Push polling. The live rail accusation for pollsters. A discredited technique that verges on misusing polling, turning it into propagandising, manipulating, another form of dirty tricks. No reputable polling organisation should go anywhere near the technique. But one pollster in the UK is being quizzed right now on whether it has gone there.
The Wikipedia definition is a useful place to start. “A push poll is an interactive marketing technique … in which an individual or organization attempts to manipulate or alter prospective voters' views under the guise of conducting an opinion poll … in all such polls, the pollster asks leading questions or suggestive questions that ‘push’ the interviewee towards adopting an unfavourable response towards the … candidate in question”.
Bear that in mind as we consider an extract from a recent YouGov questionnaire, which discusses Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn. It begins with the preamble “People have made different criticisms of Jeremy Corbyn which we list below. Please choose the ONE which you personally think is most worrying”. So even before the respondent gets to the criticisms, they know that it’s going to be “worrying”. Ri-i-i-ight.
Anyhow, bring on the first criticism. “Corbyn supported the IRA, he said the death of bin Laden was a ‘tragedy’, he can’t be trusted to take tough action on security, crime and defence”. It was advertised as “worrying”, then backed up with one flat-out lie and a blatant taking of a statement out of context. Can we see the next one, please?
Here it comes. “Corbyn is an old fashioned socialist who supported the Soviet Union and will take Britain back to the 1970s”. They do like the flat-out lies, don’t they? Don’t tell me, one of the remaining two options is about immigration, isn’t it?
Well, yes it is, and here it comes. “Corbyn has said repeatedly he doesn’t believe in ANY limits on immigration, it’s not too high, so if he’s PM it will be out of control”. He did? I must have blinked and missed it. But the message of this exercise is clear.
By that stage, anyone thus questioned will have been softened up by being told that Corbyn means “worrying”, and then most certainly moved in the general direction of, er, “adopting an unfavourable response towards the candidate in question”.
This looks like push polling. It appears to walk like push polling. And that sound it makes suggests it quacks like push polling. So what has YouGov to say for itself?
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