Thursday, 10 October 2013

Surveying the figures.

This isn't the first time that I've blogged about 'polls'... they make me a little bit cross; polls rarely produce robust figures that can be made into robust news stories.

The latest poll has been carried out by the BBC.

I'm not concerned by the reported findings, I'm not concerned by the political comment, I am concerned by the use of the poll to create news.

Why am I so troubled?

FIRSTLY - 1032 people were polled; this equates to 0.0016% of the UK population, or 0.002% of the adult population. If I showed you 0.002% of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel you'd think that Michaelangelo had an unhealthy nipple obsession (dependant on which 0.002% you looked at)

SECONDLY - ICM conducted the poll over the telephone. People who respond to telephone polls are the sort of people who respond to telephone polls. The background drivers for their reasons to talk on the phone with a polling organisation are many and varied; they want to be heard, no one has ever phoned them, they have nothing better to do, they are bored of writing angry letters to the Daily Mail... many reasons.

THIRDLY - The results are used to fuel a wider narrative; in this case they flip the default (which all journalists love doing) and give a better view of cuts to public services than previously reported.

FINALLY - I have too much time on my hands.

When polls are reported in a news context it makes me sad, because I know the pressures journalists and producers are under, I know what it's like to have to report the same basic story day after day after day... for years on end, I know what it's like sitting in a production meeting trying to work out how the hell you're going to make the story interesting again.

Polls are not the answer... and 100% of people surveyed agree with me*.

*survey sample of 1.

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