So much for the famous Ruislip housewives

I feel bad about writing this since my wife is a market researcher (and actually, a not-insignificant amount of the time, so am I).  But among the many ramifications of today’s General Election result, one must surely be a bit of a crisis of confidence in research findings.

OK, political polling is difficult, and multi-party elections are particularly hard to call.  But absolutely nobody got within a mile of forecasting a Conservative overall majority, even the polls that reported on the day of the election itself.

A point  which every advertising agency creative, when on the receiving end of the customary research-debrief drubbing at the hands of the proverbial eight housewives in a focus group in Ruislip, will be keen to re-emphasise.

4 thoughts on “So much for the famous Ruislip housewives

  1. I think it’s to do with people’s embarrassment at revealing real voting intentions (and possibly combined with fear of the SNP’s influence on Labour). I’m sure there will be a pretty thorough bit of soul-searching by the MRS and the pollsters, some of whom will be feeling a bit like Nick Clegg today. It doesn’t do the research industry much good really, a bit like coalition didn’t do Clegg or the Lib-Dems much good.
    And as someone said today, of course the exit polls were more accurate, because it’s easier for people to state what they have just done rather than what they might do in the future. Hey ho.

  2. I went to the count at Southwark Town Hall as a counting agent for the NHA, National Health Services Action party, a ticket I was glad to blag – my Labour wonk mate said they’re like gold dust.

    As soon as the 22,000 exit poll came in, I knew it was right. That’s a hell of a lot of people, I thought, and I am just a street philosopher. We had a Professor of Economics from Bristol in our entourage and I said to her, sometimes 600 people is enough and she agreed with loads of small-print conditions – it was a long night so she had time to tell me ’em.

    It’s amusing that people are complaining about the polls. That’s on a par with all the G4S-van urban myths doing the rounds about them “losing” ballot boxes. But then that’s the bungling old Group Four so maybe the myths are true.

    Anyway, the truth is so much better than leveraged opinion and any superannuated tosh about ordinary, everyday, hardworking families – and the latest fetish word “aspiration”, aka piss & wind. Horny-handed builders will be shamed into becoming architects, presumably, under this new “idea”.

    I like the new reality – it is like a scythe to the good intentions and well-meaningness that may yet sink the welfare state.

  3. Has there ever been a case where the polls predicted the conservatives to do better than they did at the actual vote? I suspect not, so what we have then are some clear cases where an apparent intention to vote Labour converts into a Tory vote. Would it be reasonable to suggest that these flaky 5/10% ers have a notion that they ought to vote Labour and then just, well, vote for themselves instead? In which case should pollsters build this into their methodology?

  4. Virtually 100% of the “Guardian” readership vote Labour and live Conservative. I have been bollocking the weeping readers of the “London Review of Books” blog about this all week. “We don’t understand what you mean!” they complain. “They never said that to Ezra Pound, bruv,” I respond. And the tears redouble!

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