YouGov admit debate polling started whilst Nick Clegg was still speaking

YouGov have come in for a fair amount of flack online following last night’s instant debate poll for The Sun. Some of the criticism has been wrong or misplaced. Yes, one of their senior figures has Labour roots. But then one has Conservative roots  and other staff support the Liberal Democrats. They’ve even done polling for the Lib Dems in the past.

But – and it’s an important but – that was not the whole story. In amongst all the chaff were claims that YouGov’s polling started before the debate had actually finished and that it was collecting people’s verdicts on who won the debate whilst Nick Clegg was still making his final statement. Given how well rated that closing statement was by many commentators, that’s no minor technical matter.

YouGov haven’t done themselves any favours by appearing at first to ignore this question, both not responding to messages on Twitter but also side-stepping the question in a post on their site which responded to other issues.

Finally, the truth has come out – and yes, the accusations were right. The polling started whilst Nick Clegg was still speaking as Research Magazine found out:

We put this to YouGov’s Peter Kellner, who admitted that yes, the poll did open up while the party leaders were delivering their closing remarks. This, he said, was to ensure that the weblink would be working correctly as soon as the debate ended.

Kellner said a “handful” of people completed the survey before the debate went off air – though he wouldn’t say exactly how many. “There will be some people who had nothing better to do than click the link until the survey opened up,” he said.

The question is, what effect did these people have on the overall result of YouGov’s poll? Kellner is adamant they didn’t have any effect. He said the agency compared results from the first 1,000 people who took part in the poll within the first few minutes of it going live with results from a second batch of 1,000 people who took part in the minutes that followed (but weren’t part of the published poll) and that no discrepancies were found.

Be that as it may, as one senior polling figure put it to me, “It seems daft that YouGov would risk undermining their results for the sake of being first. In order to be beyond reproach you start fieldwork once the last politician has summed up and sat down, and you finish the fieldwork before there is this storm of media analysis.”

Even with that comment, we still don’t know for sure that the early polling didn’t have an effect because that isn’t quite what Peter Kellner said was compared – and of course without full disclosure of the data it is hard to win back the trust of people who have started to doubt.

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10 Comments

  • Last week’s result wasnt close. It’s a bit like saying “nobody ever complained about these minor voting irregularities when the seat was safe”.

  • @Lee – No one last week said ‘So Mr Cameron and Mr Brown, all those engaged in the fraudulent behaviour of second home flipping were drawn from your parties. One was in your cabinet Mr Brown, one is in your cabinet still Mr Cameron and four of Mr Brown’s backbenchers are currently on trial for that and other offenses – why did not never talk about expenses reform before now (something Mr Clegg’s party has been doing for decades)?’

    The reason is of course that such a question would be biased. As biased as, say, ‘what do you have to say about the allegations made against you in the telegraph that you took political donations (and reported them to the appropriate authority which is how we come to know about them)?’ or ‘wouldn’t you say the biggest myth of this election is your reputation’?

    If YouGov started during Nick’s closing remarks then that isn’t the same as the procedure from last week. And even if it were we’ve reason enough to feel the conduct of the right wing media (which includes SkyNews) during the election has been nothing short of outrageous. I mean, when Peter Mandelson feels moved to intervene in the name of fairness and accuracy in reporting….

    The bright side is that people notice these things. Take the latest remark from Stephen Fry http://twitter.com/STEPHENFRY

    Incidentally if Andrew Neill survives this election with his reputation as a journalist intact I’ll be disappointed with the electorate. I remember seeing him grill a Tory treasury spokesman and actually feeling sorry for the latter for Neill’s bulling dishonest conduct, but his treatment of Vince should have got him fired from any decent outfit.

  • Guy
    Vince doesn’t behave like he’s had a crash course from Prada to ready him for a career in from of the camera, trained to look and move like a manequin. It makes him appealing, human to anyone who is sick of the spin show we’ve had for so long.

  • Philip Young 23rd Apr '10 - 11:56pm

    Latest Harris Poll in the Mail (for Saturdays paper): Tories 23, Lib Dem 29, Lab 26.

    The Independent this morning claimed an unpublished poll taken by The Sun/Yougov when asked the question, if the Liberal Democrats could win, who would you vote for, got a return of 46 per cent Lib Dem, Tories on 25, which has prompted, perhaps, Adam Boulton on the Sky News website to start up a blog “Could the Liberal Democrats WIN this election” which has had the usual bunch of nutters foaming at the mouth in the following blog responses.

  • Philip Young 23rd Apr '10 - 11:57pm

    correction…the Mail poll is Tories 34, Lib Dem 29, Labour 26 in Saturdays paper.

  • Andrew Suffield 24th Apr '10 - 9:31am

    I expect this was just carelessness. These instant polls don’t allow much time for careful action. They’re also not very accurate to start with: instant reactions don’t last very long, and what counts is what people think a week or two later.

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