Obsession with poll ‘predictions’

There seems to be an increasing obsession for media and pundits to view and use polls as predictors of the future.

When pollsters also become to focussed on the future then I have serious concerns about the purpose and usefulness of polls.

Ina guest post at Kiwiblog – Five Key Takeaways from Brexit   – KIA says:

5 – The polls were wrong … again
6 out of the 8 major polls picked a Remain result on the eve of the vote and the 2 that picked Leave had Leave only just winning versus the 4% eventual lead.

The polls weren’t wrong. They attempted to measure public opinion at the time they were taken. There is no way of measuring whether they were right or wrong.

I thought that polls were not designed to be predictors of the future sample measurements from the past.

If pollsters manipulate their polling and polls to try and match a future election or referendum then their margins of error should reflect this. The 95% probability is supposed to be based on their polling, not voting at a different time by a much bigger sample.

I can understand pundits and journalists trying to misrepresent what polls are, but if pollsters become obsessed with or feel pressured about who is supposedly the most accurate at predicting something in the future then I have serious concerns.

Polls aren’t wrong. They may be inaccurate at the time they were taken (and statistics and margins for error and being based on 95% probability account for this), but they don’t count votes on election day.

Pundits are wrong when they try to use polls to ‘win’ on future predictions.

Brexit Towers

A cartoon from Warren Brown at Britain’s Daily Telegraph:


David Cameron has slapped himself, and Jeremy Corbyn appears to be in for a slapping from the Labour Party.

Time will tell whether slapping Europe will end up being self flagellation or not.

Chappatte (International New York Times):


That doesn’t show the Irish who want to amalgamate and separate, but the Scottish are seriously considering another look at splitting (a majority of Scots voted to stay with the EU).

BBC: Scotland independence vote ‘highly likely’

Scotland’s first minister says a second independence referendum is “highly likely” after the UK voted to leave the EU.

And from The result in maps and charts

The Remain campaign dominated in London, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

In contrast Wales strongly supported leaving the EU but I don’t know if they want to leave the United Queendom.


Political chaos following referendum

British Prime Minister has resigned following the failure the country chose via referendum to leave the European Union. David Cameron says he’ll be gone by October.

The British economy may be gone by then too as the politicians have raised the risks substantially. There are reports that Jeremy Corbyn’s position as Labour leader is at risk too.

David Cameron to quit after UK votes to leave EU

Prime Minister David Cameron is to step down by October after the UK voted to leave the European Union.

Mr Cameron made the announcement in a statement outside Downing Street after the final result was announced.

He said he would attempt to “steady the ship” over the coming weeks and months but that “fresh leadership” was needed.

Also: Jeremy Corbyn to face Shadow Cabinet calls to quit

Jeremy Corbyn will face calls to stand down as Labour leader at an emergency meeting of the Shadow Cabinet this morning, PoliticsHome has learned.

The party’s frontbench is set to gather at 10am in the wake of Britain’s decision to quit the European Union.

But the meeting is likely to be dominated by discussions about Mr Corbyn’s own future – with senior sources saying Labour is in a “blind fury” with his performance during the campaign.

PoliticsHome has also learned that least 55 Labour MPs will put their name to a letter calling for Mr Corbyn to quit next week.

The pound has already taken a pounding, along with the FTSE.

BBC: Shares and pound plunge on Leave vote

The London stock market has plunged more than 8% in the wake of the UK’s vote to leave the EU.

In the opening minutes of trade, the FTSE 100 index fell more than 500 points before regaining some ground.

Banks were especially hard hit, with Barclays and RBS falling about 30%.

Earlier, the value of the pound fell dramatically as the referendum outcome emerged. At one stage, it hit $1.3236, a fall of more than 10% and a low not seen since 1985.

They still have most of Friday to go in Britain.

An interesting breakdown of pre-referendum polling




UK referendum result today

I presume the results of the UK referendum will be known later today. The polls close at 10.00 pm British time which is 9.00 this morning New Zealand time, so early indicative results may known this afternoon.

The BBC has a Polling day: Latest updates page but “in common with other broadcasters the BBC is not allowed to report details of campaigning while the polls are open”.

They summarise:

  • UK voters go to the polls in a referendum on whether to remain a member of the European Union or leave
  • Polling stations opened at 07:00 BST and will close at 22:00 BST
  • Around 46.5m people are entitled to take part in what is only the third nationwide referendum in UK history
  • Live results coverage on BBC One from 21:55 BST, online from 22:00 BST and from 22:00 GMT on BBC World News

We should know enough for some evening discussion on this here.

UPDATE: Missy has helped with times:

The first indications of how the vote will go is expected about 2am UK time (1pm NZ time), a full result is expected around 6 or 7am tomorrow morning (5 or 6pm NZ time), but if it is close it may be longer before the final result is known.


Panic in London over referendum

Missy has posted about an interesting panic piece

So, the banks in the City are putting in bunks and sleeping bags for their workers, oh, poor dears, they need bunks and sleeping bags. Whenever I have done an all nighter, we have toughed it out on the floor – or a couch if we are lucky.

From the UK’s Daily Mail.

Panic in the City over EU vote: Banks order in bunk beds, sleeping bags and takeaways for traders working through the night and ATMS are stuffed with money (but banks are set to cash in whatever the result) 

  • Banks and hedge funds commissioning private exit polls so they can bet on the referendum result before it’s officially announce
  • Millions in profit could be made by trading before markets open at 8am
  • Banks bring in bunk beds, sleeping bags and order takeaways for staff
  • Regulators order banks to ensure their cash machines are full with money
  • They fear a Northern Rock-style run on the banks if Brexit triggers chaos
  • Algorithmic trading systems are also being suspended by banks as they fear volatility could cause systems to crash


Prudent preparation?

At least for New Zealand  our markets will be closing or closed and we will be heading into the weekend when the results become known so if there is an immediate market reaction it will hopefully have settled down by the time our markets open again on Monday.

Mixed UK referendum polls

The latest UK polls on staying in or leaving the European Union give mixed results, suggesting that the outcome is difficult to predict and may swing on currently undecided voters and on which of stay or leave supporters are more motivated to vote.

The Mirror reports: EU referendum 2016 poll tracker: Is Britain heading for Brexit and what does the UK think of Europe?

Latest poll results and trends as ICM, YouGov, Ipsos Mori, ORB, ComRes and other pollsters survey voters’ intentions to vote Leave or Remain in the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union – but will they get it right?

Going by the latest polls some will ‘get it right’, some won’t. In reality the only poll that will get it right is the referendum. Polls are pre-vote attempts to gauge opinion and are subject to margins of error greater than some of the poll differences.

YouGov (21 June) “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”:

  • Remain 53%
  • Leave 46%
  • Don’t know 1%

A separate YouGov online poll of 1,652 people for The Times:

  • Leave 44%
  • Remain 42%

There must be a bigger ‘don’t know’ number there but it wasn’t quoted.

An ORB poll of 800 people who will definitely vote:

  • Remain 53%
  • Leave 46%

ORB poll of ‘all voters’:

  • Remain 49%
  • Leave 47%

Up until the murder of Jo Cox last week there seemed to have been a trend towards Leave but, related or not, it looks uncertain now and could go either way.

It’s up to the voters, as it should be.

UK poll shows swing to exit the EU

Less than two weeks before the referndum an ORB poll in the UK shows a significant swing towards ‘Brexit’ or leaving the European Union.

  • Leave the EU: 55% (up 4 since the last ORB poll)
  • Stay in the EU: 45% (down 4)



The online poll of 2052 respondents, conducted from June 8th to 9th, shows a swing to Brexit with just 13 days of the campaign remaining. 

Other key findings include: 

  • Over 80% of respondents agree that leaving the EU would pose either some risk or a great deal of risk to the UK, vs only 19% for no risk at all. 
  • More than two thirds agree that the campaign has been too negative. 
  • The economy is a bigger issue than immigration for more than half of our sample (52%), with only 37% disagreeing. 
  • Two out of five believe that the result of the EU referendum will not have much effect on their everyday life. 

The Independent adds in EU Referendum: Massive swing to Brexit – with just 12 days to go

The campaign to take Britain out of the EU has opened up a remarkable 10-point lead over the Remain camp, according to an exclusive poll for The Independent.

These figures are weighted to take account of people’s likelihood to vote. It is by far the biggest lead the Leave camp has enjoyed since ORB began polling the EU issue for The Independent a year ago, when it was Remain who enjoyed a 10-point lead. Now the tables have turned.

Even when the findings are not weighted for turnout, Leave is on 53 per cent (up three points since April) and Remain on 47 per cent (down three). The online poll, taken on Wednesday and Thursday, suggests the Out camp has achieved momentum at the critical time ahead of the 23 June referendum.

Differential turnout could prove crucial. ORB found that 78 per cent of Leave supporters say they will definitely vote – describing themselves as a “10” on a scale of 0-10, while only 66 per cent of Remain supporters say the same.

It could be hard to turn that lead and that momentum around.

Swiss UBI vote: 23.1% in favour

Results of the referendum in Switzerland for a Universal basic Income:

  • No 76.9%
  • Yes 23.1%
  • 0 of 23 Cantons in favour

Swissinfo.ch: Basic income plan clearly rejected by Swiss voters

Switzerland has become the first country in the world to hold a nationwide vote on introducing an unconditional basic income. Despite a spectacular pro campaign, there was no hope of it winning a majority.

Only some communes or urban districts in cantons Zurich, Bern, Geneva as well as Vaud and Jura came out in favour. 

“The campaigners failed to present a convincing funding scheme for their proposal. But they managed to launch a broad debate about an unconditional basic income,” says senior political scientist Claude Longchamp.

The promoters – a group of humanists, artists and entrepreneurs – have admitted defeat but they have pledged to continue their campaign.

“There is a genuine interest in the issue as numerous public discussions have shown,” says Oswald Sigg of the initiative committee.

It’s an idea that’s certainly worth publicly discussing, but it looks like it could be a good idea in theory but too many problems in practice.



EU referendum in Britain

Missy has some interesting information on the ‘Brexit’ European Union referendum in Britain.

A couple of interesting developments today in the EU referendum in Britain.
First, expats living in Europe went to court to try and be allowed to vote, in the UK if you have lived outside of Britain for more than 15 years you can’t vote in elections, but a whole lot of expats in Europe – some who have been there for more than 30 years – want to be able to vote in the election, however, the court has ruled that they can’t. They are now taking it to the Supreme court. It will be interesting to see how this goes.

British expats lose legal battle for right to vote in EU referendum

Second, the latest Yougov poll has shown that Obama has failed to swing Brits to the remain camp, and the out vote has taken a slight lead. One other recent poll has the out vote slightly ahead, whilst another has the in vote with a slight lead, interestingly the betting odds are favouring the UK to remain in Europe. Interesting times.

Obama fails to swing Britain behind EU as ‘Out’ takes poll lead

  • Out 42% (up 3)
  • In 41% (up 1)

Opponents of Britain’s European Union membership have edged into the lead over the past two weeks, according to a YouGov poll which indicated President Barack Obama’s intervention failed to swing support behind “In” vote in a June 23 referendum.

The online survey for The Times taken on April 25-26 showed support for the Out campaign had risen 3 percentage points to 42 percent since a similar survey on April 12-14, while support for the “In” campaign had risen 1 percentage point to 41 percent.

Flag referendum

It’s just about too late to vote in the flag referendum unless you ensure it is posted and postmarked by close of voting on Thursday.

Chief electoral officer Robert Peden said voting papers needed to be cleared and postmarked before voting closed on Thursday at 7pm, with the “best bet” to take it to a PostShop before the close of business.

The turnout is much better than for the first referendum, which is a success of sorts. It hasn’t been the flop with voters that some predicted or wanted. Those who wanted to keep the current flag as well as those who wanted the new one will have been motivated to vote to ensure they gave their p[reference the best chance possible.


  • Votes received up to 22 March – 1,927,444
  • Total votes in first flag referendum – 1,543,362
  • Total party votes, 2014 general election – 2,104,707

So that’s a healthy turnout.

Preliminary results will be announced some time after 7:00 pm tomorrow, 24 March.

The final result will be declared on 30 March.