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Another "spot on" success for statistical exit-poll methodology
The new exit-polling techniques developed for elections in 2001 and 2005 by David Firth (in collaboration with John Curtice of Strathclyde University; see Journal of the Royal Statistical Society A, 171, 509–539 for the full details) were used again at the General Election held on 6 May 2010. The application of the methods for the 2010 election was expertly carried out by political scientist Steve Fisher (Oxford) and statistician Jouni Kuha (LSE), working alongside the eminent psephologist John Curtice, on behalf of broadcasters BBC, ITV and Sky; the fieldwork was again, as at the 2005 election, done by polling companies MORI and NOP.
The exit poll data and analysis at the 10pm close of polls on 6 May predicted the following composition for the new House of Commons: Con 307 seats, Lab 255, LibDem 59, Others 29. The actual outcome of the election (supposing that the Conservatives will win the delayed election at Thirsk and Malton) is: Con 307, Lab 258, LibDem 57, Others 28.
For the second election running, the seats total for the largest party was predicted perfectly! The 2010 prediction even managed to be within 3 seats of the eventual totals for all three main parties. This remarkable achievement undoubtedly owes something to good luck, as with every prediction based on a statistical sample; but it provides ample evidence, if indeed more evidence was needed, that the new methods used at the last three general elections are a substantial improvement on what went before.
For more information see exit polling explained.
Update (28 May 2010): the Conservatives did win the delayed election at Thirsk and Malton.