Sunday, 4 January 2009

Spot the difference

‘Tories poll lead cut to five points as voters turn back to Labour,’ the Guardian headline declared just before Christmas. ‘Labour has cut sharply into the Conservatives’ lead as voters turn to the government to protect them from the economic storm, according to a new Guardian/ICM poll … Today’s poll is in line with other recent surveys, making it clear that the opposition has crashed back to reality after a triumphant summer, and David Cameron is not seen as the man to revive the economy,’ it reported.

Seven days later, in the same paper: another poll, another headline. ‘End of the “Brown bounce?” New poll puts Tories five points ahead of Labour,’ this one pronounced. ‘Poll suggests that David Cameron would win a huge majority at a general election …’

Apart from the fact that the second poll was carried out by ComRes for the Independent, it’s hard to spot any difference between the two. The first poll had the Tories on 38%, Labour on 33% and the Lib Dems on 19%; the second saw the Tories on 39%, Labour 34% and the Lib Dems 16%.

We all know a week is a long time in politics, but from Conservative crash to Cameron landslide without any intervening change in voting intentions is as clear an indication as any of why it’s best not to look for too much insight in the froth of opinion poll punditry.

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