Why the polls got it so wrong in the British election

imageIf the opinion polls had proved accurate, we would have been woken up on the morning of May 8 to a House of Commons in which the Labour Party had a chance to form government. By the end of the day, the country would have had a new prime minister called Ed Miliband, writes Professor Leighton Vaughan Williams.

This didn’t happen. Instead the Conservative Party was returned with almost 100 more seats than Labour and a narrow majority. So what went wrong? Why were the polls so far off? And why has the British Polling Council announced an inquiry?

We have been here before. The polls were woefully inaccurate in the 1992 election, predicting a Labour victory, only for John Major’s Conservatives to win by a clear seven percentage points. While the polls had performed a bit better since, history repeated itself this year. Continue reading