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

by Stephen Tall on April 19, 2010

‘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 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.