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Sunday, 11 June 2017

Crisis in opinion poll industry

Now that the UK general election has played itself out we're seeing a lot of people aim criticism at the media for getting it so wrong. Rupert Murdoch is reported to have stormed out of a meeting when the exit polls came through because he had used his newspapers to campaign strongly for the Conservatives but they had done relatively poorly in the election itself. An oracular Jeremy Corbyn of the Labour Party was heard promising to lead ... despite the fact that he had failed to get the numbers in the House of Commons.

But Corbyn did surprisingly well and a lot of people in the UK media industry will now be asking themselves why the polls were so out-of-whack. When Theresa May, the PM, called the election a few weeks ago her party was well ahead in the polls. But the same thing happened last year in Australia when PM Malcolm Turnbull called the election that turned out to almost deliver a hung Parliament. Despite the fact that when he called the election opinion polls put his party well ahead, the final result was so close it took a week before a winner could be named. Then there's the Trump phenomenon in the US. Opinion polls all the way up until the election were calling it for the Democrats. There seems to be a crisis in the opinion polling industry. Why do they always seem to get it so wrong these days?

What is certain is that the recriminations in the aftermath of the UK election will go on for some time. Heads have already started rolling, with May's two top advisers falling on their swords and quitting. It remains to be seen whether May herself can last in the top job. As for the red tops, it is doubtful whether they will stop trying to back winners in elections in the UK. Murdoch and his ilk are too used to wielding power to stop so easily. But quietly, on the side, they might start putting less faith in opinion polls. 

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