Five reasons to be suspicious about any data published by You Gov

For the past few weeks it has felt as if balanced journalism has taken a break and that everything is propaganda.

I suppose it’s wise to be suspicious of  everything until 6 May has passed, and in particular it’s a good idea to question any information published by the opinion pollsters You Gov. Here’s a five reasons why.

1. Loaded questions

Here’s an example of a You Gov question, posted on a Digital Spy forum two days ago. In the words of the author: ‘Notice anything missing?’

27 April 2010 – Still No Lib Dems?

Click image for full-size – original can be seen here

2. More loaded questions?

It’s difficult to tell how balanced You Gov’s questions are without going through them all, but from the evidence of this Twitpic image and the comments beneath, well – you can make your own mind up.

“Everything scares me about the Liberal Democrats” – 22 April 2010

Click on the image to view full size. Original posting can be seen here.

3. Fixed debate polls?

As Michael Crick explains in this blog post, You Gov ran their post-debate poll following the second televised debate at a rather curious time. Between 9.27pm and 9.31pm, to be precise. The debate finished a 9.30pm – meaning:

In Crick’s words:

This may explain why Yougov gave David Cameron a better rating than the other post-debate polls did last night. For Nick Clegg ended the debate with a very powerful closing speech, probably the best of the evening.

According to the BBC video system Clegg didn’t start speaking until 9:29:18 and finished at 9:30:47

So many of those polled by You Gov last night must have voted without seeing his final speech. [link to Crick's blog]

4. Stephan Shakespeare (the CIO)

You’d think that the most important aspect of any poll is that it is unbiased. And who’s You Gov’s CEO – the man ultimately responsible for making this so? Stephan Shakespeare, an ex-Conservative parliamentary candidate for Colchester and the owner of Conservative Home.

Perfect. Craig Murray offers his description of Mr. Shakespeare  here but if that is a little too, er, biased then you can have a look at his Wikipedia entry.


5. Nadhim Zahawi (the founder)

A follow on from the last one. Nadham Zahawi founded You Gov 10 years ago and was its CEO up until February this year when, of course, he stepped down to stand as the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Stratford.

It’s just the type of business arangement that I used to experience during my time in Madrid. Florentino Perez would be proud.

Still, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that any information published by You Gov was false is any way. They might send me a letter or something.

Image credit: secretlondon123

9 thoughts

  1. Two reasons to trust data from YouGov: Their President Peter Kellner, whom you do not mention because he doesn’t fit the purpose of your blog, is a respected left-leaning journalist, the husband of Labour Baroness Catherine Ashton, the Foreign Secretary of the European Union. YouGov is a plc depending for income on delivering good results. So far they have delivered the most exact forecasts on elections. Why should they suddenly want to damage themselves by getting it wrong? On the second “loaded question”, it sounds like the only people who can benefit from the answers are the Liberals, trying to find out where they have to improve their image. And there was also the option “nothing scares me about the Liberal Democrats”, which you conveniently forgot to mention in your loaded blog.

  2. I’m quite aware that YouGov is a plc and therefore depends on the accuracy and the integrity of its results for its income. And to that ends I’m just applying a little scruitiny to it – as the job it does. as I’m sure you’ll agree, is extraordinarily important.

    Your point about the second loaded question is quite bemusing. YouGov aren’t operating on a consultancy basis for the Lib-Dems: suggesting whereabouts they could improve their performance. They are, in the most part, providing data to be used by the media – and participants in the survey are being given eight possiblities to generate negative headlines.

    As I said in the post, you can’t judge a company on a single question – but taken along with other snippets of evidence, it certainly looks suspicious.

    And why should politicians and pollsters be allowed to be the same thing at all? It’s a little like putting a band of substance abusers in command of a pub where the temptation to indulge themselves is always going to be there.

    Yes, this blog is loaded. But just about everything else seems to be at the moment too.

  3. Have you seen any of the eight possible negative headlines that could be construed from the loaded questions? The only headlines I have seen were the anti-YouGov ones on some blogs. Could it not just be that YouGov’s answer to the accusation – – is the truth? They take jobs not only from media, but from political parties, too. We shall never know who phrased this question, but as YouGov has explained, the result was never meant for publication anywhere.

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