Demonstration of the pitfalls of polls: 2 polls. Same place. Same issue. Utterly different results

It is curious that the Hillingdon survey recently sent questionnaires to all 205,634 residents on their electoral role, and got 80,457 responses. Of these responses, 66% said No in reply to the question: “Are you in favour of more flights into and out of Heathrow? Yes/no”.  Richmond Council recently also sent out 136,880 questionnaires, and 58,953 responses were received, of which 82% replied NO to the same question.  Link to Hillingdon and Richmond poll results . However, in the Populus poll for Heathrow,  in response to the question: “Taking everything you know into account, do you currently support or oppose expanding Heathrow?” they say that of the 1,000 or so Hillingdon residents questionned, 47% were opposed and of the 1,000 or so residents in Richmond, 51% were opposed. So with a survey size some 80 times larger, the Hillingdon response was substantially more negative (66%  cf. 47%) and with a survey size some 60 times larger, the Richmond response was also substantially more negative, (82% cf. 51%). 



Heathrow poll ‘shows most residents back expansion’

by Nicholas Cecil (Evening standard)

12 June 2013

Residents who live near Heathrow are slightly more likely to be in favour of expansion than be opposed, according to a large poll commissioned by the airport.

The Populus survey of more than 6,000 people found that 46% supported a bigger Heathrow, compared with 43% who were against expansion.

Communities with more people who worked at the airport were found to be more in favour of expansion.

In Feltham and Heston, 51 per cent backed expansion, with 38 per cent against, in Spelthorne the breakdown was 48-36, in Windsor 48-39, Brentford and Isleworth 46-43, Hillingdon 44-47 and the least support was in Richmond Park [sic. Richmond Park. Not Richmond. See the Populus findings ].  with 50 per cent opposing a bigger Heathrow compared with 39 per cent in favour.

Clare Harbord, Heathrow’s director of corporate affairs, said: “This research shows that most local residents back Heathrow. Anti-Heathrow campaigners claim that everyone living near Heathrow is opposed to the airport, but that simply isn’t true.”

John Stewart, chairman of anti- Heathrow expansion group HACAN, challenged the findings. He said: “This poll is a little bit out of kilter with the majority of polls which have been done which show overall opposition to a third runway at Heathrow.”

Heathrow bosses say 114,000 jobs in the area depend on the airport. It is to fund a “new community campaign” to argue for the benefits of expansion.

Populus interviewed more than 6,000 adults between 27th Feb and 4th May. 




CATI Fieldwork : 27th February – 4th May 2013


The questions in the Populus survey:  link

Q1a. Thinking specifically about your own constituency and the candidates who are likely to stand there, what will be the MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE in determining which party’s candidate you are likely to vote for at the next General Election?

Q1b. And what will be the SECOND MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE?

Q1c. And what will be the THIRD MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE?

Q2. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following [three] statements [below] about Heathrow?

For me and my family the benefits of Heathrow generally outweigh the disadvantages.


For my local community  the benefits of Heathrow generally outweigh the disadvantages. as a country


For the country as a whole  the benefits of Heathrow generally outweigh the disadvantages.

Q3. 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.

Q4. Taking everything you know into account, do you currently support or oppose expanding Heathrow?  [Strongly support, somewhat support, neither support nor oppose, strongly oppose, somewhat oppose].

And to which of these ethnic groups do you consider you belong …

Which of the following best describes your current working status?

The age and gender.




New polling shows residents back Heathrow

12 June, 2013  (Heathrow airport press release)

New polling of the communities around Heathrow shows that more people back Heathrow than oppose it. The findings have prompted Heathrow to announce that it will provide funding for a community campaign to give a voice to the hundreds of thousands of residents who back Heathrow.

The survey, which was conducted by Populus, is a representative sample of more than 6,000 residents from Hounslow, Richmond, Hillingdon, Windsor and Spelthorne. It found:

  • 60% of residents feel positive towards Heathrow compared to just 6% who feel negatively
  • 66% say that the benefits of Heathrow outweigh the disadvantages for their community
  • 46% support expanding Heathrow, compared to 43% who oppose expansion
  • Heathrow is the 12th most important issue is determining which candidate to vote for at the next general election, with jobs and the economy the most important issue.


The area with the most aircraft noise, Feltham and Heston, is the area which is most supportive of the airport expanding. 51% of people in Feltham and Heston support expanding Heathrow compared to 39% who are opposed.

Heathrow Director of Corporate Affairs, Clare Harbord said

“This research shows that most local residents back Heathrow. Anti-Heathrow campaigners claim that everyone living near Heathrow is opposed to the airport, but that simply isn’t true.

“The recent report by MPs on Parliament’s Transport Committee lays bare what the Mayor’s plans for a new airport would do to this region: it says an estuary hub airport would require the closure of Heathrow – a course of action that would have unacceptable consequences for individuals, businesses in the vicinity of the existing airport and the local economy.”

“We believe that local jobs and businesses are worth fighting for. It’s time to give people who agree a voice in this debate. It’s time to back Heathrow”

114,000 jobs in the area depend on Heathrow, representing 1 in 5 local jobs in the five boroughs closest to Heathrow. If Heathrow closed then people directly employed at the airport would have to be re-located or would be made redundant. It would be Britain’s worst ever mass redundancy with job losses greater than when MG Rover closed its factory at Longbridge in 2005 (6,500 jobs), or during the worst year of UK pit closures in 1984 (30,000 jobs).

The results of the polling has prompted Heathrow to announce that it will provide seed funding for a new community campaign to provide a voice for the thousands of local people who support Heathrow. Plans for the campaign are in their early stages but it will seek to establish itself and start identifying and recruiting support before the end of the year.

 [Comment: sounds like an ‘astroturf’ campaign i.e a commercial vested interest paying for an artificial grassroots campaign. AW ]

Notes to editors

  • Populus interviewed at least 1,000 adult residents (18+) in each of five constituencies and one London Borough local to Heathrow Airport by telephone between 27 February and 4 May 2013. In total, 6,003 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.
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  • By contrast:
  • Over 100,000 residents of Hounslow, Hillingdon and Richmond vote in local polls against a 3rd Heathrow runway or more flights

    May 21, 2013     Three of the local council areas most affected by Heathrow aircraft noise – Richmond, Hillingdon and Hounslow – recently carried out referendums of their residents on the subject of Heathrow growth. All three ended on 16th May. In total, well over 140,000 people responded to the polls. They voted overwhelmingly against expansion of the airport, against a new runway, and against more flights over Londoners. In the Hounslow poll, 72% of residents said they are against expansion, but 64% said they did not want to see a new hub airport built if it meant losing Heathrow. 83% of Hounslow residents were in favour of a night flight ban (11pm to 7pm) and 94% wanted better noise insulation for schools and residents living under the flight path. In the Richmond and the Hillingdon polls, 72% were against a 3rd runway, and 73% were against increasing the number of flights. The Standard says the findings of the poll are bound to be exploited by councillors as they go to the voters in next spring’s local elections. Heathrow sought vainly to rubbish the polls by saying they were voting on an outdated 3rd runway proposal.      Click here to view full story…


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