The UK-based Mail Online was forced to shut down one of its online polls yesterday after a concerted campaign by Twitter users and, Journalism.co.uk can reveal, UK-based psychologists, nearly brought their servers to a halt with an overwhelming ‘yes’ vote.
The poll, which asked the somewhat leading question “Should the NHS allow gipsies to jump the queue”, attracted ridicule from many within the Twitter community leading to, at one point a 96% vote in favour of the proposition.
Brighton-based senior lecturer in experimental psychology Dr Sam Hutton contacted Journalism.co.uk today to reveal that there was also an email campaign among UK-based psychologists who, as part of their jobs, take questionnaire neutrality seriously.
“One reason I think there were so many yes votes was because a psychologist got hold of it, and sent an email which quickly got copied to virtually every psychologist in the country, suggesting that we all vote yes as a way of protesting against such a ludicrously loaded question (psychologists care about questionnaire design),” Dr Hutton said.
“It clearly worked – it was actually 96% YES when I looked, but the server was struggling, and they have removed the poll completely now. A nice example of an online newspaper getting it wrong…”
This is the email that Dr Hutton, and psychologists all over the UK, received:
Here is an excellent example of how to phrase a neutral question from our friends at the Daily Mail… for all those interested in questionnaire design:
Please do vote “yes”
Angered Twitter users have now vowed to take their campaign to all of the Daily Mail’s online polls, taking the opposite stance to the expected response, given the Mail’s reputation for having a ‘Middle England’ readership and an editorial line against what it sees as the liberal establishment.
Footnote: Readers from outside the UK might be also interested to read about the Mail’s history – in the 1930s it openly backed the British Union of Fascists, aka the Blackshirts.