As the polls both narrow and widen – Miliband needs to keep his head

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This evening an ICM poll has shown the Tories drawing level with Labour on 36%, after a quite remarkable 7 point increase in their vote (with UKIP losing nearly half of their vote – down from 12% to 7%) since their last poll.

However, YouGov’s latest poll has Labour’s lead at 11 points, whilst the latest Populus poll (out today) has the lead at 7 points.

So Labour’s lead is at 11 points, 7 points or 0 points. I’m glad that’s clear. I now expect everyone with an axe to grind one way or another to claim that [Poll that best serves their argument] is right because [insert name of issue they feel passionately about].

There are all sorts of ways this could be spun. For example:

  • Ed Miliband’s speech on the union link last week could have either been a brilliant strategic move that secured Labour’s lead, or a disastrous move that has led to a collapse in the party’s lead.
  • The farcical Tory EU Referendum Bill 10 days ago was a masterful masterstroke that has crushed UKIP’s vote, or alternatively it was a foolish move that has had negligible impact.

Neither of these can be proven or disproven. Countless articles will be written off the back of such assertions.

But Ed Miliband needs to keep his head – because what really matters in polling is the trend, and according to the UK Polling Report average of polls, Labour’s lead is at 8 points. Now that sounds a little high to me, but even by saying that, I’m wading in to the subjectivity that always comes with reading polls, and making the mistake I’ve just tried to criticise.

So if you don’t mind, I’m going to stop right there – but not before urging caution in getting too excited, or depressed, at the outcome of individual polls. Until the next time I want to argue that [Poll that best serves my argument] is right because [insert name of issue I feel passionately about] that is. I’m only human, after all….

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