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Day: September 30, 2011

Why we (the Lib Dems and others) shouldn’t give a damn about national polls

Looking at my calendar it tells me that we are in the month of September and the year is 2011. I have done my background checks and I can confirm this is the case. Further research goes to tell me that the year 2015 is not today or tomorrow. It is a good way off yet. Getting out my calculator and doing 2015-2011 comes out with the answer ‘4’ so that is how many years until the next time the electorate goes to the polls in General Election terms.

Before then though there will be by-elections, local elections and European Elections but none of these dictate the real national feeling. They will be protest votes against whoever is in power nationally or these elections will be won and lost on local issues. Only when we get to General Election’s do we find out what voters really think and even then the disparity between polling and voting is obvious for all to see.

My favourite example of this comes from the race to be the Democratic nomination for the 2008 Presidential Election in New Hampshire. Every single poll had Barack Obama winning by between 9 and 15% even on polling day itself but when it came down to it Hilary Clinton won in New Hampshire by 3%. So the polls even on polling day were out between 12 and 18% which is what you’d call a huge margin or error. Something happened on to or close to polling day that didn’t filter through to the polls and that led to this victory for Clinton.

In the 2010 General Election over here the polls fluctuated wildly throughout the campaign and one poll – the Angus Reid poll on the Sunday after the first PM debate actually had the Lib Dems on top of the pile. So within a month of the election a legitimate polling company had the Lib Dems ahead in the popular vote. As we know now that didn’t come to pass but it shows that voting intention on day x is not the same as how people actually vote.

2011 is not a General Election year. 2012 is not a General Election year. 2013 is not a General Election year. 2014 is not a General Election year. 2015 will be a General Election year. In 2015 we’ll see how the leaders (whoever they are at the time) come across under the scrutiny of a General Election campaign. I still think that everything would’ve been so much different had it not been for Gillian Duffy and ‘Bigotgate’. I don’t think Labour would have won outright but they have well have somehow remained the largest party and therefore had first dibs at a chance of a coalition with the Lib Dems. We don’t know but a campaign will ebb and flow and millions of voters will change their mind between now and then – millions – that’s a pretty big number folks.

The general consensus is that the electorate hate Nick Clegg today. Will they still hate him in four years time? Who knows but did they give Tony Blair another term in office after the invasion in Iraq where upon a million marched against it? I do believe that they did. If the economy is in a good state in 2015 comparatively speaking and other Lib Dem policies are enacted and welcomed by the electorate then that hate may melt away. It may not of course but four years is an awful long time in both life and politics. Four years ago I was single and look at me now. Oh wait. Bad analogy.

I just don’t get the fascination with polling when you are polling someone on a hypothetical where their opinion may change in between the hypothetical and actually voting. Labour lead the majority of polls today but if Ed Miliband is still leader how will he face up to David Cameron and Nick Clegg under the 24/7 limelight of a General Election campaign? Most observers would say that he would be a distant third with regards to public speaking behind the pair of them so the more we hear from all three the less we’d be impressed by Ed Miliband compared to the other two.

I have spoken before that I believe Nick Clegg needs to apologise and actually say sorry and not regret with regards to tuition fees. I do honestly believe that and I think it’s vital to his chances of carrying on and making progress in 2015. He told Matthew Gibson in an interview with Nick Clegg at Liberal Democrat Conference that success would be more MPs in 2015. He thinks that if the Lib Dems can get more voices in the Commons then that will be a success.

Most of us I think would agree that is a fair target. The polls today would say that is extremely unlikely but the polls today mean nothing with regards to an election which is still the best part of four years away. The polls mean absolutely nothing. They are fun and all to look at and read and dissect (well not that much fun really but hey we can pretend) but asking someone for their voting intention for the next General Election in 2015 today is like asking me what my relationship status will be come that Thursday in 2015 when I go to vote. I’d answer single but that isn’t written in stone.

I can’t predict the future. Nor can the pollsters. The future has yet to be played out and I’m more than fine with that and so should you.

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