The Wokingham Paper

VOTE 2019: ‘Opinion pollsters asked leading questions on Wokingham vote’ claims man who took part in survey

A Woodley by-election will take place at the end of the month.

ONE of the Wokingham residents contacted over the opinion poll showing the Lib Dems breathing down the necks of Sir John Redwood says that the questions he was asked distorted the results. 

The man, who does not wish to be named, said that it “was using polls to get people to vote in a certain way rather than what people are thinking”.

Over the first four days of November, Survation asked more than 400 people how they would vote in a General Election. It had been commissioned by the Liberal Democrats, who had stood one of their newest candidates, Dr Philip Lee, against Sir John. The survey suggested that 42% of Wokingham would back the Conservative, while 38% would vote for the Lib Dem, with Labour a distant third, on 12%. 

The pollsters asked: “If there were a general election held tomorrow and the following candidates stood in your Wokingham constituency, which party would you vote for?” 

Survation invited respondents to choose from all main parties, but the only two named candidates were Sir John and Dr Lee, as Labour, the Greens and Brexit had yet to announce their candidates when the poll was conducted.

“They rang about three-four days ago,” the man told The Wokingham Paper. “The first question they asked me was ‘If the General Election choice was between the Tories and the Lib Dems, how would you vote?’ They then asked about the [2016 EU] referendum and then how I would vote in a General Election. 

“The order placed the Lib Dems either first or second.”

He continued: “The fact they asked that question after whether it was between Lib Dems and the Tories, you don’t forget that.”

He felt that he should have been asked about his general voting intention before he was asked between the two parties. 

“If they’d rung up and said it was between Labour and John Redwood, then the results would have been a lot different.”

The resident said that he hadn’t always voted for Labour and wasn’t sure how residents would vote in the December election. 

“Wokingham is a difficult one to call, I think the Lib Dems could do well, they have been consistent on their Remain credentials, but they made a massive mistake in getting Phillip Lee. They should have got [Evendons councillor] Sarah Kerr in – she’s a decent local person.”

He added: “Labour’s candidate is Annette Medhurst. A woman is a really good look against two Tory blokes.

“But the result is a difficult one to call. It will be close across all three parties, but I think John Redwood will win and second place is not a done and dusted thing.

“If Labour won it would be a real Roy Hattersley moment. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility, but you don’t know what will happen. Coming second last time was a complete surprise to me.”

The concern was echoed by Andy Croy, Wokingham Labour’s chair. 

“In the last two months the Lib Dems have probably spent enough for money for two General Elections in a desperate attempt to foist a second former Tory minister on to Wokingham constituency,” he said. 

“Of course, his name recognition is high. He also gets a boost by being named in the questions rather than being anonymous.

“Now the election has started, the Lib Dems will not be able to spend lots extra money on Lee himself, but we will see lots of material from Swinson – another former minister in a Tory government – as this does not count towards local spending.

“The questions listed on the Survation site do not reflect the entirety of what happened on the calls. A Wokingham Paper columnist has commented on the ‘tone’ of the survey favouring the Tories and LibDems. 

“Another resident has told me quite clearly that he was asked to ‘imagine’ a scenario where it was a close race between Redwood and Lee. 

“Change the wording on that question to a close race between Redwood and Annette and then see what answer you get.

“We will be focusing our campaign on our excellent local candidate, Annette Medhurst, and our full raft of policies. It’s a shame the Lee campaign cannot do the same.

“Electing Annette Medhurst is the only way to bring the real change we need – not swapping around former Tory ministers.”

In today’s Wokingham Paper, Neil Coupe wrote: “This is traditionally a safe seat for the Conservative seat, but I was intrigued to be contacted by a research company, for the first time in my life, who were conducting a polling exercise for the Wokingham constituency.   

“The questions concerned the likelihood of my voting, who I voted for in the referendum, who I voted for in 2017 and who I was planning to vote for in 2019.  

“There was then a question which specifically named Mr Redwood and Dr Lee, and sought specific feedback.  

“Has politics changed so much that for the first time ever there could be a genuinely competitive election in the Wokingham parliamentary constituency?   

“With due respect to the other parties standing, the tone of the interview I had was that the pollsters see this as a competition between the Conservatives and Lib Dems.”

A spokesperson for Survation disputed the claimed that the poll was leading.

They told The Wokingham Paper: “Our telephone interviewers follow a structured script and it is not possible to ask questions in a different order to what is scripted – what is in the data tables.

“Also, calling 400 residents with a biased script would be a sure-fire way to ruin our reputation.”

The Lib Dems were contacted for a comment.

Survation has asked us to make clear that when asking Wokingham residents for their opinions, they made sure that all parties were named for each question. We have corrected the story accordingly and are happy to put the record straight.

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