Tag Archives: Inquiry

British Polling Council Welcomes Unveiling of the Provisional Findings of Polling Inquiry

The British Polling Council (BPC) welcomes the unveiling today of the provisional findings of the Polling Inquiry on why the polls overestimated Labour and underestimated Conservative support in last May’s general election. Though established shortly after the last election by the BPC in collaboration with the Market Research Society, the Inquiry has been working wholly independently of its sponsors under the chairmanship of Prof. Patrick Sturgis of the University of Southampton. The Council is deeply grateful to Prof. Sturgis and his colleagues for the work they have undertaken so far and looks forward to receiving their final report in March.

Prof. John Curtice, President of the British Polling Council, said, ‘Today’s unveiling will provide the polling companies and everyone else with an interest in its work to hear and respond to the Inquiry’s initial conclusions. It hopes that this process will prove helpful to the work of the Inquiry and ensure that its final conclusions are based on the strongest possible body of evidence.’

Notes to Editors.

  1. The British Polling Council (BPC) is an association of polling organisations that publish polls. The Council promotes standards of disclosure that are designed to provide consumers of survey results that enter the public domain with an adequate basis for judging the reliability and validity of the results. Most of the companies that conducted polls of voting intention at the 2015 UK general election are members.
  2. The Polling Inquiry is presenting its provisional conclusions about the performance of the polls at a meeting held at the Royal Statistical Society this afternoon. Further details are to be found at the NCRM — The Inquiry into the Failure of the 2015 Pre-election Polls:.
  3. The terms of reference of the Polling Inquiry can be found at NCRM — BPC/MRS Inquiry into the Performance of the Opinion Polls at the 2015 General Election, and its membership at NCRM — Panel Membership. The Inquiry is due to submit its final written report to the BPC and the Market Research Society at the beginning of March.

British Polling Council opposes Bill on Regulating Opinion Polls

The British Polling Council (BPC) urges the House of Lords to reject the private members bill on the regulation of opinion polls that is being presented today by Lord Foulkes.

The Bill proposes that an authority be established that would regulate polls of voting intentions for all elections and referendums in the United Kingdom. The authority would be empowered to specify approved ways for selecting who should be interviewed, how the questions in polls should be worded and to ban the publication of voting intention polls during an election campaign.

Who is interviewed by a poll and how the questions it asks are phrased are important issues. How any poll has addressed them should always be clearly stated, as the rules of the BPC require. But they are not issues that are susceptible to straightforwardly ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answers. Professional researchers can and do disagree about how polls should be conducted and how they should be worded. They regularly experiment and test alternative and new ways of doing polls and asking questions in order to improve their methods. Imposing regulatory standards would put at risk the experimentation and competition that are essential to improving the ways in which polls are conducted.

Banning the publication of polls during an election campaign would not mean that polls were not conducted. It would simply mean that access to their results would be confined to those who could afford to pay for polls, such as the banks and the political parties, or who knew where to find the results on an overseas website. Only the ordinary voter, who is meant to be central to the democratic process, would be left out of the loop. It could potentially open the way for politicians to claim that their private polling showed them ahead, regardless of what their polling actually showed, or indeed whether it existed at all.

Doubtless many people feel that in underestimating the Conservative vote and overestimating Labour’s, the polls provided unhelpful misinformation during the recent general election campaign. That is why the BPC has established an independent inquiry into why the polls were wrong and how their conduct might be improved in future. Indeed, the first meeting of that inquiry, at which BPC members will be presenting – in public – their initial findings as to what went wrong, is being held today.

Professor John Curtice, President of the British Polling Council, said, ‘What is needed now is a critical and open appraisal of where the polls went wrong, not the heavy hand of regulation that in attempting to impose common standards would make it more likely that the polls all get it wrong again in future. As any economic forecaster knows too well, forecasting how people will behave is always a difficult enterprise. No-one has yet suggested that, despite their many errors, economic forecasting should be regulated, and it is not clear why attempting to anticipate how people will vote should be treated any differently.’

Notes for 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. Website: www.britishpollingcouncil.org. Twitter: @BritPollingCncl
  • The first meeting of the inquiry is at The Royal Statistical Society, 12 Erroll St, London EC1Y 8LX at 1.30 pm on 19 June. Anyone who wishes to attend should register at BPC/MRS Polling Inquiry meetings
  • Members of the inquiry are Dr. Nick Baker, Group CEO, Quadrangle Research Group Ltd; Dr. Mario Callegaro, Senior Survey Research Scientist, Google UK ; Dr. Stephen Fisher, Associate Professor of Political Sociology, University of Oxford, who runs the Electionsetc website; Dr. Jouni Kuha, Associate Professor of Statistics, London School of Economics and lead statistician for the BBC/ITV/Sky exit poll; Prof. Jane Green, Professor of Political Science, University of Manchester and Co-Director of the 2015 British Election Study; Prof. Will Jennings, Professor of Political Science and Public Policy, University of Southampton, and a member of the Polling Observatory team; Dr Ben Lauderdale, Associate Professor in Research Methodology, London School of Economics and one of the team behind the electionforecast.co.uk website; Dr. Patten Smith, Research Director, Research Methods Centre, Ipsos MORI and Chair of the Social Research Association.
  • Details of Lord Foulkes’ bill can be found at: Regulation of Political Opinion Polling Bill [HL] 2015-16

For further information, please contact a member of the BPC Management Committee:

Simon Atkinson: 07791 680770
Nick Moon: 07770 564664
John Curtice 07710 348755

Details of Opinion Poll Inquiry Announced

The British Polling Council (BPC) publishes today further details of the Inquiry into the performance of the opinion polls that it has established in collaboration with the Market Research Society (MRS).

​Under the chairmanship of Prof. Patrick Sturgis, Director of the National Centre for Research Methods at the University of Southampton, the Inquiry is charged with the task of establishing the degree of inaccuracy in the polls, the reasons for the inaccuracies it identifies, and whether the findings and conduct of the polls were adequately communicated to the general public. Due to report by 1 March next year, the Inquiry will seek and welcomes submissions from all interested parties, and is empowered both to make recommendations about the future practice of polling and, where appropriate, for changes in the rules of the BPC. The BPC and MRS are committed to publishing the Inquiry’s report in full.

​Eight people with professional expertise and experience in conducting and analyzing survey and polling data, have agreed to serve (unpaid) as members of the Inquiry. None of them were directly involved in conducting published polls during the election campaign. They are as follows:

  • ​Dr. Nick Baker, Managing Director, Quadrangle Research
  • ​Dr. Mario Callegaro, Senior Survey Research Scientist, Google UK
  • Dr. Stephen Fisher, Associate Professor of Political Sociology, University of Oxford, who runs the Electionsetc website
  • Dr. Jouni Kuha, Associate Professor of Statistics, London School of Economics and lead statistician for the BBC/ITV/Sky exit poll
  • ​Prof. Jane Green, Professor of Political Science, University of Manchester and Co-Director of the 2015 British Election Study
  • ​Prof. Will Jennings, Professor of Political Science and Public Policy, University of Southampton, and a member of the Polling Observatory team.
  • ​Dr Ben Lauderdale, Associate Professor in Research Methodology, London School of Economics and one of the team behind the election forecast website.
  • ​Dr. Patten Smith, Research Director, Research Methods Centre, Ipsos MORI and Chair of the Social Research Association.

​Information about the work of the Inquiry will be available via a website launched today at National Centre for Research Methods (NCRM). As a first step the Inquiry is inviting written submissions, which can be uploaded via the website. A public meeting will be held during the afternoon of 19 June at the Royal Statistical Society, London, where there will be an opportunity to discuss the work of the Inquiry. The event will be free to attend but registration will be required. Registration will open, via the NCRM website, on Tuesday 26 May. Further information and updates about the conduct of the inquiry will be made available on the website thereafter.

​Prof. John Curtice, President of the British Polling Council, said, ‘The polls clearly gave the public a misleading impression of the likely outcome of the 2015 election and this shaped the reporting of the campaign. The Council is committed to ensuring that there should a thorough and transparent investigation into what apparently went wrong, and how both the conduct and the reporting of the polls might be improved in future. We are deeply grateful to Prof. Sturgis and the members of the Inquiry, all of whom have substantial professional expertise in the methodology and analysis of surveys, for agreeing to conduct this Inquiry.’

Jane Frost CBE, MRS’ Chief Executive said, “As the world’s leading research association, we are actively supporting the British Polling Council in its investigation. We continue to support all of our accredited members in ensuring standards are met. Market research is a UK success story, the UK is a world leader in this sector, contributing over £3.6bn to the UK economy. We continue to learn, adapt and innovate.”

For further information:

Notes to Editors

  1. The full details of the Terms of the Reference of the Inquiry are appended to this release.
  2. The British Polling Council (BPC) is an association of polling organisations that publish polls. The Council promotes standards of disclosure that are designed to provide consumers of survey results that enter the public domain with an adequate basis for judging the reliability and validity of the results. Most of the companies that conducted polls of voting intention at the 2015 UK general election are members. Further details can be found at https://www.britishpollingcouncil.org/.
  3. The Market Research Society (MRS) is the world’s leading professional research association, training and regulating the research sector in the UK. The research sector is a major UK industry worth a conservative £3.6bn (GVA) per annum.
  4. The original announcement of the establishment of the Inquiry can be found at General Election: 7 May 2015

BPC/MRS Inquiry into the Performance of the Opinion Polls at the 2015 General Election.

Terms of Reference

  1. To assess the accuracy of the published opinion polls (both national and sub-national) at the 2015 general election.
  2. To evaluate whether any inaccuracies identified might be part of a pattern evident at previous elections.
  3. To investigate the causes of any inaccuracies that are identified. Potential causes to be considered will include (but not necessarily be limited to): the possible impact of late changes in vote preferences, sampling methods, interview mode, weighting and filtering, population coverage, item refusal, differential availability and willingness to participate, question order and wording.
  4. To assess whether the analysis or reporting of polls was influenced by a reluctance to be out of line with the published figures of other polls.
  5. To consult and seek relevant evidence from all appropriate stakeholders, including but not exclusively, polling organisations that are members of the BPC.
  6. To assess whether adequate information was provided and communicated to interested commentators and the public about how polls were conducted and what their results meant.
  7. To make, as it sees fit, recommendations for improving how opinion polls are conducted and published in future.
  8. To make recommendations, if necessary, for changing the rules and obligations of BPC membership.
  9. To submit a report to the BPC and MRS by 1 March 2016, with a view to its publication by BPC and MRS as soon as possible thereafter.