ELECTION AUTOPSY: Why last night’s ‘shock’ result proves the oldest adage of market research

pinocchioDON’T ASK WHAT THEY THINK, OBSERVE WHAT THEY DO

I hope to post a lot later on the ins, outs and ramifications of last night’s Labour disaster, but this morning if I may I’d like to make one key observation.

30 years in market research at the sharp end taught me one thing above all others: ignore what the respondents say, and watch what they do. In research, an audited record of consumer buying behaviour is worth a million focus groups because it is real. Upon that result, one can build norms, predict future likelihoods, learn solid marketing lessons….and grasp that the consumer is infinitely more (or less) discerning than you thought.

Research really gets into trouble when it tries to predict based on attitudes and opinions expressed. The simple truth about spending a career interviewing the public is that, for the practitioner, the skill is in working out when people are lying to you. In a politically charged atmosphere, there will be endless social emotions producing ‘white lies’.

This is why, in a nutshell, the BBC exit poll based on verified votes cast was right last night – and almost everyone else (including me) was wrong.

The other dimension of this issue is the extreme care required in learning as much as one can about WHO the undecideds are, WHY they claim not to have made up their minds, and WHAT they voted in previous elections. My experience suggests that in a majority of cases, such people are reacting in one of two ways: first, “mind your own business”; and second, voting in a way that they think perhaps “reflects badly” on them….for example, Camerlot Conservative.

At the outset of the 2015 election, some polls were showing 25% ‘not sure’ how they’d vote; even on the eve of the real vote itself, 14% were still undecided. That is easily enough to turn a dead-heat into a majority…however slim. And although most Sloggers thought I was joking about inebriation, with the polls staying open until 10 pm these days, probably 1 in 10 voters after 6 pm were anything from fuzzy round the edges to legless. This is the point at which they vote for the Silly Party candidate Mr Biscuit-Barrel….and, I should add, on a more selfishly right-brain way. All this tends to understate the real Conservative vote.

And let’s not forget, 34% once again abstained, couldn’t be bothered to leave the sofa, or just felt alienated enough not to vote. (Like me)

More later hopefully.

Recently at The Slog: Why the disenfranchised deserve a say

64 thoughts on “ELECTION AUTOPSY: Why last night’s ‘shock’ result proves the oldest adage of market research

  1. The pollsters got it WRONG, WRONG, WRONG.
    David call-me-Dave Cameron got it RIGHT, RIGHT, RIGHT!
    Seems Mr. Ward missed it by a country mile. Hope he was more accurate in his previous predictions career.

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  2. Let’s see how many of Call Me Dave’s election promises he keeps…I’m not holding my breath.

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  3. While on the subject of reading the tea leaves…How’s that Crash2 prediction coming along?
    Last time I checked the FTSE (8-5-2015 at 09:40GMT) is a very uncrashy looking green 114!
    A back to the drawing board moment seems to be at hand.

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  4. This was the election no one wanted to win!today the winners are the losers & the losers are the winners,time will show why? but that time has been shortened not lengthened today

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  5. UKIP vote: 3.75 million for ONE seat. SNP vote 1.45 million votes for 56 SEATS. Now the cat is amongst the pigeons. This will fester nicely, chaffing away until it eventually draws political blood – should come to a nice head shortly after the Scottish parliamentary elections?. Dave is going to have such fun with this poked hornets nest! Oh… and Balls, good riddance! Made my night that did! ;-)

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  6. The other possibility is that the polls were being massaged and/or commissioned to give a misleading result to bring out Conservative voters. I find this whole election very strange, and it feels as though every lever possible was used by the people really running the country to install Cameron again. I don’t deny that he is a more presentable, plausible figure as Prime Minister than Miliband would have been but I fear this victory came at a huge price, with everything and everyone else in Cameron’s path destroyed. Without accountability, Cameron will simply ride roughshod over everyone, breaking his promises with impunity, again. Because he knows that the establishment will save him.
    I think, in the end, you may have been right not to vote, John, as I’m not convinced the system is credible or working for us as a nation.

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  7. Tom – I’ve no doubt that this is what TPTB think… but I cannot help but think that unforeseen dynamics are now about to be unleashed throughout the political landscape…. the sailing may not be as ‘plain’ for Cameron as many now think. Anyway, despite the view of many that it’s a waste of time voting, I’ll stick by my decision to do so – and I feel glad I did.

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  8. This will turn out to be a very difficult victory for Cameron. He now leads a Government with a wafer thin majority with a large part of the county wanting to break away. He will be held hostage by his backbench awkward squad and a huge bunch of bolshie SNP MP’s snapping at his heels. John Major with a majority of 10 quickly got into difficulty and Cameron is likely to have a majority of only 6. He will also now have to deliver on a rashly promised EU referendum made when he thought there would be a hung parliament giving him a get out escape clause.

    BTW I voted late last night in Sidcup & Old Bexley and there was absolutely no one voting there who appeared drunk. Just a brisk queue of orderly voters.

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  9. I would agree with you on the EU referendum issue if Cameron wasn’t such a proven liar. He lied before on the issue of a referendum, I can see no reason for him not to lie again.

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  10. I think The Slog is quite correct in his observation. Prior to election night, ‘Number Cruncher Politics’ wrote a piece about the ‘Shy Tory Factor’ and the similarities to 1992.

    The blog notes that: ‘Opinion polls at British general elections are usually biased against the Conservatives and in favour of Labour. In 10 of the last 12 elections, the Conservative vote share has been underestimated and in 9 of the last 12, Labour’s share has been overestimated. The spread between the two has been biased in Labour’s favour in 9 of the last 12 elections, including 5 of the last 6.’

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  11. I think also the malign effect of Mr Crosby , who earned his money last night, should not be underestimated. The fear of a Labour/SNP alliance had a great effect on middle Shires England’s voting pattern. The Lib Dems like Scottish Labour paid the price of supping at the poisoned Tory chalice. I think we will find the Tory leaning Lib Dems went back to the Tories while the Labour leaning ones stayed put with the Lib Dems. The much vaunted damage by UKIP to the Tory vote did not materialize, but will wait next time till the Referendum is out the way and a yes vote leaves the Tory Eurosceptics and Ukip in the wilderness .
    We now have thanks to negative campaigning a Tory government with a majority and the electorate who did not vote for them with no idea what they intend to do or how fund what they say, but I guarantee Dave’s first act will be to implement the boundary commission changes.
    Here in Scotland the foundation stone of the demise of the Union was laid by Cameron, an effectively neutered Scottish vote will fester for the next 5 years and give us another referendum , which could succeed this time.
    Funny old night I thought as I went to bed at 6am.

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  12. I think the foundation stone of Scottish independence was laid in 1999 by the Labour party with the creation of a Scottish Parliament.

    The Conservatives owe Alex Salmond big time for that great barnstorming speech stating he would write Ed Miliband’s first budget. That went down really well in Middle England (like a rancid turd) and caused serious damage to Labours already ailing election prospects. I am not a fan but the Conservatives have won the election fair and square and anything else is just sour grapes from bad losers.

    But I think Cameron’s euphoria will be short lived as he tries to get by with a majority of a mere 6 and the so called economic recovery evaporates into nothing.

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  13. I don’t think Cameron won, or that Labour lost, in any traditional manner or on any of the usual ordinary issues. I think the SNP factor with their visceral hatred of the tories and their pledge to back Milliband annoyed and scared the UK electorate to such an extent that it sent them into the arms of the Tories as the only sure-fire counter to scots left wing influence running britain.

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  14. Yes,it would appear the the Turkeys have voted for Christmas.
    The Tories can do no wrong in their eyes.
    Bedroom tax, bankers bail -out, NHS decimation by stealth, uncontrolled immigration. University fees, youth unemployment, attacks on the Welfare support for the poor. Libya reduced to a failed state with Cameron and Sarkozy support.
    Camerons attempt to take us to war in Syria and his provocation of nuclear armed Russia.. What does it take for this population to wake up to this self flagellating;
    The English people have the memories and attention span of a Goldfish.
    Cameron may have inherited a poisoned chalice. The next Financial Tsunami is not far down the road and this time it will create chaos to an already struggling economy.
    Who is to protect the working class of this Sceptred Isle . The Labour Party have left the building and failed their ever dwindling supporters.

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  15. But Dave the numbers? it’s called creative bookkeeping you daft bugger, i am mostly on Tempranillo today and i love you all, other than any of those fookers in Westminster. Time for a song:

    Odd thing that i am an atheist.

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  16. As any system disintegrates it starts to lurch from extreme to extreme, this ‘election’ we have witnessed is just another fibrillation in the death of the dollar based fiat monetary paradigm. As JW has said again and again, precisely nothing is fixed after 2008 and America continues its lunatic expansion of its markets based on no tangible growth in anything except valuations of more intangibles.

    David Cameron has no respect from me, he is the worst kind of ideologically driven PR spin merchant and now for the first time in his political career he will have to ‘do it’ in the way real politicians like Thatcher and even Johnny Major had to do. He does not have the feeble LibDems to command like Vichy collaborators and instead must ride the backs of his own party and negotiate through some tough policy areas with a wafer thin majority. All this when he has already signposted the end of his tenure and saddled himself with delivering an EU referendum.

    Dave might well regret setting the attack dogs on UKIP, if they had been allowed to compete fairly without gangs of thugs beating up local party workers and threatening candidates with mutilation if they attended hustings then there might have been 5-10 UKIP MPs which Dave could have used as a very useful figleaf and an excuse to blame all his right wing ideological policies on, instead UKIP now bark from the sidelines with a powerful rationale for PR. The SNP will not make Dave’s life easy either, as for Labour – I am too tired to contemplate.

    The BBC though must be crapping its pants.

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  17. Dear Dave
    I’ve been following your multi-ISP comments now for some years. They all have one thing in common: an unwillingness to digest the text upon which you comment.

    What did I miss from ‘a country mile’….an exit poll I didn’t see until last night?

    Let’s just review what I DID say over the last 18 months:

    1. Miliband and Balls were useless and should be fired.
    2. On May 7th, a Labour majority without firm allies was mathematically impossible.
    3. Labour would lose because the Left won’t engage.
    4. UKip would get 4 or less seats.
    5. The SNP would clean-sweep Scotland.

    Anyway, from your pissed-off Whitey Ivory Tower in the Rainbow Nation, I wish you well. Like the Left in Britain, you seem unable to engage.

    Go well.

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  18. IP… ‘The BBC though must be crapping its pants.’ – yeah, so at least one good thing may come of this after all ;-)

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  19. tory vote underestimated in the polls , labour overestimated . why ? because the older voters did their duty and the youngsters couldn’t be arsed. simple !

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  20. Here is an interesting post from the Guardian :”Attention has focused on the polling companies, with commentators demanding to know how the election result seems so out of line with the opinion polling during the campaign, which had the two main parties largely neck and neck.

    Damien Lyons Lowe, the chief executive of Survation, one of the main opinion polling firms, has revealed that his company conducted a telephone poll the day before the election, carefully balanced demographically, and using mobile as well as landline numbers to maximise the reach.

    It put the Conservatives on 37% (the actual result was 37%) , Labour on 31% (30.5%), Ukip on 11% (13%), the Lib Dems on 10% (8%)and the Greens on 5% (4%).

    So why didn’t Survation publish it? The answer is that it didn’t “seem right”. In a post appropriately titled Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory, Lyons Lowe writes:

    The results seemed so “out of line” with all the polling conducted by ourselves and our peers – what poll commentators would term an “outlier” – that I “chickened out” of publishing the figures – something I’m sure I’ll always regret.

    The fact is, there is a herd mentality in the polling business – they’d all rather be wrong together.”

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  21. Indeed, it is an ill wind that blows no good whatsoever. We could start a whole new discussion on the myopic self referential tower of babel the BBC has become, how Evan Davies can have the audacity to show his face after his performance over the campaign is beyond me.
    If the NHS and all the other public services are being sliced diced and sold off, it is time the BBC was subjected to similar market forces and earn its keep or be cut down to a purer form of its ‘Inform educate, entertain’ remit.

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  22. IP – Yes, Evan Davies. Absolutely. Yes No Brilliant. Time the BBC was attended to with a rather large machete.

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  23. II am of the opinion that the media was reluctant to draw folks attention to the % of votes gained per candidate!
    Quite early on ..it was obivious that we had a new third rail.
    I fell asleep ….. they overdid the mind blowing graphics…. no differant to a tallent less media extravaganza (it’s the electronics wot dunit)
    dofornow

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  24. Awkward squad? No, backbenchers will now be more than lobby fodder – they’ll actually have some influence, Which is as it should be.

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  25. I believe that the election shows that it is more politically correct to tell a pollster that you are undecided than to say you are a conservative. I’m sure many learned this defensive maneuver in the pub or on the job…….., keep your mouth shut and vote.

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  26. I can imagine all the ‘hedgies’ licking their lips at the obscene amounts of money they are going to make as the govt. sells everything in sight.
    Still, I’d rather face a rich man defending his wealth than a poor man defending his family’s empty bellies.
    One thing’s for sure Cameron has no idea what it’s like to be poor and starving, which might well be more than his undoing. We shall see, won’t we?

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  27. Well said. Bloody well said, if I may say so.

    The Grey men have won, it seems to me, and all that sensible men can do now is plan to vitiate the effects of the inexorable tramp of their advance towards totalitarianism. I rather see myself as one of those white-haired reactionary old buggers the revolutionaries turn to for advice on the finer points of rudimentary armaments and thinking at least two paces ahead of the bar-stewards.

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  28. There’s many a slip..
    I think when you get an election result like this, the story doesn’t ended with the result.
    For a few years Labour are irrelevant, but someone will fill the vacuum.
    I suspect that the various factions within the Tory party might dream they can be a tight voting clique and extract some concessions they wouldn’t ordinarily dream of trying for. Particularly friends of the City.
    Is Cameron the man of straw that Major was, and be unable to control his greedy underlings? Of course he is.
    So perhaps nothing decisive can be done either way in this Parliament.

    Or maybe factions within the SNP will try and spin off from the two fishes and their on-message control-freakery. Success of course promotes ambition and light-headedness, for anyone. So many new MPs for them herd.

    One big pity is that Cameron can now probably word the Euro-Referendum question any we he wants to load it -just like Callaghan did all these years ago.

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  29. Did you see the look on their faces when they arrived back at Downing street this morning?
    He’s talked the talk for the first five years in short trousers.
    Now he has to walk the talk for the next five years.
    He will come out of it an old man. A broken man .

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  30. Dave has already announced the same old same old in Osbourne, May, Hammond, Fallon in their previous jobs.
    Within a day of the result………….
    Dave, Son, what happened to “pause, reflect, and ” whatever the third thing was.

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  31. I’m glad I no longer live in the UK…though this result will still have severe ramifications for me, I’m sure. I guess it was only to be expected. Ed Miliband has about as much charisma as a soggy tampon ! The tory party and their banker buddies will be pulling all the strings forever ! No upper crust paedophiles will ever be prosecuted, Scotland will secede from the UK and kiss the butt of the E.U., and my state pension will probably be cancelled at 65 to pay for tax cuts for the rich ! Oh…and isn’t it great that we have a brand new parasitic, inbred foxhunter, by the name of Charlotte to brighten our sad little proletariat lives ! Gawd bless yer ma’am ! (Doffs cap and humbly genuflects).

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  32. JW. You are ,very modestly ignoring your pivotal role in the result of the 2015 GE .In the run up to the 2010 GE, when Garry was telling us ‘it all started in America’, you,alone, on the blogosphere and media in general, was pointing out that the guy was clinically nuts, addicted to anti depressants, and so on. Down he went, but given our electoral system, not quite out for Labour. I am struggling to credit you with the subsequent election of Ed, who alone had understood Labour’s leadership election rules, but there you go. The fact is the electorate was presented,in 2015, between a choice between Garry Mark 2, addicted to public expenditure, and a distant relation of ER, who the English and many Welsh preferred to GM2, whilst the Jocks plumped for Old Labour, under the name of the Scottish Nasty Party.When the tale of the 2010 and 2015 GEs is written by the modern day equivalent of Butler and Stokes, I feel sure your role in the defenestration of Garry, and its consequences, in 2015 will be properly recorded, for all time. In the meantime, feel for those of us in in the Upper House, as we await the arrival of the crazed Viscount Clyde, whose engagements on the international speech/ money circuit have truly collapsed.

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  33. Those left alive in 2020 England will be Tory Donors or at least Tory members. Everyone else will have starved or been killed in the war that will undoubtedly follow with Syria, Iran, Russia..

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  34. Hats off to Mathew Parris who predicted the result with uncanny precision in The Times 6 weeks ago….

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  35. Remember Greek state TV being closed down the BBC is in a difficult place deliberately placed there by the Murdoch & Tories but get rid of the BBC & it’s cartoon Fox on the agenda

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  36. All within tolerance but i think Nationalistic fear took hold! & to think their isn’t a price for that is a very big mistake for those playing it

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  37. And where is Rebakkah B now? And indeed uncle Rupe?
    How soon is RB pencilled in for a country supper?
    More business as usual I fear.

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  38. +1 Tom. The system is working for the top elite.
    Banksters get their debts lumped onto the small taxpayer.
    The poorest get £12 billion in cuts.

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  39. Top post, fe. Look into Agenda 21, via Lord Monckton.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fvJ8nFa5Qk
    Or, put in search box: Agenda 21’s Globalist death plan for Humanity
    51 mins.
    It’s the UN plan for this 21st century, all hidden behind the “Environmentalist Green” cloak & the global warming scam.
    The aim is to destroy nations, families, Christianity, the middle class, private property & most of the world’s population.

    If that sounds mad, it’s because it is mad. But it’s what’s in progress now.
    John Doran.

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