NEWS20 May 2010

CBC in the clear over complaints of potential polling bias

Government North America

CANADA— Public broadcaster CBC is in the clear over allegations of potential bias in its opinion polling process after one of the research firms it employs was wrongly accused of acting as an adviser to a political party.

CBC received more than 800 complaints against Frank Graves of Ekos Research – one of four polling firms that provide data for CBC News – claiming that he was advising the Liberal party while producing polls for CBC News.

The complaints started after Graves was quoted in the Globe and Mail newspaper as saying “I told them…” in a reference to the Liberal party, which led some people to believe that he and Ekos Research were acting as political advisers to the party.

In a note to CBC ombudsman Vince Carlin, Graves acknowledged how his comments could have been perceived but stressed: “Ekos has never worked for the Liberal party, or any other, and I am not an ‘adviser’ to the party. My remark that I had ‘told’ the Liberals referred to the occasional informal conversations that I have had with Liberals, as I have had with members of various parties.”

The complaints were led by John Walsh, president of the Conservative Party of Canada, who said: “The fact that our national broadcaster is using a pollster that is also advising the Liberal Party of Canada raises serious questions about the impartiality of Canada’s publicly funded national broadcaster.”

He went on to say: “Why is a pollster who conducts polling for the CBC also giving partisan advice to the Liberal Party of Canada?”

In his investigation into the complaints Carlin spoke to Jennifer McGuire, general manager and editor in chief of CBC News, who said that any polls the station uses are “reviewed and evaluated” by an internal research team to ensure balance and fairness.

She said that all polling firms the station works with are required to make a specific declaration that they are not affiliated to any political party. “We have reviewed this important point with Mr Graves and confirmed that no client relationship with the Liberal Party of Canada exists,” she said.

Concluding his investigation, Carlin decided that there had been “no violation of CBC’s journalistic standards and practices”. He added: “Mr Graves is not a CBC journalist, but someone whose company is contracted to perform research to accepted standards. There is no serious suggestion that this process has been skewed.”