YouGov intentionally surpressed a poll showing Jeremy Corbyn’s incredible 2017 General Election popularity surge after pressure from their co-founder – a current Tory Minister – because it was “too positive for Labour“, a former senior employee at the pollster has sensationally claimed.
Writing on Twitter, Chris Curtis – who was YouGov’s Political Research Manager during the 2017 General Election campaign – said that Tory Minister Nadhim Zahawi, who co-founded YouGov in 2000, personally phoned the CEO of YouGov threatening them with the sack for publishing data showing Jeremy Corbyn’s hugely increasing popularity.
In a viral Twitter thread, Curtis said that YouGov bosses “banned” him from releasing the poll conducted following the 2017 Leader’s Debate, which showed Corbyn had won “by a country mile“, following the intervention by the Tory Minister and co-founder.
Writing on Twitter, Curtis began his recollection of events by outlining how the public mood was clearly shifting in favour of Corbyn’s Labour throughout the 2017 General Election campaign, stating:
“Firstly, it is worth noting just how dramatically the opinion polls changed during the course of the campaign. This isn’t how things are supposed to happen.
“There are loads of reasons for the shift (Tory hubris/volatile electorate/manifestos/Corbyn/The Tories screwing up their attack lines) but it was certainly very difficult for us pollsters to deal with. When something this dramatic happens, you struggle to believe it.”
Curtis then went on to detail how all the data clearly pointed to an undeniable Labour surge, writing:
“The first thing I would do every morning is download the overnight data, and each day the gap just kept getting smaller and smaller. On the morning of the Manchester bombing, we actually had Labour pulling level, although the poll got spiked because the campaign rightly paused.
“We looked at everything to try and work out why this was happening. One theory was that Corbyn supporters had mass joined the panel (despite the checks we have on such things happening) and were playing the system to get the Labour numbers up.
“But we looked at excluding people who had joined the panel more recently, and it made no difference to the final numbers. At one point, and I feel stupid saying this now, I seriously wondered if we had been hacked by nefarious actors.”
The former YouGov employee then detailed how the mood changed with the release of YouGov’s sensational MRP poll – which accurately predicted a hung parliament – but caused anger and hysteria within the Conservative Party at the time:
“And then we released the MRP. This was probably the worst possible idea. The MRP was actually showing exactly the same thing as our standard polls would have, but it was the first time anybody had said “hung parliament”.”
Curtis then stunningly claimed:
“Nadhim Zahawi called up the CEO and said he would call for his resignation if he was wrong. It became pretty clear we would all be out of a job if we were wrong now.”
Zahawi’s intervention clearly spooked YouGov bosses, with Curtis claiming that after his threat their “polling and coverage was a lot worse for the rest of the campaign” – before sensationally claiming that YouGov bosses actually “banned” him from releasing one poll because it was “too positive about Labour“:
“We did a fantastic debate poll in the hours following the debate that Corbyn took part in. The results were stark – Corbyn won by a country mile, and one in four Tory voters thought he was best.
“But despite having written the story and designed the charts, we were banned from releasing the story because it was too positive about Labour.”
But despite having written the story and designed the charts, we were banned from releasing the story because it was too positive about Labour.
— Chris Curtis (@chriscurtis94) June 8, 2022
In addition, Curtis also claimed that YouGov bosses forced them to change their methodology – which artificially increased the Tories’ supposed popularity – because of “pressure from high-ups“:
Similarly, there were a few "minor" methodology changes for the final poll which increase the Tory lead. This was done after pressure from high-ups (and despite protests from those of us who thought it wasn't ok).https://t.co/gdiyIsyxLY pic.twitter.com/qdgG5nAvXn
— Chris Curtis (@chriscurtis94) June 8, 2022
Unsurprisingly, many on Twitter responded with fury to the allegations:
This is an absolutely damning thread from a former YouGov pollster alleging they folded to political pressure in 2017 to make their results more favourable to the Conservatives and suppress findings pointing to a hung Parliament. https://t.co/0aRydq6lra
— Adam Bienkov (@AdamBienkov) June 8, 2022
Er – this is a very big story.
A senior pollster has said that YouGov suppressed polling that was favourable for Labour during the 2017 election – after a senior Tory politician rang them and left them fearing for their jobs. https://t.co/qmMm97NhyZ
— Owen Jones (@OwenJones84) June 8, 2022
Nadhim Zahawi needs to answer this very serious charge about intimidating the YouGov staff over results that he didn’t like. https://t.co/36Swuzh7zY
— Mike Galsworthy 🇺🇦 (@mikegalsworthy) June 8, 2022
Following Curtis’ thread, YouGov have since released a statement claiming that the poll was only surpressed because “the sample of people who watched the debate significantly over-represented Labour voters from the previous election“.
A statement. pic.twitter.com/jL0jr0dh8a
— YouGov (@YouGov) June 8, 2022
However, YouGov’s statement includes no denial about Zahawi’s intervention, or anything regarding their apparent change in methodology as a result of it – and many on Twitter were having none of it:
No denial of the rest of it, including @nadhimzahawi intervention. https://t.co/OtfcjBSngF
— Alex Andreou (@sturdyAlex) June 8, 2022
You curiously omit some of the most damning revelations. You literally changed your polling methodology for your final GE 2017 poll to make it LESS positive for Labour.
This squirming is most undignified. It would be far better to accept you messed up, and promise to do better.
— Dr Moderate OBE (@centrist_phone) June 8, 2022
Weird that you’re not denying the Zahawi bit. I would make sure that bit made the statement, unless it was true.
— James Felton (@JimMFelton) June 8, 2022
I’m sure the revelation that pollsters like YouGov suppressed positive data about Jeremy Corbyn, at the demand of Tory MPs, during an election campaign -which has huge implications for our democracy – will be all over our media today…right? No? Ah
— Jack Duncan 🏳️🌈 (@JackDunc1) June 8, 2022
In response to the allegations, Nadhim Zahawi – who sits as the current Tory Education Secretary – confirmed his phone call to YouGov, but claimed that his threat to have YouGov staff sacked was actually a “joke“:
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. https://t.co/P25sh0fCNN
— Nadhim Zahawi (@nadhimzahawi) June 8, 2022
What is undeniable, however, is that YouGov’s reputation has been irrevocably damaged.