Can we have confidence in the Sunday Telegraph’s new pollster?

Can we have confidence in the Sunday Telegraph’s new pollster?

Sunday Telegraph

    Has ICM been been dumped for an unregistered firm?

There’s a lot going on at the moment and the apparent decision of a major Sunday newspaper to switch pollsters might not seem that important – but today’s BPIX poll in the Sunday Telegraph raises serious issues for all who care about polling transparency.

For after using the respected ICM firm for years the Sunday Telegraph’s poll this morning is from a firm that is not part of the British Polling Council, doesn’t apparently respond to email requests for information, and has a web-site that has been “under construction” for getting on for four years.

    Polls play a huge part in shaping the political environment and pioneering firms like ICM have long recognised that public confidence in what they do requires transparency. We need to know how the polling numbers are produced and what the methodology is so we can take an informed view of what is said to be a reflection of public opinion.

Until now the main BPIX outlet has been the Mail on Sunday which has published the firm’s polls intermittently. If this is a permanent switch by the Sunday Telegraph – a paper that takes its political coverage seriously – it represents a major step backwards. I only hope that the editors put pressure on the firm to provide data like the rest of the major national pollsters.

Rant over. We do know that the fieldwork for BPIX is carried out by YouGov but without the standard data we have no idea how the headline figures were calculated. The findings themselves are showing the same sharp shift-back to Labour that we have seen in the recent YouGov and ICM surveys. Fieldwork started on Wednesday and continued until Friday.

Clearly the massive publicity of Labour’s party conference and the world financial crisis are having an impact on opinion and Gordon Brown is seeing the benefit. All this is going to make the Conservative Conference in Birmingham less of the breeze for Cameron and his team than many were predicting.

Facing a government that seems to have changed the media narrative is going to make the Tory challenge that more complex. There is now just an element of uncertainty about the next election and Cameron has to be ultra careful about expectation management and what his party says about the world crisis. His speech on Wednesday could be crucial.

Mike Smithson

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