YouGov, an antidemocratic survey question and a brief investigation

SameDifference reports being deeply upset by this question from YouGov, today.

Firstly, all of these questions reflect a very cavalier and authoritarian view of the democratic rights of citizens. Excluding people from voting on the basis of their characteristics and the group they belong to violates their human rights. We do need to question why this subject is being surveyed, who will use the information gathered, and to what purpose. Secondly, the questions themselves normalise a view that repressing the right to participate in democracy for  some social groups is somehow acceptable.

Last year I wrote about how polls serve as a propaganda technique, by encouraging a bandwaggon effect, and sometimes act as self fulfilling prophesies of sorts. 

Image result for Peter Hitchens polls

And that’s from a Conservative

The question about people who ‘receive more money from welfare benefits than they pay in taxes” is particularly worrying. Many people claiming welfare currently need welfare support because of exploitatively low pay. People on low pay pay low rates of income tax. Also the question assumes that people’s circumstances are static, and seems to disregard previous tax contribution through previous employment. It also disregards the reasons why someone may be claiming welfare support – for example, because of disability or illness. It looks like Conservative kite flying, to me.

I decided to join YouGov. I was asked some initial questions such as whether or not my workspace is tidy or chaotic, if I arrive at events early or late, if I’m a ‘cat’ or ‘dog’ person, and about how I vote, which news papers I read and so on.

All of which will be used to “segment” and psychologically profile me. YouGov Profiles is the “media planning and audience segmentation tool for brands and their agencies. Powered by the world’s largest connected data set. YouGov Profiles gives marketers a richer, more detailed portrait of their customers’ entire lives.”

It is powered by our connected data vault, which holds over 190,000 data points, collected from 275,000 GB YouGov members.

Get the profile of your target audience across multi-channel data sets with greater granularity and accuracy than ever before.”

And also: “By using advanced techniques we can go beyond merely describing the data, we can begin to explain and even predict attitudes, behaviours and harder business outcomes. These explanations and predictions can help our clients to adapt their strategy, both internally and externally, and create informed decisions about their products/policies and how they approach their marketing, communications and people strategies.”

And: “YouGov helps PR clients gain maximum coverage for their campaigns everyday, and as the most quoted market research agency in the UK, we are able to offer clients the best possible chance of generating headlines and gaining media visibility.”

We also run bespoke services including Reputation Audits, thought leadership B2B studies, and Nation Branding projects, global or local.”

YouGov says its ad platform, YouGov Direct, will allow advertisers to use its audience data to target consumers more accurately and transparently. YouGov has made its name with political polling at general elections and selling data and analytics to ‘brands’ but has had little direct involvement in advertising until recently. (See YouGov eyes media budgets as it launches advertising data platform).

More about YouGov

YouGov is an international internet-based market research and data analytics company, headquartered in the UK, with operations in Europe, North America, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific. Shakespeare, the firm’s CEO, once stood as a Conservative candidate for Colchester; he was also a Conservative Party pollster. Shakespeare has been YouGov’s Chief Executive Officer since 2010. 

Roger Parry has been YouGov’s Chairman since 2007. Political commentator Peter Kellner was YouGov’s President until he stepped down in 2016. Formerly the political analyst of the BBC Newsnight current affairs programme, Kellner was engaged by YouGov’s founders, Stephan Shakespeare and Nadhim Zahawi, in December 2001. When YouGov floated for £18 million in April 2005, Kellner owned 6% of the company.

In 2012, Shakespeare was appointed as Chairman of the Data Strategy Board (DSB), the advisory body that was set up by the government to maximise value of data for ‘users across the UK’. He is the former owner of the websites ConservativeHome (now owned by Lord Ashcroft) and PoliticsHome (now owned by Dods Parliamentary Communications Ltd) which he launched in April 2008 after closing down his Internet television channel 18 Doughty Street.

Nadhim Zahawi is a British Conservative Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Stratford-on-Avon since 2010, after the retirement of previous MP John Maples.

YouGov has a Reputation Research practice which runs studies for governments, regulators, blue chip multinationals, NGOs and trade associations around the world, supporting clients in their reputation management and reputation development work.

YouGov combines research with ‘consulting and PR/public affairs’. The site describes YouGov as an international data and analytics group.  The site says: “We combine this continuous stream of data with our deep research expertise and broad industry experience into a systematic research and marketing platform.”

Our suite of syndicated, proprietary data products includes YouGov BrandIndex, the daily brand perception tracker, and YouGov Profiles, our planning and segmentation tool. Our market-leading YouGov Omnibus provides a fast and cost-effective service for obtaining answers to research questions from both national and selected samples. Our custom research service offers a wide range of quantitative and qualitative research, tailored by our specialist teams to meet our clients’ specific requirements.

With 30 offices in 20 countries and panel members in 38 countries, YouGov has one of the world’s top ten international market research networks.”

Summary of strategy: “A key objective for the Group is to increase the proportion of revenue from data products and services and bring these to parity with custom research. We are focusing on growing revenue from our core product suite across all our existing geographies. This involves bringing to market new products, as well as continuing to innovate with new products. In addition to making targeted investments in growing and expanding our syndicated data products and services suite, we are also continuing to explore opportunities to expand our core model geographically.”

On YouGov’s cookie page, it says they use cookies: “to monitor, and permit third parties to monitor the effectiveness of advertising campaigns; and to enable us, and third parties, to create target segments for advertising purposes.”

So, a good question to ask is this: Whose interests are YouGov actually serving?

More on the cookie page: “By continuing to use the Site and/or by accepting our Terms and Conditions of Use and ouPrivacy Policy, you are agreeing to the use of such cookies and tracking technology.

The company also uses Meltwater, which is a software that develops and markets media monitoring and business intelligence software

I tried in vain to find YouGov’s privacy policy. The link above just takes you here:

yougovThe homepage link takes you to YouGov’s Malaysia site

Related

Political polls, think tanks and propaganda: the antidemocratic writing on the wall

More allegations of Tory election fraud, now we need to talk about democracy

 


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