NEWS16 December 2021

Training course launched to help journalists interpret polls

Media News UK

UK – The National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) has created a free e-learning course to help journalists read, interpret and report on polling data.

computer tablet on a pile of newspapers

Participants in the course will examine common mistakes, including drawing the wrong conclusions from data, reporting polls based on small or insufficient data samples, not observing margins of error and failing to scrutinise surveys for potential bias.

The course, which has been launched in partnership with the British Polling Council and the Market Research Society (MRS), will be available on the NCTJ’s Journalism Skills Academy.

The Journalism Skills Academy, launched by the NCTJ last year and supported by the Google News Initiative, is a one-stop shop for journalists to develop their knowledge and skills.

The course has been produced in response to concerns raised by the House of Lords Select Committee on Political Polling and Digital Media about the quality of the reporting of polls in the media.

Joanne Butcher, chief executive at the NCTJ, said: “We wanted to tackle poor quality reporting on polls and surveys because of the importance to democracy and the impact it can have on individuals, groups and organisations.

“This free resource is a positive and practical step in ensuring journalists have the skills to report opinion poll data accurately and informatively to the public.”

Jane Frost, chief executive at the MRS, said: “Public trust in research and insight is a major issue at the moment and the misreporting of polls is a big part of the challenge we face to improve that. Misconceptions about polls have a serious knock-on impact on political, commercial and public confidence in our sector.

“Equally, I believe that understanding polls is an important factor in combatting fake news and, as such, I’m very pleased that MRS has launched this new course with the NCTJ and British Polling Council.”

Professor Sir John Curtice, president at the British Polling Council, said: “Polling companies do their best to provide an accurate picture of the public mood – but they are reliant on journalists to provide informed and accurate coverage of their polls.

“This course will help every journalist to make the best use of polls, while avoiding the potential pitfalls.”