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Monday, 27 April 2015

Pollsters' vision excludes those offline?

By Dude Swheatie of Kwug

Pollsters exclude offline folk

Can canvassing methods used by opinion pollsters such as YouGov be linked to increasing disengagement of disadvantaged voters? I think so, especially after having attended over three years of weekly meetings of Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group and read a recent New Statesman article that actually argues tha pollsters are not too powerful, Living by Numbers: YouGov and the Power of the Pollsters.(1)

Before online communication became more the norm than the exception, the opinion pollster companies in the UK used the landline telephone as their main interface with the electorate. That methodology excluded people for whom the landline telephone was not really financially viable and people whose security of tenure was also a major problem.(2)

Then came online canvassing of pollsters. That creates problems for something between 1/10 and 1/20 of people who come through the doors of a Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group meeting who cannot access a computer because of, say, epilepsy.

Leading pollster company YouGov's modern canvassing methods are now exclusively online and government funding for charities and public libraries has plummeted. Thus accessing the interactive world has become increasingly more difficult for such offline voters.

YouGov's strapline is, "What the world thinks." (3) Its Mission Statement reads:
“It is our ambition to supply a live stream of continuous, accurate data and insight into what people are thinking and doing all over the world, all of the time, so that companies, governments and institutions can better serve the people that sustain them”(4)
The proposed Universal Credit registration method not only cuts DWP staff, but also cuts off folk who cannot access the online only registration method that includes having to sit at a computer for however long it takes the claimant to complete the application to register for Universal Credit.(5)

So how inclusive is YouGov's vision of 'the world'? And what is their attitude toward people who cannot access Universal Credit online?

And will such blinkered vision and an obsession toward government cost-cutting lead ultimately to online-only voting, that excludes those who cannot access the online world?

How can we best mobilise the offline voters in the 2015 UK General Election to help create a less exclusive world?


(1) http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2015/04/living-numbers-yougov-and-power-pollsters
(2) Input from a business banker to a Business Enterprise Training course I attended as jobseeker around 1991 emphasised the importance of a loan applicant having a landline telephone when they evaluated a loan application. Their acronym for assessing the credit-worthiness of the applicant was 'PAPERS':
Rate (of interest) and
Possession of a landline suggested that the applicant intended to remain at the address serviced by that landline for some time, he argued, and that the applicant was thus less likely to be a 'fly by night' customer.
(3) http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2015/04/living-numbers-yougov-and-power-pollsters
(4) ibid
(5) http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/sep/10/universal-credit-benefits-disaster

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