Gloating about voting: the general election result should remind us not to believe everything we read

Andrew Eborn is a lawyer, strategic business adviser and producer. He has specialised in international licensing and global rights management for several years and has been actively involved with the global development of brands and the negotiation, acquisition and international exploitation of various major licences.

He is now working with several businesses across the IP value chain including the creation and licensing of content in all media from production, post production & Visual FX facilities to recording, publishing, distribution, supply of talent, technology, event & artist management, promotion and immersive technology.

The results are in... and my 100% record of predicting human behaviour and elections around the world remains intact.

As a Member of The Inner Magic Circle with Gold Star as well as a lawyer, predictions and a deep understanding of human behaviour come with the territory. I again successfully predicted the course of this election, the media coverage and the results.

At the beginning of this roller coaster election I set out the recipe for ensuring victory.

I also predicted the results with what proved to be alarming accuracy.

But more on that in a moment...

Having started with a u-turn on the solemn promise not to call an election until 2020, this election was populated with further u-turns, fluffed figures, embarrassing reminders of previously stated views and constant reminders that if you fail to prepare you prepare to fail.

The pollsters got it wrong on the 2015 election, the EU referendum and Trump. Having been so badly bruised and with public confidence in the industry at an all-time low, throughout this campaign pollsters put careful caveats on their results commentary, emphasising they were merely snapshots of public opinion.

Wildly varying predictions populated this election.

Just like fraudulent mediums, if you throw out enough predictions some must be correct. All you have to do is remind people of the hits.

When Theresa May called the election on 18 April, the Tories were on a nine-year high. A survey by YouGov based on a sample of 1,727 adults online suggested Con 48%, Lab 24%, Lib 12%, UKIP 7%, Other 9%.

Within the first few days of campaigning the Tories hit their highest vote share since 1991: Con 50%, Lab 25%, Lib 11%, UKIP 7%, Other 8% (ComRes – sample 2,074 GB adults online).

YouGov’s last poll for the 2015 general election was out by a massive 6%.

For the EU referendum it publicly predicted on the day of the vote that Remain would win by 4%. On an impressive turnout of 72.2% the Leave vote in fact gained 51.9% of the vote. YouGov was spectacularly wrong.

In its final US polls, YouGov said that Clinton would win by 4% and “Trump would come up short in key battleground states”. As I predicted, on a turnout of 54.7%, Trump triumphed with 306 electoral votes to Clinton’s catastrophic 232. YouGov was wrong again.

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” - Robert F. Kennedy

For the 2017 election, YouGov introduced a ‘new model’ based on ’Mulitilevel Regression and Post-stratification’ analysis – ie profiling using a sampling of only 75 people per voting seat. Not really statistically robust.

YouGov’s shock poll at the end of May predicted a hung parliament. As I pointed out, the end of May indeed!

The controversial poll suggested the Conservative Party could be in line to lose 20 seats and Labour gain nearly 30 in the general election, according to new modelling.

YouGov’s first constituency-by- constituency estimate of the election result predicted that the Tories would fall short of an overall majority by 16 seats, leading to a hung parliament

The front page of The Times on 1June screamed ‘Pollsters predict shock Tory crash’. This sent shockwaves through Westminster and the financial markets.

With the delicious fusion of tragedy and comedy worthy of his namesake, Stephan Shakespeare, YouGov’s chief executive said that it was only a central projection that “allows for a wide range of error” and pointed out that the Tories “could get as many as 345 seats on a good night … and as few as 274 on a bad night”. That is a massive margin of error!

As I predicted, YouGuff finally got it right with their controversial new model poll. It is clear now that there will indeed be a hung parliament.

The best thing for anyone is a bad poll result during the campaign. Nothing galvanises voters more than the fear that they will lose. Tell people that they will win and they are more likely to be complacent and not bother voting.

I also successfully predicted the course of the media coverage with fear and smear dominating the last few days of the election.

Papers competed for the best election pun.

The Sun – “Don’t Chuck Britain in the Cor-Bin”

Daily Star – “Tezza Vs Jezza” – which one has the best BreXit Factor for You"

Evening Standard – “Corbyn Chaos”

We were left in no doubt as to where the papers’ loyalties lie.

So trying really hard not to sound too smug, the fact remains I got it right on all fronts – yet again.

So what can we learn?

Human behaviour, media coverage and results are easy to control and predict.

Just like Derren Brown, with a combination of magic, suggestion, psychology, misdirection and showmanship we can make the seemingly impossible possible….

Pollsters need to review the ways polls are conducted. As I have demonstrated there are other factors in play.

In the meantime, the current system has a place in The Museum of Failure in Helsingborg, Sweden.

I am already working with the founder of the museum, Dr Samuel West, on this.

Exhibits currently include

  • A mask for health & beauty which stimulates your face with electrical shocks so in 90 days you could be as beautiful as Linda Evans from Dynasty
  • Nokia’s N-Gage – combining a mobile game system with a smartphone - brilliant technology but the design sucked looking like a Taco phone
  • Legendary Harley Davison eau de toilet – as we all want to smell like a hairy biker after a hot day getting our kicks on Route 66
  • and Google Glass

We want to encourage organisations and brands to be better at learning from failures not just ignoring them and pretending they never happened.

Innovation requires failure.

Failure is success in progress….

“I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” – Thomas A. Edison

“Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.” – Lance Armstrong. Hmmmm.

With that in mind let me know your suggestions for additions to the museum. I shall then provide a regular update including through this column.

If there are particular stories you feel should be subjected to a pressure test to find out whether they really stand up to serious scrutiny or you want help to avoid the predictable errors and omissions of others get in touch...

Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewEborn and @OctopusTV.

Post-truth postscript

The fudged figures of Brexit and the outlandish narrative of Donald Trump resulted in ‘post-truth’ being chosen as the Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year for 2016. It should serve as a reminder that to help separate the facts from the spin we need to question everything and look for peer supported evidence.

As I pointed out, on the election trail there is a multiple choice. What do you want The Truth, The Whole Truth or Nothing but The Truth?

It is predictable that whatever the result each side will claim victory.

To further illustrate the fact that we really must question everything, the original piece in fact predicted that there would be a “landslide victory”.

With the benefit of hindsight and the co-operation of The Drum it was all too easy to claim:

“I predict that Theresa May's decision to call a snap election will backfire. For once YouGov with their controversial new model poll will get it right. The Tories will not win a landslide victory rather there will be a hung parliament. Allowing the usual statistical margin of error of plus or minus 2% -3% applied to each party's vote and subject to my being wrong, I predict: Con 319 Lab 261 SNP 35 LD 12.”

Be careful out there….

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