Bobby runs the Ipsos Public Affairs specialism in the UK, which is made up of the Social Research Institute and the Reputation Centre. He joined MORI in 1994 from an economic policy think tank and has worked in social research ever since. He has particularly focused on major evaluations of government programmes, as well as policy development in public service reform. He also set up and ran a number of key initiatives, including the Research Methods Unit and Participation Unit, and produces many thought leadership reports. He writes and presents widely on public policy and political issues, and has been a User Fellow at the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion at LSE and spent time working in the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit.
The recent general election in the UK was the most polled in our country’s history – the public were bombarded with over 90 surveys during the four week campaign. And there have been nearly as many post mortem articles, working out who won and lost among the pollsters and methods (purely as an aside, and not at all to crow, the exit poll we helped run was called “the crowning triumph of the opinion research business”).
One particularly interesting debate is about the growing role of social media data as a serious alternative to predictive polls. Is there really a “wisdom of clouds” that can be tapped into, if we know how?
In the UK, an experiment by a political website using Twitter came up with a result remarkably similar to the final polls. It’s true that the experiment wasn’t a complete success – their most spectacular failure was predicting victory for a television personality standing for office when she was in fact beaten into fourth, with only 4% of the vote. Pre-existing fame (or notoriety) needs to be better controlled for.
The US, Germany and Japan were all ahead of the UK in trying similar experiments – and each came up with similar, encouraging results. The scale of data available makes the point: one US study analysed one billion tweets across the course of a year to look at presidential popularity and consumer c