RED C is the most frequently published and respected political pollster in Ireland. We publish political tracking polls for our key client The Sunday Business Post on a monthly basis, as well as conducting polls for other media sources, betting groups, political parties and candidates.
Political Polling History
RED C began political polling for the Sunday Business Post in 2004, introducing many of the techniques managing director Richard Colwell had helped develop while a Director at ICM Research in London during the 1997 UK General Election. In particular this included the introduction of telephone polling, analysis by likely voters and weighting by past voting.
Successful polling over the first two years, led to a move for more frequent monthly tracking in 2006. At this time the company also introduced new techniques to overcome the already high and growing cell/mobile only population in Ireland.
RED C now conducts more published polls than any other company in Ireland, with Managing Director, Richard Colwell a frequent contributor of articles about the results and polls in general. Richard also conducts different types of political polling and focus group research for other clients, including political parties and interest groups in Ireland.
RED C has also worked closely with the politics department of Trinity College, in order to analyse vote behaviour beyond the standard; including post election polls at the last general election and the two recent Lisbon Referendums.
Polls can tell different stories because of a variety of factors, such as the method with which they are undertaken, the accuracy of their sampling, the way their questions are asked, the order the questions are asked and who they include in the final sample.
RED C are very careful in all our polls to provide a full disclosure of not only the basic method we use, but also the detail of exactly how we sample, what weights we use, and who exactly is included in the results. This has become the standard in the UK and the more transparency we can bring in for polling in Ireland the better.
Which method is more representative?
RED C conducts polls by phone, because we believe they are more accurate. The main reason for their accuracy is that the telephone interviewer has no control over who they interview. They could be calling into an apartment or a mansion. This makes respondent selection truly random.
This has always provided us with a base sample that appears to be more representative than those achieved using a face to face quota approach. With claimed past vote at the last election within margin of error of how people actually voted on the day, face to face quota controlled polls have historically provided a bias, which has then been “adjusted” by the polling.
How do we make sure the sample is accurate?
To ensure the sample is totally representative we use an approach called random digit dialling (RDD) to create a random database of telephone numbers. By doing this we are able to ensure we reach all telephone households, including those that are ex-directory.
It is also important when conducting a poll that you account of all households, including mobile only households that now make up at least 25% of all adults. Half of our sample are interviewed using an RDD landline sample, with the other half conducted using an RDD mobile phone sample, this ensures 98% coverage of the population reaching landline only households, mobile only households and those with both a landline and a mobile.
Quotas are then set on demographics such as age, gender, social class and region to ensure that the people we speak to are representative of all adults aged 18+, based on the very latest Census statistics.
How do we make sure the questions are asked properly?
Often overlooked, the question order, or way in which you ask a question has a significant impact on the results.
RED C always asks vote intention questions before we talk about anything else. This way the results cannot be biased by other questions on the survey. For instance if we were to ask about satisfaction with leaders before vote intention, there is little doubt that this could have an impact on how people declare they will vote, particularly at a time when many people are unsure how they will vote.
Detailed statistical analysis has also shown that it is very important to read out all parties and rotate the order they are mentioned when asking about vote intention. If all the parties are not read out it has been found that smaller parties can be forgotten.
What else do RED C do to improve accuracy of polling?
RED C also use other techniques, developed over the years to improve the accuracy of their polling. These include, measuring only those likely to vote and weighting by past vote.
In any one election turnout might only be at around 60% of all eligible to vote. It is important therefore that we control our voting intention questions by how likely people are to vote. RED C ask respondents to say how likely it is that they will go and vote in a new general election using a ten point scale where 10 means they would be absolutely certain to vote and 1 means they would be certain not to vote. We then exclude anyone who gives a score of 4 or below from our voting intention calculations, as these people will not vote in an election anyway.
RED C also compares the declared past votes at the last general election, to the actual result. This is a final check on the accuracy of our sample. We then weight to the mid point of the two, as we assume that half of the difference between declared past votes can be attributed to faulty recall, and half to remaining political imbalances in the sample.
The Benefit of Regular Tracking
Monthly tracking polls provide us with a wealth of historical data to analyse and judge our polls by. It is very unusual to see significant shifts in party support when tracking on a monthly basis, with only three occasions since 2004 where we have seen party support shift by more than 5% from one poll to another. This makes sense as people don’t change their mind that quickly unless something pretty dramatic has happened. This regular polling then provides another measure for us to ensure the accuracy of our polls, and will be updated regularly when our next poll is published.