Yesterday Guido reported on the mystery of the fake polls creating fake news in the Sunday Times. The paper claimed two polls from Survation and Focaldata showed Rishi was the top choice nationally, especially with Red Wall voters. Survation and Focaldata later denied these polls ever existed. The CEO of Focaldata now says he actually forgot* about a poll commissioned by Hanover Communications, and has since provided the data tables which generated the above chart. It shows that, based on the stated “first preference for Prime Minister”, voters nationally prefer Boris and he currently ties with Starmer in Red Wall seats.
Given the Sunday Times article reported the poll as showing Rishi Sunak supposedly had the best chance of reaching voters in the Red Wall seats that flipped to the Tories in 2019, it is striking that the actual data shows Rishi well behind in the Red Wall seats and nationally as the first choice for voters. Whomever span the poll to the Sunday Times emphasised that Rishi was a strong second choice versus Starmer and Boris. Tory MPs know there is no prize under Britain’s electoral system for second choices…
*Justin Ibbett, CEO of Focaldata, who tweeted on Sunday that he had not conducted a poll regarding a “hypothetical leader” has now explained that his firm is primarily a software platform. Customers like Hanover Communications can automate their polling without human intervention from them. Hence his ignorance of a poll his firm conducted.
This weekend’s papers were full of briefing and counter-briefing by friends and foes of Boris. MPs, whatever they may claim, are keen students of polling, particularly if they hold a marginal seat. This sensitive topic was the subject of a Sunday Times article, the reporters having clearly been briefed that Rishi Sunak supposedly has the best chance of reaching voters in the “Red Wall” seats that flipped to the Tories in 2019, and also outstrips his closest rivals in the South Eastern “Blue Wall” Tory heartlands. This seems counter-intuitive, and the spin became even more incredible when the story went on to claim that an unpublished private poll from “Focal Data” for the Hanover Communications public affairs firm had found that Sunak would beat Starmer, whereas Boris would cause an historic record-breaking swing to Labour and put the opposition party in government. The article claimed that:
“The poll echoes a Survation survey for the Labour Party, shared with MPs last week, which found that only by keeping Johnson in place could Starmer win the next election. If the Tories swapped Johnson for Sunak or Liz Truss, Starmer would lose.”
Only one problem with that claim: Survation say there is no such poll. The CEO of Survation Damian Lyons-Lowe tells Guido:
Survation have not conducted “hypothetical leader” private polling for the Labour Party as reported in The Sunday Times… We also don’t view simple “leader name switching voting intention” to be of much predictive value.
The mystery of these unpublished polls gets murkier. The CEO of Focaldata, Justin Ibbett, also denied having conducted such a poll, and points out “if we were briefing it we’d ensure they got our name right, Focaldata is one word.” Who benefits from briefing the Sunday paper most closely read by Tory MPs with fake polls that falsely inflate the electoral prospects of Rishi Sunak?
UPDATE: Justin Ibbett, CEO of Focaldata, who tweeted on Sunday that he had not conducted a poll regarding a “hypothetical leader” now says his firm did:
Survation have re-confirmed that they have not conducted any such poll. We have changed the headline accordingly. Guido has asked for a copy of the Focaldata’s polling data tables which, under British Polling Council rules, have to be supplied within 2 working days of a poll being leaked or published.