Polls and what they tell us

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As I write this I’m listening to some RTÉ pundits talking about the past year and the coming election. They’re saying Enda will be gone in five years’ time, so he will take his time about when he calls a general election. He’ll want people to see how dignified he is (no, I made that bit up). But there is a general round of  RTÉ “Yeps” that Sinn Féin were riding very high about a year ago and are not riding nearly so high in the polls now.

As it happens, the New York Times is also talking about polls this morning. It concerns itself with the polls that show Donald Trump way ahead of the Republican pack. The paper points out that the people who attach most importance to polls are generally those whose party or candidate is shown by said polls to be leading the field. In Trump’s case, the New York Times notes, the poll was drawn from the 25% of people in the US who identify themselves as Republicans. So that when polls showed Trump with 30% support for his candidacy, he was getting the thumbs-up from between 6-8% of the American electorate – roughly the same number who think the moon landings were faked. Besides which, the paper notes, polls can have a sample that’s too small from which to draw any significant conclusions, and even bigger samples are often drawn from those with landlines, ignoring the many people who use mobile phones. Plus of course people’s opinions can change as the days and weeks pass until polling day.

That thing about about who gets asked by pollsters is very interesting. Like many of you, I’ve spent most of my life  in this tormented little corner of Ireland. There aren’t all that many of us. But not once have I ever been asked to contribute to a political poll and I’ve never spoken to anyone who claimed to have been consulted by a pollster. Plus you’ll notice that the bit about the sample’s reliability and validity is the bit that the report usually spends least time talking about – it might get a sentence at the end but that’s it.

The result of the last British general election gave the pollsters a good hard kick where it hurt. That, of course, won’t stop them  telling us what will happen in the elections north and south next year. So keep that in mind if you’re thinking of placing any bets.


Finally, my thanks to all who’ve taken the time to read and, in so many cases, contribute to this blogsite in 2015. I look forward to even better discussions during the coming year and hearing your predictions for the coming elections.

Bliain úr faoi mhaise daoibh – Happy New Year to all.

26 Responses to Polls and what they tell us

  1. billy December 31, 2015 at 10:00 am #

    bookies are the best pollsters.

    • Jude Collins December 31, 2015 at 10:12 am #

      I tend to agree on that one, billy – although they sometimes take a cold shower too…

  2. Jim.hunter December 31, 2015 at 11:23 am #


  3. paddykool December 31, 2015 at 11:50 am #

    Happy New Year , Jude…in advance…the clock is …..ticking towards the next year of fun and games. I wonder which politician will have the honour of being the first to make an arse of himself in the new year. They’ve been way too sensible these past two weeks!!

    • Jude Collins December 31, 2015 at 1:10 pm #

      You and yours too, PK. They’ve been sensible because they’ve been outa sight – and I don’t mean outasight as in the 1960s outasight. I mean keeping their nebs lowered.

  4. Iolar December 31, 2015 at 12:44 pm #

    “No man is an island.”

    It is not possible to drive coaches or horses in many parts of the west of Ireland at present due to flooding, however, torrents of complaints are flowing in the general direction of Dáil Éireann. As the floods recede, holes will appear in the roads just as TD’s appear on doorsteps seeking a new mandate in 2016. Some people in Ireland, Scotland, and England have had to leave their homes and others remain without electricity as a result of floods. Atmospheric conditions are beyond the control of human beings. Many in the Middle East have lost their lives, others their homes as a result of aerial bombardment controlled by human beings. While Trump et al pour millions of dollars into election campaigns, millions of people remain displaced throughout the world.

    Perhaps it is time to confound the polls and return elected representatives determined to create a RÉ Nua in 2016.

    Athbhliain faoi mhaise daoibh.

    • Jude Collins December 31, 2015 at 1:08 pm #

      Agus tú féin,Iolar

    • billy December 31, 2015 at 1:34 pm #

      how much has africa sent us to help out.time to redirect foreign aid to flood victims here.sure vote winner.

      • Sherdy December 31, 2015 at 10:04 pm #

        If they sent us a few million empty plastic bottles we could fill them and send them back.
        That would do us and them a lot of good!

  5. Wolfe tone December 31, 2015 at 2:46 pm #

    Athbhliain faoi mhaise duit agus clan

    • Jude Collins December 31, 2015 at 2:50 pm #

      Go raibh maith agat,WT – agus tú féin…

  6. neill December 31, 2015 at 3:15 pm #

    Polls don’t really matter in the end. It all comes down the middle classes and who they feel best represents their interests and in fairness does anybody belief that enough of them will be swayed by SF to vote for them. If they can then SF will do very well if not they wont grow as quickly as they had hoped. If I was a SF strategist I would ask if we cant grow quickly when times were bad what will we do when times are good. The reality is they do need a new leader who isn’t mired in the past perhaps the Dup are prime examples of this with a new leader who hasn’t dirty hands?

    • Jude Collins December 31, 2015 at 3:32 pm #

      You’re not say…that…Peter’s hands..were grimy, neill??

      • neill December 31, 2015 at 3:46 pm #

        Yes they where as was Martin McGuinesses Gerry Adams Paisley etc we all know this and we cant move on until they have all left the scene as the past hangs heavily on them.

    • Sherdy December 31, 2015 at 10:06 pm #

      Do you think the DUP will ever manage to get a leader with clean hands?

      • neill January 1, 2016 at 10:58 am #

        Or Sinn Fein?

  7. Ceannaire December 31, 2015 at 4:19 pm #

    An interesting year ahead of centenaries, elections and God knows what else. Plenty to discuss and analyse.

    Thanks again, Jude, for the fine blogs throughout the year. Bliain úr faoi mhaise duit.

    And a happy, prosperous and healthy New Year to all your readers and contributors.

    Tabhair aire daoibh féin.

    • Jude Collins December 31, 2015 at 5:00 pm #

      Agus tú féin, Ceannaire …

  8. Ryan December 31, 2015 at 4:28 pm #

    The best “poll” or “survey” or whatever you want to call it that I have ever heard of has got to be the poll done by Unionists just before Belfast City Hall voted to limit the flying of the Union flag to designated days. I believe the UUP was behind the poll but I may be wrong. This poll basically asked something like: “Do you support the Union flag flying 365 days a year?”. Unsurprisingly, nearly 100% of those asked responded yes. But the hilarious part has got to be that the poll was conducted midst the 100th anniversary celebrations of the 1912 Ulster Covenant in Belfast City Centre. I did have a hearty laugh at that, a nice example of Unionist fairness and impartiality. I remember Alliance Leader David Ford saying on the notorious Stephen Nolan TV “Fleg” episode that he wouldn’t take such polls into consideration because it wasn’t fair or balanced.

    As we all know polls are unreliable and in many cases complete rubbish. But It’s my belief that polls can, and do, influence how some people will vote. I think it can change peoples minds on how they will vote. Take the south for example. I can imagine many Anti-Austerity, Anti-Fine Gael voters wondering where is best to place their vote: Will my vote make a bigger difference if I vote Sinn Fein? Or Fianna Fail? Or an Independent? If SF is riding high in the polls then it would obviously make sense to vote for them because they will more likely get elected. Whereas if they are low in the polls, would my vote be of better use getting an Anti-Austerity Independent elected? Thats my take on polls anyway.

    Happy new year to you Jude and all the people who contribute to the blog, especially our Neill. Neill may be a rather odd human being, we may conflict in our political beliefs but I try to respect his view point as best I can and I hope he does in return.

    Happy New Year and bring on 2016!

    • Jude Collins December 31, 2015 at 4:59 pm #

      Thank you Ryan and to you too. And everyone here…Don’t get into too many fights tonight…

    • neill December 31, 2015 at 9:35 pm #

      Odd far from it in my opinion you are odd you don’t come from tyrone to you?

  9. Jude Glasgow December 31, 2015 at 5:33 pm #

    Jude happy new year to you and all your contributors (even those that I disagree with) God bless and keep every one of them through 2016

    • Jude Collins December 31, 2015 at 7:48 pm #

      Hear, hear, Jude – agus tú féin – and yourself…

  10. Perkin Warbeck December 31, 2015 at 6:53 pm #

    A candidate for Kodak mo of the last century, Esteemed Blogmeister, was taken in the train station of Independence, Mo on November 3, 1948.

    It featured a grinning Harry S. Truman holding up the huge headline of the Chicago Tribune; ‘Dewey Defeats Truman’, or DDT as it has become known among the hackitariat. Happy Harry the Homicidal Maniac was on his way back to Washington, DC to resume residence in the White House.

    Right now at this mo in time, going forward, even as the clock ticks down to the sound ot Auld Lang’s Syne, the air on Liffeyside is rancid with the pesticide known as, erm, DDT.. Due to the extremely discriminate spraying of the mosquito press by those colourless, tasteless and alas, anything but odourless hacks in the monopoly mainstream media of the Republic of Aerosol.

    Hysteria repeats Itself

    Paddy the Pundit flits with Dewey-like phooey
    While playing the game of political Feng Shui
    Every good man and true
    Knows full well what to do
    To put an end to the dull reign of Enda Ennui.

    Athbhlian den scoth, A Mhaistir Ionuin Blog, chugat fein agus do chlann.

    Bliain a Se Deag, trath cur in aghaidh na mBreag !

    Another Year 16 ahead lies, a swell spell to combat the Lies !

  11. Séamus Ó Néill January 1, 2016 at 10:13 am #

    Athbhliain faoi mhaise daoibh…gach daoine. Jude like yourself ,neither I nor any of my very large extended family have ever been approached by pollsters…..I have a cousin ,whilst a student at Queen’s many moons ago, was employed ,with three others, for a day to carry out a survey….being a day of very inclement weather the four of them decided to fill in the forms themselves in a local hostelry….they filled them according to what they thought would or should be …..and no one was any the wiser. So much for polls !
    After reading the recent round of “state released papers”, the shenanigans of those we pay to represent us knows no bounds….they are perfidious ,obnoxious crooks but surely one day the majority of the population must wise up……I live in optimistic hope.