A Brief Guide to Poll-Reading

A version of this post first appeared on our Facebook page last week.

Last week, we ran a poll on our Twitter account in response to the news that the EU had ruled that Ireland had given state aid to Apple, by allowing them to pay a lower rate of tax than other similar corporations.

There’s the obvious disclaimers to start with – the poll was conducted online, which means respondents are more likely to be disproportionately young and left-wing than among the wider population. Also, while we try to be politically balanced, our beliefs are more leftwing than rightwing, which will be reflected in our followers. So the people who see the poll will not completely represent a cross-section of the population for those reasons.

The issues at the heart of the poll, for anyone who’s unaware, are the referendum on whether the United Kingdom should leave the European Union or remain; and last week’s news that the European Union will force Apple to pay more tax to Ireland, after they broke EU ‘state aid’ rules by offering them a tax deal that was not available to other multinationals in Ireland.


The figures responding, in absolute numbers, are 9 (27%); 0 (0%); 21 (64%) and 3 (9%).
We know that roughly 49% of the overall population voted to remain, so remain voters are over-represented by half in our poll, and leave voters, 51% of the overall population, are under-represented by half. We therefore have to baseline to tell us exactly how inaccurate this poll is.
It’s interesting that none of the 9 respondents who voted to leave the EU objected to what could be seen as excessive interference in national decision-making, but 3 of the 24 remain voters objected to the EU’s actions (reasons for the vote are of course not mentioned in the poll), but could perhaps indicate a worry about the EU going too far.

We’ve been thinking about making polls a regular feature of our account. As the sample size of any poll we run is likely to be small, we’ll put a focus on examining how to read a poll, which is a vital skill if you want to understand modern politics.


Author: Mulder and Scully

Left-wing politics bloggers trying to make sense of the world. Green, Chomskyite, uncertain, pro-debate, anti-woo, Keynesian, sceptical, angry, hopeful. #PoliticsForBeginners

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