After the debacle at the general election many were sceptical about pollsters’ ability to successfully predict elections – rather a drawback in the industries’ line of work.
Yet the rise of hard leftist Jeremy Corbyn to the head of the Labour party is now being pointed to as vindication for the formerly vanquished pollsters, with YouGov claiming to have been at the centre of the consensus that expected the North Islington MP to win the leadership contest.
YouGov’s breakthrough poll results were released on the July 21st, revealing that Corbyn stood at 43 percent of first preference voting, with that figure moving up to 53 percent by August 10th, later revised to 57 percent after Labour released details of the voter composition.
In the event Corbyn ended up with 59.5 percent of first preferences, more than triple that of rivals Andy Burnham (19 percent) and Yvette Cooper (17 percent) and distant loser Liz Kendall (4.5 percent).
In a snipe at the bookies, whose results are often thought to be safer than those of the pollsters, YouGov editor-in-chief Freddie Sayers said:
“You sometimes hear the claim that for an accurate prediction, follow the betting odds. ‘That’s where people are putting their money where their mouth is,’ people say. As the below chart from Ladbrokes shows beyond doubt, this is nonsense: the betting odds are simply a reflection of the mainstream expectation – and the evidence that sets those expectations is the polling evidence, in this case only provided by YouGov.”
Sayers also defended YouGov’s record in the general election, where all the pollsters missed the main story that the Tories would waltz home with a slender majority and Labour would be left licking its wounds:
“At the general election in May, YouGov polling correctly forecast the stories of the unprecedented Labour wipeout in Scotland and the collapse of the Lib Dems, but underestimated the Tory vote share by about 3% and overestimated the Labour vote share by about 3%. It meant that we got the main story wrong, and we’re conducting a detailed review of why this happened and will make corrections accordingly.”
Whether this bragging sees off the idea that “polling is broken”, to quote YouGov’s phrase, remains to be seen.
Image Credit – Jeremy Corbyn touching God, August 2015 by the People Speak