Former YouGov staffer retracts claim he was ‘banned’ from releasing 2017 general election polling

UPDATE: Chris Curtis has since issued a clarification on the claims he made regarding YouGov's polling during the 2017 general election.

Jeremy Corbyn speaking at a rally

UPDATE: Chris Curtis has since issued a clarification on the claims he made regarding YouGov’s polling during the 2017 general election. Curtis has said, “In a purely personal capacity, yesterday I tweeted about my time at YouGov, stating that YouGov banned us from publicising a 2017 poll which Jeremy Corbyn because it was too positive about Labour. While this was not my view at the time, I now accept YouGov’s position that in fact the results were pulled because of concerns other members of the team had about the methodology. I also believe then, as I do now, that the methodology was acceptable and the survey was conducted to the highest standard. Just like YouGov, I would not be willing to put my name to any research that did not meet these standards. Also, as I later sought to make clear I did not intend to allege that Nadhim Zahawi played any role in this decision. I am happy to clarify the position and apologise to YouGov for any confusion caused.” Curtis has since deleted his original tweets.

A former staff member for YouGov has claimed that a story on polling in the 2017 general election was was ‘banned’ because it was ‘too positive about Labour’. Chris Curtis, who now works for rival pollster Opinium, made the claims in a Twitter thread to mark the five year anniversary of the 2017 general election.

According to Curtis, YouGov conducted a poll on a general election debate which Jeremy Corbyn participated in. Curtis claims that the poll found “Corbyn won by a country mile”, and that “one in four Tory voters thought he was best”.

However, Curtis goes on to say that, “despite having written the story and designed the charts, we were banned from releasing the story because it was too positive about Labour.”

YouGov has since disputed the Curtis’ recounting of the story. In a statement released on Twitter, the polling firm said Curtis’ allegation was “incorrect”. Instead, YouGov has claimed that, “When reviewed by others in the YouGov political team, it was clear that the sample of people who watched the debate significantly over-represented Labour voters from the previous election”. The company’s statement goes on to argue, “The idea that YouGov would supress a poll that was “too positive about Labour” is plainly wrong – as evidenced by the fact that in the 2017 election YouGov published an MRP model showing Labour doing significantly better compared to most other polling organisations.”

Curtis has also responded to YouGov’s statement. He wrote that, “On the methodology of the poll, it was done using the standard YouGov methodology that they use all the time.” He also claims that the poll he alleges was ‘banned’ used the same methodology as a poll that was released on the 2019 Conservative Party leadership election, and that he didn’t recall it being mentioned that Labour voters were more likely to have watched the 2017 general election debate than Tory voters.

Another significant claim made by Curtis in his original thread is that YouGov’s founder – Nadhim Zahawi – who became a Tory MP in 2010 called up the company’s CEO – Stefan Shakespeare – to inform him that he would be calling for Shakespeare’s resignation if YouGov’s MRP polling which predicted a hung parliament was wrong.

Zahawi has not denied making the call. Instead he referred to it as “joke between two good friends. Zahawi said, “This was clearly a joke between two good friends, who had previously been business partners for several years. Stephan continues to be one of my closest friends and at no point since leaving YouGov in 2010 have I had any influence on the company. Suggesting otherwise is untrue.”

Chris Jarvis is head of strategy and development at Left Foot Forward

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