Monday, January 11, 2010

The Sun caught telling porkies about its own opinion poll

Further to my last post, something truly extraordinary (well, perhaps no-one should be too surprised) - it turns out that the Sun essentially lied about the figures from the YouGov poll it published today. Here is how the tabloid reported the poll -

"GORDON Brown is dealt a stinging blow today as a massive Sun poll spells out Britain's fury at his government...
Almost half of the 10,344 Britons quizzed believed Labour's rule had been "poor" or 'terrible'...
It comes with Mr Brown having a maximum of 20 weeks in which to go to the country - and it gave the Tories a vital 12 per cent lead.
David Cameron's party received 42 per cent support with Labour trailing on 30 and the Lib Dems on 16."

So no-one can be in any doubt what the Sun is telling us here - in the survey of 10,344 people published today, the Conservatives have a 12-point lead. Just one problem - they don't.

Probably the alarm bells should have been ringing when the vote shares reported for all three GB-wide parties turned out, uncannily, to be absolutely identical to the YouGov poll published last Friday. A couple of hours ago, YouGov published the detailed figures of the megapoll on its website, and it transpires that the real standings are -

Conservatives 40%
Labour 30%
Liberal Democrats 17%
SNP/Plaid Cymru 3%
BNP 3%
Greens 2%
Others 1%

Peter Kellner's explanation for this divergence, delivered as if it was all an innocent misunderstanding (admittedly he can hardly be expected to directly acknowledge the deceit of his paying client), is that the 12-point lead quoted was taken from the one particular segment of the polling sample who were interviewed after the Hoon-Hewitt coup attempt, rather than from the full scale 10,000-strong sample. In other words, it was taken from the poll that had already been published on Friday, hence the absolutely indentical figures. Doubtless we are being invited to believe that the Sun's journalists simply overlooked that trifling detail in preparing the story. Aye, right.

In the wake of this story comes a truly vintage "Gotcha" moment for one of my former Tory Lady adversaries from, the notoriously passive-aggressive Ms. Plato (who you might also know as the author of the 'global warming is a dastardly conspiracy' flavoured blog Plato Says). When suspicions over the Sun's deceit started to emerge, she (with an affected air of weariness) opted for the 'trifling detail' line to explain why this is all a matter of very little import -

"Frankly, if one polling report is out by 2 and is really an aggregate of another three two of which we’ve already seen I'm not too excited about it."

And yet, when it was pointed out that the 12-point lead figure was from the post-coup segment, she triumphantly posted (complete with beaming smiley) -

"Good news!"

So suddenly one 'polling report' that is 'out by 2' seems considerably more exciting than it had just a few minutes earlier! Could this be because the two-point difference purported to be a Tory increase over time, rather than a decrease? Perish the thought! Just one further snag for Plato, though, which she apparently hadn't noticed before jumping in so rashly. This 'two-point increase' poll was not merely an aggregate of polls we had already seen before, but a shameless re-reporting of a poll that we had already seen in full last Friday!

Are the Tories and their allies getting so worried that they now feel the need to rely on double-reporting of the same poll to generate the illusion of momentum?

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