The British Polling Council welcomes the publication today of the report of the Independent Inquiry into the performance of the polls in the May 2015 general election. It is deeply grateful to the Chair, Prof. Patrick Sturgis, and his colleagues for their forensic and thorough analysis of why the polls underestimated Conservative and overestimated Labour performance at that election.
The principal objective of the Council is to promote transparency in the reporting of opinion polls, and its members are required to adhere to a set of rules designed to achieve that objective. The Inquiry’s report makes a series of recommendations for changes to those rules.
The Council has resolved that so far as some of those recommendations are concerned, the necessary changes to its rules should be made with immediate effect. Other of the Inquiry’s recommendations require preparatory work be undertaken before they can be implemented, and the Council has agreed that that work should be put in train in the expectation that the consequent rule changes can be introduced early in 2017.
Specifically, the Council has agreed to implement immediately rule changes that will (i) require greater transparency about how polls have been weighted, (ii) specify what changes, if any, have been made since a company’s previous published poll in how the data have been weighted or otherwise adjusted, and (iii) place an obligation on members to supply to any inquiry or committee that has been established by the BPC the micro data set for any poll in which that inquiry or committee has an interest.
Meanwhile, the Council has agreed that work should be undertaken to develop (i) an industry-wide method for calculating the confidence limits associated with a poll’s estimate of a party’s share of the vote, and (ii) an industry-wide approach to calculating the statistical significance of the change in a party’s estimated vote share since a company’s previously published poll. Rules that will require members to publish these calculations for any poll of vote intentions will be introduced once this work is completed. At the same time the Council will also consider how best to respond to the Inquiry’s recommendation that members should register with the BPC the fact that they are undertaking a poll.
The Inquiry also makes a series of recommendations for changing the way in which polls are conducted. It will be for individual member companies to decide how best to take these forward. At the same time, however, the Council is aware of the need to show that due note has been taken of those recommendations and to make clear what changes have as a result been made to the way in which polls are conducted. The Council has thus also resolved that (assuming the next election is held in May 2020) it will issue a report in the second half of 2019 that describes the methodology that is being used its members in the run up to the next election and how this methodology has changed since 2015.
Prof. John Curtice, President of the British Polling Council, said, ‘The Inquiry has undertaken what was an important but demanding task in a timely and professional fashion. I am confident that all those with an interest in understanding the difficulties that beset the polls in 2015 will find its report an illuminating and profitable read. The Council now wishes to ensure that its work is put to best use so that the transparency and accuracy of opinion polls is enhanced in future.’
Notes to Editors
- 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.
- The Inquirys Report is embargoed until 0001 hours on 31 March, and will be available online at National Centre for Research Methods (NCRM)
- For further information, please contact a member of the BPC’s Management Committee:
- Simon Atkinson: 07791-680 770
- Nick Moon: 07770-564 664
- John Curtice 07710-348 755
The Meeting was held at GfK NOP on 23 March 2015
- John Curtice, President
- Nick Moon, GfK NOP, Secretary
- Simon Atkinson, Ipsos MORI
- Anthony Wells, YouGov
- Johnny Heald, ORB
- Damian Lyons Lowe, Survation
- Tom Mludzinski, ComRes
- Laurence Stellings, Populus
- Ivor Knox, Panelbase
- Bill White, Lucid Talk
- Harris Interactive
- TNS BMRB
The minutes of the last meeting were agreed.
Mindmetre were approved as new members during this year.
There were two complaints during the year, but only one case where the Executive Committee asked someone to provide information they had not already provided. In the other case clarification from the member showed that the poll was not covered by BPC rules.
John Curtice reported that he had repeated the earlier invitation to Lord Ashcroft to join the BPC, but had not had a reply. There was then a discussion about how much input members had to have to a poll conducted for Lord Ashcroft before they were obliged to make details available under BPC rules. It was agreed that Nick Moon would circulate a note about this, though in most cases the Rule 2.7 outlined below would take Ashcroft polls out of BPC rules.
John Curtice also reported that he had written to the Yes and No campaigns in Scotland, drawing their attention to BPC rules.
An application for membership had been received during the year, which led to a discussion about what exactly constituted a “polling organisation” as in the BPC Rules. It was agreed that there were two conditions that must be fulfilled by an organisation wishing to join the BPC:
- must be operationally independent – eg not itself a proselytising organisation
- must conduct polls for more than one client
One impact of this decision is that Lord Ashcroft would not be eligible to be a BPC member.
At the start of 2012 BPC had £7,089 in the bank. During the year there was membership income of £500 and bank charges of £60. The balance at the end of 2012 was £7,529. However there is cheque for £240 for the website that has not been cashed. Also, invoices for the reduced 2013 membership fees will be sent out with the 2014 invoices, and if all these are paid there will be an additional £350 of income. This means that the balance sheet at the end of the year is £7,646, although Chairman’s expenses have not yet been submitted for the 2013 AGM.
Sub-committee on disclosure:
Nick Moon and Simon Atkinson have both been on the sub-committee since its formation, but as they are now Officers they need to be replaced. It was agreed that Martin Boon and Andrew Cooper would be invited to join. Martin was present and agreed, and Nick Moon will write to Andrew.
Election of Officers:
John Curtice was re-elected unopposed as President
Nick Moon was re-elected unopposed as Secretary
Simon Atkinson was elected unopposed as member of the Management Committee
Nick Moon tabled four amendments to the BPC rules:
5.3. The President will take the chair at the AGM and any EGM. In the absence of the President, members present at the meeting will nominate a chairman for that meeting. Members may also appoint the President, in advance of the meeting, to cast their vote by Proxy according to their instructions.
5.7 subject to the agreement of two thirds of members, amendments to the Objects and Rules may be made via an email vote if there is agreed to be sufficient urgency
2.6.2. The rules of disclosure apply to all polls published in the UK by BPC members, irrespective of where they are conducted. The rules of disclosure do not apply where the survey organisation has no responsibility for the design of the survey or of the analysis, and all weighting of the data is according to client instruction
2.7. Any member of the BPC responsible for conducting a private survey that has entered the public domain, with the BPC member identified by the client, will acknowledge having conducted the survey.
All were passed unanimously.
In the case of 2.7 it was agreed that it would be good practice for members to say “no comment” rather than deny having conducted the poll
Any Other Business:
John Curtice reminded members about the date when the 28 day rule for elections would come into effect, and also said that Sunday polls should ideally be on the pollster’s website on the Sunday.
Nick Moon reported that Companies House were disputing our right to use the words “British” and ”Council” in our name. Members need to write to Companies House to say that the BPC includes all relevant practitioners, and that there was no competing body.
There was some discussion as to whether BPC should hold a post-mortem conference after the election. It was agreed that we would ask for a slot at the Political Communications s conference on 17/18 June.
It was agreed that the BPC table on the accuracy of the polls would define a final poll as a poll that was conducted entirely before the polls open, and included at least some fieldwork on the Tuesday
It was agreed that the Management Committee would decide whether a separate report on any on-the-day or hybrid polls would be necessary.