Why rumours are less reliable than Welsh opinion polls

I don't have a lot of faith in Welsh opinion polls; they are conducted on a UK, even worse an USA model. A model that can predict the outcome of a 650 seat legislature cannot, without immense refinement, predict a 60 seat legislature with any accuracy. To make things worse the Welsh polls use an UK weighting method to predict their seat distribution. Wales is not a mini UK.

The ITV/YouGov polls are a welcome addition to the Welsh political scene; I hope that they continue; but all they are showing at the moment is trends – they cannot make seat predictions in their present form.

If we can't rely on the polls, then the next best thing that we have is the ear on the ground, the rumours from the constituencies, the party's canvassing results that we are fed that say there may be a shock in constituency X. But these are even less reliable than the polls.

My first experience of political campaigning was in the February 1974 election. I had agreed to be part of the Liberal Party's canvassing team in Merionethshire. I put a poster supporting my candidate in my bedroom window; but when Dad came home he ordered me to take it down in case somebody put a brick through the window or in case he was sacked from his job by his employer of a different political persuasion!

I hadn't realised that democratic differences could cause such animosity, so on my first canvassing outing I wore brown trousers because I was really frightened of being physically and verbally abused by those who were going to vote against my man. I was pleasantly surprised. At every door I knocked on I was received with courtesy, nobody assaulted me, nobody set the dogs on me, everybody said they would consider voting for my candidate. I honestly thought that we would win handsomely from my canvass experience – we came a miserable fourth!

And another thing, when parties are quietly confident of winning a seat or retaining a marginal, they tend to keep that confidence quiet; rather than alerting the media (and their challengers) of their confidence. When parties need to big up their chances in a particular constituency, it's because their returns show that they are not quite there yet so they need spin in order to give an impression of winning here.

We can't trust polls, we can't trust the rumour. The only thing that we can trust is that, with just four days to go, there are still votes to win and opinions to change – so put your blood and guts into supporting your candidates over these last few essential days!


  1. And if I remember correctly the Liberal candidate at the time was Eurfyl ap Gwilym. I was canvassing on the other side for a young RADICAl called Dafydd Elis Thomas...how times have changed!!

  2. It was Iolo ap Erfyl Jones who was the Liberal candidate, and he came third not fourth.

  3. Its a shame that the Welsh liberal party went to hell in a Waitrose fruit basket

  4. Plaid Gwersyllt said...
    how times have changed!!

    Indeed, the Liberal Party supported UK federalism at that time, which is a bit of an advance on Plaid's current take on the national question!