Objects And Rules

Including Membership Agreement

A) Objects

The British Polling Council (BPC) has been formed to:-

  • Ensure standards of disclosure designed to provide consumers of survey results that enter the public domain have an adequate basis for judging the reliability and validity of the results
  • Through full disclosure encourage the highest professional standards in public opinion polling
  • To advance the understanding, among politicians, the media and general public, of how polls are conducted and how to interpret poll results.
  • Provide interested parties with advice on best practice in the conduct and reporting of polls

B) In These Objects And Rules The Following Terms Shall Have The Meaning Set Out Herein:-

Public opinion polls / polls and surveys. These terms are interchangeable words used in these objects and rules to describe any project designed to obtain the views of a representative sample of all adults, sub-groups of adults or other group (to include research among children).

Agent. Any individual or organisation associated in any way with the client commissioning a survey who publishes results of that survey.

Computer tables. Data tables produced directly from a computer that has been programmed to accept the unweighted data and apply the weighting procedures described by the public opinion polling company.

Data. Percentage answers obtained from any public opinion poll, the weighted figures and the weighted base used to derive those percentages, the unweighted base.

Information. All relevant details of survey methodology and findings as set out in 2.1 to 2.4.

Member of BPC. A public opinion polling organisation that has signed the Objects and Rules of the BPC and has paid the fees of membership.

Public opinion pollsters (or organisations). Researchers and research organisations engaged in surveying the opinions and attitudes of the general public, voters and other groups such as businessmen where the aim is to publish findings or where such findings may otherwise enter the public domain.

Response codes. The possible answers given to respondents as part of a question or allowed as possible answers in questions where the possible answers are not read out.

Rules of Disclosure. The Rules of Disclosure are those set out in 2.1-2.8 below

Samples and sub samples. The sample is the total of all those surveyed. A sub sample may consist of a group within that total such as all women or men etc.

Sampling methods (and procedures). The techniques used to define target respondents for any survey from a given population (adults, voters, businesspeople).

Social or political poll/survey. Any poll or survey that addresses issues and/or behaviours of relevance to collective social and/or political life.

Unweighted data. The data that has been obtained from respondents, without any post survey weighting.

Weighting procedures. The instructions given to a computer used to balance a sample that has been obtained. This procedure ascribes weights to respondents in order that their number within the weighted base more closely matches the known profile of the population being surveyed. This procedure produces the weighted data.

Weighting target. A proportion to which a poll is weighted with a view to making it more representative.

C) Rules

1. Membership

1.1 Founder member companies have all had access to the form of disclosure each proposes to use after BPC has begun operations and agreed that the requirements of disclosure have been met. After the launch of BPC on November 1st 2004 the following rules of membership will apply to founding members and any other organisation that may apply thereafter.

1.2. Membership of the BPC is open to all organisations that have two or more clients for whom they conduct social or political polls, and that aim to use sampling methods and/or weighting procedures designed to broadly represent the opinions of all people in designated groups. Membership of the BPC does not in any way imply approval by the BPC of any organisation’s methods, and members agree not to make any such claim or otherwise imply the same.

1.3. Any public opinion polling company wishing to become a member of the BPC shall provide the Secretary with evidence that the procedures most usually used are likely to satisfy 1.2 above and provide an example of the information the organisation proposes to produce to satisfy the rules of disclosure. An applicant may submit a draft or final version of the information they intend to provide under the rules of disclosure. The Secretary will advise the applicant whether, in his/her view the disclosure of information will meet the requirements.

1.4. Whether or not the applicant has, in the view of the Secretary, satisfied the rules of disclosure the applicant will have the right to submit a suggested form of disclosure and membership will be granted by a simple majority vote of the Management Committee.

1.5. If the view of the Management Committee is that the methods used by the organisation do not satisfy 1.2. above and/or the example disclosure does not satisfy the rules of disclosure the applicant may call a full meeting of members and officers to consider the application, the decision on whether to allow the company to join BPC being made by a simple majority of those present to consider the application.

1.6. All applicants must submit a signed application form that shall bind the organisation to the Objects and Rules herein.

1.7. Upon receiving acceptance as a member of BPC, and having paid the membership fee, the organisation should ask all clients publishing polls to include the following; that the organisation …

“is a member of the BPC and abides by its rules”.

1.8. Each organisation wishing to join the BPC will assign itself to one of the following three tiers of joining fee on the basis of its volume of business and the amount of its work that ends up in the public domain. An informal “honour system” shall guide this determination. For “large” organisations, the joining fee will be £750; for “medium” sized organisations, the joining fee will be £500, and for “small” organisations the joining fee will be £250.

1.9. Thereafter the “honour system” shall guide the determination of annual fees payable on the 1st January each year. For “large” organisations, the annual fee will be £200; for “medium” sized organisations, the annual dues are £150, and for “small” organisations the annual dues are £100.

1.10. If a member fails to pay a subscription according to 1.7 and 1.8 above then the Management Committee may at its sole discretion and by giving written notice to the member concerned declare that the Member is no longer a member of BPC.

1.11. The organisation that has failed to pay its subscription will have no entitlement to have repaid any part of the subscriptions the organisation has paid, will not be entitled to report that it is a member of the BPC and/or that it abides by its rules and will remain liable for that organisation’s share of any money owed by the BPC in the calendar year in which it was a member.

1.12. Any member organisation may not resign its membership of the BPC while under investigation for any breach of the rules of disclosure. If such investigation spans the end of the financial year (calendar year) the BPC will not declare the organisation not to be a member, even if the annual subscription is not paid, until the investigation is complete

2. What Must Be Disclosed By Members

2.1. All data and research findings made on the basis of social or political polls conducted in the United Kingdom by member organisations that enter the public domain, 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;

2.2. Whenever it is practical to do so the following information should also be published

  • Complete wording of questions upon which any data that has entered the public domain are based;
  • A web address where full computer tables may be viewed

2.3. In addition to the information outlined above, the public opinion polling organisation responsible for conducting the social or political poll 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.

  • 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 or modelled and unweighted bases for all demographics and other data that has been published.
  • A description of any weighting, filtering, modelling or imputation procedures that have been employed, the weighted/modelled and (where relevant) unweighted figures for all variables (demographic or otherwise) used to weight the data (irrespective of whether or not such variables appear in any tabulated analyses of the data), and the source(s) of the data used to set weighting targets.
  • In the case of a poll of voting intentions for an election or referendum (including any election or referendum that has not yet been called), specify any changes to the way in which those estimates have been obtained since the company’s previous poll of those voting intentions. This includes any changes to the sampling procedures, weighting and the treatment of Don’t Knows and Refusals.
  • 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.”
  • 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.
  • An e-mail address for further enquiries. It is assumed that all other reasonable requests for other data, over and above the requirements specified herein, necessary for readers of the polls to assess the validity of the data will be answered.
  • A link to the BPC web-site.

2.4. The public opinion organisation will provide any other information that may be requested in pursuance of their investigations by either a sub-committee on disclosure or by any other body or enquiry that may be established by the Council. This may include access to the individual level data for any poll that is the subject of an investigation.

2.5. 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 as a result of actions by the organisation [its employees or agents] that commissioned the survey, 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 entered the public domain 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 of the results into the public domain in order to place such information into their proper context. If other findings cast doubt on those that have been published then the agency must also release those findings

2.5.1. All polls commissioned by national or regional media organisations and any polls for other clients likely to receive wide publicity by BPC members must be published in full on the member’s web site within 2 working days of the original release. Other polls, such as those conducted to support the PR activities of a commercial client need not be published within 2 working days. Nevertheless, reasonable requests by any enquirer to publish the data will be accepted and publication should then take place within 2 working days and such data must also be made available to any enquirer on request as soon as is practical.

2.5.2. The rules of disclosure apply to all social and political polls conducted in the UK by BPC members, irrespective of where or by whom they are commissioned or published. In the case of surveys that are conducted both in the UK and elsewhere, they apply to the research conducted in the UK. 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.

2.5.3. Information published on a BPC member’s web site under this code must remain accessible for one year following publication. In the case of polls of voting intentions in any election or referendum conducted since 7 May 2015, the information must remain accessible for five years. After that time, the poll may be removed from the web-site but members will make the data available to any enquirer on request. BPC members will provide on the home page of their web-site a link to the section of their web-site where information published under this code may be found.

2.6. 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.

2.7. Whenever it is practical to do so, members should endeavour to check the accuracy of the polling figures in any initial publication by a client of the results of one of their polls.

3. Officers

3.1. Members

3.1.1. Membership of the BPC is open to organisations that conduct published opinion polls using sampling methods and/or weighting procedures likely, in the view of the BPC, to provide an adequate distribution of the opinions of all people in designated groups (such as all adults, or all voters etc).

3.1.2. In the execution of their duties as an officer of BPC no officer shall be liable for any act carried out in good faith to any member or by reason of any omission or mistake made in good faith by any officer of the BPC or by reason of any other matter or thing whatsoever except willful and individual fraud or wrongdoing on the part of the officer who is sought to be made so liable.

3.1.3. Member organisations are jointly and severally liable for any debts of the BPC howsoever they may arise.

3.2. Officers Of The Disclosure Sub Committee

3.2.1. Member organisations will be entitled to nominate one member of staff to be an Officer of the Disclosure Sub Committee. In addition the President of the BPC will ask journalists involved in commissioning and reporting polls and academics to join the BPC as officers of the Disclosure Sub Committee to investigate any complaints received. As officers, journalists and academics will serve in a personal capacity not as representatives of any organisation or institution.

3.3. Management Committee

3.3.1. The Management Committee will conduct the day-to-day running of the BPC. It will be made up of the President, the Secretary and one other officer elected by a vote of members at the AGM. The Management Committee will be entrusted by members …:

  1. To make such decisions as the Management Committee feels able on behalf of the BPC concerning applications for membership and the rules of disclosure.
  2. The Management Committee will call an EGM on such issues it feels need to be put to a vote of all officers.
  3. Commission papers and other written work to advance the understanding, among politicians, the media and general public, of how polls are conducted and how to interpret poll results.
  4. Provide interested parties with advice on best practice in the conduct and reporting of polls
  5. Comment on significant events in the field of opinion research.
  6. In so far as not otherwise provided in these rules or passed by a special resolution at an AGM or EGM, the affairs of the BPC will be controlled by the Management Committee.

3.3.2. Each officer and member of the Management Committee and Disclosure Sub Committee shall be entitled to indemnity and to be reimbursed from BPC funds in respect of any claim relating to acts, error or omissions performed, committed and/or made in good faith.

3.3.3. The Management Committee currently comprises:

  • President — Professor John Curtice.
  • Secretary — Nick Moon, Moonlight Research.
  • Member — Simon Atkinson, Ipsos MORI.
3.4. The President

3.4.1. The President will be appointed by a simple majority of the members cast annually at the AGM. The President will serve as chairman of the Management Committee.

3.4.2. The President will appoint nine officers to form the Committee on Disclosure and appoint three members to any investigation depending on the nature of the complaint and so as to avoid conflicts of interest.

3.5 Secretary

3.5.1. The Secretary will be appointed by a simple majority of the members cast annually at the AGM. The Secretary will serve on the Management Committee.

3.5.2. The Secretary will advise Organisations wishing to join the BPC on the benefits and responsibilities of membership of the BPC as outlined in 1.2 above.

3.5.3. The Secretary will receive all membership fees, keep such fees in a BPC bank account and pay all bills on behalf of the BPC.

3.5.4. The Secretary will keep accounts of the BPC for distribution at the AGM.

3.5.5. The Secretary will have such accounts audited by a recognised firm of auditors.

4. Handling Of Complaints

4.1. Members must provide relevant information (as set out in 2.1-2.4 above) 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.

4.2. 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.

4.3. 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 and that such information is available promptly after the original date of publication.

4.4. After a complaint is received by an officer of the BPC, he / she will consult with other officers and provide the member with an initial view as to what details should be published, or be provided to any enquirer. If it is agreed between the officers and the member of BPC that results should be published or provided to a complainant, publication should then take place as soon as is practical within 2 working days of the agreement to publish. The initial view by officers of the BPC is not binding on the member organisation but will be taken into account in any subsequent investigation and the member’s response to that view.

4.5. The procedure outlined in 4.4. is designed to resolve disclosure issues quickly so that consumers of polls and surveys have an adequate basis for judging the reliability and validity of published data promptly after the original date of publication. Accordingly, the procedures set out below will be followed if agreement cannot be reached between the officers of the BPC and the member concerned. The following procedures may delay any publication of relevant data. Therefore, a refusal to publish relevant details promptly will be taken into account by the President (in deciding on any sanction) should an investigating sub committee subsequently decide that those details should have been published following the discussions outlined in 4.4. Such sanctions may be imposed even if the information is published at a later date, as late publication undermines the ability of consumers of poll information to react to the findings in a timely fashion and brings member polling organisations into disrepute.

4.6. Should the matter not to be resolved under 4.4., the President will assign three officers from the Committee on Disclosure to investigate any complaint, (the Investigating sub-committee) within 1 week of a conclusion of discussions under 4.4 above. This Investigating sub-committee will normally comprise one representative from a survey organisation, one journalist and one academic. The President will also appoint a Chairman of the Investigating sub-committee who 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. The President will, at his sole discretion, either reject the objection of the member under investigation or replace that member of the Investigating sub- committee with another officer.

4.7. The officers of the BPC will make a written report to the investigating sub committee explaining their decision to request publication under 4.4., so that the investigating sub-committee may take account of it in making their report to the President.

4.8. 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 more complete publication of information. This decision will be made by majority vote of the sub-committee.

4.9. The Investigating sub-committee will determine within one month what information shall be required to be published on the member’s website, that is, in its judgement, necessary to allow a full evaluation of the research findings.

4.10. As soon as possible (and within 1 week) after a decision by the Investigating sub-committee, the member organisation will be notified by the Chairman of the sub-committee what information the Investigating sub-committee decides must be published by the member on its website.

4.11. The member organisation shall then have one week to publish the information or to indicate why it cannot publish the information.

4.12. The investigating sub committee will then make a report to the President whether or not the member has published the required information on all aspects of the case it thinks are relevant to any decision by the BPC membership.

4.13. If the committee reports to the president that the member has behaved unreasonably in any aspect of the response to any reasonable request either of the officers of the BPC at the first stage or the committee at the second stage the President will decide whether or not a sanction should be imposed against a member. Sanctions will be considered where a member has not published the information requested. Sanctions may also be applied to a member who refuses to publish information when requested to do so by the officers (see 4.3.1) and that initial view is confirmed by the investigating sub-committee. These sanctions can include a period of probation, suspension or expulsion from the BPC. Before any sanction 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 motion at a meeting of the membership will be determined as a simple majority of those voting in person or by proxy.

4.14. 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.

4.15. The matter will then be put to the 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, be suspended or expelled from membership of the Council. Alternatively the decision made by the President on the sanction to be imposed on the may be over-ruled.

4.16. The BPC will produce a press release explaining the final decision that will be posted on the BPC web-site.

4.17. 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.

5. General Meetings

5.1. The BPC will hold an annual general meeting at least once in every calendar year at which accounts will be presented. Normally this will take place in February after the accounts for the previous financial year have been audited.

5.2. The business to be conducted at the AGM shall be such as shall be required by the Management Committee.

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.

5.4. Any decisions taken at the AGM or EGM requiring a vote will be put to those present. The President will decide whether any issue to be put to a vote is of sufficient importance to require a two thirds majority. All other decisions put to a vote will require a simple majority of those present. The President will have the casting vote.

5.5. Members and will be given 1 months notice of the AGM, the notice to be in writing and specifying the location and timing of the AGM or EGM together with an agenda for the meeting.

5.6. Members will each be entitled to one vote at the AGM or EGM.

5.7. Any four members may call an EGM at any time and the President will give all members at least 21 days’ notice of the EGM. The rules for the conduct of an EGM will be the same as for the AGM. 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.


6. Membership Agreement

Download the Membership Agreement in: