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ComRes stats: Who’s to blame for misreported Lib Dem leap frog poll? ITV points finger at outside journalist

Earlier today [Friday] media news sites, bloggers and tweeters reported that Liberal Democrats had leap frogged Labour with supporting rising by 14 per cent in a ITV/ComRes poll, to 35 per cent.

For example:

But this figure was soon amended and given some context. ComRes actually reports in its “final analysis” that Liberal Democrats remain in third place, with a cut of 24 per cent.

How did the misunderstanding occur?

ITN claims, in a statement to Journalism.co.uk: “A headline figure of the ComRes/ITV News poll was overheard by a journalist outside of ITV News.”

“Other media outlets ran with this information without verifying. The full figures were released in their full context almost immediately by ComRes and ITV News to all media.”

If you read ComRes’ press statement – published on the Independent’s blog here – it states:

The final analysis of the ComRes instant poll for last night’s ITV News at Ten among those watching the First Election Debate, extrapolated across the GB adult population as a whole, puts the Conservatives on 35 per cent, Labour on 28 per cent and Liberal Democrats on 24 per cent.

(…)

Of the 4,000 viewers sampled, before the poll was weighted across the population, their voting intentions are now Conservative 36 per cent, Labour 24 cent and Lib Dems 35 per cent.

(…)

[T]he national vote share result takes into account ComRes’s latest voting intention figures published on Wednesday 14th April and the voting intention of respondents who watched the debate polled on 15th April.

But it was the latter unweighted sample that caught the headlines, before being quickly updated when the full results were release.

According to the Telegraph’s Robert Colvile it was a case of “egg on pollster face”. But ComRes told Journalism.co.uk it only ever released the full results – with context and weighting.

ConservativeHome’s Jonathan Isaby blamed a tweet from ITV correspondent Lucy Manning (@lucymanning).

But she denied she was the first, and tweeted (in an open message to Guardian political journalist Andrew Sparrow): “Not true many more tweeted them before me. thought id clarify!”

Sparrow justifies sharing the initial poll results, acquired via Twitter, on Guardian.co.uk. He writes:

“Twitter is a wonderful source of information (if we didn’t use it, this blog would be slower and far less information) and the figures were released by journalists who are normally reliable. But on this occasion the information was misleading. I should have waited until I had spoken to ComRes before going into overdrive. I’m sorry about that.”

But weighting or no weighting, is the poll’s methodology sound? Journalist James Ball tweets that weighting a poll like that is “very problematic”.

“Not only is direct audience for debate small, it’s untypical of general population,” he claims. He says it’s “staggeringly poor methodology” for ComRes, “at a time rife for misinterpretation.”

Full ComRes press release:

The final analysis of the ComRes instant poll for last night’s ITV News at Ten among those watching the First Election Debate, extrapolated across the GB adult population as a whole, puts the Conservatives on 35 per cent, Labour on 28 per cent and Liberal Democrats on 24 per cent. This compares to the ComRes poll broadcast on ITV News at Ten on 14th April showing Conservatives on 35 per cent, Labour on 29 per cent and Liberal Democrats on 21 per cent.

Of the 4,000 sample of viewers who watched the debate, their voting intentions are now Conservative 36 per cent, Labour 24 per cent and Lib Dems 35 per cent. This compares to their stated voting intentions prior to the debate which stood at Conservative 39 per cent, Labour at 27 per cent and Liberal Democrat 21 per cent.

Methodology statement:

Instant Poll
ComRes interviewed 4032 GB adults on 15th April by an automated telephone survey immediately after the ITV1 Leaders’ Debate. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all GB adults and weighted by past vote recall. Respondents were selected from a pre-recruited panel of people who agreed to be contacted by telephone following the leaders’ debates to give their views. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full data tables will be available shortly at www.comres.co.uk.

National Voting Intention
To extrapolate the impact of the change in voting intention figures for viewers of the debates the national voting intention is modelled taking into account: (i) viewing figures for the debate (Peak of 10 million – approximately 21 per cent of the population); (ii) projected turnout –nationally and among viewers.  Therefore, the national vote share result takes into account ComRes’s latest voting intention figures published on Wednesday 14th April and the voting intention of respondents who watched the debate polled on 15th April.

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Jon Bernstein: Sorry Guido, the BBC did for Duncan

Three high-profile political figures mired in controversy, two thrown out of their jobs, one suffering a humiliating demotion – all thanks to internet activists of differing political hues from green to darkest blue.

Hang your heads in shame video-sting victim Alan Duncan, and Smeargate’s Derek Draper and Damian McBride. Take a bow Tim Montgomerie, Guido Fawkes, and Heydon Prowse.

But was it really the web wot done it? I’m not so sure.

Or at least I don’t think the web could have done it without the traditional media, television news and newspapers in particular.

Clearly this is at odds with Guido’s reading of the situation.

Writing on his blog this morning yesterday Paul Staines (for it is he) asks who forced Alan Duncan from his role as shadow leader of the House of Commons.

Not Tory leader David Cameron, that’s for sure. Rather it was the unlikely pairing of Tim Montgomerie and Heydon Prowse, ‘the blogosphere’s shepherd of the Tory grassroots and the angry young man with a video-cam’.

Of Prowse, who filmed Duncan on the terrace talking of ‘rations’ in the wake of the MPs’ expenses scandal, Guido notes:

“Heydon Prowse, who is he? He just destroyed the career of a greasy pole climbing Westminster slitherer. No house-trained political nous, no insight, in fact a little naive. He still did it.”

And Guido is in no doubt what this means in the wider context:

“The news is now disintermediated.”

The same applies, apparently, to the sacking of Damian McBride and Derek Draper, both prime ministerial advisors in their time. McBride and Draper were outed for their parts in a plot to use a pseudo-activist blog to spread rumours about various high-profile Tories.

The emails incriminating the two men found their way to Guido/Staines, and were in turn picked up by the media.

(Ironically, the site was meant to be the left’s answer to right-wing blogosphere attack-dogs, Guido among them.)

This week saw the story take another twist. Would-be smear victim Nadine Dorries MP carried out a threat to sue Draper and McBride and enlisted the help of Guido and fellow blogger Tory Bear to be servers of writs.

No one is doubting the origin of both stories, nor the journalistic craft in exposing the men at the heart of them. But it took the mainstream media to push these events into the public consciousness, into the mainstream.

And it took the attentions of the mainstream media to effect the sackings and demotion.

On the day it broke, the Duncan story led the BBC 10 o’clock News and featured prominently on other channels. In the ensuing 48 hours it spawned dozens of national press stories – the Daily Star went for ‘Dumb and Duncan’, The Mirror for ‘Duncan Donut’, others were more po-faced – as well as leader comments, opinion pieces and letters.

The coverage continued into the weekend and despite Duncan’s very swift apology and Cameron’s initial willingness to draw a line under events (“Alan made a bad mistake. He has acknowledged that, he has apologised and withdrawn the remarks.”) the drip, drip of media focus eventually forced the Tory leader to act.

It was a similar pattern with Smeargate.

Would PM Gordon Brown and Cameron have acted if these had remained just web stories? Not in 2009.

Is the news disintermediated? Not yet. Instead we have a symbiotic – if dysfunctional – relationship between the blogosphere and the traditional media.

The latter fears and dismisses the former in equal measure, but increasingly relies on it to take the temperature of various constituent parts of society and, yes, to source stories. Guido is such a good conduit through which to leak precisely because the media reads him.

The former, meanwhile, is disparaging about the latter (sometimes for good reason) but nonetheless needs it to vindicate its journalistic endeavours.

A final twist to the Alan Duncan story. Heydon Prowse offered Guido first refusal on his secret video recording back in June. Guido turned it down. “D’oh!” he later wrote in a confessional blog post.

Guido always has the good grace to admit when he’s goofed, as he did earlier this year over James Purnell’s fictitious leadership bid.

Will he accept with equally good grace that the mainstream media were a vital ingredient in the sackings and demotion of McBride, Draper and Duncan?

Jon Bernstein is former multimedia editor of Channel 4 News. This is part of a series of regular columns for Journalism.co.uk. You can read his personal blog at jonbernstein.wordpress.com.

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BBC dominates list naming top political journalists

November 20th, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Magazines, Online Journalism

Total Politics, political blogger Iain Dale’s recently launched magazine, tomorrow publishes its list of top political journalists, as voted for by over 100 MPs, the magazine’s Facebook group of 500, and 130 lobby journalists. It can be viewed online, after registering, on the e-zine site.

Iain Dale told Journalism.co.uk that it’s “surprising that the BBC seems more loved by Conservative MPs and Labour MPs, but few will be surprised that Labour MPs rate Andrew Marr and James Naughtie highly.

“The surprise is that Andrew Neil doesn’t figure in the Top 20 of either party. Conservative MPs have shown a masochistic tendency by voting Jeremy Paxman at eight, but Labour MPs don’t include him in their Top 20 at all.”

Topping the overall list:
1. Evan Davis
2. Jeremy Paxman
3. Matthew Parris
4. Nick Robinson
5. John Humphrys

So who do the Tories like…?
1. Evan Davis
2. Jonathan Oliver
3. Jeremy Vine
4. Carolyn Quinn
5. Martha Kearney

And who do Labour like….?
1. Andrew Marr
2. Michael White
3. David Aaronovitch
4. Polly Toynbee
5. Evan Davis

And journalists themselves…?
1. Nick Robinson
2. Jeremy Paxman
3. Evan Davis
4. David Dimbleby
5. John Humphrys

And the top blog…? A certain Iain Dale’s Diary, followed by Tim Montgomerie (2) and Guido Fawkes (3).

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