Is YouGov ‘push-polling’ for the Tories?


3:04 pm - April 19th 2010

by Sunny Hundal    


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Stephen Tall at LibdemVoice highlights a comment made by YouGov survey responder.

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!

Is it possible that YouGov is push-polling? (“in which an individual or organization attempts to influence or alter the view of respondents under the guise of conducting a poll”).

I’m sending an email to Peter Kellner to ask.

Update: Tom Freeman highlights an explanation by Anthony Wells of YouGov:

Firstly, neither those VI or those question were anything to do with polling for newspapers or publication. Secondly I’ve brought the poll up on the system now to double check, and voting intention was the first question as it should have been. The other questions were right at the end of the political section of the poll, as they should have been.

If this question came at the end then its impact on actual voting intention would be non-existent. But it still looks like a leading question.

Update 2: Peter Kellner responds by email to say:

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.

It doesn’t clear up whether the question was asked or not, but it looks like the poll may not have been related to the daily polling for News International.

Update 3: Stephan Shakespeare, CEO of YouGov, responds over at ConHome, but curiously doesn’t mention the question which is the subject of debate.

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Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


Anyone would have to be fairly simple not to see such questions as on a par with “how long have you been beating your wife”.

People may not see the LD’s as entirely lilly white in the MP’s expenses, but it is only one issue, and people don’t generally vote on single issues. The recent upsurge in LD support is as much an anti two party reaction as it is a pro-LD one.

I think it’s almost certain that the answer is no.

“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?”

Am I the only one to notice that that isn’t actually a question? It’s simply a list of statements; putting a question mark at the end of a sentence doesn’t automatically make it a question. I am very doubtful that this was actually asked in a YouGov poll.

Still appears to be Murdoch using the poll to secretly push propaganda, regardless of the effect on the poll results.

5. George W Potter

Certainly their questions on LD policies in the poll they did for the sun were very one sided. Questions such as: “Scrap university tuition fees over six years and raise taxes to pay for this” are definitely leading. Yes, there is debate over the pros and cons of these policies but the way these questions are phrased tends to misrepresent the policies in an overly simplistic manner.

FWI, if the question was worded as above and elsewhere, it’s clearly defamatory and factually incorrect.

Don’t have Kellner’s email address, Sunny?

Whats the size of YouGovs polling panel? With them taking so many polls over the campaign, are people who may have been influenced by these questions likely to be a statistically significant portion of later polls?

My guess would be “yes”?

8. Brian Robinson

It is important that a question such as this is (1) asked after questions about voting intentions not before, and (2) not used for publication. It means published data is not tainted.

However, if a question such as this is not used for publication, what is its purpose? It could be for private use. For example, the Tories might want to test people’s reactions to it — and choose this method instead of a focus group — prior to including it in their campaigning.

Or, it could be that they — or others with an anti Lib Dem agenda — are using it to try to influence voters. That is, the intention would not be to skew the polling data, but to piggy-back an opinion poll to try to change people’s attitudes to the Lib Dems. The person taking part thinks they are simply answering questions, but in fact they are being fed negative characterisations in the form of a “question”.

I’ll try to dig out some of the research on this if I get the chance (no promises!), but from memory I think this approach to attitude-change has proved very effective, according to research by psychologists — so it wouldn’t surprise me if it is being used in this election. The idea, perhaps, is that people don’t take much notice of political campaigning, particularly when it is by one party about its opponents, but they can be influenced by less direct methods. The negative beliefs slip in when our defences are down.

I think there is a fundamental dishonesty to such techniques, and if it is going on it should be exposed — and condemned.

You want Peter Kellner’s email MatGB? I have it…

I agree that the question is certainly very odd and potentially libellous. Peter Kellner’s question response doesn’t specify whether it was asked by Anthony Wells’ response certainly says it was asked.

The question then is: even if it didn’t influence polls – is it right to ask that question?

“The question then is: even if it didn’t influence polls – is it right to ask that question”

What has been quoted isn’t a question, it’s just a series of extraordinarily misleading partisan statements. We need to know: What was the original question? And why was it asked?

“Nick Clegg is not really British. He is a mongrel foreigner. How do we make this into a question so we can justify pushing it?”

12. Sunder Katwala

The question is not for the pollster but the client – and whether the Conservatives will own the question or deny it. Nothing illegal here and the party can defend down and dirty negative campaigning if it wants to – but it would be deeply hypocritical on the part of David Cameron if any Tory official has any involvement or knowledge of this
http://www.nextleft.org/2010/04/will-positive-dave-confirm-he-hasnt.html

Ashcroft’s fingerprints?

I think there’s less to this than meets the eye.

Firstly, it’s not push polling. The sample for the poll would probably have been 1000 people or so, maybe 2000, spread across the country. Push polling (which isn’t polling at all, but malicious questions designed to look like a poll), is useful only on a much larger scale and in a targeted demographic, or when you’re saying something so salacious it’ll get spread around on its own.

Instead, it’s quite straight forward message testing. Whoever commissioned it is testing various different lines, presumably to see their credibility and impact on voting intent for the Lib Dems/other parties. If the attack if effective and the timing is right, they might use it in the public domain, where it can be identified with them and criticised on that basis. Chances are, they’re testing various different attacks (as well as their own positives), and will only go with the most effective one or two of them.

I would be very surprised if *any* of the major parties haven’t already tested attack lines on the others, which are ready to use in case the time becomes right. Just because this one happened to have come to light doesn’t mean that the other parties haven’t been testing their own lines.

SK and climatesock – agreed. good points.

Wow – political parties test negative messages?!

Any other scoops for us?

What would be interesting would be to hear some of the other attacks that were used. The attack is fairly tame, and is of course more or less exactly what Cameron said in the debate last Thursday.

I for one, would be interested in hearing from whoever it was who took the original survey and chose to leak one of the messages – in order to know what the other attacks were, and more interestingly what the rebuttals were. If there were rebuttals – this is a Lib Dem / LD supporter sponsored combat testing poll, if there weren’t it is more likely another organisation.

Another question that seems pertinent is why YouGov are polling for so many organizations? Surely there are real conflicts of interest going on there? It’s not as if there aren’t loads of organisations capable of doing this kind of thing – especially as my understanding is that this is a phone poll.

The cynic in me suspects that this has actually been leaked by the commissioner of the poll. It gets the attack out there, without having to take responsibility. Ironically, this means that Sunder’s noble intentions are actually fuelling the fire, unless they successfully nail the source of the funds for the poll.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Jose Aguiar

    RT @libcon Is YouGov ‘push-polling’ for the Tories? http://bit.ly/dxB9Mr

  2. Mike Jay

    RT @libcon: Is YouGov 'push-polling' for the Tories? http://bit.ly/b5DqUN

  3. Graham de Montrose

    Is @YouGov ‘push-polling’? a) What's the actual question there? b) @YouGov gave #LibDems greatest lead so far. http://bit.ly/ahdk7v @libcon

  4. sunny hundal

    RT @libcon: Is YouGov 'push-polling' for the Tories? http://bit.ly/b5DqUN

  5. matthew taylor

    RT @pickledpolitics: RT @libcon: Is YouGov 'push-polling' for the Tories? http://bit.ly/b5DqUN

  6. Jake lyle

    RT @houseoftwits: RT @libcon Is YouGov 'push-polling' for the Tories? http://bit.ly/b5DqUN

  7. Ben

    RT @pickledpolitics: RT @libcon: Is YouGov 'push-polling' for the Tories? http://bit.ly/b5DqUN

  8. Elisabeth Whitebread

    RT @libcon: Is YouGov 'push-polling' for the Tories? http://bit.ly/b5DqUN

  9. Liberal Conspiracy

    Peter Kellner @Yougov responds to our question on whether it is 'push-polling': http://bit.ly/b5DqUN

  10. sunny hundal

    @robinince we posted a response here by YouGov, and some more explanation. http://bit.ly/b5DqUN

  11. Alasdair D Murray

    Is YouGov 'push-polling' for the Tories? http://bit.ly/b5DqUN

  12. sunny hundal

    @JTownend I asked for a comment, he replied here: http://bit.ly/dxB9Mr – but didn't say anything on its wording at all

  13. GuyAitchison

    @oliconner have you seen this? http://bit.ly/cwyNZ1

  14. Oliver Conner

    (via @GuyAitchison) Yougov push polling? http://bit.ly/cwyNZ1

  15. Tim Ireland

    RT @pickledpolitics: @Glinner well that's the big question isn't it – who was actually commissioning them to ask that question: http://bit.ly/dxB9Mr

  16. YouGov

    @pickledpolitics See responses from Anthony Wells and Peter Keller at http://bit.ly/bkz4t9

  17. YouGov

    @dazmando See responses from Anthony Wells and Peter Keller at http://bit.ly/bkz4t9

  18. YouGov

    @paulwebster Also see responses from Anthony Wells and Peter Keller at http://bit.ly/bkz4t9

  19. Paul Webster

    RT @YouGov: @paulwebster Also see responses from Anthony Wells and Peter Keller at http://bit.ly/bkz4t9

  20. Darren Bridgman

    RT @YouGov: @dazmando See responses from Anthony Wells and Peter Keller at http://bit.ly/bkz4t9

  21. Liberal Conspiracy

    Is YouGov 'push-polling' for the Tories? http://bit.ly/b5DqUN

  22. Jonathan Taylor

    RT @libcon: Is YouGov 'push-polling' for the Tories? http://bit.ly/b5DqUN

  23. House Of Twits

    RT @libcon Is YouGov 'push-polling' for the Tories? http://bit.ly/b5DqUN

  24. topsy_top20k

    Is YouGov 'push-polling' for the Tories? http://bit.ly/b5DqUN

  25. James Lloyd

    RT @libcon: Is YouGov 'push-polling' for the Tories? http://bit.ly/b5DqUN

  26. Scribbles

    RT @libcon: Is YouGov 'push-polling' for the Tories? http://bit.ly/b5DqUN

  27. Bethany

    RT @libcon: Is YouGov 'push-polling' for the Tories? http://bit.ly/b5DqUN

  28. Alex Wilcock

    RT @libcon: Is YouGov 'push-polling' for the Tories? http://bit.ly/b5DqUN

  29. johnhalton

    RT @libcon: Is YouGov 'push-polling' for the Tories? http://bit.ly/b5DqUN /// Be interesting to see how YouGov respond. Could be v damaging.

  30. Lisa

    RT @houseoftwits: RT @libcon Is YouGov 'push-polling' for the Tories? http://bit.ly/b5DqUN

  31. Louise Dore

    FWIW, never in the 100s of surveys I've done with them RT: @libcon Is YouGov 'push-polling' for the Tories? http://bit.ly/b5DqUN

  32. AndyG

    RT @pickledpolitics RT @libcon: Is YouGov 'push-polling' for the Tories? http://bit.ly/b5DqUN

  33. Don Paskini

    RT @pickledpolitics: RT @libcon: Is YouGov 'push-polling' for the Tories? http://bit.ly/b5DqUN

  34. sunny hundal

    Something still not right abt YouGov's response to this question about LD policies: http://bit.ly/b5DqUN – isn't it libellous?

  35. YouGov ‘push-polling’ mystery deepens

    […] 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. […]

  36. sunny hundal

    @Glinner well that's the big question isn't it – who was actually commissioning them to ask that question: http://bit.ly/dxB9Mr

  37. Liberal Conspiracy » Are Conservatives testing smear messages against Libdems?

    […] something not quite right with the ‘push-polling’ story that I wrote about yesterday, highlighted first by Craig Murray and then Stephen […]

  38. Dick Mandrake

    @ParrotKnight I think you should have a look at this: http://bit.ly/bZnftU

  39. Lucio Buffone

    http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/04/19/is-yougov-push-polling-for-the-tories/ Why not to trust 'The Sun' funded yougov polls





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