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Peter Kellner examines the reasons why the pollsters so badly underestimated the Tory vote in the 1992 election and asks whether it could happen again.

By Peter Kellner   May 1996

British journalism review

Spring 1996

Every single poll on election morning, 9th April 1992, predicted a hung parliament. Using very similar methods, they offered very similar figures-ranging from a Labour lead of 3 points (Nop), to a Conservative lead of 0.5 points (Gallup). Never before had the polls been so far from the true result: a Tory victory by 8 points.

According to a subsequent inquiry by the Market Research Society, the polls made a series of small errors which had the effect of inflating Labour’s rating and reducing that of the Tories. The inquiry claimed that none of…

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