The National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) has launched a free e-learning course on the Journalism Skills Academy to tackle poor quality reporting on polls.
The British Polling Council and Market Research Society (MRS) enlisted the NCTJ to develop a training programme for journalists on how to read, interpret and report on polling data.
The course has been produced in response to concern expressed by a Select Committee on Political Polling and Digital Media, about the quality of the reporting of polls in the media.
Lord Lipsey, who chaired the Committee, said: “The 2018 Lords Select Committee on Opinion Polls recommended better training in reporting polling for journalists.
“Now, thanks to the Market Research Society, the British Polling Council and the NCTJ, we have the authoritative advice as to how to get it right.
“Generations of journalists to come will benefit from it.”
This free course examines 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.
Professor Sir John Curtice, president of 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.”
In recent years, the reporting of polls has increasingly come under the spotlight, with the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) adjudicating against various news organisations because of misleading reporting of polls.
Jane Frost, chief executive of 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.”
Joanne Butcher, chief executive of 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.
“It has been a pleasure to work in partnership with the British Polling Council and Market Research Society because they share our commitment to transparency, accuracy and best practice. This is what we all want in the reporting of polls and surveys.
“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.”
The Journalism Skills Academy, launched by the NCTJ last year and supported by the Google News Initiative, is a one-stop shop for journalists at all stages of their careers to develop their knowledge and skills.
With multimedia learning materials and interactive quizzes, the online course is designed for both students and working journalists and will take around two hours in total to complete.
Available to study on the platform from today, you can log in or set up a free account to self-enrol on the course. Click here to get started.