Tag Archives: 2020

A Guide for Journalists to the Reporting of Opinion Polls?

The British Polling Council is today publishing A Quick Guide for Journalists to the Use and Reporting of Opinion Polls.

This publication has been designed to provide practical guidance for anyone unfamiliar with polls who finds themselves charged with interpreting and writing up an opinion poll in today’s media environment.

It forms part of the British Polling Council’s response to the recommendations of the House of Lords Select Committee on Political Polling and Digital Media.

The document has been developed as a “guided tour” of the key points to bear in mind when working with opinion poll data. Its contents include:

  • An overview on how polls are conducted, including what to look out for when judging whether the sample is representative.
  • Advice on how to evaluate the questions covered in an opinion poll. For example: are they written in everyday language? Do the questions lead the respondent?
  • Guidance on how to interpret the results of polls, including key dos and don’ts when it comes to looking at sub-samples (such as differences by age) or describing changes over time.

The resource has been developed to complement the existing materials available to practitioners and users of opinion polls, including this detailed guide developed by the press regulator IMPRESS and the Market Research Society.

The Quick Guide for Journalists is available on the BPC website (Opinion Polls: Guidance for Journalists), alongside a video briefing with the President of the British Polling Council, Professor Sir John Curtice.

Commenting on the launch of the Guide, Professor Curtice says: “In its report, the House of Lords committee expressed a number of concerns about how the media report polls. Our guide is intended to help address some of these concerns by providing a quick five-minute accessible introduction to polls. It describes both the strengths and the limits of polls, outlines five key questions that should be asked of any poll, and identifies the major potential pitfalls to avoid in writing a poll story. We hope that it will help journalists in newsdesks up and down the country report polls in a way that their audience finds both interesting and informative.”

Minutes of the Annual General Meeting 2020

The Meeting was held at ORB on 16 March 2020

Present in person

  • Nick Moon, Secretary/Treasurer
  • Simon Atkinson, Management Committee
  • Johnny Heald, ORB
  • Anthony Wells, YouGov
  • Bill White, LucidTalk
  • Owen Thomas Populus
  • Chris Hopkins, Savanta ComRes
  • Harry Carr, Demos

Dialling in

  • Professor Sir John Curtice, President 
  • Luke Taylor, Kantar Public 
  • James Crouch, Opinium 
  • Michael Thrasher, Sky Data 
  • Abraham Mueller, qriously 
  • Martin Boon, Deltapoll 
  • Damian Lyons Lowe, Survation

1. Apologies for absence

Robert Struthers, BMG; James Kanagasooriam, Hanbury Strategy; Seb Wilde, Public First; Gideon Skinner, Ipsos MORI; Gregor Jackson, ICM.

2. Minutes of the last AGM

The minutes were approved.
There were no matters arising that were not already on the agenda.

3. Officers’ reports

Financial report

During 2019 we received £2,950 in subscription fees, of which £800 related to late paid 2018 invoices. There is still £1,400 in subscription fees due for 2019: Savanta ComRes, Harris Interactive, Ipsos MORI, YouGov (all £200), Panelbase (£150), Opinium, Survation, Lindsell Marketing, BMG (all £100).

Expenses during the year were £14.70. However we have not received an invoice for website hosting and running, and we still owe an unknown amount for President’s expenses .

The bank balance at the end of 2019 was £14,881.04.

With the current membership annual subscription income is £3,500.

Disclosure issues dealt with by the officers

Other than the usual small number of complaints about matters not within the BPC’s remit, there were no complaints about disclosure that required action from the Officers.

Membership applications dealt with by the officers

Two new members were approved during the year: Demos and Omnisis. For completeness two more have been approved in 2020 to date: Portland Communications and Redfield and Wilton Strategies. We currently have 26 members.

The issue was raised of whether members should be using membership of the BPC as a badge of quality, and it was agreed that we would send out a note making it clear that this was not something that should be claimed or implied.

4. Appointment of the officers

  • President
    NM nominated JC, SA seconded, elected nem con
  • Secretary
    DLL nominated NM, JH seconded, elected nem con
  • Management Committee member
    NM nominated SA, AW seconded, elected nem con

5. President’s report 

Report had been distributed to members. It was noted that the management of the BPC should be more proactive, and that the Officers will hold a virtual meeting every 2-3 months to discuss whether there are any issues the BPC needs to address.
There were no comments other than on matters covered elsewhere in the agenda.
It was agreed that a summary of the Political Communications event would appear in due course on the BPC website.

6. Proposed changes to the Rules

NM proposed, and SA seconded, the following changes to the BPC rules:

Delete Rule 2.3

Add a new bullet point to 2.5 as follows:

In the case of a poll of voting intentions for an election (including any election that has to be called), the following BPC statement on uncertainty.

All polls are subject to a wide range of potential sources of error. On the basis of the historical record of the polls at recent general elections, there is a 9 in 10 chance that the true value of a party’s support lies within 4 points of the estimates provided by this poll, and a 2 in 3 chance that they lie within 2 points.

Approved but agreed that we would check that the calculations still apply after the 2019 general election.

Add a new bullet point to 2.5 as follows:

In the case of polling data that has been used by a polling organisation to model vote intentions for an election (including any election that has yet to be called) in individual constituencies, a statement of which party is estimated to be first in each seat and an indication of the estimated probability (within a ten-point band) of that party winning.

After discussion this was amended to:

In the case of polling data that has been used by a polling organisation to model vote intentions for an election (including any election that has yet to be called) in individual constituencies, an indication (for parties with a realistic chance of winning) of either (i) each party’s estimated probability of winning each seat, or (ii) the estimated vote shares for each party in each constituency.

At Rule 2.5 bullet 2 insert ‘or modelled’ after ‘weighted’

At Rule 2.5 bullet 3 amend ‘weighted’ to ‘weighted/modelled’

Reorder the bullets at 2.5 so that those on ‘e-mail address’ and ‘BPC website’ appear as the penultimate and final items respectively.

All approved.

7. House of Lords Committee

The President’s Report covered this in some detail and JC explained the various points in his report dealing with the actions suggested by the Committee and his proposals for dealing with them.
JC noted that George Foulkes has tabled his Bill on the regulation of opinion polls again, exactly as he did two years ago, although it is again not expected to progress far.
It was noted that we are still awaiting replies from the two bodies the President contacted about possible collaboration on training of journalists: the Broadcast Journalism Training Council, and the National Council for the Training of Journalists.
It was again agreed that the BPC would not and could not get involved in assessing the quality of polls, and would not get into the business of reviewing media coverage of polls.
JC will respond formally to House of Lords and will copy to members.

8. Financial Conduct Authority update

The proposed new guidance for members was discussed and approved.

9. Journalists’ Guide to Opinion Polls

The proposed new Guide for Journalists was approved as a concept, and members were asked to raise points of detail directly with JC.
DLL suggested that the guide should refer specifically to what the BPC rules require.
NM suggested it should also be made clear that BPC membership is about transparency not data quality.

10. Website

SA introduced his brief paper on recent changes to modernise and improve the BPC website. Members were asked to check their own details on the members page on the site.
It was agreed that SA would investigate in more detail the costs of improving the website still further.
There was also a suggestion from a member of the public that during elections the BPC website could form a reliable source for information on all polls conducted by members. This would involve a members-only section of the website, password protected, where members could add the voting intention figures from their most recent poll into a simple template.
HC pointed out that Britain Elects already provides a similar service.
The feeling among members was that this would still not solve the problem of fake polls being posted on Wikipedia.
It was agreed that the BPC should not proceed with this suggestion, but that the Members page should have a hot link to a page on their website that either contained their latest poll, or made it easy to find their latest poll.

11. Any Other Business

JC thanked everyone for attending and also proposed a vote of thanks to ORB for hosting both the physical and virtual elements.