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Shell to Sea: RTE breach their opinion poll guidelines and fail to publish a key poll finding

Shell to Sea Statement

Shell to Sea deplores the selective and biased account in yesterday’s Irish Independent of the RedC opinion poll. Irish Independent: Pipeline: the people’s verdict

There is an inaccurate and disgraceful manipulation of the opinion poll findings. This represents a new low in media misrepresentation of the issues. It appears that RTE has breached its own guidelines on conducting opinion polls.

Particular care must be taken when joint polls with other organisations are planned. If for example the costs of a poll are shared with a newspaper, programme makers must be aware that the same constraints of impartiality do not apply to newspapers as apply to RTE and that the high-lighting of particular data in the newspapers may reflect on the impartiality of RTE … Programme-makers must be wary of the possibility of data from polling and its interpretation being used in a partisan or propagandist way (RTE Guidelines)

Crucially, a key poll finding which asked respondents their preferred development model for the Corrib gas project was not published. This question showed that 44% supported an off-shore processing of the gas; 29% supported a processing at Bellanaboy; and 17% wanted the project abandoned.

The facts of the opinion poll are as follows:

The Independent reports that 70% ‘back Corrib’. There is no such figure in the data. 32% want protests at Bellanaboy to continue and 38% want them to continue but without an effort to impede worker access. This finding refers to a mode of protest not to a backing of the project.

The Independent reports that 51% say the project should go ahead as planned. They omit to say that the actual question presented to respondents was ‘if there was no other option should the project go ahead’.

The Independent reports that 8% of respondents say that Shell to Sea speak for all of the local community but fails to emphasise that an additional 35% say that the campaign speaks for a majority of local residents.

These serious breaches of editorial balance, combined with the omission of the critical finding that a majority back an off-shore processing raise serious questions of partiality. We call on RTE to publish the poll in its entirety and to explain why it jointly conducted a survey with a newspaper with a known bias on the Corrib gas issue.

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