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Polls (original) (JonathanR. Partington)
(topical, smirk)

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

 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)

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