The BPC’s core purpose is to ensure that all relevant information is disclosed about the methods and results of opinion polls so that consumers of surveys may assess their value for themselves. The BPC’s role is not to pass judgment on the merits of methods employed in specific surveys.
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 the research results by the client and in the timely publication of all relevant details on the survey organisation’s web site.
Members undertake to apply the Council’s Objects and Rules, to all published polls they conduct. Whenever it publishes the details of a poll, a member organisation is required wherever possible to indicate that it “is a member of the BPC and abides by its rules”.
Members are required to adhere to the following Rules of Disclosure:
Reporting Survey Findings
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.
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.
- 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 yet 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 data necessary for readers of the polls to assess the validity of the data will be answered;
- A link to the BPC website.
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 website 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 2 working days in order to place the information that has been released into proper context.