Opinion Poll

In a recent post on the Media Standards Trust website I wrote that eight consecutive opinion polls have shown that the press has been completely out of step with public opinion on press reform. That number can now be revised up to nine, after another Sunday Times/YouGov poll (full results here) shows that the public favours the proposals for the reform of press regulation.

The poll (not reported in the paper) was carried out on Thursday and Friday, and included the following results:

Do you support or oppose the proposed new press regulation system?

Support: 52% 
Oppose: 23%
Don’t know: 25%

Do you think the proposed new regulation system is or is not a threat to press freedom?

Is a threat to press freedom: 27%
Is not a threat to press freedom: 53%
Don’t know: 20%

Do you think it is right or wrong that newspapers who choose not to join the new regulator should face larger damages if they are taken to court over libel, privacy or other civil matters?

Right: 55%
Wrong: 23%
Don’t know: 22%

Do you think the new system will or will not give politicians too much influence in what news the papers report?

Will: 31%
Will not: 41%
Don’t know: 29%

Results show an increase in support for the Royal Charter, from 43% a week ago, to 52%. They also show an increase in respondents who believe that the Royal Charter plan, now set out, is not a threat to press freedom, from 38% who felt that “new laws” would not threaten press freedom, to 53%. This despite the poll being conducted after nearly a week of relentless attacks by most newspapers on any aspect of press reform where division exists, and several publications threatening not to co-operate with any new regulatory system.

Public opinion is vital in this argument; for too long the issue has been cast as a three-way battle between politicians, the press, and pro-reform groups. There is a fourth actor on the stage who has so far been restricted to a walk-on part: the British public, in whose interests regulation must work, yet in whose name the press claims to act while ignoring any inconvenient indications of opinion on the issue. While drawing conclusions from individual polls on complex issues can be tricky, the consistency of polling data (as of now 12 out of 14 polls since May 2012 have been in favour of plans for reform) demonstrates a clear trend.

Yet again, the Sunday Times polling data goes unreported, and on the same day that they published an editorial attacking the cross-party deal (£); and again, the thoughts of the British public are ignored by the newspapers. The legitimacy of press ownership of the language of democracy is undermined when consistent public opinion results are so comprehensively suppressed.

Gordon Ramsay is Research Fellow at the Media Standards Trust. He tweets at @g_n_ramsay.

This post was originally published on the Hacked Off website and is reproduced with permission and thanks