1st November 2004
A number of Britain’s leading pollsters have today announced plans to launch the British Polling Council.
The objective of the Council is to ensure standards of disclosure which will give consumers of survey results that enter the public domain an adequate basis for judging the reliability and validity of the results. Through full disclosure the Council aims to encourage the highest professional standards in public opinion polling and to advance the understanding, among politicians, the media and general public, of how polls are conducted and how to interpret poll results. The BPC will also provide interested parties with advice on best practice in the conduct and reporting of polls.
The following companies are applying to be founder members of the new organisation:
- Ipsos MORI
- TNS System 3
John Barter, ex Chairman of NOP and a past Chairman of the Market Research Society has agreed to become President of the BPC. He will refer any questions raised under the rules of disclosure to an investigating committee comprising three people drawn from the Sub Committee on Disclosure. The following have agreed to serve on this sub-committee in a personal capacity.
- Simon Atkinson (Ipsos MORI)
- David Butler (Fellow of Nuffield College Oxford)
- David Cowling (BBC)
- David McKie (ex Deputy Editor of The Guardian)
- Nick Moon (NOP)
- Adam Phillips (A past Chairman of the Market Research Society and Chairman of ESOMAR’s Professional Standards Committee)
- Colin Rallings (Professor at the Local Government Chronicle Election Centre at University of Plymouth)
- Peter Riddell (The Times)
- Peter Kellner (YouGov)
The BPC invites applications for membership from organisations that are engaged in public opinion polling using sampling methods and weighting procedures designed to accurately represent the views of all people within designated target groups (such as all adults, or voters etc).
The BPC has been modelled on the successful National Council for Published Polls in the USA and BPC members are grateful for the advice received from the NCPP in starting the BPC.
Commenting on the birth of the new organisation John Barter said.
“The organisations that are seeking membership of the BPC recognise the need for uniform standards of disclosure about how polls are conducted so that consumers of poll findings have an adequate basis for judging the reliability of the findings and all the proposed founding members enthusiastically support this new Council. Once the Council is established readers of poll findings will have full access to information on how polls have been conducted, what questions were asked and how the data collected has been computed to produce the published results”
The formation of the British Polling Council follows the publication of an Early Day Motion signed by more than 80 MPs from all the main parties which expressed regret at “the decline of self-regulation of public opinion polling companies in the United Kingdom” concern that “there are no sufficient checks on the integrity of polling or polling organisations” and expressed “concern at the proliferation of non-scientific/empirical polling, in particular the use of techniques designed to secure the results favoured by those who commission the polls, and lack of transparency in the methodology employed”.
The BPC shares these concerns. For these reasons its membership will be restricted to organisations that:
- set out to measure the opinions of representative samples scientifically, and
- uphold the principle of transparency.
In agreeing to disclose full information about how samples are drawn, how raw data are weighted, and the full wording of questions and answers, the BPC seeks to demonstrate its commitment to the highest standards and greater public understanding of the methods used to conduct representative surveys.
The BPC cannot extinguish the danger that non-members might produce unscientific, biased or opaque polls; it does commit its members to standards of disclosure that are intended to satisfy the legitimate concerns of the general public.