Daily Telegraph publishes dodgy story on dodgy poll

by Jekaterina Drozdovica | 14.08.2019

The Telegraph reported yesterday that “Boris Johnson has the support of more than half of the public to deliver Brexit by any means, including suspending Parliament”. The newspaper referred to a poll by ComRes, and claimed that “54 per cent of British adults think Parliament should be prorogued to prevent MPs stopping a no-deal Brexit”.

There is a lot wrong with this story. For a start, there is the issue of leading the witness, as brilliantly shown by the former president of YouGov, Peter Kellner. The three questions preceding the claim asked the respondents to agree or disagree with the following statements (pages 47-56):

  • “Parliament is out of touch with the British public” 
  • “On Brexit, most MPs seem to ignore the wishes of voters and push their own agendas”
  • “The Queen should remain above politics and refuse to get involved in Brexit”

Only then were people asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement: “Boris needs to deliver Brexit by any means, including suspending parliament if necessary, in order to prevent MPs from stopping it”.

Kellner said: “When you ask questions about politicians and Parliament in isolation of other issues and other elite groups, voters are liable to display scepticism. Something else that pollsters know is that people don’t like to contradict themselves too obviously.” 

Then there’s the issue of how The Telegraph treated the “don’t knows”. ComRes’ original data set (page 56) clearly states that 44% agreed with the statement about “Boris” suspending Parliament. That’s less than half, not more.

The Telegraph got to its conclusion by excluding the 19% who answered “don’t know”. But as Kellner argues: “There are occasions when this is justified – for example when asking voting intentions ahead of an election or referendum. It should not generally be done with questions about public attitudes to issues – and when it is done, the removal of “don’t knows” should be stated clearly and prominently.”

If you ask questions in the wrong way, you will end up with misleading results. The ComRes results contradict a YouGov poll from June, which found that more voters (47%) are opposed to force Brexit through suspending Parliament than not (24%) – a margin of almost two to one. 

So, no, Daily Telegraph, the people don’t want the prime minister to shut Parliament if MPs don’t agree with him.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

11 Responses to “Daily Telegraph publishes dodgy story on dodgy poll”

  • This is why so many polls are not trusted. They are often skewed towards the result that the pollster may be trying to achieve in terms of leading questions and the type of respondents involved. Perhaps that is why they are often so utterly wrong!

  • Be honest; the Telegraph is part of the club of Brexit supporting liar media. Who expected anything else from them?

  • What’s with this ‘Boris’ as well. Like he’s some jolly uncle who we all love and trust.
    He’s the Prime Ministet and we don’t do first names on that pay grade.

  • The public opinion manipulators and misinformation teams are starting on their ‘soft sell’ platform. If they ever stopped, that is.

    How can a disorganised public understand anything that they read and hear? For those who rely on their traditional news sources, the Sun, Mail, Telegraph etc. the information is so skewed and missing the mark of honest reporting as to be useless (not to mention dangerous). It makes us laugh to see that the ‘banana bend’ story still ranks as a very good reason why we should leave. But this sort of journalism works and they are simply re enforcing 40 years of drip fed lies and misinformation.

    The BBC has joined FOX news as a purveyor of distortion and lies.

    And that is even before we get to the billionaires backing and funding the exit movement. The public in general do not seem to appreciate that this group’s funding is, in fact, a deposit on the purchase of the UK. Lock, stock and barrel.

    The middle and wealthy classes will experience some inconveniences, certainly, but it will be those on the lower band of income and influence who will suffer and bear the brunt of the brexit reality.

    The assessment of worthiness and sanctions for those at the bottom of the heap will intensify and these unfortunates will literally die , as they are doing now, but in increased numbers. Work camps and forced labour will not be an Orwellian fiction. They will become the reality for those who do not qualify for the sunny side of the street. And this latter group will be forced to work harder and harder to maintain their position. With the alternatives constantly being presented to them as a reminder of what could become of them if they ‘don’t pull their weight’.

    This Telegraph’s mis-reporting is child’s play compared to what is coming up when those in the shadows unleash the power of their influence of the social media.

    They did it before and they will do it again. By the time we engage our nicey nicey complaints process the battle will be over and won by the thugs of free enterprise.

    AND while all this is going on, our opposition parties and their leaders engage in ripping their own parties and each other apart.

    Don’t forget that the unelected ‘leader’ of this exit movement was placed on the throne of power by less than 0.75% of the population. As John Oliver describes him, Blubbo is a wind sock, turning in any direction that he senses will bring the most benefit to himself.

    Heaven help us.

  • Back in the sixties, I had an English teacher who gave the Daily Telegraph as an example of a pseudo-quality newspaper. He described it as biased and intellectually dishonest in that it pretended to be objective but was happy to distort the facts to its own end. It’s nice to see that this old tradition has not died out. It is still dishonest and untrustworthy. I am even more worried about its readers.

  • There is a very simple means of resolving whether the Telegraph poll methodology is distorted or inaccurate. Have an actual nationwide poll otherwise known as a Peoples Vote.

  • Daily Telegraph’s distortion of survey results has been debunked by Prof. Curtice as a significant manipulation of statistical data and a partial reconstruction of same to deceive the DT’s own readers. When taken as a package, the anti-Brexit rhetoric of the Barclay brothers-owned twin stable of the DT and the Spectator are methodically skewing the news in favour of a no deal Brexit (and in the case of the Spectator significant anti-Irish bias against which a formal complaint has been made to the Independent Press Standards Organisation). We are witnessing a re-run of the fake, inaccurate and skewing of facts that characterised the leavers Referendum campaign.

  • In fairness to the Telegraph, the said poll does seem to have been a real one, even if a prime example of “Sir Humprey’s” methodology to obtain the desired result. More usually the Brexit media would simply invent a story and make up figures to suit.

    I have given up listening to the BBC some time ago and rely on the Guardian, Independent, new European and In Facts.

    For objective news sources you can also go outside the UK, for example look at this


  • Johnson’s current performance is merely to have the appearance of wanting a Deal, whilst knowing he has been elected by a small group of people who want the exact opposite.
    The excerpt below from a letter from ‘Conservative Grassroots’ lays it out pretty clearly;
    “The party is doomed if they don’t buckle down and get on with it [Brexit],” (name removed) said, a lifelong Tory member who lives in Somerset . “We need a government that promotes the upside of no-deal.”
    His views reflect a hardening desire among Tory members for rupture with Europe, regardless of whether divorce terms governing security relations, trade, UK liabilities and the Irish border are in place. There are around 160,000 paid up members of the party, down from a peak of 3m in the 1950s.

    Some 38 per cent of them are aged 66 or over, according to research by Tim Bale, politics professor at Queen Mary university in London. Recent analysis by Prof Bale and Paul Webb of the University of Sussex, shows that around two-thirds of party members are in favour of leaving the EU without a deal, compared to just a fifth of the wider electorate.

    So two thirds of the 160,000 party members want ‘No Deal’ whatever the EU does, not because they believe it is the best for the country, but in the hope that it will be the salvation of their party.
    Their own research shows that only a fifth of the wider electorate wants ‘No Deal’ whatever the bogus Telegraph is claiming.
    Don’t believe any tory propaganda that we all want this (unless 20% is greater than 80%? ) , or that they have any respect for democracy.

    I hope Donald Tusk is aware of their hypocrisy.