YouGov ‘push-polling’ mystery deepens

by Stephen Tall on April 19, 2010

Earlier today Lib Dem Voice published a post asking the question, Are YouGov and Murdoch ‘push-polling’ for the Tories? This followed internet reports that the online pollster had been posing deliberately leading questions designed not simply to test public opinion, but to lead it.

Liberal Conspiracy picked up the story and put the question direct to Peter Kellner of YouGov, whose elliptical reply stated:

As with all agencies, we ask all kinds of questions for all kinds of clients; some public, some private. For purposes of testing theories, messages or policies we will often test statements phrased one way for some respondents and phrased differently for others.

This is entirely separate from our public daily polls or other research conducted for media consumption so will have no bearing on our voting intention polls published by the media.

Which leaves none of us any the wiser whether YouGov has actually been putting questions or statements to the public which contain misleading or even defamatory comments about the Lib Dems. And, if they have, who commissioned the survey.

This is how the Guardian is reporting the story:

The poll was commissioned privately and YouGov has refused to confirm the identity of its client. But it did confirm that it polls for the Labour party, the Conservatives and the Scottish National party.

One of the questions being asked by telephone as recently as Sunday, and subsequently leaked on the internet, asked 17 questions about the Liberal Democrats and asked people to rate a series of statements according to how likely they were to affect their voting intentions.

One statement read: “Nick Clegg 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.”

An aide to Clegg objected to the language in the statement. “If this report is true it is just another example of the desperation of whoever is organising these things. They clearly don’t want to see any change and will use any tactics to attack us.

“These people should work out some positive policies and learn to communicate them.”

YouGov rejected accusations being made on some blogs that it was asking leading questions. It said Sunday’s survey on the Liberal Democrats was entirely separate to its regular polls for the Sun, the Times, the Sunday Times and the News of the World.

Update: YouGov’s CEO Stephan Shakespeare resopnds on ConservativeHome in a post titled, Message Testing v Push Polling.