Telegraph accused of mis-reporting coronavirus poll to support government agenda on easing lockdown

PUBLISHED: 09:46 27 April 2020 | UPDATED: 10:00 27 April 2020

The front page of the Telegraph as Boris Johnson plans his return to Downing Street during the coronavirus outbreak. Photograph; Twitter.

The front page of the Telegraph as Boris Johnson plans his return to Downing Street during the coronavirus outbreak. Photograph; Twitter.

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A newspaper has been accused of mis-reporting a poll on the public attitudes towards the coronavirus lockdown in a bid to support the government agenda.

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The latest edition of the Telegraph reports on polling by Opinium, just as Boris Johnson returns to Downing Street, to claim that the public are becoming “increasingly supportive” of a “staggered exit from the lockdown”, which appears to be the government’s vision.

As the newspaper reveals Boris Johnson could ease the coronavirus lockdown before May 7th, it reports that “more than half of people wanting restaurants, offices, shopping centres and schools to reopen as soon as new infections decrease”.

It adds that a “majority want sports stadiums to remain closed until there is a vaccine”.

But it fails to point out that support for easing measures comes with conditions, with Opinium finding that just 14% want to see restaurants reopen “once cases go down”, 24% for offices, 18% for shopping centres and 33% for schools.

It is only with further monitoring and restrictions do the public get on board with proposals.

“This is not an accurate reflection of the Opinium Research polling,” said Will Jennings, a politics professor at the University of Southampton. “Over half of people support reopening ‘with monitoring and restrictions’, not ‘as soon as new infections decrease’.”

“This is factually mis-reporting the poll,” wrote Sunder Katwala, the director of British Future. “Especially as poll respondents were given a “when cases drop” option - so its clear a majority *didn’t* back it “as soon as” cases drop, without further conditions.”

Peter Geoghegan tweeted: “This looks like some very, very questionable polling reporting by the Telegraph. Poll numbers don’t seem to back up paper’s claim that ‘more than half of people wanting restaurants, offices, shopping centres and schools to reopen *as soon as* new infections decrease’”.

Separate polling from Deltapoll and Sky News showed that the public are cautious about measures being lifted too quickly.

Deltapoll found the public feared the government will move too quickly to lift restrictions with 63% agreeing, compared to 21% believing they are moving too slowly.

A poll from Sky found an overwhelming majority support the government prioritising health over the economy across all age groups.

“It must be a real shame for the government to find that most Brits are quite happy to stay in semi-lockdown until it’s safe to end it, rather than agitating to sacrifice our lives and our friends’ and families’ lives for the sake of the economy,” noted Twitter user @stevieinselby.


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Last year the Telegraph was accused of misrepresenting a poll on proroguing parliament and was criticised by pollsters for claiming a majority of support for a no-deal Brexit.

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