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).
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Heathrow Airport in row over secret recording of Richmond voter quiz

By JOE MURPHY (Standard)

29.11.2016

Heathrow was embroiled in a by-election row today after quizzing Richmond Park residents on whether a legal challenge to a third runway at the airport was a “waste of time and money”.

Allies of Zac Goldsmith accused the airport of undermining his election campaign by asking questions that could sway voters.

A secret recording of a local voter being interviewed for the telephone survey has been heard by the Standard.

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 man was asked how he would vote in the 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.

Lord True, the Tory leader of Richmond council and a supporter of Mr Goldsmith, said the survey was “an unwelcome intervention” that could “undermine the campaign of Heathrow’s leading opponent”.

He said: “I think it is spectacularly ill-judged and inappropriate. They seem to be very leading questions to me.”

Mr Goldsmith, who is standing as an independent candidate after resigning the seat as a Tory MP, is attempting to turn the election into a referendum on the third runway. He said: “They know that if I lose, they win.”

A Heathrow spokesman denied the claims and said: “On behalf of Heathrow, Populus has polled residents in the 12 constituencies around the airport annually for the past four years.

“This polling assesses local views on a number of topical issues linked to the airport and its expansion. This year’s questions include one about the judicial review that some local authorities have launched against the Government. Heathrow enjoys a constructive relationship with Mr Goldsmith, and we have no intention of interfering in the by-election in Richmond.”

Leading Green party members in Richmond Park are split over co-leader Caroline Lucas’s decision to back  Lib-Dem candidate Sarah Olney. Some support Labour’s Christian Wolmar, and Clare Keogh, who was the Green candidate in Kingston and Surbiton in last year’s general election, attacked the Lib-Dems for their “regressive role with the Tories in government”.

http://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/heathrow-airport-in-row-over-secret-recording-of-richmond-voter-quiz-a3407431.html

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See earlier:

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?   

http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/2014/12/text-of-phone-script-of-heathrow-commissioned-populus-poll-shows-degree-of-bias/