Poll position?

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Picture by bluecatdublin

There was an interesting and even impassioned article in the Belfast Telegraph a few days back by Bill White. In it he made the case for polls, which he said had received some bad publicity, having failed to predict the Tory majority at the last election.  He points out that they got the percentages for other parties right and that polls give us the detail  we cannot get from a straight vote or referendum. They tell us why people voted a particular way, what groups tend to vote what way, how to make sense of the blunt numbers that voting day brings. Bill, it’s worth noting, is the managing director of Belfast’s polling and market research company, Lucid Talk. So as that blunt-speaking feminist Mandy Rice-Davies once put it: he would say that, wouldn’t he?

Mandy was right: you have to be careful who’s doing the talking. For example, here’s Philip Ryan in today’s Sindo talking about the latest political polls in the south:

Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s party has dropped a massive five points to 24pc and is now just a single percentage point ahead of its main political rival Fianna Fail, which remains unchanged at 23pc.”

Now if I was a Fine Gael supporter (which praise the Lord I’m not) I might be a mite irked by that. The usual margin for error in these polls is + or – 3%,  so the ‘’massive” drop Philip speaks of could be all of 2%. And note Philip’s baptism of Fianna Fail as Fine Gael’s “main political rival”. Well they were for years, Philip. There are those who think Sinn Féin may be a more credible candidate for that role.

And how about Philip on Sinn Féin in that poll?

Sinn Fein remains unchanged at 21pc as the party’s shock increase in support in the face of child sex abuse controversies seems to have stalled.”

You see what Philip did there? Got in the 21% figure and then buried it beneath “shock increase in support in the face of child sex abuse controversies”. What could have been “consistent” becomes “stalled”, and the percentage figure for them is manacled to child sex abuse controversy. 

Another way of putting the poll might have been that all three major parties are bunched pretty close – Fine Gael 24%, Fianna Fail 23% and Sinn Féin 21%.  But hey – it’s Sunday. This is the Sindo. And  a little bit of top-spin on statistics never did anyone any harm. Except those for whom harm was intended.

So yes, Bill, polls can be helpful in explaining reasons for voting one way or another, and who does it and why. But they can also be presented in a way that encourages you  to think the way all right-thinking people are thinking. 

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7 Responses to Poll position?

  1. Liam McConway August 2, 2015 at 12:06 pm #

    Expect nothing else from the Indo. They used to give this so called paper away for years in Derry. Still no one took it.

  2. Iolar August 2, 2015 at 1:03 pm #

    Poles apart

    Apparently, An tAire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta, queried the need for a full scale re-enactment of the funeral of Diarmuid Ó Donnabháin Rosa in Dublin by Sinn Féin on 1 August 2015. Perhaps the anxiety is more about the fact the Fine Gael’s current pole-position is being viewed with scepticism by the electorate. Will the Irish electorate ditch Labour and return Fine Gael with an electoral mandate, time will tell? One thing is certain, spin doctors and public relations guru’s are impotent when it comes to dealing with the reality of partition and the austerity measures currently being imposed on Irish people.

  3. Perkin Warbeck August 2, 2015 at 1:46 pm #

    The only poll that counts

    Weekly opinion polls are now more or less
    The new rock and roll for the printed press;
    But Poles in Lublin
    Like polls in Dublin
    Know Markievicz is the only p. that Countess..

  4. sherdy August 2, 2015 at 3:18 pm #

    Jude, you’ve been dabbling in pornographic material again – you do realise both the BelTel and Sindo are owned by the infamous Denis O’Brien.
    Did your mammy never teach you that you’re judged by the company you keep?

    • Jude Collins August 2, 2015 at 5:53 pm #

      But didn’t somebody else say ‘Know your enemy’??

  5. neill August 2, 2015 at 8:40 pm #

    Sure when SF come to power they can nationalise his media business empire and replace it with An Phoblacht a far more reliable and trustworthy media organ that knows how to report stories fairly and impartially.

  6. RJC August 2, 2015 at 10:52 pm #

    In addition, the Indo coverage of the O’Donovan Rossa funeral commemorations is more of the same. Prepare to see a whole lot of mud slinging in the direction of Republicanism between now and Easter 2016.

    The Fools, The Fools, The Fools!