Text of phone script of Heathrow commissioned Populus poll shows degree of bias

In July to September 2014 Heathrow commissioned yet another telephone poll by Populus, on attitudes to its 3rd runway plans.  The poll showed 49% net in favour, 32% net opposed and 19% neither support nor oppose. The figures are broadly similar to polls in March 2014 (48% support, 34% against, 18% unsure), November 2013 or May 2013 and there was 50% support from a Populus poll in 2007.  Though Populus publish details of the numbers, they do not publish the script used for the phone interview.  An enterprising resident, irritated by the polls, noted the wording when telephoned – which indicates how much bias there is in the way the poll was conducted.  There was no mention that the poll was paid for by Heathrow.  The most dubious question is number 11 which asks: “Are you more or less inclined to support expansion of HRW (or maybe it was a 3rd runway?) knowing that it will mean:  11.1) An additional 41,000 jobs by 2030 (options more, less, or no difference); 11.2) Doubling youth training schemes from 5,000 to 10,000 places (options more, less, or no difference);  11.3) Reduction in number of people impacted by daytime aircraft noise (options more, less, or no difference);  11.4) Reduction in night time disturbance [not specific] (options more, less, or no difference).   Unbiased?

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Heathrow has used results from telephone surveys it has commissioned from the polling firm, Populus, to claim around 50% support for a 3rd runway but questions have been persistently asked about the script Populus has used.  An enterprising resident had the presence of mind to take detailed notes of how the questions were asked, when she was phoned.

Her notes are below.

 

Heathrow’s Populus Survey: the script

From HACAN

http://hacan.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Populus-Survey-the-script.pdf
Judge for yourself whether these questions may lead you to give particular
answers:

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“I just answered the Populus Survey. I made notes – not exact, but they might help.
I had already been called by them but asked them to call back as it wasn’t convenient
at the time, and they did…

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OPENING: Spiel about this being a survey about local issues. No mention of Heathow

1) What age group are you? (banded)
2) Many local people are saying they are unlikely to vote in the next general election.
How likely are you to vote, when 1 = not vote and 10 = definitely vote?
3) Which party will you vote for: LibDem, Lab, Cons, Other, Pref not to say? (I said
prefer not to say)
4) Did you vote in the last general election in May 2010?
5) How did you vote? (Lib Dem, Lab, Cons, Other, Pref not to say)
6) Do you have any of your family members who work for or used to work for HRW?
7) Do you have friends and/or neighbours who work for or used to work for HRW?
8) Have you worked at HRW or at a company linked to HRW?
9) How positive or negative do you feel about HRW, where 0 = very negative, 5 =
neutral, and 10 = very positive?

The Heathrow press release says the text is: “Taking everything into account, based on what you have seen, read and heard, how positive or negative would you say you feel towards Heathrow Airport?”

10) The two runways at HRW currently operate at maximum capacity. Do you
support a 3rd runway (choice of 5, from strongly support, somewhat support, neutral,
somewhat oppose, to strongly oppose)? (I went for strongly oppose).

The Heathrow press release says the question is: “Taking everything you know into account, do you currently support or oppose expanding Heathrow?”

11) Are you more or less inclined to support expansion of HRW (or maybe it was a
3rd runway?) knowing that it will mean:
11.1) An additional 41,000 jobs by 2030 (options are more, less, or no difference – I
went for NO DIFF, because I am strongly opposed to expansion and not open to being
coerced by propaganda)
11.2) Doubling youth training schemes from 5,000 to 10,000 places (same options – I
went for ‘no difference’.)
11.3) Reduction in no of people impacted by daytime aircraft noise (I said that this
was an unclear statement as wasn’t geographically specific, so again went for ‘no
difference’)
11.4) Reduction in nighttime disturbance (checked wording on this as less specific
than last question – pointed that out and went for ‘no difference’ again. Still opposed!)

12) To what extent do you agree with the statement that ‘HRW is working to keep
noise from flights to a minimum? 13) Who do you hear more about HRW from: opponents of HRW, people in the community or HRW? (not sure of exact wording of this question, apologies.)

14) Do you know your MP and their views on HRW expansion? Either; yes, they
oppose it; yes, they support it; don’t know

15) How likely are you to vote for them if they oppose HRW expansion? (lot more
likely, more likely, neither, less likely, much less likely – I went for lot more likely*)

16) How likely are you to vote for them if they support HRW expansion? (lot more
likely, more likely, neither, less likely, much less likely – I went for lot less likely.*

*I think these two questions are about understanding the pressure MPs are under from
their constituents and what lobbying is required, so think it’s important to be strong in
our views… What do you think?)

17) Question on ethinicity – said ‘prefer not to answer’
18) Working status – about 10 options
19) Your postcode – I gave it. They’ve got it a load of times direct from me anyway!

The interviewer was very helpful. They don’t have any info about it at the call centre
allegedly. He confirmed we couldn’t have the script and he couldn’t confirm the client
(although the website appears to).

He did give me the number of the Market Research Society (freephone 0500 396999),
but wasn’t sure what info they could really give me… Our phone number is exdirectory,
so I think I’ve been contacted because I’ve completed the form… ”

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Heathrow says:

“Poll: More local residents support expansion at Heathrow than oppose”

  • 49% support Heathrow expansion, 32% oppose
  • 59% feel positively about the airport, only 6% feel negative
  • 25% more likely to vote for MP if they support expansion, 17% more likely if they oppose expansion

More local residents in west London, Spelthorne, Slough and Windsor support the expansion of Heathrow than oppose according to new research from independent polling company Populus. 49% support support expansion and 32% oppose.

The poll is the biggest undertaken locally since the Airports Commission was formed. At least 1,000 residents in each constituency were polled, 9,670 in total.

As well as general support, 25% of local residents are more likely to vote for a Parliamentary candidate if they support expansion. 17%are likely to vote for them if they are against the plans. The research further demonstrates support for growing Heathrow to connect the UK to global growth.

59% of voters said they feel positive towards Heathrow, while 34% feel neutral and just 6% feel negative towards the airport.

The research is significant because it covers a statistically representative sample of those who stand to be most affected by Heathrow expansion and who have traditionally been perceived as opposed to growth. It confirms that a large proportion of people in the surrounding constituencies support the airport and its plans for a third runway.

Only one constituency – Richmond – had more residents who opposed expansion than supported it. All other areas saw many more people supporting than opposing a third runway.

John Holland-Kaye, Chief Executive at Heathrow said:

“The whole country can get behind this plan. Expansion at Heathrow will connect all of Britain to global growth, and keep Britain at the heart of the global economy. We have listened and improved our proposal so that it benefits local communities. Expansion at Heathrow can deliver 50,000 new local jobs, tackle youth unemployment and add 5,000 new apprenticeships.

“We are offering a fair deal by significantly increasing our funding for compulsory purchase and noise insulation for local residents. Noise at the airport will reduce compared to today and we can stay within the UK’s environmental limits.”

Notes to editors

Populus interviewed at least 1,000 adult residents (18+) in nine constituencies local to Heathrow Airport by telephone between 22 July and 7 September 2014.

An additional 666 residents were interviewed in the London Borough of Hillingdon (across two constituencies: Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner; and Hayes and Harlington) in order to provide 1,670 interviews in the borough.

In total, 9,670 residents were interviewed.

Results were weighted to be demographically representative of all adults in each constituency and borough. Constituency results were also weighted by past vote to be politically representative of all adults.

Selected questions:

Taking everything you know into account, do you currently support or oppose expanding Heathrow?

Total Slough Feltham and Heston Spelthorne Windsor Hillingdon Brentford and Isleworth Ealing Central and Acton Uxbridge and South Ruislip Hammersmith Richmond Park
Positive 49% 60% 53% 52% 49% 50% 49% 49% 49% 45% 37%
Negative 32% 20% 31% 32% 34% 31% 37% 31% 31% 30% 45%
Neutral 19% 21% 16% 16% 17% 20% 14% 20% 20% 24% 18%

Taking everything into account, based on what you have seen, read and heard, how positive or negative would you say you feel towards Heathrow Airport? On a scale of 0-10, where 0 means very negative, 10 means very positive, and 5 is neutral.

Total Slough Feltham and Heston Spelthorne Windsor Hillingdon Brentford and Isleworth Ealing Central and Acton Uxbridge and South Ruislip Hammersmith Richmond Park
Positive 59% 62% 61% 65% 58% 63% 55% 58% 64% 54% 47%
Negative 6% 4% 6% 5% 7% 5% 8% 6% 4% 5% 12%
Neutral 34% 34% 32% 29% 34% 31% 37% 35% 32% 40% 39%

If your local MP opposed/supported Heathrow expansion, would it make you more or less likely to vote for that candidate, or would it have no impact?

Total Slough Feltham and Heston Spelthorne Windsor Hillingdon Brentford and Isleworth Ealing Central and Acton Uxbridge and South Ruislip Hammersmith Richmond Park
More likely if supported 25% 31% 33% 26% 22% 27% 24% 23% 29% 23% 15%
More likely if opposed 17% 11% 19% 14% 15% 15% 22% 15% 15% 16% 24%

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The Populus results of the July-September 2014 survey

http://www.populus.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Heathrow_Jul+Aug14_BPC.pdf   for larger version

Populus poll Heathrow July to Sept 2014


 

See also:

Putting the Heathrow Opinion Polls into Perspective

Blog by John Stewart

6.5.2014

Last week Heathrow Airport   claimed that there was more support now for a 3rd runway than when it was proposed by the last Labour Government.

It cited a recent opinion poll of more than 1,000 local residents by Populus which showed 48% are in favour of a third runway while 34% oppose. http://www.populus.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Heathrow-Borough-Poll-March-2014.pdf

The reality is different.  HACAN unearthed a Populus poll which revealed that in 2007 50% supported a 3rd runway and 30%  were against.  http://www.populus.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/download_pdf-170907-BAA-Heathrow-Future-Heathrow-Poll.pdf

 In fact, as we blogged last week, a third of people stubbornly refuse to back expansion at Heathrow.  Although some of the other figures fluctuate, the common thread in the Populus polls is the 30% or so of people who oppose expansion.

Here are the last three polls:

March 2014:  http://www.populus.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Heathrow-Borough-Poll-March-2014.pdf and

Nov 2013:  http://www.populus.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Heathrow_Poll_Nov131.pdf

May 2013:  http://www.populus.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/Heathrow%20Airport%20Local%20Resident%20Research.pdf

 Heathrow Airport must be concerned that after more than a year of concerted, expensive and high-profile campaigning support for a third runway is little different than it was at the height of the protest six or seven years ago.

And, indeed, the referenda and surveys that were carried out by Hillingdon, Richmond and Hounslow show even less support for expansion.  Around 72% of residents opposed a 3rdrunway: http://www.richmond.gov.uk/100000_say_no_to_heathrow_expansion

 There has been no UKIP-style surge in support for a 3rd runway.

 Heathrow have only one year in which to change this.  The airport will be acutely aware that they lost the battle for a 3rd runway last time around.  They lost because the residents who opposed expansion in the 7 boroughs closest to the airport (over 525,000 people in total) were able to forge an effective alliance with residents further afield, environmentalists, politicians from across the political spectrum as well as some key business people and trade unions.

 Heathrow Airport will know that, unless they can shift opinion in the next year, the odds against a third runway being built will lengthen…….whatever recommendation the Airports Commission comes up with in summer 2015. 

 http://hacan.org.uk/blog/?p=281

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The Populus website says:   http://www.populus.co.uk/Poll/3395/

This poll covered attitudes towards Heathrow Airport.

Populus interviewed at least 1,000 adult residents (18+) in nine constituencies local to Heathrow Airport by telephone between 22 July and 7 September 2014.

An additional 666 residents were interviewed in the London Borough of Hillingdon (across two constituencies: Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner; and Hayes and Harlington) in order to provide 1,670 interviews in the borough. In total, 9,670 residents were interviewed.

Results were weighted to be demographically representative of all adults in each constituency and borough. Constituency results were also weighted by past vote to be politically representative of all adults.

Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. For a full description of the methods we use, please click here.

 

 


March 2014 poll

 http://www.populus.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Heathrow-Borough-Poll-March-2014.pdf   for a larger version

Heathrow populus poll March 2014

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November 2013 poll

http://www.populus.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Heathrow_Poll_Nov131.pdf    for a larger versionHeathrow populus poll Nov 2013

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May 3013 poll

http://www.populus.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/Heathrow%20Airport%20Local%20Resident%20Research.pdf   for a larger version

Heathrow populus  May 2013


Earlier:

Populus surveys done for Heathrow show only 48% back its expansion (26% back it strongly, 23% oppose it strongly)

April 30, 2014

To quote Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli; “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.” And so it is when opinion polls are done, and the organisation that commissions the poll wants a particular result out of it. Heathrow often gets Populus to ask people in boroughs near Heathrow what they think. They usually ask similar questions each time. One asks “Taking everything you know into account, do you currently support or oppose expanding Heathrow?” Over all boroughs surveyed, 26% strongly supported this; 22% somewhat supported; 11% somewhat opposed; 23% strongly opposed. See link So 48% support, and 34% oppose, with 18% neither supporting nor opposing. The figures were broadly the same a year earlier (with 46% supporting, but 43% opposing, and 10% neither supporting nor opposing). Heathrow says this is large, and growing, support. It is difficult to interpret the figures, as Populus only publishes a small bit of its results, with no methodology, such as the script of the interviewer, tone of the questions etc. Questions need to be asked about what information is given to people by Populus before they are asked their views.

Click here to view full story…

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