Why the polls got the U.K. General Election wrong Today we ask the big question: why did the 651 Returning Officers get the result of the General Election wrong? Several highly skilful organizations had spent the weeks up to April 9th in discovering exactly how the U.K. population felt about the political parties, and yet on polling day it was left to a pack of unskilled Returning Officers who came to a totally different conclusion. We asked a typical returning Officer, Herbert J. Globsquirtle, why he got his own result so badly wrong. "Well, it's not so easy as you think, Peter. Oh, aren't you Peter Snow? Sorry. Well you look like him. Anyway, it really isn't easy. The big polling organizations are able to go out and interview a specially stratified sample of the people, to measure swings, and to ask probing questions to discover what people really think. Now we work much less scientifically. People are expected to turn up at their local polling station and put a cross on a bit of paper. This rules out people who have gone on holiday and not got their postal vote in time, people who have sprained their fingers, people who can't be bothered to turn up, people who lose their way or forget what day it is, people who forget to put their ballot paper in the tin box we provide, people who are insane clergymen in the House of Lords (e.g. the Bishop of Durham?), and so on. Then again, the voters lie to us. They say to themselves, 'I really support the Welsh Nationalists, but since Cambridge Northwest doesn't have such a candidate, and my second choice (Monster Raving Loony) has no chance, I'll vote Liberal Democrat to keep the Tories out.' What kind of nonsense is that?" A typical opinion pollster, Polly Gallup, confirms this view. "Well, Peter. Oh aren't you? Sorry. We publish polls with a scientifically calculated margin of error. We know what's going on to 17 decimal places. The Returning Officers work much less scientifically. They have no computers, no published 'margin of error' figures, nothing but a heap of waste paper with Xs on it. Moreover we can provide a much more sophisticated analysis of the voters' wishes. For example, 60% of the male electorate want a buxom blonde with slightly leftish views, and 72% of the female electorate want a tall dark handsome Scot with hairy legs. You won't find such sophisticated questions on the ballot papers, where they don't even mention the candidates' legs, except in Irish constituencies." Yes, one thing is certain. The days of the Returning Officer are numbered. Once again they have failed to discover what the electorate really wants.
(From the "Rest" of RHF)