IMPRESS, the UK’s independent press regulator, and MRS, have produced guidance on ‘Using surveys and polling data in your journalism'.

The guidance covers different aspects of using quantitative data, including the main challenges journalists can encounter when working with polling and survey data – as well as good practice to responsible reporting. Other issues covered by the guidance include: how to asses and deal with bias, common mistakes, a checklist of what reliable and unreliable data might look like, and further support and guidance information.

Below is the quick guide summary:

MRS-IMPRESS Quick Guide Graphic5

Below is the quick guide summary, which serves as a helpful reminder of basic pitfalls to avoid when using surveys and polling data in journalism.

Jane Frost CBE, Chief Executive of MRS, said: “With a UK general election and US Presidential all looming in the coming year, political polling will once again be thrown into the spotlight as people search for assurances and try to gauge voter sentiment.  

"We encourage all journalists to use this guidance to support their reporting over the coming months, to help them understand research issued by polling companies and ensure that they are reflecting the findings accurately in their reporting.  Let us know how it is helpful as well as where it can be improved – there is no better time to put it to the test.

Lexie Kirkconnell-Kawana, Chief Operating Officer at IMPRESS, said: "The United States, Mexico, South Africa, India and, potentially, the United Kingdom, will all head to the polls for the upcoming 2024 super elections (the greatest voting event in human history), in what is sure to be a huge test of publishers across the globe. As our members, and the wider media industry, prepare to cover one of the most consequential political periods of our time, the stakes are higher than ever: they are the caretakers, responsible for providing news that will ensure electorates are well-informed. This includes sourcing accurate information, fact-checking political claims, reporting on polling and public opinion and holding powerful institutions to account."

Guidance and useful resources for journalists and media

Reporting polls

Understanding polls

Use of Polling Results

JOURNAL: The challenges of accurately measuring public opinion

A special issue of the IJMR, first published in 2019, was dedicated to opinion polling and is available to the public as part of this MRS / IMPRESS Initiative.

Other resources

Watch an interview with Sir John Curtice 

Interviewed by Research Live in December 2017, the political scientist Sir John Curtice discusses people’s sense of identity and how allegiances to political parties are changing in the UK.


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