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The curse of self-serving polls

Only corrupt dictatorships and the Daily Express could come up with a 98% poll result. Today the paper leads with the headline, “Veil should be banned say 98%” followed by this intro:

Britons gave overwhelming backing last night to a call for a ban on full-face Muslim veils.
Ninety-eight per cent of Daily Express readers agreed that a restriction would help to safeguard racial harmony and improve communication.
Our exclusive poll came as ministers stepped up the pressure on Muslim leaders to demonstrate “real leadership” in the fight against extremism.

There nothing to explain the poll in the entire story. Was some reporter asked to ring up a few people? Were readerrs asked to phone a number to vote? Was a reputable polling company employed to carry out research among Express readers? The last one seems unlikely.

It is one of the basic rules of reporting that figures like this should be explained to the readers. I have been teaching news writing today and would fail any journalism student who failed to include in their story an explanation of such figures.

I know Lord Beaverbrook, former owner of the Express, told the Royal Commission on the Press in the 1940s that he owned the paper for propaganda purposes, but he did not support the shoddy journalism we see in the paper today.


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