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Society 'would support' gold standard for political polling

21 November 2017


The Society of Editors would support a gold standard for national and regional newspapers in relation to political polls it has said.

Giving evidence last week to the Select Committee on Political Polling and Digital Media, Ian Murray, Executive Director of the Society of Editors said that the organisation would support a voluntary gold standard for polls that identify within a region the right sort of sample size and best practice for weighting and questions, which newspapers could then use when deciding whether or not to publish a poll.

He said: “Because of the public’s mistrust, and the tendency to shoot the messenger with regard to political polls, it would be good for the industry to be able to fall back and say, “We are following this gold standard”. I would wish it to be voluntary, but to have a gold standard there. Newspapers, whether they be national or regional companies, would want to be seen to be looking at that seriously and adding it to their training.

“The whole matter of trust in the mainstream media—the established media—is at the heart of our concerns in our industry at the moment, so anything that we can do to say, “Look, you can trust us. Here is a set of values we adhere to. We adhere to them voluntarily, but we adhere to them”, is helpful.”

Mr Murray added that public mistrust of political polling, especially in recent years, meant that journalists were keen underpin the credibility of polls with their readers and viewers.

He said: “In the last election more polls were taken out. It was a case of saying, “We did not do enough there to see a trend. Let us do more”. I assure you that in conversation people say, “Fingers were burned. We got that all wrong. It has happened twice. Next time, the public will read about these polls and say, ‘Why should we believe them?’”. Editors, publications and broadcasters will have to give the reasons why they should believe them: “This is the leeway for error. This is where it has come from. They have asked all of this”. I do not say that editors will stop running polls, but they will be very wary about ensuring that they have the gold standard—the kitemark that says, “We have done everything that we can to ensure that this poll is as accurate as it can be”.

Because of audience mistrust, journalists would give serious consideration to ways in which their readership could maintain trust in their products, Mr Murray said. 

He added: “I think the industry would consider seriously and welcome anything that helped to underpin trust with readers and viewers: “Come to the mainstream media, because we have this kitemark and are following these values. Stories are checked and tested in different ways. Our journalists are trained in this and have regular training from the beginning of the profession all the way through—with apprenticeships, increasingly, as well as by going to university”. As I keep saying, polls have emerged as an issue the public are raising their eyebrows about and one where things get blurred.”


Watch the full evidence session here

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