general election

It’s hold your hands up time

I never did statistics at school. Those of us doing science A-levels were made to study ‘maths with mechanics’; if you want to know how a parallelogram of forces works, or how to calculate angular momentum, I’m your man, but ask about standard deviation and margin of error and I’ll look shifty and start talking about the weather as I try to Google the answer.

But I’m numerate enough to know when figures just don’t smell right and so it is with this table doing the rounds on Twitter. It’s been posted by Andrew Hawkins, the Chairman of one of the polling companies ComRes. It tries to show how all the polling firms were within the appropriate margin of error (+/- 3 percentage points) for their final polls when you take an average of how much they were out for each party. (more…)


It was Twitter wot dun it

Back in 1987 Labour fought a brilliant election campaign. They’d recently rebranded with their red rose symbol and all the people I hung out with – twenty-somethings in media, public services, the arts, the NHS, – were convinced that despite what the polls said, Labour was on a roll. The Conservatives won their third term with a swing to Labour of 1.5%.

In 1992 even the polls were in Labour’s favour and we all – late twenties, early thirties, canvassing for Labour in Haringey and Hackney – could tell that this was the end for the Conservatives. John Major won the fourth consecutive term for the Tories because the swing to Labour was under 2%.

Fast forward to last night and the six weeks of campaign preceding it. The polls were all pointing to a hung parliament, but on Twitter the feeling was that the polls were calling it wrong, that Labour was almost certain to be the largest party and would be able to put together an anti-Tory coalition. Yes, well, up to a point Lord Copper.

Because there are two things in play here. The first is that (although the figures are hard to be precise about) Twitter only has around 10 million UK users, who fall mainly in the 18-34 age groups. Now this ain’t bad – it’s considerably more than buy a daily newspaper for example – but it’s not as important as we in media and marketing think it is, especially if we also factor in that many of those ten million aren’t that engaged with the channel. (more…)