Thursday, March 19, 2009

It's Mark v. Mike (and they've both got a point)

It's psephological handbags at dawn over at Lib Dem Voice where one of my friends, Mark Pack, has taken another, PoliticalBetting's Mike Smithson, to task ove his criticism of David Laws.

Mike's general point is that too many pundits compare current polls with those in the mid-nineties without taking account of the changes in methodology that have happened since then.

He is quite right in this. Many of the polls in the run up to the '97 election gave Labour a massive lead, way ahead of the actual result. Several pollsters changes their methodolgy as a result.

However in his criticism of David Laws he overeggs the pudding a little.

He said: "It also does the Lib Dems no good to be undermining, in however a roundabout way, ICM polls. This is the firm that yesterday had Clegg’s party on 20% compared with just 14% that a MORI poll taken at the same time recorded. It’s all down to the methodology and the former has the track record with LD shares. "

The table in his own article shows that ICM got it right one month before the '97 election (the main parties were each within 1% of ICM's figures) with a Labour lead over the Tories of 14%.

The most recent ICM poll has the Tories' lead over Labour at 12%, and looking back at recent polls and those in the run up to '97 it is clear that the Tories' leads now tend to be lower than Labour leads were in the run up to '97.

This chimes with the general mood that I am picking up.

In the run up to '97 there was a strong national mood that it was time for the Tories to go. The only question was when and by how much. they were hated, and there was a genuine enthusiasm for Blair. (In fact I remember wondering what it was I was missing about Blair, so taken in were so many people I knew).

Now it is a bit different. I do think there is a general mood that Labour should go, but it is not as visceral as it was in '96/'97. And as far as I can tell there is nothing like the positive vibe about Cameron that there was about Blair, possibly because there is a suspiscion that he is not that different from him.

I still think there is a lot to play for, particularly for us.

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