Reading polls 101, with an added side of politics

All the things you need to know (and never even thought about) to understand opinion surveys

Welcome to ‘The Smokeless Room’, where each week I delve into all you need to know to sift the bunk from the gold of opinion surveys! Issues come out each week on Wednesdays!

Hey, why should I care about polls?

I get it; polling can sometimes seem really obtuse. Plus there’s the whole chicken and the egg situation of whether polling influences the result or just reads a snapshot of the moment (or both). Yet polling exists and has a big impact on the media and policy so it’s worth knowing what marks a good poll from a bad one before you start talking about 47% of the British people think X.

And once you know what you’re looking for you’ll be surprised just how twisted some results can be.

Okay, but who are you?

I’m Rushaa Louise Hamid, a freelance researcher and writer. You can find out more on my website but essentially I’ve worked on and off in polling and market research for the past five years, and most recently I was the Special Projects Manager for over two years at polling firm Survation Ltd (you may remember them for such hits as the 2017 and 2019 UK General Elections). That’s a really complicated title, but I basically worked on complex projects, including ethnic and religious minority research. In other words, I know my stuff.

I’m sold - how do I learn more?

Sign up! Each week on a Wednesday I’ll give some basic navigation about how to read polling with a focus on politics so you can figure out what public opinion is actually saying. And remember to tell your family and friends to join!

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