A plea from a pollster: stop listening to the public

When Dominic Cummings released his WhatsApp messages with Boris Johnson earlier this month, perhaps the most alarming was the one where both men fretted about ‘trends in polls and lots of focus groups over the past 2 weeks’. The texts, dated 27 April 2020, also saw the Prime Minister asking about ‘tonight[‘s] focus group and polls’. At the heart of government, at the height of the pandemic, public health decisions and the Prime Minister’s thought process were clearly being steered heavily by a perceived negative public reaction. I am a pollster. There are many advantages in knowing what the public think. It ensures politicians do not let otherwise hidden resentments