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More from the comments – you can trust legitimate opinion polling companies

December 18, 2019

In my last post I wrote about why a sample of 1,000 people was a good size for an opinion poll, and I’d just like to add a bit more.

So as you know I was reading the comments.  And another thing I always notice in ‘the comments’ is that people assume that polls are nonsense if they have been commissioned by a partisan organisation:

“A poll commissioned by the SNP shows support for independence. There’s a shock!”

“Mostly SNP supporters read this paper and if the poll was run by it you would get the results they want”.

“It’s also worth noting this was a survey commissioned by the SNP”.

But here’s the thing (and I’ve said it before)…. you can trust legitimate opinion polling companies.  The point of them is that they are independent and regulated.  They are separate from their clients and that they provide data that is as unbiased as possible.  Clients come to polling companies for this reason – so that they can get genuine insight to learn from using ‘best practice’ methodologies, and because their PR looks better when they do that.

Having worked for two such companies and run an opinion poll myself I can say that all I’ve ever see is a commitment to providing an independent service. We wrote the questionnaires, we would say no to anything dodgy, and we were bound by the Market Research Society Code of Conduct to ensure surveys are unbiased and ethical, and furthermore to ensure that findings are reported in an unbiased and ethical way.

When you’re reading an article about a survey you need to evaluate it for two points.

First, who is the client or commissioner?  They paid for the survey and they briefed the polling company on what they wanted to know.

But more importantly, who is the polling company?  Because if the polling company is legit, then the survey is legit.  It doesn’t matter who paid for the survey – they paid for an ethically conducted independent survey.

Only caveat is, clients typically only publish good news stories.  You should be more concerned about what you’re not seeing than what you are!

If you want to delve deeper, look for the original source of data – the tables are usually available somewhere online if you follow the paper trail.

And if you’re not happy that a survey is independent you should absolutely report their asses to the Market Research Society pronto because we don’t want them bringing our industry into disrepute.

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