One of the most memorable errors in statistical analysis is a scene from The Empire Strikes Back. Han Solo, attempting to evade enemy fighters, flies the Millennium Falcon into an asteroid field. The ever knowledgeable C3PO informs Solo that probability is not on his side.
General election outcomes in the UK are difficult to forecast. Even setting aside the 18 seats in Northern Ireland and the entirely different party system that exists there. In England, Scotland and Wales there are seven parties that compete either regionally or nationally with a good chance of winning seats in May 2015.
The Polling Observatory forecasting model has been a long time in the making, and builds on our effort in 2010, where we fared relatively successfully both in absolute terms and compared to other forecasters. (Our forecast before the start of the official campaign proved even more successful.) Forecasting like this is inherently limited, as there will always be some factors which can impact elections but are difficult to quantify or model effectively.
Brian O’Driscoll enjoys legendary status among Irish sports fans. The public perception of O’Driscoll is one of a truly exceptional player who stood apart from his peers in the era of professional rugby. Yet many rugby fans outside Ireland, while recognising that he was a great player, perhaps thought Ireland fans were inclined to exaggerate about his brilliance, especially later in his career.
What do you get if you ask a Labour Party pollster and a Conservative Party advisor to predict the outcome of the 2015 UK general election? Two very different answers, of course. And so it was that during a debate at the Market Research Society annual conference this week, James Morris (a former speechwriter for Labour leader Ed Miliband) predicted a Labour victory, while Andrew Cooper (a former director of strategy for the Conservatives) predicted that Tory leader David Cameron would remain prime minister 'in some sort of messy coalition'.