So: can we rely on the opinion polls to get the British general election right after all? After the debacle of 2015 – an election that was entirely focused on a hung parliament when in fact the Tories won at a canter – the results of the French election will have cheered the pollsters. They all got pretty close to the right vote shares for Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen. And this follows the American election where, on average, they at least predicted Hillary Clinton’s lead in the popular vote.
In fact neither France nor the US offers much succour. If you take the second round in France, Macron’s predicted share of the vote ranges from 60.5% to 67% and so his lead is from somewhere between 21 percentage points and 34. Were the French election at all close, the polls would tell us next to nothing about the likely outcome. As for the US, anyone who followed the polls would have had a seesaw ride – Clinton leading by double-digits in some, trailing Trump in others. And to predict the wrong winner is after all no small error.
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