How The Telegraph misreported today’s YouGov poll findings on immigration

The Daily Telegraph today has its regular monthly YouGov poll. They’ve headlined their report:

Immigration is top issue for both Labour and Tory voters, YouGov poll shows

They go on to say:

A Daily Telegraph/YouGov survey shows that it is the top concern that people want an incoming Conservative government to deal with.

Problem is, that isn’t really what the poll says.

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One of the plus points of the paper using a polling firm that is a member of the British Polling Council is that we can get ready access to much fuller information than that in the report. If you have a look at the detailed tables published, what you find is that the Telegraph is talking about a question which had the following options:

If the Conservatives won the next election which two or three (if any) of the following things would you most like them to do? [Please tick up to three]

Reduce immigration
Reduce the powers of the European Union and increase the powers of Britain’s Parliament
Do more to help families and restore traditional family values
Scrap Labour’s plans to introduce identity cards
Build more prisons so that criminals can serve longer prison sentences
Reduce taxes
Take tougher measures to help the environment and avert climate change
Give local voters the right in referendums to keep down increases in council tax
Bring back state-funded grammar schools and the 11+ exam
Reduce spending on public services
None of these
Don’t know

Although “none of these” is there as an option, it’s a well known artefact of polling that the options you present to people can skew their answers markedly.

And just look at some of the policy options that are missing:

Raise taxes for the very rich
Increase spending on the NHS
Increase the number of police
Increase the number of British troops in Afghanistan
Abolish Council Tax

and so on.

In other words, what the poll really shows is that out of a fairly odd ball collection of policy options, nearly all of which speak to a right-wing policy agenda and which leaves out many policies that might score very highly, immigration is the one that people most frequently mention when asked to select several.

There’s no doubt that immigration is an issue of concern to many, but “the top concern that people want an incoming Conservative government to deal with”? This poll doesn’t show that.