Words (almost) fail me. Laurence Janta-Lipinski is a London-based employee of YouGov, and I first became aware of him a couple of weeks ago when he wrote a rather arrogant piece that strongly implied that no other pollsters than YouGov mattered in the context of the referendum. Because YouGov were showing a wider No lead, that was by definition the true position, and that was what "Alex Salmond" had to recover from. Well, my post earlier tonight must have caught Mr Janta-Lipinski's attention, because he indignantly took issue with my (frankly indisputable) point that YouGov are less transparent than other BPC pollsters...
Laurence Janta-Lipinski : in what way are we less transparent than other BPC members?
Me : You don't give voting intentions for the two SNP groups you bizarrely separate out, and no raw numbers at all in datasets.
Laurence Janta-Lipinski : of all the many criticisms of us, lack of transparency is a new one
Me : Then WHY do you never provide the breakdown for the two SNP groups? The obsessive secrecy must be for a reason?
Laurence Janta-Lipinski : i didn't know we were being obsessively secretive. What reason do you think we have?
Me : Will you answer the question? Can we look forward to seeing a full breakdown of the two SNP groups in tomorrow's datasets?
Laurence Janta-Lipinski : sorry, 1 year old has a cold and woke up - he's more important to me than the indyref
Me : Oh, come off it. You could have answered my question in the time it took to write that tweet. Utterly pathetic.
Laurence Janta-Lipinski : we'll have blog up later in the week, happy to answer any and all Qs after u've read it, assuming they're reasonable
Me : Will you answer the question I've just asked, or will you continue to be extraordinarily evasive?
Laurence Janta-Kipinski : p.s., you've not *really* answered the Q on why you think we're so secretive
Me : Yes, I have. A fuller answer is here. Can we have a response now?
Laurence Janta-Lipinski : you've clearly never spent time with a screaming 1 year old!
Me : It was a simple question! Will that info yet again be kept secret in the datasets, and if so, WHY?
Laurence Janta-Lipinski : I have, we are publishing a blog, i will answer all Qs after, on here, email, phone, hell, even face to face
Laurence Janta-Lipinski : no, you will not get breakdown. Why? Why should you? We don't put up 1000s of potential xtabs at behest of bloggers
Me : That is the most absurd and offensive answer. How have you got the brass neck to complain about me pointing out your secrecy?
Me : You ARE obsessively secretive, and you've just boasted about the fact.
Laurence Janta-Lipinski : we're blogging on our methodology this week, any Qs after that, happy to answer them
Me : Will you promise to answer the questions you've evaded tonight?
I don't think anything could sum up YouGov's institutional attitude problem better than the above exchange. We get the snide implications that anyone who criticises the company is rather tiresome and paranoid, but when Mr Janta-Lipinski's questions are answered in straightforward fashion and a concrete example of YouGov's obsessive secrecy is specified for him, what do we see? Bluster, evasion, passive-aggression, and then ultimately angry defiance justified by the most risible excuse imaginable. Make no mistake about this - the stuff about "1000s of potential Xtabs" is not merely an insult to my intelligence, it's an insult to the intelligence of every single person in Scotland who takes an interest in referendum polls. The voting intention breakdown of the two SNP groups is not some kind of trivial detail out of thousands of others - it is ABSOLUTELY FUNDAMENTAL to how YouGov produce the headline numbers they do. They are the ONLY COMPANY who eccentrically split SNP voters from 2011 into two groups and then weight them separately. Every other firm provides a comprehensive breakdown of their sample by past vote recall (with the exception of Ipsos-Mori who don't weight by past vote) - and so do YouGov, apart from that ONE area of relentless secrecy. Why? If I had any lingering doubts about whether YouGov have got something to hide, they've been removed by Mr Janta-Lipinski's evasion and excuses tonight.
We'll see whether YouGov's upcoming wonder-blog on this subject actually addresses the issue of why they use such an eccentric methodology, but the bluster tonight about it just being one minor detail out of "thousands" doesn't fill me with confidence that the mist will be clearing very much. And I think we can already safely assume that we won't be getting any satisfactory explanation for why the voting intentions of the two SNP groups are being kept secret. But rest assured that I'll be on hand to ask the awkward questions again and again (unless they block me!), and I suggest that you are too.
And if I sound angry, it's because I am. YouGov are playing games with the future of this country, and the least they can do is explain themselves adequately. I've thought for some time that they're a rather reprehensible company, but I only realised tonight just how boorish their public face can be. It also appears that they don't get out much, if they honestly don't think anyone has ever accused them of a lack of transparency before!
UPDATE : Mr Janta-Lipinski later responded further, but only with intimations of yet more evasiveness to come...
Laurence Janta-Lipinski : given your reaction to earlier tweets, I'm minded not to promise anything. It's pretty clear your mind is made up.
Laurence Janta-Lipinski : that being said, happy to answer any questions you have later in the week
Me : The man who sneered at complaints about YouGov secrecy, now warns that he may evade reasonable questions. It's laughable.
Me : How can you change minds when you openly boast about your determination to withhold information?
Me : Your claim that splitting SNP voters in two is one trivial detail among "1000s" is an insult to people's intelligence.
Me : You know that as well as I do, and I hope you have the decency to be privately embarrassed by it.