Congratulations to The Canary for uncovering details of a polling company that seems to be trying to tell people how to vote, rather than simply recording public opinion.
Return has ‘form’ when it comes to asking leading – or indeed, misleading – questions, and it seems the firm has put its experience into play in the service of certain elements in the Conservative Party who desire Brexit:
Return Marketing is a London-based marketing and research agency with extensive links to the Conservative party. In May, The Canary published a whistleblower’s allegations that the company used telephone polling to ask ‘misleading’ questions of thousands of voters in key marginal seats during the 2015 general election campaign. The company, said the whistleblower, was covertly funded by the Conservative party to carry out that work.
Return Marketing is currently conducting polling on the EU referendum, which is due to go to the vote on 23 June – less than 48 hours’ time.
The Canary has seen a script used by the company’s calling agents, and it raises serious questions about the integrity of that polling. After gathering demographic data from voters and asking about their voting intentions, the researchers ask the question: “The EU costs Britain £350 million per week, how important is the cost of the EU?”:
We all know there is one serious problem with that question, right? It claims as fact the assertion that the UK spends £350 million a week on the EU (in fact, taking rebates and the economic benefit of migrant workers into account, we make £120 million a week).
This lie, in the middle of what people are being asked to believe is a legitimate poll, crosses the line between legitimate polling and influencing public opinion in order to push people towards a predetermined point of view – push polling.
If voters are undecided, the script goes on to emphasise the cost of the EU.
Market research, including asking about voting intentions and message testing, is a perfectly legitimate activity during political campaigns. But push polling – polling designed to influence voters while masquerading as political research – is a different story.
What is still unclear is exactly who is funding the polling.
Well. We know that Return Marketing has strong links to the Conservative Party, and we know that these questions push people very strongly towards saying they’ll vote ‘Leave’, so…
Would you like to make an educated guess?
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