? And if a few years wont hurt then you surely cant be complaining of the few years of lib/tory coalition, or Cameron centre left, or May lurch right? Or are you of the correct opinion that stupidity can penalise us quickly? And if so aiming for the rocks with Corbyn's proven idiocy will hurt.

              "A hard Brexit with May the OCD (strong and stable) PM will hurt many times more."

              This part I wont necessarily contest to much. Hard brexit is a great thing in my view. But since May could be shafted into a soft or no brexit then we could easily suffer badly. And of course May wouldnt be my choice for leading the country once free of the EU.

              Just to ask you- have you any idea how far left we have moved? How severely and damagingly stupidly left (beyond the good of the left) we have gone? And worst of all it has been authoritarian left. And how bad has it been? Well so many people are moaning about the country and its debts, migration issues, incompetence of government, etc. Where discrimination is not only acceptable but promoted. Where nationalism is globalism and globalism is nationalism. Where we want poor countries to be better off but lock them out of such help because we want to protect our privileges. Where skin colour and sex is the reason to get a job instead of competence.

              1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

                Re: @ anonymous boring coward

                "You mean the countries which have until recently been homogeneous and is now starting to deal with open racism?"

                What?

                Aren't you thinking of the various small villages around England now?

                "Hard brexit is a great thing in my view."

                As is suicide in some peoples' views. Not much point in discussing if you come from that angle. If you get it, do enjoy. Perhaps you get to enjoy Bumbling BoJo as well.

                1. codejunky Silver badge

                  Re: @ anonymous boring coward

                  "What?

                  Aren't you thinking of the various small villages around England now?"

                  I think you need to look into what your promoting here. I am talking about your utopia you want us to become, not us as we are.

                  "As is suicide in some peoples' views. Not much point in discussing if you come from that angle. If you get it, do enjoy. Perhaps you get to enjoy Bumbling BoJo as well."

                  Interesting. So you see Brexit as a bad thing, I see staying in the EU as a bad thing. I am willing to discuss and have my views challenged with reason and fact, you dont see any point in discussing. Why you somehow think I enjoy BoJo is beyond me but I assume you equate brexit with liking the guy?

                  Maybe you should debate more with people of other opinions. Then you may jump to less conclusions and learn something. Or at least understand another perspective.

                  1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

                    Re: @ anonymous boring coward

                    "Interesting. So you see Brexit as a bad thing"

                    I don't know in what kind of isolated bubble one must live in not to do that?

                    Some kind of alternate reality created by one-foot-in-the-grave Murdoch, perhaps?

                    Have you even followed the bad news shit shower that is coming down due to Brexit?

                    1. codejunky Silver badge

                      Re: @ anonymous boring coward

                      @ anonymous boring coward

                      I am glad you changed your mind and realised discussion with different views isnt a bad thing.

                      "I don't know in what kind of isolated bubble one must live in not to do that?"

                      No and I think that is probably why I question when statements dont add up. Such as why everything that has been bad from the recession is now good or preferable and why the aim to recover from the recession is now some evil. Why the EU's incompetence is to be celebrated and its lack of competence nor capability doing what it is designed for is a cause for praise and somehow our fault or failing. How we can be irrelevant yet so important, how we can be so important but told we are irrelevant.

                      "Have you even followed the bad news shit shower that is coming down due to Brexit?"

                      You mean the funny pages? Being told that the EU has made a trade deal with Japan before it has and with a huge sticking point. Told how life is getting so much worse while neglecting it is due to still being in the EU, complaining about economic recovery because it is some doom sign of leaving the EU somehow. Yeah I have read a lot of that bull and it does amuse me. I view it in the same mirth as a child telling me black is white and white is black. But as I also try to follow what is actually going on I see the good and bad from both sides. Unfortunately honest reporting is harder to come by but the shock and awe cheap amusement news is everywhere.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "Corbyn and his clan at one point discussing printing money for the gov to spend unlike QE which can be rolled back."

        Virtually all the money in circulation has been crated by banks, not the treasury. Thatcher and her cronies found that out in stagflation days when they were frantically trying to rein in the money supply and banks were creating it (debt) out of thin air faster than they could call in the bonds.

        What QE has achieved is to allow banks to roll back their leveraging of cash assets(*) to a more sustainable multiplier (ie, reducing the ratio of debt to cash they hold) without actually changing the amount of notional debt in circulation.

        (*) In this context cash assets is "money from the treasury"(public money - where money created by debts to the bank is "private money"), not actual printed money - the latter only accounts for 2-3% of all the money in circulation and is why counterfeiting isn't nearly as big a risk as is made out - If people distrust the printed stuff they'll move more to electronic or other bank-driven transactions. If they distrust the issuer then the economy would collapse (which is what happened to the roman empire), but more pragmatically they will simply move to a different form of money - the example of what happened during the bank strikes in Ireland being a good example of what happens if cash and electronic transfers become unavailable (If you work on the basis that all money is a physical representation of debt and the real issue is whether you trust the debtor to pay up, then this point of view makes more sense. The government's debt is only different inasmuch as it's "legal tender for any and all debts", vs private debt which may only be able to be redeemed via specific channels)

  36. Sherrie Ludwig
    Coat

    In one page of the comments, and the topic (polling, and its limitations) is discarded in favor of proving one poster is "wrong" and this poster is "right". Back to the topic, I LOVE what a Chicago political columnist (Mike Royko) once suggested: when accosted by a pollster, LIE. You are under no obligation to tell some random stranger anything about the way you vote. One day I'm a rabid Republican, one day, a raging Democrat, the next a Libertarian, the next I can't recall who's running and would the pollster please explain the issues? If enough people do this regularly, he argued, reporting would perforce fall back on actually asking what the policies are, and to fill space explain them or make the politicians defend them. The downside to this is that my phone messages and mailbox are crammed each election by all sides, but the amusement value outweighs the inconvenience.

    Mine's the one with "Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics" in the pocket.

  37. John 110

    Scottish clarification from one who was there.

    "Compare Scotland, where General Election 2017 saw an electorate seeking to punish what some saw as an out-of-touch SNP administration"

    I suppose it's too late (and nobody not Scottish cares anyway) to point out that Conservatives won seats in Scotland, not because of the out-of-touchness of SNP, but because the Tories and Labour (and LibDem) campaigned, not on their policies but by insisting that the only way to prevent another Independence Referendum was to unseat SNP.

    All this despite the fact that the plans for another referendum were passed by the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood by 69 votes against 59 the day before Theresa May triggered Article 50.

  38. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    "Nick Clegg's seat in the university town of Sheffield"

    And there's one of your flaws right there. The students in Sheffield live in Central, not Hallam.

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