Inform Communication and opinion polling

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.

Ulster Star letter

Click to enlarge

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?

  • Keithbelfast

    nice spot shillers.

    and the big man himself on their website.

  • sbelfastunionist

    Mmm I wonder what your motivation is here Michael. Are you possibly trying to rubbish the poll before it is published. Are things going that bad. It is possible you know for people to have political allegiances but carry out their business professionally and impartially. I hope Mr Williamson is paying attention to your accusations and if the poll is favourable for the UUP or turns out to be fairly accurate, I hope you will be making an apology.

  • Picture this

    I have heard that this ‘poll’ has sampled less than 200 people per seat – if this is true then the results cannot be considered in any way representative. Even 1% of the registered voters for each seat (on average 600 voters) would not produce a result that could be considered as acceptable from a scientific viewpoint.

    Why are YouGov or MORI not commissioned by NI media to carry out a realisticly sampled poll – I guess Northern Ireland is not deemed suitably important to have real polling done.

  • Cynic


    I don’t think he has to rubbish this ‘poll’. As I commented yesterday on another thread:

    “Indeed, the only newspaper still in thrall to Nick Clegg seems to be that well known source of accurate forecasting the Belfast Telegraph. I see last week they were still flogging the Clegg dead horse (based on a poll partly over 2 weeks old in fast moving race). Still that’s what you get with the Dead Tree Press these days.

    Next week they also promise an in-depth analysis constituency by constituency, apparently based on the same poll. By that time it will be three weeks out of date, based on a sample of perhaps 120 voters/ constituency and slightly less reliable than an Ouija Board.”

    Indeed as the ICM poll in the telegraph quoted yesterday, Clegg is now down another 3 points at 27% – the same level he held before the PMs debates, even after the Labour Car Crash last week.

    Still, this week I am sure that we can look forward to the Bel Tel, NI’s favourite ‘news’ paper’s, stunning insights on each constituency. Today, for example, as I write, they are leading on

    * , Rory McIlroys PGA WIn (happened yesterday)
    * lady pours packet of crisps over herself in rugby protest (picture of lady with large chest and empty crisp packet)
    * was NY Bomb the work of the Taleban? (Everyone in the US Government says ‘no’ but hey, a headline is a headline)
    * is Eddie Irvine richer than Lewis Hamilton?
    * is Alex Ferguson the richest Football Manager?
    * airline tickets at weekend when most people want to fly are more expensive than during week (well, no shit!)
    * Irish student attacked in US has opened her eyes for first time (fair enough – a piece of real news)

    Perhaps we could have a poll on what the Bel Tel is for these days:

    * Government job scheme for Eastern European newspaper vendors in Belfast?
    * Advert sheet for Government jobs?
    * flogging the tat in your attic?
    * lighting the fire?
    * laying down under bark as a mulch in the garden?

    It’s sad to see what was once a great paper reduced to this but sadly it is going to get worse. The Tele makes its money on house car, and job adverts and various notices from Government for which they charge the earth. The new Conservative Government (please note Belfast Telegraph, it will take office on Friday – that’s Friday) has pledged to cut waste by moving all these hugely expensive adverts online on a Government website where they will be easier to find and cost next to nothing.

    With the Housing Market still tanked, car sales in the doldrums for the foreseeable future and an age of austerity upon on, how long will the Bel Tel survive?

    Its sister paper was recently sold for a £1. In a year or so’s time, might 65p literally be the going rate for the Tele?

  • snowstorm

    Inform is a not particularly well known PR company, not a polling outfit. That the Belfast Telegraph publishes these polls on a reular basis is ridiculous. The other papers and broadcast media should ignore the findings as totally unreliable, unverified and actually laughable.

    Why doesn’t Millward Brown or MORI publicly challenge the nature of the findings?

  • Bulmer

    The Tele was never great. It happily went hand in glove with 50 years of Unionism without once ever exposing what was going on around it. So the fact its polls are a bit iffy is hardly a surprise.

    BTW Cameron is unlikely to have the keys to Number 10 according to the other polls. He’s going to be a jilted bride.

  • Ha Ha Ha

    oh dear, seems the uup are in for a hammering

  • Carsons Cat

    You weren’t too bothered when there were other polls heavily trailed in the Bel Tel by the then (now resigned) UUP member Bill White.

    All parties rage against polls when they show something they don’t like, but rarely do they go personal on the people who have carried them out. Seems all this “new politics” the UCUNFers talk about isn’t quite the hearts and flowers that Dave would have us think.

    You mightn’t like the results – but you won’t be able to spin them come early Friday morning.