Thursday, April 2, 2009

RedC have a peculiar methodology for dealing with "don't knows" which may account for the recent rise in the FF ratings. Those who tell RedC that they don't know who they will vote for (or who refuse to say), RedC will count 50% of them as voting for the party they supported in the last election.

My guess is that the number of "don't knows" has grown substantially in recent weeks (I'm one ). Many FF voters who turned away from the party late last year and early this year are now having second thoughts, particularly about Labour which is identified strongly with public sector workers and seems unwilling to face the need for cuts in public expenditure.

If I'm right, many disaffected FF voters who gave Labour such a boost recently (never vote for a Blueshirt!) are getting cold feet but don't want to reverse themselves so they are now telling RedC that they are "Don't Knows".
RedC is crediting half of them to FF.

In all the commentary on the RedC poll, this point seems to have been completely missed even though it would neatly explain the only salient message in that poll: a 5 point shift back from Labour to FF.

Whether RedC's methodology is valid will be tested in June. My instinct is that this methodology is reasonable where voting patterns are fairly static i.e. assume that party loyalty will re-emerge at an election. Where the nation is facing unprecedented political turmoil, the methodology probably understates the scale of the seismic shifts.

The RedC methodology would address an anti-FF bias i.e. people would actually vote FF but not admit it to pollsters (Sinn Fein had a similar pattern in the North). It was not unreasonable to attribute to FF 50% of the "don't knows" who had voted FF last time out.

Bertie changed that anti-FF factor - his key insight was that FF could never get an overall majority and Haughey had destroyed himself trying to achieve it (now we know why!). RedC were not misleading us in 2002 and 2007 because many "don't knows" went for FF in the final days of the campaign.

All this has changed in recent months. If the current anger is sustained, I think a lot of those who voted FF in 2007 will vote for anyone but FF next time out (i.e. in June). Allocating "don't knows" is a tricky business but it should be done transparently. I would back MRBI over RedC.

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