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Saturday 8 February 2014

Toby Young Smears Pollsters

After Mike Smithson of Political Betting revealed that support for the Tories among teachers had slumped since the last General Election, and this blog drew the conclusion that those who shill for “Oiky” Gove may be effectively recruiting for Labour, the loathsome Toby Young decided to fire up the spin machine and prove that black was actually white and that information was wrong.
(c) Doc Hackenbush 2014

Yet another attempt by the NUT to smear Michael Gove with dodgy data” declared Tobes triumphantly yesterday. Why so? Because “if you drill down into this polling data, it becomes clear that Smithson has been taken for a ride. Both polls were carried out for YouGov on behalf of the NUT – a fact omitted in Smithson's post”. But, so what? They both ask the same voting intention question.

The latter survey, Tobes asserts, “asked teachers a number of leading questions before asking them how they intended to vote, such as, ‘To what extent do you feel valued as a professional by politicians?’ [and] ‘Do you think publicly funded schools should be run for profit?’” to which the answer has to be that these are not leading questions – unless you assume it’s the Tories not valuing, or out for profit.

So Tobes is going in a paranoid circle. And it gets worse: he then smears YouGov with a particularly nasty allegation. “In the business, this is known as ‘push polling’ – you push people towards making the choice you want them to make by asking them leading questions beforehand” to which I call bullshit. Push polling is something far more sinister, as this description explains.

A true push poll is not a poll at all.  It is a telemarketing smear masquerading as a poll”, explained Mark Blumental. “[Push pollsters] aim to reach as many voters as possible, so they typically make tens or even hundreds of thousands of calls ...[they] typically ask just a question or two, while real surveys are almost always much longer and typically conclude with demographic questions about the respondent”.

The later poll, which Tobes tries to smear as a “push poll”, uses a sample size of 826. The earlier one had a sample size of 714. And what other questions may have been asked before the one on voting intention is not told. But one thing that we can conclude from the sample size and questions asked is that nobody is leading anyone, and the latter exercise is definitely not a push poll.

So what does Tobes do? He just digs in a little deeper: “In addition, the results of the 2013 poll weren't weighted in the way they normally are by YouGov, taking into account previous voting habits, gender, socio-economic status, etc. Presumably, that's because when the raw data was weighted, the results showed fewer teachers deserting the Tories”. Yet another assumption to suit his argument.

Toby Young should apologise to YouGov and withdraw. He won’t. No change there.


Chris Neville-Smith said...

I suppose the point about YouGov not asking the voting intention first is a valid one, and I'm surprised they didn't ask that question first, because they're normally quite particular about that sort of thing.

Having said that, having looked at the questions:

* I can't see any questions in this list that look particularly leading. All of the questions looked quite neutral to me, and nothing in that list looked like it was trying to force an issue that teachers wouldn't be considering anyway; and

* With Gove's supporters describing the entire teaching profession as "The Blob", exactly what result was Toby Young expecting?

Anonymous said...

I'm sure Toby Young and the Tories know all about push polling.

In fact, I know they do, because I was on the receiving end of one a month or so back - a supposed "survey" asking me my opinions on local matters, asking me how I'd feel if Labour took away all the wonderful things the Government had done for the country.