Thursday, August 11, 2005

Why bother doing the poll at all?

Imagine a poll in which the same question was asked in two different ways, producing conflicting results. For example, suppose that, when asked to agree or disagree with the statement:
Multiculturalism makes Britain a better place to live
…62% of the respondents agreed. But when asked to agree or disagree with the statement:
People who come to live in Britain should adopt the values and traditions of
British culture
…58% of the respondents agreed.

How do you report these seemingly imcompatible responses? Well, if you are the BBC, you ignore the conflict and hype the results that you prefer:
UK majority back multiculturalism

The majority of British people think multiculturalism makes the country a better place, a BBC poll suggests.
It isn’t until halfway through the article that we are told the poll indicates a “confused attitude” to the concept of multiculturalism, with only a single, passing reference to the clear majority who favor the adoption of British culture. And there is not any mention whatsoever of the section of the poll in which specific aspects of British culture (such as speaking English, accepting the rights of women as equal citizens, accepting the authority of British institutions) were listed, with respondents being asked to agree or disagree that immigrants should be required to accept it as a condition of citizenship. Since not one of them had less than 50% agreement, and most of them had substantial majorities of between 70% and 90% agreement, it is no surprise that the BBC chose to leave that information out of its article.

Now, to be totally fair, the BBC's Cindi John did produce another article (with an earlier timestamp, by the way) focusing on the “mixed messages” of the poll and pointing out the lack of an objective and consistently accepted definition of the term “multiculturalism”. But that article can only be found as a link in a sidebar comment halfway through the page of the other, “top” story which hypes multiculturalism and was itself linked to on the main BBC page. Besides which, if the BBC knew already that the poll results on British acceptance of multiculturalism were “mixed”, and that there is no agreement over the very meaning of the term – a fact which is established by the presence of the earlier article - why did it subsequently produce and promote a different article definitively proclaiming quite a different result?

I think we all know the answer to that question.

UPDATE: The BBC has now removed the "UK backs multiculturalism" story from its Top Stories, and has placed the "mixed messages" article on to the main page.


Anonymous Richard John said...

I read this yesterday and then watched the BBC flagship news programme make it a major item.

I held my head in my hands.

It is quite obvious to anyone with any intelligence that there is complete confusion as to what multicultural means. I suspect that it has become a term that is linked to mult-racial in a lot of peoples minds. Of course, one can be in favour of a multi-racial society and oppose a multi-cultural one - a viewpoint made by Mrs. Thatcher when this topic was a lot less resonant than it is today.

The fact that the BBC lacks the intellectual rigour to properly discuss the polls findings is a disgrace. What on earth are we paying these people for? You could certainly put it down to political correctness and the BBC's liberal agenda, but I actually think it may also be that a lot of BBC staff are not that bright.

9:45 AM  
Blogger Scott Callahan said...


The poll itself is clearly flawed. It's totally whacky to ask people to agree/disagree over such a nebulous concept as "multiculturalism" without providing some definition on which to base their answers. Also, reading some of the questions, it struck me that not all of the either/or choices were in fact mutually exclusive.


11:19 AM  
Blogger The Christopher said...

I think it demonstrates the lack of understanding of the term "multicultural." I think many people think of it as "multi-racial."

7:07 PM  

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