Monday, February 17, 2014

YouGov misrepresent the results of their own poll

This is how YouGov are summarising the results of the currency poll that I mentioned in my last post -

"Voters say no to currency union with Scotland

58% of people in England and Wales now oppose allowing an independent Scotland to continue to use the pound..."

Both of those sentences are downright inaccurate - no ifs, no buts, no maybes. YouGov did not ask anyone about a currency union, so there's no way voters can have said "no" to it, and nor did they ask anyone about whether Scotland should be "allowed" to continue using the pound - which of course would have been a rather academic question, given that even George Osborne himself has admitted that Scotland does not need anyone's permission to use the pound outside a formal currency union.

This is the question that YouGov actually asked -

"If Scotland votes to become an independent country, it would then need to negotiate independence arrangements with the rest of the United Kingdom before becoming independent in 2016. If Scotland did become independent, would you support or oppose an independent Scotland continuing to use the pound as their currency?"

There's nothing inaccurate about the introductory sentence, but it's presence should probably always have set off alarm bells about how YouGov planned to misrepresent their own poll results, because it has no relevance at all to the question that follows. Negotiations will indeed be required, but they won't interfere with Scotland's decision on whether to use the pound or not. What will be at stake in the negotiations is whether our usage of the pound is inside or outside a formal currency union. If YouGov wanted to be able to claim that English voters would prefer that it was outside a currency union, then they should probably have asked about that instead. If they wanted to be able to claim that English voters think Scotland should be "disallowed" from using the pound at all, they could have asked that, but it would have made about as much sense as asking the voters of Slovakia who should be the next President of France.

Not for the first time, the message is simple - do better, Mr Kellner.


  1. My questions are:

    What is s Mr Kellner's agenda?

    Is he the only pollster who is biased against Scotland?

  2. Thought you might be interested. Just did a YouGov poll. Amongst the many many questions it asked the following about Independence:

    "As you may know, a referendum on independence will be held in Scotland on 18th September 2014. Voters will be asked, "Should Scotland be an independent country?" Do you think you will vote "Yes" or "No"?

    "Will vote "Yes"
    "Will vote "No"
    "Will not vote
    "Don't know"

  3. Sorry for double post. I can't edit my other one.

    A second odder question is asked later on: "Now, on a scale from 1 (should definitely stay in the union) to 7 (should definitely become independent), which number best reflects your own position on what Scotland should do?"

  4. That's fascinating. On the actual voting intention question, it's the first time YouGov have used wording that I would describe as 100% neutral - even the reference to "tomorrow" has gone, with respondents instead being asked how they will vote on the actual referendum date (in line with ICM, TNS-BMRB and Panelbase).

    Unfortunately, though, the way you describe it has the feel of either a 'testing' poll not intended for publication, or an internal poll for one of the campaigns or political parties. So we can't be at all confident that the new neutral wording is here to stay - but it certainly means that YouGov have no more excuses left if they go back to their bad old habits.

  5. Yes, the 1-7 line shows that whoever commissioned the poll, wants to know how soft their own, or the other sides vote is.

    The SNP already use this type of system using the doorstep conversations and they have a very clear idea of how soft votes are, so I doubt it will be from the Yes side of the campaign.

    Perhaps BT have done a few similar internal polls, so this explains is why they are so panicked?