Polls could be scrapped for the 2020 election after how bad 2015's were, top pollster says

Ben Page of Ipsos MORI said there were questions about whether political polling could fall by the wayside

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Indy Politics

The polling industry could stop doing election polls altogether after its disastrous performance in 2015, a top pollster has said.

Surveys in the run-up to last year’s general election significantly overstated Labour support because of fundamental sampling problems, an independent inquiry into the failures has found. 

Speaking this morning after the release of the findings, Ben Page, the chief executive of pollster Ipsos MORI, warned that there were no simple solutions to the diagnosis.

He hinted that pollsters – the bulk of whose work comes from corporate clients and market research – might consider not conducting political polls at all at the next election.

“What you have to remember is out of the 1500 people I employ in London, only three of them are doing election polling,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“This is something that the industry does, to be honest, at relatively low budgets. The money that is available to pay for election polling is miniscule compared to the vast majority of what the industry is doing.

“And there are some really interesting questions about whether we should stop doing it altogether.”

Political opinion polling is among the most high-profile research conducted by pollsters but brings in little income.

The practice provides high-profile press coverage for pollsters who in the past have been able to point to the accuracy of their election polls in order to demonstrate the accuracy of their methods. 

An interim report by the independent inquiry into the polling industry, set up by the British Polling Company and Market Research Society, issued its interim report today.

The report said samples including too many Labour voters appeared mainly to blame for the errors. 

The inquiry said that lower that expected Labour voter turnout and “shy” Conservative voters were not significant causes in the problems but said evidence of a late swing to the Tories was inconclusive.