Why Opinion Polls Matter | The Rundown by HuffPost


With Parliament refusing to back his deal, Boris Johnson has called for an election on the 12th of December. – We’ve got to the stage
where we have no choice. – Which means we get to hear
a lot of people talk endlessly about what opinion polls say. – I never comment on opinion
polls, but I can smile. – In recent elections,
and a certain referendum, the opinion polls, where the
one thing they’re supposed to do, gauge public opinion, wrong. So why do we bother with them? This isn’t any soup. It’s the UK Electorate soup. The easiest way to explain
what opinion polls are is with soup. You don’t have to eat the entire bowl to know if it tastes good. If it’s properly stirred,
one spoonful is enough. – Well, polls work fairly simply by asking a number of people,
usually a few thousand people, what they think about
a particular question, adding up all the responses
and taking the average, seeing how many people
will choose each option. And that way you can get a
snapshot of where public opinion is on a particular question or topic. There’s two main ways of doing it, which is either by telephone,
where they phone people up and ask them if they’ve got
time to take part in a survey. Or else they can do it online. Of course, the polls
don’t always get it right. (laughs) As people get busier lives and get more intrusive social
medial requests and so on, fewer people take part in the polls and that makes them less representative. In the old days, in the
’50s and ’60s, it was, voting was much more
class-driven or tribe-driven. You belonged to the Labour family or you were the sort of
person who voted Conservative, and that often got handed
down from parents to children. – That has changed now. These days, particularly
in the last few years, we’ve seen things driven
more by the Brexit question and questions about international
or national identity, as opposed to the old economic
left-right questions about “do you want higher taxes or
more government spending?” – In both the 2015 and 2017 elections, as well as the Brexit referendum, the opinion poll companies
were way off public sentiment, so much so that the
British Polling Council launched an inquiry into what went wrong. The inquiry found the main
reason where the opinion polls were so far out was a pollster spoke to too many likely Labour voters and not enough Conservative voters. Not enough older voters, who were the most likely
Tory voters, were asked. – I’ve just been to see Her
Majesty The Queen earlier on, and she agreed to dissolve
Parliament for an election. – When the election was called for, the Conservatives had an 11 point lead over Labour in the polls. But as the opinion polls got it so wrong in recent elections, why do
we still obsess over them? – Polls are important for democracy and really this is the
most important feature because they allow the public
not only to communicate their views to the powerful,
but also to themselves. And you can see throughout history that in authoritarian societies, opinion polls are always prohibited. Opinion polls, to my mind,
are an essential part of a free society and a democracy. – We know polls aren’t fool-proof, but to find out what
the public are thinking, they are important for
politicians to stay in touch with electorate and hopefully react to and solve the problems the public face.

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Comments

  1. as a person that has played online roulette for 10 years I can tell you that over 1000 spins you can have more than 100 + or –
    of one colour over the other , even though there are the same number of each on the wheel .
    polls are meaningless .

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