Following the result of a Conservative majority against a back group of too-close-to-call polls, the British Polling Council is launching an independent enquiry into what went wrong. Yet, it is in living memory that a similar incident happened in 1992. A hung parliament appeared inevitable yet the Conservatives achieved a majority due to the ‘shy-Tory’ vote identified by polling expert, Rob Hayward, in the run up to that election.
In 2015 it happened again. The phenomenon is simple, no matter how large a sample size, no matter the method of data gathering, a polling organisation cannot help people being reticent about their true voting intentions. Those who were likely to vote Conservatives were dishonest, simply because, they felt that to be seen as a Tory would lead to being portrayed by the left as an NHS dismantling, food bank endorsing, heartless snob. These sentiments albeit comical are inherently dangerous, particularly in a student environment. The silencing of political opinions inhibits necessary debate and only encourages greater secrecy about people’s true political beliefs.
I witnessed this myself, as the election results came in to the Student Union those anything right of centre were silenced by the louder left-wing supporters. I appreciate that a Student Union bar is not representative of the population as a whole, but a literal silencing of people’s political opinions was evident. In this scenario, it was no wonder that young students, reflective of the opinion polled population as a whole, hid their Conservative sympathies.
In the run up to the election it was easy for people to vocally declare their support for the many alternatives to the Tory party. Yet many, when faced with the hard reality of a cross on the ballot paper, reverted to their own true political sentiments, in the form of the Conservatives.
The opinion polls may have been wrong, but those who attack the Tory voters with exaggeratory remarks forcing them to become secretive, only have themselves to blame.