It shall not be the purpose of this Code to pass judgment on the merits of methods employed in specific surveys. Rather, it shall be our sole purpose to ensure that all relevant information is disclosed concerning methods that were used so that consumers of surveys may assess studies for themselves.
Clients commissioning surveys and survey organisations have a mutual responsibility to ensure that the principles of disclosure are followed, both in the original publication of research results and in the immediate publication of all relevant details on the survey organisation’s web site.
Any survey organisation, upon formally joining the BPC and agreeing to abide by the Objects and Rules, shall be permitted to state that it “is a member of the BPC and abides by its rules”. Members undertake to apply the Objects and Rules to all published polls they conduct, whether or not they choose to add this statement to any report.
To the above ends, members agree with the following Principles of Disclosure and procedures to be followed in the event questions are raised about compliance.
All reports of survey findings of member organisations that are published, must include reference to the following:
- Client commissioning the survey;
- Dates of interviewing;
- Method of obtaining the interviews (e.g. in-person, telephone, internet);
- The universe effectively represented (all adults, voters etc);
- The percentages upon which conclusions are based;
- Size of the sample and geographic coverage.
Whenever it is practical to do so, the following information should also be published:
- Complete wording of questions upon which the release is based;
- A web address where full computer tables may be viewed.
Survey organisations reporting results will endeavour to have print and broadcast media include the above items in their news stories and will in any event make a report containing these items together with full computer tables of the results available on the survey organisation’s web site within 2 working days of the original release or make such information available on request.
Information available from the research organisation
In addition to the information outlined above, the research organisation responsible for conducting the survey that has entered the public domain will place the following information on its own web site within 2 working days of the data being published or provide the information to any interested party on request …:
- A full description of the sampling procedures adopted by the organisation;
- Computer tables showing the exact questions asked in the order they were asked, all response codes and the weighted and unweighted bases for all demographics and other data that has been published;
- A description of the weighting procedures employed including weighted and unweighted figures for all variables (demographic or otherwise) used to weight the data, whether or not such breakdowns appear in any analysis of sub samples;
- An e-mail address for further enquiries. It is assumed that all other reasonable requests for data necessary for readers of the polls to assess the validity of the data will be answered;
- A link to the BPC web-site.
Privately commissioned surveys
Organisations conducting privately commissioned surveys have the right to maintain the confidentiality of survey findings. However, in the event the results of a privately commissioned poll are made public by the organisation that commissioned the survey (including its employees or agents), such results will be deemed to have entered the public domain and procedures outlined above will be followed in respect of those findings. The client and survey organisation may keep other findings (that have not been published) confidential except where such findings are relevant to the topics covered in questions that have been published or where the question order is relevant to the published results. The research organisation must place other relevant data on its web site within 2 working days of the original release in order to place information already released into proper context or make such information available on request. If other findings cast doubt on those that have been published then the agency must also release those findings.
In the event that the results of a privately commissioned poll are made public by a third party (i.e. external to the organisation that commissioned the survey, its employees and its agents — for example the leak of embargoed research) the survey organisation must place information on its website within two working days in order to place the information that has been released into proper context.
When questions are raised with the BPC
Members must provide relevant information regarding methods when questions are raised about survey results or how a survey has been conducted. The purpose of such disclosure is to ensure that adequate information is available, not to evaluate the specific techniques that were employed.
Accordingly, the procedures outlined below will be used when a question is raised or complaint received by the BPC that any member has not followed the principles of disclosure. Such procedures may be instigated following the receipt of a complaint from a member of the general public, a complaint made by a member of the BPC or by the Management Committee, President or Officer of the BPC.
These procedures are designed to ensure that all those who may read the results of a public opinion poll have adequate information upon which to evaluate the findings.
- The President will assign three officers from the Committee on Disclosure to investigate any complaint (the Investigating sub-committee). This Investigating sub-committee will normally comprise one representative from a survey organisation, one client / journalist and one academic. The President will also appoint a Chairman of the Investigating sub-committee and will be one of the three assigned to the sub-committee. The member organisation involved will be informed of the composition of the Investigating sub-committee and have the opportunity to object, provided they state clearly their reasons for any such objection.
- This Investigating sub-committee will make available a copy of the complaint to the member organisation involved, including the identity of the individual or organisation bringing the complaint.
- The Investigating sub-committee will consider the matter and determine whether or not the question is of sufficient significance or relevant to the principles of disclosure to warrant fuller disclosure of the methods employed.
- If at least two of the three people seconded to the Investigating sub-committee feel the question raised requires further investigation, the matter will be pursued as described below. Otherwise, the matter will be dropped.
- The Investigating sub-committee will determine within one month which aspects of methodology shall be required to be disclosed, that are, in its judgement, necessary to allow a full evaluation of the research findings. The additional information will include, but not be limited to, the specific items outlined above.
- Within two weeks of a decision by the Investigating sub-committee, the member organisation will be notified by the Chairman of the sub-committee about which methodological aspects the Investigating sub-committee feel should be disclosed.
- The member organisation shall then have two weeks to make the information available to the Investigating sub-committee or to indicate why it feels it cannot provide the requested information.
- Provided that the Investigating sub-committee concludes that sufficient additional information has been disclosed then it will pass such information to the complainant and will take no further action.
- In the event the member organisation does not provide the requested information to the Investigating sub-committee within the two-week period, the Chairman will advise the President of the BPC who shall have the power to suspend the organisation from the BPC or to expel the organisation from the BPC. During the period of suspension, or having had membership withdrawn, the survey organisation may not, of course, claim that it is a member of BPC or that it abides by the rules.
- Before any suspension or expulsion takes effect the member organisation concerned will be advised of the action proposed and have the opportunity (within 14 days of receipt of the proposed action) to call a meeting of the entire membership. The matter shall be discussed at a hearing of the membership called for the purposes of informing the organisation why sanctions have been recommended and giving the organisation the opportunity to defend its position of non-compliance to the membership of the Council with a complete record of such hearing kept and made available to the public upon request. The quorum for a meeting of the membership will be determined as a simple majority.
- The hearing of the membership will be held within 28 working days of being notified by the member that a full hearing has been requested.
- The matter will then be put to vote of the full membership, which can by majority vote decide that the member organisation can be placed on probation for a specified period of time or even expelled from the Council. Alternatively the finding of the investigating sub-committee may be over-ruled.
- The BPC will produce a press release explaining the final decision that will be posted on the BPC web-site.
- Any survey organisation suspended from the BPC or expelled may only reapply to be a member after a majority of the membership agree that its good standing has been restored.