'Back Heathrow' Blasted for Rigged Poll Results in Advert

It’s official: Pro-runway group Back Heathrow has rigged their poll results in order to falsely claim that they have the support of most people living near the airport.

Back Heathrow’s claim was so dishonest that the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned Rob Gray’s Heathrow-funded company from running its adverts based on the poll.

The offending adverts ran in the regional press. Back Heathrow has never been able to muster enough people for a major event or rally but were rather upset that the anti-runway campaigners held a successful one. So they tried to counter that rally with a picture of a bunch of people in a grassy field (taken at the free summer barbecue?) holding Back Heathrow signs. The ad was headlined: “Rallying for the Runway”. and included the statement, “Don’t believe the hype. Most people living in communities near Heathrow Airport support its expansion.”

The claim is nonsense, of course. Back Heathrow relies heavily on trying to convince politicians that a decision to built a third runway would increase their popularity with a public that is clamouring for more concrete and around a quarter of a million more aircraft overhead each year. A third runway would massively increase the number of cars and lorries on local road and it is inconceivable that residents would delight in spending hours in jams and lose green spaces to more car parks.

No sensible London politicians believe that a third runway is a good thing, which explains why no mayoral candidate with any prospect of getting a healthy clutch of votes would support Heathrow expansion. Rob Gray or a Heathrow-funded candidate could have stood as a candidate. Had he or she run on this one issue, we could have seen just how few people want it.

Polls on the other hand can be more easily manipulated. In this case, Back Heathrow included a footnote to the ad that said the latest independent polling showed 60% of local residents had “expressed an opinion in support of expansion”. The ASA found that to get the statement of 60% in support, Back Heathrow had excluded 15% of those surveyed who had not expressed any opinion.

The ASA ruled that “Given that a significant number of respondents, who had expressed an opinion albeit a neutral one, had been excluded from the sample, we considered that this was not a suitable methodology by which to draw such a conclusion. We considered that the evidence held back by Back Heathrow demonstrated that only 50% of all those polled were in support of expansion.”

This meant that Back Heathrow could not substantiate its claim that “most” people living in communities near Heathrow airports supported its expansion. “Consequently, the ad breached the (advertising) code,” the ASA rules. “We told Back Heathrow not to repeat the claims…unless it held robust substantiation for them”

It was a rap on the knuckles for Rob Gray but it’s unlikely to stop his lame advertising campaigns based on contacting a selection people and asking questions.

Frankly, most people will say anything to get rid of a cold caller who has persuaded them, against their better judgement, to take part in a survey. You know what’s it’s like; there’s a nice lady at the end of the telephone line who assures you that her survey will only take a couple of minutes of your time. You soon realised that there are a long list of questions, with quite a bit of pre-amble, until you glaze over and say “yes” to anything because you can’t even be bothered to listen to the questions. The nice lady will say, “How likely are you to…..?” and then a whole list of options from “extremely likely” through to “not at all likely”. Or you might have to select from a list of options that describe how strongly you agree with a question. You just plump for anything rather than admit you didn’t grasp what was being asked and you don’t want the lady to repeat all the options again. “Hey, what does it matter anyway?” you think, as it’s only words and won’t make any difference to you.

If the only way Rob Gray can promote a third runway is to pay someone to conduct a poll and then rig the results, it shows he has no convincing arguments.

We’d suggest that Rob Gray resign for doing such a rotten job but that’s hardly likely when he is being given so much of the Heathrow investors’ money to fritter away. It’s also rather amusing to watch Back Heathrow humiliate the airport so often.