Misreporting of Social Indicator Opinion Poll and theLetter to Hon. Lakshman Kadirgamar PC MP
MISREPORTING BY DAILY NEWS OF SOCIAL INDICATOR OPINION POLL
There has been a recent controversy over the reporting by the Daily News of an opinion poll conducted by Social Indicator, the polling unit of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA). Social Indicator published the poll in the form of a report entitled “The Sri Lankan Voter and the April 2004 Election”, which was released to the media and others on 19 March.
On 20 March the Daily News carried the headline story “Impressive Freedom Alliance lead in independent opinion poll”, which claimed to be reporting the results of this poll. The article however claimed to report on a number of questions and responses to questions which were never asked in the CPA poll. No questions were asked, for instance, on the honesty of the President and the Prime Minister respectively, or which party has more chance to come to power, whereas the Daily News article states that these questions were part of the survey and goes on to provide the “results” of the survey, containing statistical analyses which were not in the CPA report.
The Executive Director of CPA, Dr P Saravanamuttu wrote to the Editor of the Daily News pointing out that the poll had been misreported and listing the inaccuracies in the article. The Daily News responded by stating that their “report was based on a report sent to the Daily News by the CPA” and that they stand by their report. As this did not adequately address CPA’s concerns, Dr Saravanamuttu wrote again to the Editor of the Daily News challenging him to produce the document claimed to be sent to him by CPA on which the article was based. On March 27 under the headline story “Daily News sets the record straight” the newspaper states that the article in question was based on a “loose document consisting of 4 pages divided into two parts titled ‘Snap Poll Results, Phase 1’ (3 pages) and ‘Snap Poll Results Phase 2’ (1 page)” which had been found between the cover page and the first page of the CPA report. The Editor of the Daily News has sent CPA a copy of this 4 page document.
CPA categorically states that this document was never sent as part of the survey, and never was part of the survey conducted by CPA. CPA had not seen this document until it was sent by the Daily News. The 4 page document, produced by the Daily News and attributed to CPA, clearly appears to be a fabrication.
The CPA report was a bound volume consisting of 25 numbered pages, all of which were copyrighted to CPA/Social Indicator with the mark “© Copyright Social Indicator – March 2004”. The report contained an Executive Summary. Any responsible journalist would have been troubled by the idea of basing an article, all the more so a headline story, on an unauthenticated loose leaf document which on the face of it was not attributed to any person or organisation.
CPA has written to Mr Lakshman Kadirgamar as Media Minister requesting that he conduct an independent investigation into this matter.
Letter to Hon. Lakshman Kadirgamar PC MP
29th March 2004
Hon. Lakshman Kadirgamar PC M.P.
Minister of Media,
DISTORTIONS BY CEYLON DAILY NEWS OF
SOCIAL INDICATOR SURVEY
We the undersigned, members of the Board of Directors of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), are deeply concerned at the distortions in the coverage of the Lake House Group of newspapers of the survey conducted by Social Indicator, the polling unit of the Centre for Policy Alternatives, which was released to the public on 19 March 2004.
Questions that were not part of the survey questionnaire and responses to such questions were inserted to the CPA/Social Indicator survey as published in the Ceylon Daily News of 20 March 2004. As indicated in the letters sent by the Executive