What Just Happened

As with any election, the noble art of market research has taken a knocking. The nationwide US polls were wrong and the exit polls were even more wrong (sadly not wrong in the ways most – all? – of this site’s readers and writers would have hoped for).

Removing my bitter, disappointed world citizen’s hat and just wearing my professional opinion seeker’s hat, what it reminds me of is the Tory election grab of ’92, the one that really sounded the knell for polling-as-holy-writ in this country. A proportion of Tory voters back then had either lied to the pollsters or had avoided them – the theory was that this was because it was shameful to vote for the selfish right-wing party and people wouldn’t want to admit that. This has been factored in to every UK poll since.

I don’t think it’s the political stance that created the lying/avoidance, though. I think it’s something that happens to polls in elections – like that one, like this one – when fear is used as a primary motivator. Fear is a hugely powerful motivating force and when the fears aren’t seen as credible (eg the Conservative ‘Demon Eyes’ campaign of 1997 – though revive that poster now with GWB’s eyes poking through behind Blair’s and maybe you have a point for next May – but I digress) huge embarrassment and backlash results. But if the fear is seen as credible – Labour will take all your money; vote Democrat and the terrorists will win – then in the privacy of the voting booth it can take hold of an undecided mind. But outside, when the clipboard guy approaches or the phone rings…? Well, nobody wants to admit to being scared.