Daily catch-up: should we believe the opinion polls or the betting markets?

Plus a cartoon, a quotation, a book review and a very long article about commas

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The Independent Online

1. Another fine cartoon by Jake Goretzki: spot the middle-class household. More of his work here.

2. Should we believe the opinion polls or the betting markets? Currently the opinion polls suggest Labour is ahead by less than one percentage point (although today’s Survation poll in the Daily Mirror, putting Labour either six points ahead or four, depending on the question, is going to get a lot of attention). That would translate into a dead heat in seats in the House of Commons, or Labour just ahead. The May2015.com seats calculator gives Labour 271 seats and the Conservatives 270 in a hung parliament, assuming Scotland behaves differently, where the SNP would win 56 of the 59 seats.

The betting markets, on the other hand, suggest that the Conservatives are heading to be the largest party. Neil Lovatt’s compilation of data from the Betfair betting exchange suggests a better than 60 per cent chance that the Tories will win the most seats (but only a 15 per cent chance that they will win a majority).

Well, at this stage before the last election, on 22 February 2010, the betting markets, compiled by Mike Smithson at Political Betting, thought the Tories were heading for a majority of 40. And we know what happened to that.

People often make the point – I don’t know if it is true – that people who bet tend to be better off and are therefore more likely to be Tory.

The opinion polls, on the other hand, showed an average lead for the Conservatives of six points (average of five polls from different companies 21-25 February 2010), whereas the Tories ended up with a seven-point lead in the election.

So believe the polls rather than the betting markets. But those are just four data points and elections are not clockwork models. What matters most of all is politics: what leaders and parties do and say and how people respond. I still think that, if opinion shifts before polling day, it will not be in Labour’s favour.


3. Quotation of the Day:

“I have to admit that I thought the Kardashians were aliens in Star Trek.”

Graham Cluley, Via Charles Arthur.

4. Long, unusual and basically just about commas, by Mary Norris, of The New Yorker. Thanks to Dave Gilmore.


5. “Brings home just how little sense of progress there has been.” Mark Pack on Tim Bale’s forthcoming book (right) about Ed Miliband’s five years as Labour leader, in which he has been “fighting the same battles again, and again”.

6. And finally, thanks to Moose Allain for this news flash:

“I thought I’d witnessed a kidnapping but it was just a goat snoozing.”