Media & PR

Opinion poll reporting: who did it best this year?

Since the start of the year, I have been tracking how newspapers do at reporting the political opinion polls they commission.

Each time a newspaper reports on such an opinion poll, the report gets scored out of 30 against a set of basic criteria. The scoring system has generally worked well, though it doesn’t catch the nuance of newspapers commissioning poll questions about political matters and then not reporting certain ones which happen to contradict their editorial line (such as on thisthis and this occasion).

How then do the different newspapers come out of this all?

Here are the average scores this year, excluding the final round of pre-polling day polls as many of them were subject to different reporting styles:

The Times 27.5
Sunday Mirror 25.0
The Independent 23.2
Evening Standard 20.0
The Guardian 18.3
Daily Mail 18.3
Sunday Telegraph 16.4
News of the World 16.3
Daily Express 16.0
Mail on Sunday 14.3
Sunday People 13.8
The Sun 13.3
Independent on Sunday 12.5
Metro 12.0
Daily Telegraph 10.0
Sunday Express 10.0
Sunday Times 9.2
Daily Mirror 0.0

Bearing in mind that the maximum score is 30.0, the overall quality of reporting is pretty poor. To get near a top score, all a newspaper had to do was get basics right, including publishing the sorts of details that the British Polling Council says should be given.

In its own small way, these scores help illustrate why so many people are switching away from paying for newspapers and towards getting news for free online. It’s not just that news online is available for free; it’s often of better quality both because of the experts who write online and because you can readily check stories against different sources. Follow just one newspaper and you don’t get all the polls.

In the case of polling, why buy a newspaper which will give a poor report of even its own poll, when you can turn online to someone like Anthony Wells, who gives expert and balanced write-ups of polls whether they are from the firm he works for or from other firms?

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