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Skewed sampling

Some pundits predicted general election success for the Tories on the basis of their local election performance. Not so fast

By Harvey Cole   May 2006

At the local elections on 4th May, about half of the total electorate had a vote. The Tories ended up with a net gain of around 320 seats, and so it is tempting to assume that had there been polls for every local authority, the party would have picked up over 600.

But the picture is more complicated than that. The elections were only held in England—and in just over half of all authority areas there. Most important, those areas where voting took place make up a very skewed sample. Almost 1,800 contests took place in the 32 London boroughs,…

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