Are YouGov and Murdoch ‘push-polling’ for the Tories?

‘Push-polls’, for those unfamiliar with the term, are a political campaigning technique “in which an individual or organization attempts to influence or alter the view of respondents under the guise of conducting a poll” (Wikipedia).*

And it looks like Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper someone [EDIT 20/4/2010 – see Update below) has been paying internet polling firm YouGov to undertake some ‘push-polling’ against the Lib Dems, following the surge in support for Nick Clegg’s party after last week’s televised debate.

Former British ambassador Craig Murray spotted the following comment on the PoliticalBetting.com website, and noticed its significance:

Just done a YouGov, Mostly about Clegg & LD

Here was one of the question

“Nick Cleggs says the other parties are to blame for the MP scandals, he has taken money from a criminal on the run, many of his MPs have been found guilty of breaking the rules and his own party issued guidance on how to fiddle the expenses system?”

I’d say that was fairly direct!

There were some 17 other questions re the LD

by sealo0 April 18th, 2010 at 10:33 am

This was seemingly confirmed by Anthony Wells, who works for YouGov and runs the respected UK Polling Report blog, who commented here – Anthony says the questions were asked towards the end of the survey and were not “anything to do with polling for newspapers or publication”.

So why were they asked, and who paid for them to be asked, if they were never supposed to see the light of day?

As Craig Murray concludes:

The proposition above is, obviously to anyone, not really a question but a set of dubious propaganda statements designed to influence the interviewee.

Plainly this is a deliberate attempt to produce a poll which shows the Lib Dem surge as a blip, and thus discourages potential Lib Dems voters. That the Murdoch press pull such a stunt should surprise nobody. But even though they are getting huge money from Murdoch for these daily polls, YouGov must realise that this abrogates all professional methodology and breaches the ethics of the polling industry.

YouGov’s reputation rests on its credibility for conducting impartial surveys – its board now has some serious questions to answer.

Update (20/4/2010): Peter Kellner, President of YouGov, has categorically denied that any question resembling the one quoted here was any part of any poll the firm has conducted for the media. This rules out the possibility that News International / The Sun would have asked this question. However, YouGov has declined to confirm or deny whether this question was asked by a private client – which means we still do not know whether the question quoted above was posed in that form by YouGov.

——————————-

* To quote from Wiki:

Perhaps the most famous use of push polls is in the 2000 United States Republican Party primaries, when it was alleged that George W. Bush’s campaign used push polling to torpedo the campaign of Senator John McCain. Voters in South Carolina reportedly were asked “Would you be more likely or less likely to vote for John McCain for president if you knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child?” The poll’s allegation had no substance, but was heard by thousands of primary voters. McCain and his wife had in fact adopted a Bangladeshi girl.

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11 Comments

  • Philip Young 19th Apr '10 - 3:12pm

    Libel there, as to take money from a criminal on the run you have to actually, er, take money from someone running from criminal proceedings. As the party didnt do that, and the proceedings started long after the donation was made, and after due checks had been made, you cant accuse the Lib Dems of taking money from a “criminal on the run”.
    Will Murdoch be making a donation to avoid a claim for damages?

  • Anthony Aloysius St 19th Apr '10 - 3:26pm

    Stephen

    What Anthony Wells actually posted about this was as follows:
    Brownedov – my thought’s are that it simply isn’t true at all!
    Firstly, neither those VI or those question were anything to do with polling for newspapers or publication. Secondly I’ve brought the poll up on the system now to double check, and voting intention was the first question as it should have been. The other questions were right at the end of the political section of the poll, as they should have been.”

    If you look at the report of last night’s poll (which would have been the one referred to) on the YouGov website, you can see exactly what questions were asked:
    http://today.yougov.co.uk/politics/latest-voting-intention-18-april

    There is indeed a series of questions about Lib Dem policy after the voting intention question, but nothing remotely resembling what was claimed by the poster on Political Betting whom you quoted. In particular, you’ll see that no indication was given as to which party had proposed the policies in question.

    I really think you should have checked the facts for yourself and/or contacted YouGov directly for clarification, rather than making accusations like this on the basis of an anonymous discussion board posting.

  • Did you expect it to stay a clean fight? Indeed, we do know how ‘clean’ Libdems can fight too – I am reminded of the various badges worn during the campaign against Peter Tatchell many years ago….

  • Paul Midgley 19th Apr '10 - 4:35pm

    Personally I think Nick Clegg’s bubble will burst. Lib Dem policies are not in line with public mainstream thinking.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 19th Apr '10 - 5:04pm

    Stephen

    Actually, you’re still none the wiser as to whether the “question” you quoted from an anonymous blog comment was asked by YouGov at all. I’d have thought its semi-literate nature (to say nothing of the fact that it isn’t a question at all!) should dictate extreme caution, in the absence of any confirmatory evidence.

    You talk about defamation, but of course your own comment that “it looks like Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper has been paying internet polling firm YouGov to undertake some push-polling against the Lib Dems” is itself potentially highly defamatory, if the blog comment is just a malicious invention.

    Have you contacted YouGov to ask for a definite confirmation or denial of the allegation yet?

  • Anthony Aloysius St 19th Apr '10 - 8:14pm

    Craig

    “Anthony Wells response, which you quote in full, was to a reference to the specific question asked as recollected by sealo. Plainly sealo was recalling from memory and did not have the precise grammatical construction right. But Wells did not say no such question was asked. His reply plainly indicates the question was asked, but should have been after not before voting inteniton. … He also says specifically that the question should not have been published. … When Wells says specifically that this question was not for publication …”

    Unfortunately, most of that is inaccurate.

    Anthony Wells was actually responding to a question asked by a poster called Brownedov, who hadn’t quoted a specific question, but had said:
    “If you’re not having a day off polling, would you have any thoughts on the anti-L-D questions asked before the voting intention question in the latest YouGov for the Sun/Times? Craig Murray (craigmurray.org.uk) seems pretty incensed about it and it certainly doesn’t sound good.”

    That being the case, it’s nonsensical to take Wells’s response as a confirmation that a specific question similar to the one posted by “sealo” was asked. After all, there is no dispute that a series of questions about Lib Dem policies _was_ asked in the daily YouGov poll.

    And Wells did not say the other questions “should have been” asked before the voting intention question. He says they _were_ asked before the voting intention question.

    As for the point about publication, Wells said “neither those VI or those question were anything to do with polling for newspapers or publication”. I’m not quite sure what that means. It was obviously written in haste. But it is very misleading to characterise it as “He also says specifically that the question should not have been published” or “this question was not for publication”, when he has not mentioned a “specific” question, or “this question”.

    You say that YouGov have had repeated accusations to deny this, but apparently you’ve heard about most of them only at second hand from journalists. It’s not clear to me whether you have contacted YouGov yourself to ask for a definite confirmation or denial that the specific question claimed by the anonymous poster was really asked. Have you?

    I asked Stephen the same question earlier, but instead of answering it, he went off and wrote another article on the “mystery deepening”, by which he meant that the Guardian had published a rather inaccurate article based on information that we already knew. On your logic, I suppose that means Stephen can be assumed _not_ to have contacted YouGov!

  • Sunder Katwala 19th Apr '10 - 10:00pm

    Stephan Shakespeare on ConHome: it is quite clear a version of the question has been asked, or it would be denied
    http://conservativehome.blogs.com/thetorydiary/2010/04/the-shakespeare-report-message-testing-v-push-polling.html

    Shakespeare says it could be ‘attack or defence’ for a party or other interested party – can LDV please get the LibDems to eliminate themselves from inquiries!

    Next Left blog: the question is for the Conservative Party, to own or deny the negative questions
    http://www.nextleft.org/2010/04/will-positive-dave-confirm-he-hasnt.html

  • Polly Poller 30th Apr '10 - 6:20pm

    And how many are aware that the other founder of YouGov Nadhim Zahawi is running for election as a Conservative MP this election. He was helping Jeffery Archer to run for Lord Mayor of London. Interesting mixture of media, the Conservative party and YouGov polls.

  • I took this poll.

    I believe it’s ID on YouGov was PLS0010

    Tried to go back to my history so I could see the specific questions but it just came up with a blank page every time

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