Category Archives: Notice

British Polling Council Welcomes Lords Committee Report on Polling

The British Polling Council welcomes the publication today (Tuesday) of the report of the House of Lords Select Committee on Political Polling and Digital Media. The Council is grateful to the Committee for its careful consideration of the role that opinion polls play in our democracy and of the challenges that currently face the conduct and reporting of polls.

The Council particularly welcomes the Committee’s conclusion that is ‘not convinced of the case for introducing a ban on the undertaking and publication of voting intention polls in the run-up to elections’ together with the Committee’s rejection of the statutory regulation of polls. In so doing, however, the Council acknowledges that this means the polling industry itself has a responsibility to promote best practice in the conduct and reporting of polls, and it is grateful to the committee for the various specific recommendations that it makes for the future work of the Council.

Most immediately, the Council is happy to accept that it should both revise its guidance to journalists on the reporting of polls and should work with other relevant organisations to develop a suitable programme of training for journalists on this subject. It is also happy to affirm its intention to continue its current practice of undertaking a post-mortem on the conduct of the polls after each election or major referendum and reporting its findings; following a public seminar held in February a report on the 2017 election is currently in preparation.

More broadly, the Committee’s recommendations envisage that the Council should adopt a wider remit and fulfill a larger role. At present, the Council is run on a purely voluntary basis with limited resources. The Council will now consider how best to resource its activities in light of the Committees report.

Professor Sir John Curtice, President of the British Polling Council, said, ‘Today’s report is a welcome contribution to a considered, informed discussion of the conduct and reporting of opinion polls in Britain. The Council welcomes the fact that the Committee recognised the weight of evidence put before it that a ban on the publication of polls would neither be desirable nor effective. At the same time, the Council accepts that the polling industry has a duty to promote high standards in the conduct and reporting of polls and will now consider how it, in collaboration with other bodies, can enhance the considerable efforts that it already makes to achieve that objective.’

For further details or to interview Prof. Curtice contact Simon Atkinson (07791 680770; simon.atkinson@ipsos.com) or Aalia Khan (07824 597435; aalia.khan@ipsos.com).

NOTES TO EDITORS

  1. The British Polling Council (BPC) is an association of polling organisations that publish polls. The objectives of the Council are to ensure standards of disclosure that provide consumers of survey results that enter the public domain with 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.
  2. For further details of the Council see www.britishpollingcouncil.org
  3. Details of the House of Lords Select Committee on Political Polling and Digital Media are to be found at Select Committee on Political Polling and Digital Media.

Britsh Polling Council Announces Findings in Respect of Complaints about Audience Recruitment

The British Polling Council (BPC) has received two complaints, one from the Conservative Party and one from an individual member of that party, concerning the recruitment of the audience for the BBC programme, BBC Election Debate Live with Mishal Hussein, which was broadcast on 31 May 2017. The audience for this programme was recruited by ComRes for the BBC with a view to ensuring that it was ‘representative’.

Both complainants had sought further information from ComRes about how they had recruited the audience. In doing so the Conservative Party in particular cited section 2 of the BPC’s rules on disclosure. In pursuance of BPC’s aim of ensuring transparency in the conduct of opinion polls, these rules specify details that BPC members should routinely make available in respect of published polls. The complainants argued that these rules applied to an audience recruitment exercise such as that conducted by ComRes, and that thus ComRes were duty bound to supply the information they sought.

It has never previously been suggested that audience recruitment exercises do fall within BPC’s remit and that thus its rules on disclosure should apply to them. However, in view of the submissions it has received, the officers of the BPC have carefully considered whether audience recruitment exercises do fall within the Council’s remit as specified in its current Objects and Rules. They have determined that they do not. This is because such exercises do not generate published quantitative data (as defined in those Objects and Rules) that summarise the collective views of a representative sample of voters (or other sub-group), and it is to such data that the Council’s Rules on Disclosure are intended to apply.

We are grateful to the two complaints for bringing this issue to the Council’s attention and we hope that this statement helps clarify matters for those considering any complaint to the Council in future about a member’s alleged failure to follow its rules on transparency.

British Polling Council Announces Findings in Respect of Complaint by Mr Dominic Cummings

The British Polling Council (BPC) is today announcing its findings in respect of a complaint from Mr Dominic Cummings of Vote Leave about a survey of members of the CBI conducted by YouGov in June and July 2013.

The BPC’s principal aim is to ensure that its member companies are as transparent as possible about the methods that they use to conduct their polls. It does not adjudicate on the merits of the methodologies that are used in polls — and consequently it has not done so in this case. Our findings do not represent in any way a judgement on the merits of the methodology used by YouGov in the CBI poll.

Under its Rules, any complaint to the Council is in the first instance considered by the officers. If they determine that the Rules may not have been fully observed, the matter is drawn to the attention of the member company in question. Should the company agree to take any necessary action, the matter is then considered to have been resolved.

As indicated in a press release issued by the BPC on 2 November, because his initial view on the complaint had inadvertently become publicly known, the Secretary of the BPC, Mr Nick Moon, took no part in the handling of this complaint. It has been handled throughout by the President of the BPC, Prof. John Curtice, and the BPC Committee Member, Mr. Simon Atkinson.

The officers took the view that the complaint made two points that were relevant to the Council’s Rules.

  • That YouGov had failed to make clear whether and how the data in the survey had been weighted.
  • That YouGov had not provided an adequate explanation of the sampling procedures that had been used to conduct the survey.

On the first, the officers took the view that there were not sufficient grounds to uphold the complaint. On the second the officers noted that YouGov had supplied details of the sampling procedures to Vote Leave on request, but that this information was not publicly available on its web site. While YouGov’s website does provide a full description of how they conduct their regular polls amongst members of the general public, that statement did not cover this particular survey.

YouGov have corrected this omission and appended to the detailed tabulations of the CBI poll that are available on its website an explanation of the sampling procedures that were used to conduct the poll. Accordingly, the matter is now considered to be resolved.

Notes to Editors

  1. The BPC does not usually issue a press statement in respect of complaints that are made to it. It has done so exceptionally on this occasion because of the media publicity and interest that surrounded the original lodging of Mr Cummings’ complaint.
  2. The Objects and Rules of the British Polling Council can be found at Objects And Rules
  3. The detailed tabulations for the CBI poll can be found at YouGov / CBI Survey Results
  4. The methodological statement that has been appended to these tables reads as follows:

This was a survey of members of the CBI.

A list of members was given to YouGov by the CBI. All were invited to complete the survey, both by sending a letter and a paper questionnaire to their business address and by sending an online link to the survey by email.

To maximise the response rate the survey was left open for completion for a period of six weeks (from 13th June to 30th July 2013). During that time non-respondents were sent two reminder emails and contacted by telephone to encourage their participation.

The final number of responses was 415.