LucidTalk, which has attracted headlines due to polling which shows a high degree of support for a united Ireland, claims repeatedly on its website to be a member of the UK Market Research Society (MRS).
But the society says neither the firm nor the man who runs it, Bill White, are members.
The society describes itself as “the UK professional body for research, insight and analytics” and says it is “the world’s leading research association where data, insight and evidence matters”.
LucidTalk’s website says the firm “is a member of all recognised professional polling and market research organisations including the UK Market Research Society”.
But a PR spokeswoman for the society told the News Letter: “I’ve spoken to the team and they have confirmed LucidTalk is not currently a member of MRS.”
Asked if Mr White was a member in some kind of individual capacity, she said: “It is possible to be accredited as an individual member of MRS.
“However, MRS doesn’t have any current members called William or Bill White or as far as we can ascertain any individual members registered as being employed at LucidTalk.
“Bill White from LucidTalk was an individual member for one year in 2014/15.”
• See underneath this story links to other News Letter stories about LucidTalk
Asked if he could explain, Mr White issued a lengthy response which accused the News Letter of being “pedantic and petty” and “aggressive”, and questioned “what the relevance of this is”.
On the question of the claim to be a UK-MRS member, he said: “That must be a mistake – I’ll check (ie, a direct-debit was being paid to them for an annual individual membership – it’s only a small fee).
“Though I suspect that the confusion is because we are switching over to a company membership.
“My understanding is/was I was currently an individual member on the basis that our company membership was being finalised, but this has been held-up because of the coronavirus situation.
“I didn’t renew my individual membership, because we are becoming a co. member – and its pointless having both (since I’m an officer of LucidTalk!).”
After having said it appeared to be a clerical mistake, and indicating that he is in fact a member, he added: “If it pleases you, we will take down that reference/link to the UK Market Research Society on our website until our company membership application has been processed (probably by mid February).
“What the relevance of this is, I’ve no idea!? – as the UK MRS have nothing to do with our polling activities (which is what interests you!) NB: I’ve an email trail of communications with the MRS during 2020 re: our company membership etc.
“NB: all professional organisations [including MRS] only have a small staff (if any), so you get these sorts of administrative hiccups…
“In this context, and to save confusion, we have made the decision that we will only have the following on our poll results from now on, ie: LucidTalk (LT) is a member of the British Polling Council [BPC, a separate organisation], and ESOMAR (European Society of Market Research Organisations).”
Speaking to the News Letter earlier in the week, Mr White expressed annoyance at a recent article (see link below) in which economist Graham Gudgin described Queen’s Univeristy Belfast’s Life and Times Survey as “the gold standard” of opinion polling.
“The type of rubbish your paper is printing the last two weeks is a disgrace. ‘It’s the gold standard’,” he said.
“The NI Life and Times Survey, they’re not members of the British Polling Council.”
• The News Letter has looked at LucidTalk before (see links below) — specifically why the agency returns relatively high results for pro-United Ireland sentiment in Northern Ireland.
It produced a poll in recent weeks which gave the following results:
“If there was a referendum, ie border poll, on the constitutional position of Northern Ireland would you vote for NI to be…”
• Part of the UK: 46.8%
• Part of a United Ireland: 42.3%
• Don’t know/not sure currently (but will vote): 10.7%
• I wouldn’t vote / would spoil my vote: 0.2%.
That poll involved about 2,300 voters and ran from January 15 to 18.
In 2018, the firm had done another poll, again from its online pool of people, using 1,336 responses collected from May 4 to 10.
The results were very similar.
That 2018 poll said that 45% would stay in the UK in the event of a border poll; 42.1% would join the Republic; 12.7% were undecided; and 0.2% said they would spoil their vote or not vote at all.
The way LucidTalk works is that it invites people online to become part of its survey-answering pool.
Known as the LucidTalk “panel”, there are roughly 13,400 people signed up to it, and the firm says it is “balanced by gender, age-group, area of residence, and community background”.
It then issues questions to this pool of people, and the results are “weighted… to reflect the demographic composition of NI”.
This is quite different from the Life and Times Survey, which has been running every year since the 1990s, and is headed by QUB academic Dr Paula Devine.
It does face-to-face polling, based on randomly selected addresses.
It has shown that the proportion of those favouring Irish unity varies each year from a maximum of 30% (in 2006) all the way down to 14% (in 2015).
Its most recent result, for 2019, showed 22% in favour of a united Ireland — almost half the figure that appears in the LucidTalk poll.
• Past stories about LucidTalk
A message from the Editor:
Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.
With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers — and consequently the revenue we receive — we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.
Subscribe to newsletter.co.uk and enjoy unlimited access to the best Northern Ireland and UK news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit https://www.newsletter.co.uk/subscriptions now to sign up.
Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.