On 13 August, the Telegraph front page claimed that the public backs Boris Johnson “to shut down Parliament” and force Brexit through. Only it turns out this is pure propaganda.
— Neil Henderson (@hendopolis) August 12, 2019
Deal or no-deal
According to the Telegraph, an exclusive poll from ComRes showed that Johnson:
has the support of more than half of the public to deliver Brexit by any means, including suspending Parliament…
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The ComRes survey for The Telegraph found that 54 per cent of British adults think Parliament should be prorogued to prevent MPs stopping a no-deal Brexit.
It presented this result as very straightforward:
54 per cent of British adults think Parliament should be prorogued to prevent MPs stopping a no-deal Brexit | @CamillaTominey @christopherhope @HarryYorke1 https://t.co/X53CfiTyfe pic.twitter.com/cmGjNCVBdS
— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) August 13, 2019
But, according to the poll itself, 54% of people surveyed didn’t actually say this. When asked to “agree” or “disagree” with the statement:
Boris needs to deliver Brexit by any means, including suspending parliament if necessary, in order to prevent MPs from stopping it.
Only 44% of those surveyed actually agreed. 37% disagreed, while 19% answered “Don’t know”.
So, many people criticised not only the Telegraph‘s twisted interpretation of this result but also the wording of the question:
Shocking misreporting of this Tel/Comres poll. Front page headline claims 54% support for shutting down Parliament. Poll detail results says figure is 44% in response to highly tendentiously worded question… https://t.co/7vs6aUAR2z pic.twitter.com/AyJ14sqlCc
— Alan Travis (@alantravis40) August 12, 2019
This poll does not show that "54% of British adults" support prorogation. Utterly dire survey question, utterly dire reporting. pic.twitter.com/ppWBGvUwZp
— Will Jennings (@drjennings) August 12, 2019
Saying “less than half” really wouldn’t make for a strong front page. So, it seems, the Telegraph removed the 19% who answered “don’t know”, did some maths, and hey presto. Pure propaganda.
They are excluding the Don't Knows then adding the Agrees & Disagrees. 44 + 37 = 81. 44 is 54% of 81. Quite appalling!
— James Wood #RevokeArticle50 🇪🇺🇫🇷🇬🇧 (@JamesRDWood) August 13, 2019
In other words, 878 people agreed with the statement, which is 43.7% of the total sample. But, by excluding the 19% who “didn’t know”, this equals 53.9% of the total “agree” or “disagree” responses.
So when the Telegraph claimed:
The poll suggested the Prime Minister is more in tune with the public’s views on Brexit than MPs, following his promise to deliver Brexit by October 31 “do or die”.
It was talking utter, manipulative tosh.
Not sure why remainers are finding the ComRes poll by the Telegraph so surprising. It's certainly not the first or last time a newspaper will manipulate poll data to push their agenda.
— James Page (@JPage471) August 13, 2019
Shameful twisting of the results of the ComRes survey by @Telegraph this morning. "54% of adults support proroguing Parliament" is actually "44% of respondents support delivering Brexit by means *including* proroguing Parliament", in a sample where 45% of respondents voted Leave.
— Graham Harper (@harper84) August 13, 2019
And several people suggested that the way the whole poll was constructed needs further investigation:
What is most shocking about today's @ComRes poll is the long lead-in of negative questions about trust in parliament/MPs before the question about Boris Johnson suspending parliament. It is a poll that needs an immediate response from the @BritPollingCncl
— Paul Ilett, Author (@Paul_Ilett) August 13, 2019
When asked about the method behind the results, Camilla Tominey, one of the piece’s writers, claimed this was “standard practice”:
From ComRes: It certainly is standard practice (to exclude don’t knows) and perfectly reasonable as long as we are transparent about methodology- which we are. Tables are already on our website too…
— Camilla Tominey (@CamillaTominey) August 12, 2019
But an experienced Guardian journalist disagreed:
Thanks @camillatominey for responding on Tel/Comres poll. After more than a decade of reporting polls I know it is not standard practice to exclude 'don't knows' when reporting public opinion. Only valid for voting intentions when don't knows become don't votes. Correction? https://t.co/gA66Kfvb0B
— Alan Travis (@alantravis40) August 13, 2019
And as others noted, this poll is completely at odds with the result of a recent YouGov survey:
Here are the most recent YouGov results on proroguing Parliament, including @anthonyjwells heroic effort at writing a balanced survey question on a complicated topic.
— Chris Curtis (@chriscurtis94) August 12, 2019
The Telegraph owners Frederick and David Barclay have backed the Leave mission since the 2016 referendum. As The Canary reported, new evidence links them straight to the murky connections of Leave.EU and key far-right figures.
Now, as Johnson’s right-wing government hurtles the UK towards a no-deal Brexit, the usual suspects are lining up to churn out pure propaganda. Perhaps we shouldn’t be shocked any longer, but it shows just what we’re up against.
Featured image via YouTube – Guardian News
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