Last week the Belfast Telegraph published the latest in a series of opinion polls conduced by Public Affairs Company, Inform Communications. They also say that on Tuesday there will be a voting intentions poll conducted by the same firm, which will let us know the state of the parties two days before polling day.
Inform Communications are not a polling company. As far as I can tell they are not a member of the British Polling Council, and they are not Company Partners of the Market Research Society. I have not seen full data sets being disclosed by the company in relation to polls conducted and published, as is industry standard.
Inform according to it’s website has two directors. One is Linda Beers, who writes op-eds for every poll conducted, and the other is Ross Williamson. I know Ross, he was Chairman of Lagan Valley Young Unionists when I joined the UUP. He followed Jeffrey Donaldson to the DUP in 2004, and remains a keen supporter of his, to the extent that he publicly and vocally supports him.
In the 16th April edition of the Ulster Star, the local paper in Lisburn, Ross has a letter published headlined, “Donaldson has demonstrated his commitment to serving his constituents”. In the letter he describes comments by Daphne Trimble as “insulting” and “inaccurate”. He goes on:
“Over the last 13 years Mr Donaldson has demonstrated his commitment to serving his constituents effectively and as a member of the Privy Council it is clear that he has earned the respect of the House of Commons as well as voters………no elected representative has done more to support these [the Maze and John Lewis] projects than Jeffrey Donaldson….Jeffrey Donaldson has worked tirelessly since 1997 to bring investment and employment to Lagan Valley…….It is clear to see that Mrs Trimble, like a number of her colleagues, is a little carried away with the link with the Conservatives despite the fact that we have seen with the debacle over the candidate selection in South Antrim that it is the Tories who are calling the shots in their relationship….unlike Mr Donaldson, I doubt if Mr Cameron’s focus will be on delivering for the people of Lagan Valley.”
The Belfast Telegraph probably always had questions to answer about why they are publishing polls conducted by a company which doesn’t appear to subscribe to any of the polling industry codes of conduct and has no apparent polling experience, but doesn’t the fact that one of two directors of the company is such a vocal supporter of the DUP not raise further questions about the value of these opinion polls?