The Sunday Herald, lazy journalism, and spurious polls

sunday herald indyref2 poll

An article in today’s Sunday Herald (see their tweet above) claims that 80% of 42,000 (!) respondents to an online poll they conducted want to leave the UK.

The very first time I expressed an opinion online about politics, about 2½ years ago, was when some dodgy company apparently based in Shetland conducted a similar poll on whether people would vote Yes or No in the 2014 referendum. Out of curiosity, I made my choice and the results until that point were revealed to me – about 85% said they were voting Yes.

I spent many a wearisome hour in the discussion forum linked to the poll trying to explain the fallacy of this way of assessing opinions and intentions. The response I got to my patient explanations were mostly of three sorts.

  1. Was I a unionist and therefore could be expected to object to the result, which showed the overwhelming desire of the Scottish people for freedom?
  2. Many more people were taking part in this exercise than in normal opinion polls so it was bound to be more accurate than them.
  3. If I didn’t like it I should get my friends to vote too.

Two years and more on from my fruitless waste of time the number of these sorts of ‘polls’ has multiplied, aided and abetted by Twitter’s relatively new and very easy to use polling option. By the time of this last week’s Brexit referendum I must have seen at least two Twitter polls per day every day for a month asking me how I was going to vote.

Do I need to repeat here why these exercises are futile? All they ever confirm is the prejudices of the person or organisation running them. They are in no way scientific or based on good (or any) statistical or survey practice.

This makes it all the more surprising (or maybe not) that the Sunday Herald has bothered to put the indyref2 question on its web site and wait for its nationalist, independence-supporting readers to pile in and express the opinion everyone already knew they had. The result is as meaningful as if the five members of the Scottish Resistance had been the only contributors or 500,000 monkeys had stabbed randomly with their paws at keyboards 24 hours a day for the past week to produce an answer.

It is just as surprising (or maybe not) that SNP MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, MA, LLB, Postgrad Diploma in Law and OBE, with all her education and the dignity of her office, has seen fit to publicise this nonsense:

tasmina sunday herald poll

I guess it’s a sign of how hollowed-out and lazy the print media has become that a serious national newspaper carries out this sort of cheap exercise and seeks to pretend it is significant news. It is in fact worth nothing.

If anyone cares to point out a similar spurious exercise undertaken by a national newspaper that is biased in any other direction, I’ll be happy to publish that information as a comment on this post.

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2 Responses to The Sunday Herald, lazy journalism, and spurious polls

  1. A similar poll in the Press and Journal poll said that 57.8% of 1,000 responding did not want another independence referendum and 42.2% wanted one. I was 3 of the 578 who voted against, voting on my laptop, tablet and phone. Other people will also have work devices to vote on. You could probably vote an unlimited number of times if you cleared the cache after each vote. A friend of mine used to read the FT online for free by clearing his PC’s cache each time he reached the limit of free articles. They have now introduced a registration system but it can be evaded by having umpteen hotmail or gmail accounts.

    A separate poll in the P&J, which I did not vote in, gave results of 42.1% Yes, 37.2% No, 19.3% do not want a referendum because the country is too divided and 1.4% were undecided. Presumably the vast majority of the 19.2% would vote No if there was a referendum:

    https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/fp/news/editors-picks/956922/press-and-journal-readers-do-not-want-second-independence-referendum/

    A poll conducted by ScotPulse for the Scotsman said that 59% of 1,600 people surveyed would vote Yes in a referendum held now, 32% No and the rest don’t know.

    http://www.scotsman.com/news/poll-puts-support-for-scottish-independence-at-59-1-4163338

    I have not yet heard today’s weather from Hell, but I remain a No until it freezes over.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sam Duncan says:

      Me too. I really don’t think anything can be directly inferred about support for separation from Thursday’s result. Not that it’s going to stop Sturgeon.

      Survation phoned me on Saturday morning, but I hung up. And I think there’s a point to be made there: polls conducted in the heat of the aftermath of major events favour the fanatical and indignant.

      Online polls aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. 😉

      Liked by 2 people

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