OPINION5 May 2010

Virtual voting


Angus Reid Public Opinion is running an unusual poll in the run up to tomorrow’s general election.

The company’s survey for The Economist aims to simulate a real ballot paper, with every candidate in the respondent’s consituency listed by name and party. You can see an example here.

OK, so they haven’t built a mock-up polling station or or anything like that, it’s just an online survey, but it’s an interesting effort to approximate how voters reach their decision on the day. Most surveys would only list the main parties, with individual candidates not named and smaller parties lumped together as ‘other’.

The ‘Real Ballot’ methodology could prove particularly useful in this election, which is likely to see a lot of voters choosing independents and smaller parties, and where the high level of MP turnover means the popularity of individual candidates will be particularly significant.

The firm used the same method in British Columbia last year, and got what The Economist calls “unusually accurate results”.

The UK poll, conducted between 23 and 26 April and published on 29 April, put the Conservatives in the lead on 33%, followed by the Lib Dems on 30% and Labour on 23%. This put Labour further behind than the other polls, mostly at the expense of the smaller parties, who together polled 14% in the Angus Reid survey, compared to around 9-10% elsewhere.

The firm also asked how certain people were about their choice of party, and found that Lib Dem support was by far the softest, with less than half of respondents saying they were certain, compared to about two-thirds for both the other main parties.

Angus Reid is calling the new methodology “a historic achievement”. We’ll see about that tomorrow.