Heathrow leading questions in Populus telephone poll show how results are biased
Heathrow has paid Populus to carry out surveys across various parts of London and surrounding areas for several years, trying to get results that show high levels of support for Heathrow. Though all results are published, in the proper manner, the details of the phone script for the interviews is never given. People interviewed have expressed the opinion that it is biased. Now the Evening Standard reports on a recording of a local voter being interviewed for the telephone survey. The interviewer is heard pointing out that legal battles could be “potentially costly” and that Heathrow “has committed to reduce the number of people significantly impacted by aircraft noise, extend the ban on night flights and play their part to improve local air quality”. The interviewee was asked how they would vote in the Richmond by-election and whether a legal challenge being mounted by four local authorities was a “waste of time and money” or a “reasonable” use of taxpayers’ funds. This appears to be not only biased interviewing, likely to skew the results, but also intended to reduce the vote for Zac Goldsmith. Zac called a by-election on the Heathrow runway issue, and Heathrow would see it as a positive sign for them – they want Zac to be beaten (by-election on 1st December).
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 Though Populus publish details of the numbers, they do not publish the script used for the phone interview.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?