Press regulator IMPRESS and the Market Research Society (MRS) have launched a new guide to help journalists report accurately on surveys and polls during elections.
The guide encourages journalists to be cautious about results based on samples that are not representative of a given audience, noting the timing of fieldwork and how that might influence responses, and question whether the sample size is sufficiently large for meaningful analysis.
The release comes just as the UK general election campaign begins and amid criticism about the use of polling data in the campaign literature of some of the political parties.
.@SophyRidgeSky challenges Lib Dem leader @joswinson on some of the party's campaign literature which some have accused of being misleading.— Sophy Ridge on Sunday (@RidgeOnSunday) November 3, 2019
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Ed Procter, chief operating officer at IMPRESS, explained that as false information poses a major threat, particularly during the ongoing election campaign, the public requires accountable and accurate information from newsrooms.
"We know journalists want to report responsibly, so our hope is that this guidance will be a useful resource to them and helps to improve reporting on complex issues, such as research and polling," he stated in a press release.
The guidance booklet also provides an example press release, highlighting what technical elements should be present as well as potential warning signs to look out for.
In particular, the team present 13 common mistakes made in reporting of polling data, including a lack of understanding of statistics, failing to check figures in a press release carefully, and omitting important contextual factors.
IMPRESS and MRS have opened a public consultation for feedback on the guidance and are encouraging reporters, experts and members of the public to respond to help them enhance their advice to journalists going forward.
What skills will journalists need in 2020? Find out at Newsrewired on the 27 November at Reuters, London. Head to newsrewired.com for the full agenda and tickets
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