ComRes and BBC Watchdog Programme

2nd December 2008

The British Polling Council (BPC) has received a complaint concerning a research project by ComRes for the BBC’s Watchdog programme.

In all over 24,000 people responded to an invitation by the BBC Watchdog programme to complete an online questionnaire. In its report ComRes confirmed that it is a member of the BPC and prominently set out the specific BPC requirements for information that, under the objects and rules of the BPC, must accompany the publication of polls and surveys.

It should be understood that the BPC is concerned only with polls and surveys that set out to measure the opinions of representative samples, for example the views of all adults, or all voters. Therefore, the publication of results must include a statement specifying the universe (all adults / voters etc) effectively represented.

In the view of the management committee of the BPC, the project conducted by BBC Watchdog and ComRes cannot be considered to be a poll or survey as defined by the BPC simply because the results are a simple addition of the responses given by people who decided to log on and answer the questions. Demographic questions were not included in the online questionnaire. Therefore it is impossible to know whether the results obtained are representative of all adults or not, and impossible to weight the data to reflect the demographic profile of all adults.

ComRes understand and accept that the project should not have been described as a survey within a meaning that would qualify it to fall within the BPC rules, and have undertaken not to make any such claims in future. On this basis the BPC has decided to take no further action.

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