The Guardian’s front page story on the NHS reports findings of a voodoo poll in their front page story:

“More than 90% of those who voted in a British Medical Journal poll believed the planned health reforms should be scrapped. Of 2,947 votes cast on over the last week, 2,706 said the reforms should be dropped while 241 said they should stay”

The story does, at least, not claim this is specifically representative of anything, but the very fact it is reported carries the implication that it is in some way meaningful or representative of BMJ readers or people involved in the medical profession (in that sense the Guardian’s report is less bad than the PA copy, which presented the figures as being representative of BMJ readers). This was not, however, a poll in any meaningful sense, but an open access click button question on their website.

As ever, such open access polls are not properly weighted or sampled and are very easily fixed by people distributing the link to others to encourage them to vote… such as, erm, Guardian star-columnist Polly Toynbee here.

If you are a journalist reading this I again implore you to read this guidance from the British Polling Council on how journalists should report polls, particularly Q.13 on how to tell whether a poll is worth taking seriously or not.

In this particular circumstance the finding isn’t grossly misleading as there is good evidence to suggest NHS employees do indeed oppose the reforms (see, for example, this YouGov poll of NHS employees for 38 Degrees), but in a way that makes it even worse – reporting worthless findings when there are properly conducted ones out there.

68 Responses to “Voodoo polling corner again”

1 2
  1. If I can’t do it perfectly, I’ll settle for doing it regularly…

  2. Just as well Top Hat isn’t around. He’s still at school, and knows nothing of these things. :-)

  3. Top Hat is a grade A student. I’m sure he’s learned a lot from the diagrams in his books….. ;)

  4. YG polls are all over the place


    Tory 40%, Lab 38%, LD 10%

  5. CON 40
    LAB 38
    LD 8

    App -19 Blimey, they’re all over the place, or perhaps not ! :-)

  6. Well I guess it’s not polldrums at least.

  7. Sorry…..LD 10. :-)

  8. In fact, you might say it’s more of a pollercoaster.

    (I’ll get my coat).

  9. It could also be that the “people” are all over the place.

  10. NEIL A

    You are on form tonight!

  11. Is this an example of a voodoo poll – since that is the topic under this heading?

  12. Don’t worry folks, only another thousand or more polls to go before the next election, plenty of meat on the bone yet. :-)

  13. 3% swing to Labour yesterday, 3.5% swing to the Tories today. This is getting so volatile I fully expect the Lib Dems to have taken a narrow lead by tomorrow! lol

  14. CROSSBAT11………ICM have got the Tories ahead in Scotland. :-)

  15. @Ken

    “CROSSBAT11………ICM have got the Tories ahead in Scotland.”

    Lol. With Plaid Cymru running them a close second, I expect!!

  16. @Neil A


    You’ve been waiting for a chance to use that, have’nt you.


  17. @Valerie,

    Ha! Nope, I just thought of it.

    But I will confess to suffering to severe neologism-envy of Ms Amber.

  18. Clearly yesterday was an outlier, and this probably looks to have lab a little lower, but the last few days have been a good reminder about MoE.

    It will be interesting to watch party discipline at Westminster. We know there are various rumblings over Ed, but (without wishing to stir up a hornets nest on AW’s least favourite subject) according to most commentators he has now produce three good PMQs performances on the trot and a good performance in the commons debate on the Euro summit. Labour MPs seem to be more comfortable now.

    By contrast, Cameron’s persona in the house has looked much less assured and discomfited, and today’s PMQ’s was characterized in large parts by very little vocal support from his backbenchers. The Euro summit produced a good deal of negative comment from his backbenchers, and there are suggestions of a major rebellion over the IMF contributions.

    This isn’t affecting VI, but party discipline can make or break parties electoral prospects. I’ve joined others in suggesting that NHS changes could prove problematic for the Tories. If Cameron’s performances continue to fall flat, there is a dust up over the IMF and serious doubts in Tory ranks about the NHS begin to show publicly, I can a scenario where Labour might start to creep up in the polls for more than 24hrs.

1 2