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A shocking case of media bias

John Rentoul

farage Nigel 300x168 A shocking case of media biasThe UK Independence Party has the support of 8 per cent of voters on average, while 9 per cent say that they intend to vote for the Liberal Democrats. Yet UKIP is given much less than eight-ninths of the attention given to the junior government party.

I include me in that. I have never devoted a newspaper column to the party, while I have often written about Nick Clegg and his party. I may have mentioned UKIP in passing, usually to decry the argument of some Conservatives that their party should move to the right to pick up UKIP votes, or to suggest that UKIP represents a strain of anti-politics that Labour should try to understand better. But treat it as the near-equal of the third party in British politics? Not me.

Nor the BBC, which I think has some formula about actual votes cast in general elections, in which case the UKIP:LibDem ratio should be 3:24. But that is rather backward-looking, is it not? Should the public service broadcaster not take account of the state of public opinion as it is now, rather than two-and-a-half years ago? And what is the BBC going to do when UKIP comes second in share of the vote in the European Parliament elections in 2014?

Nor nearly everyone else in the journalism trade. For example, an Opinium poll for The Observer on 7 October had UKIP on 11 per cent, more than the 9 per cent support for the Liberal Democrats, yet UKIP was not mentioned in the newspaper’s report of the poll.

The estimable Anthony Wells, who runs the UK Polling Report website, records the figures for the three main parties in all his main data collections, including his rolling poll average, from which I take the current 9 per cent figure for the Lib Dems. But the 8 per cent average for UKIP I have had to work out for myself by going back to each pollster’s raw data. (Update after Wednesday’s TNS-BMRB poll putting UKIP on 10 per cent: my estimate of an average 8 per cent was unaffected by whether or not I excluded a Survation poll on 21 September, which put UKIP on 12 per cent. Survation prompt with UKIP’s name, unlike all other pollsters, which may seem like a good idea, but in the past unprompted estimates of UKIP support have been fairly accurate.)

I therefore vow to end this disgraceful media bias. I shall not mention the Liberal Democrats again.

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