Doubts over 'manipulated' poll that suggests majority want new Press watchdog backed by law just weeks after survey gave opposite result
09:58 GMT, 29 November 2012
Questions were raised last night over the accuracy of a poll claiming the majority of people want a new Press watchdog backed by law.
It was carried out by YouGov for the Media Standards Trust, which is vociferously campaigning for statutory regulation of the Press.
The Trust highlighted a finding in its survey that showed 79 per cent favoured an independent press regulator 'established by law'.
Ahead of Lord Leveson's report into press standards, actor Hugh Grant talks about taking on the tabloids on ITV's This Morning programme
Actor Hugh Grant, who spearheads the Trust's spin-off group Hacked Off, repeatedly quoted the figure as he toured TV studios yesterday.
The poll was also reported on the front page of The Guardian.
But another opinion poll – carried out by the same pollsters, on the same subject earlier this month for The Sun – produced the opposite result.
In that survey, when people were asked whether they wanted a regulatory body 'set up through law by Parliament, with rules agreed by MPs', only 24 per cent were in favour.
Almost half of those questioned, 42 per cent, preferred a tough new system of self-regulation by the Press.
The Guardian's report said the Media Standards Trust poll would leave David Cameron facing a public backlash if he fails to act to 'rein in the Press'.
A poll has shown a lack of enthusiasm for the Leveson Inquiry with fewer than half those polled trusted Lord Justice Leveson to make 'fair and effective recommendations' on regulating the Press
The headline figure was based on choosing from just two questions on how newspapers should be regulated.
first, which the 79 per cent favoured, said: 'There should be an
independent body, established by law, which deals with complaints and
decides what sanctions there should be if journalists break agreed codes
The alternative, supported by 9 per cent, said: 'Newspapers should establish their own body which deals with complaints and decides what sanctions there should be if journalists break agreed codes of conduct.'
The key to the MST poll result is the use of the word 'independent' in the first question but not in the second.
In fact, many would argue that any regulator set up by MPs would be subject to political pressure and not be independent at all, whereas a self-regulatory body would have a genuinely independent chairman and a majority of independent members representing the public.
Last night politicians and other pollsters questioned the validity of the Trust's poll and the wording of the key question.
Tory MP Phil Davies said: 'Given the way that the Media Standards Trust have gone about framing the question, that poll is completely and utterly worthless.'
Damian Lyons Lowe, chief executive of pollsters Survation, added: 'YouGov's own previous polling indicated that when a more balanced alternative non-statutory option is put, public opinion is not for MPs to regulate the Press.
'What is clear is that the public are angry about media practices but do not want MPs interfering with the Press.'
A co-founder of YouGov is Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi. He helped organise a letter to The Guardian in which 43 Tories called on the PM to consider passing laws to police the media. They said plans for a tough system of self-regulation did not go far enough.
The MST poll showed a lack of enthusiasm for the Leveson Inquiry. Fewer than half those polled trusted Lord Justice Leveson to make 'fair and effective recommendations' on regulating the Press. This finding was not mentioned in the Guardian.