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Media & PR

Dreadful opinion poll reporting by the Daily Telegraph

Time for a complaint to the regulator, IPSO (the Independent Press Standards Organisation):

I would like to make a complaint about a story produced by the Telegraph in print and online.

The online version is at https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/08/12/boris-johnson-has-publics-support-shut-parliament-get-brexit/  and states, “The ComRes survey for The Telegraph found that 54 per cent of British adults think Parliament should be prorogued to prevent MPs stopping a no-deal Brexit.”

However, the data provided by ComRes itself is different. The data has been published at https://www.comresglobal.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/The-Telegraph_August-2019-Tables.pdf – Table 53.

This data shows two important differences from what the Telegraph reported:

(1) Telegraph: “54% of British adults…”, ComRes data: 44% (a minority rather than a majority, and therefore both an error and more than a trivial error),
(2) Telegraph: “think Parliament should be prorogued”, ComRes wording: “Boris needs to deliver Brexit by any means, including suspending parliament if necessary” – this is a very different wording, including both the framing of the point (making the question about delivering Brexit primarily) and also the use of “if necessary” is not the same as saying something “should” happen

Therefore this story falls foul of the requirement in the Editor’s Code: “The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information” (1(i), Accuracy). Note in particular that the Code refers both to inaccurate and to misleading information and therefore the point in (2) above about giving a distorted impression of what the poll question really asked is covered by this clause as well as the point in (1) above which is a straight forward case of inaccurate information.

It is worth noting also that the Telegraph pieces, both online and in print, were substantive, lengthy pieces given high prominence (front-page stories in both print and online). They both, therefore, had the space to properly explain the data being cited and also should have been subject to carefully editorial processes. It would not be plausible to argue that either a shortage of time or space or an absence of editorial oversight led to this misleading story being published.

In making your ruling, therefore, I hope you will give serious consideration to the prominence given to the story by the Telegraph and therefore the appropriate level of prominence that should be given to correcting it.

Thank you.

Details on how to make a complaint to IPSO are here.

Or for a more detailed explanation of what’s wrong with the Daily Telegraph stories, see these tweets from Will Jennings.

UPDATE: Reuters has apologised for and corrected its reporting of this poll.

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