Which broadcaster is seen as most impartial?

BMG has some polling just out this morning on broadcast media impartiality. Its headline is that ITV is the most likely to be seen as neutral, with 45 per cent saying it’s politically balanced. Of course, there is plenty of nuance, with all broadcasters generating a lot of respondents saying “don’t know”.

That has an interesting consequence – more people (40 per cent) think the BBC is biased than any other broadcaster mentioned, yet the BBC has the smallest gap (4 points) between those that think it’s biased to the left (22 per cent) and those that think it’s biased to the right (18 per cent).

On that measure, four of the five broadcasters were perceived as leaning more to the left than the right (Channel 4 12 points, RT 11, ITV 6, BBC 4) while Sky News was 6 points more likely to be viewed as biased to the right than the left by the public.

Importantly, however, “politically balanced/neutral” was most popular response among those with an opinion, for every broadcaster besides RT. You can read BMG’s writeup here.

Is the broadcast media biased?

Yesterday evening the Times published a very interesting piece from Sam Coates on the importance of Northern Ireland (and the Irish border to Brexit). The whole thing is worth a read, but one thing that’s got the psephosphere talking is a LucidTalk poll showing a narrow lead (though not an absolute majority) for a united Ireland, in Northern Ireland.

The first thing to note is that this poll was done in December (and published at the time), so this is not news by any stretch. The poll (which was commissioned by GUE/NGL, the EU Parliament group of Sinn Fein) caused quite a stir at the time. Here is the full question wording:

In the context of a ‘Hard Brexit’ and Northern Ireland leaving the EU with no deal on the border, the Good Friday Agreement or citizen’s rights; if the question used in a NI Border Poll Referendum was: Should Northern Ireland REMAIN in the European Union through joining the Republic of Ireland or LEAVE the European Union by staying in the United Kingdom? If a NI Border Poll Referendum was held tomorrow (using this question) which way would you vote?

Remain in European Union by joining the Irish Republic in a United Ireland 47.9
Leave the European Union by staying in the United Kingdom 45.4

Apart from being incredibly long, two things jump out from this question – the hypotheticals and the conflation of two separate questions (the border an EU membership).

On the hypotheticals, it’s worth remembering that – though the context is quite different – Scots were sometimes asked (before and after their independence referendum) how they would vote in hypothetical situations (such as the Conservatives winning the 2015 election outright or the UK voting for Brexit). In each case, the polls suggested a substantial swing, and in each case the hypothetical scenario did in fact materialise and yet the swing did not.

And, as others have noted, the wording references the border and the EU together. That’s interesting as a “forced choice” experiment, but unless you think the question wording in a border poll would actually be the above (or something remotely similar), it isn’t really that helpful in measuring where public opinion stood late last year.

If fact, as I noted at the time, it was controversial enough that Bill White, the pollster who fielded it, caveated it:

If you’re not used to hearing pollsters talk about their work, I can assure you that the above is a pretty strong caveat. For comparison, another LT poll from a couple of months earlier, using a much more plausible question wording, gave the unionists a 56-34 lead. So while unionists should never be complacent, this is very likely to be a better measure of where things stand.

Also worth a look is this long term chart from Stan Anson, which suggests that the well-known demographic shifts don’t seem to have helped the nationalist side all that much:

Back in GB, council by-elections return tomorrow, and Andrew Teale has previewed the first three of them, while Sienna Rodgers has some interesting analysis of the dynamics within Labour ahead of its Lewisham East selection meeting on Saturday.

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