On March 30th, 2011, WeBeNaija release a public request addressed to the CEO of the polling company which conducted the much-maligned ThisDay opinion polls. On Saturday, April 2nd, 2011, the CEO of Sub-Sahara Africa Ipsos (Mr. David Somers) responded to our private email. Below is both Mr. Somers' response, and our subsequent response to him.
Mr. Somers's Response
Re : THISDAY/Ipsos Opinion poll, published on 21 March 2011 in THISDAY
30 March 2011
Dear Saliu Ogbeh,
This letter is in response to your email sent to me last Sunday night.
With regards to the THISDAY/Ipsos publication of 21 March 2011, I can confirm that Ipsos Nigeria indeed has conducted the polling research and that the published results were a true reflection of the outcome of this exercise. Therefore Ipsos as an independent and neutral research organisation stands by these results.
As you perhaps are aware Ipsos is a global leader in public opinion research and political polling. In the recent past, Ipsos has successfully polled in fast growing markets like: Mexico, Brazil, Bolivia, Venezuela, Argentina, Colombia & South Africa and in countries like: US, UK, Canada, Australia, Italy, Spain, Japan, Serbia and France. Ipsos is a respected, professional research company with a presence in more than 65 countries. We are listed on the Paris Stock Exchange with a global turnover of more than 1 billion Euro. We fully adhere to the ICC-Esomar International Code of Marketing and Social Research.
Ipsos Nigeria is managing this polling research with advice on some aspects provided by Ipsos in the US, Ipsos MORI in the UK and Ipsos Markinor in South Africa.
Full methodological details, together with the dates of research have been published, a copy of which you can find our website http://www.ipsos.com/public-affairs/knowledge-center/thisdayipsos-nigeria-poll-methodological-approach.
However it is not common practice to give out raw data as it includes proprietary weighting techniques and besides that there are issues of confidentiality with regards to the respondents.
Ipsos Nigeria has a contractual relationship with THISDAY to conduct pre-election polls. This contract is quite similar to many other Ipsos contracts around the world with other media organizations. Central to such contracts is the autonomy and integrity of the data and our company.
CEO Sub-Saharan Africa - Ipsos
Our Response to Mr. Somers
(DISCLOSURE: We are obligated to post the following thread to the Sahara Reporters website, due to the fact that we have posted the original email to that forum as a public service)
Dear Mr. Somers,
Thank you very much for your response to our inquiry. As a group, WeBeNaija is delighted that you and your organisation are engaged in this effort to bring Nigerian politics ever closer (however slightly) to the standards that obtain in developing and developed democracies. We would like to see your effort (and every other effort like this) succeed. We would like for you to understand that our inquiries into the polls under discussion here is solely informed by our collective desire to see these efforts succeed.
On that note, please permit us to disagree with your submission as contained in the documents you have shared with us. In your response to us (as contained in the "WeBeNaija_response_110330.doc" file that you attached to this email), you stated (inter alia):
"....I can confirm that Ipsos Nigeria indeed has conducted the polling research and that the published results were a true reflection of the outcome of this exercise. Therefore Ipsos as an independent and neutral research organisation stands by these results."
As we attempted to convey to you both in our original request and the subsequent public request published on Sahara Report on March 30th, 2011 , WeBeNaija is not challenging your neutrality, independence or the conclusions you have derived from the polling exercise. We, as a group, are taking no position one way or another because we simply do not have enough information to form an informed and objective opinion. We hope that this is now clear.
You also stated:
"As you perhaps are aware Ipsos is a global leader in public opinion research and political polling. In the recent past, Ipsos has successfully polled in fast growing markets like: Mexico, Brazil, Bolivia, Venezuela, Argentina, Colombia & South Africa and in countries like: US, UK, Canada, Australia, Italy, Spain, Japan, Serbia and France. Ipsos is a respected, professional research company with a presence in more than 65 countries."
Let us assure you that we are, indeed, familiar with Ipsos. Let us also assure you that we are rather quite familiar with several other polling and research organisations. We, unfortunately, have to humbly confess tat we were not previously familiar with your particular unit of the larger Ipsos, and, since the polls in question were conducted not by the Ipsos you referenced above, we wish to clarify that our inquiries were addressed to you, and not to the other Ipsos units referenced. While we recognise that these other units may have lent expertise, resources and other re-usable collaterals to your unit, we are sure that you will agree with us that this particular polls and the responsibility and accountability for its conduct, for all practical purposes and intents, belong solely to you and your unit.
Now that we have, in our opinion, established our foundation, we would like to turn to the substance of your response to us. This is contained in two paragraphs, which we will now reproduce below:
In your response, you stated:
"However it is not common practice to give out raw data as it includes proprietary weighting techniques and besides that there are issues of confidentiality with regards to the respondents."
We are sure that you mean well with your response, and we thank you for being as precise as possible. We admit that it is "not a common practice" to give out raw data. However, as we tried to point out in our request, we have an "unusual" situation here - an anomaly, if we dare say. The very accuracy and objectivity of your polls results have been called into question in several quarters. The head of the organisation who sponsored your effort has already been publicly ridiculed, castigated and accused of outright fraud as a result of the published polls results. His name has been so besmirched that he has been compelled to threaten a lawsuit. The results have been held out as suspect and unreliable. In view of the foregoing, a reasonable person would be excused if he/she concludes that this is NOT a "common" situation. The standard practice in such "uncommon" cases is to dispel the controversies and establish the bona fide of the polls by releasing the data from which the results were extracted. This way, the logic goes, everyone is empowered to examine the data and see if they reach a contradictory conclusion.
We would like to vigorously disagree with your claim that weighting techniques are "proprietary". They are not. In fact, weighting is a public standard, one among the several techniques and methodologies publicly available to any interested party or observer. See "Standard Defintions" from the American Association for Public Opinion Researchers. In fact, methodologies are routinely published by research organisations - See "Our Survey Methodology in Detail" by the Pew Research Center. Several of our members subscribe to various polling outfits, so we are rather familiar with how routinely the information we are requesting from you are released by these established research organisations, upon request.
We are rather surprised and concerned by your claim of "confidentiality" with regards to the respondents. Are you implying that your organisation collects and retains personally identifiable information on the respondents to this polling exercise? And, are you then claiming that you entered into some form of confidentiality agreement with these respondents? We hope that we are misreading your statement here, so we will refrain from making further comments on this until you clarify for us what you mean by this statement.
"Ipsos Nigeria has a contractual relationship with THISDAY to conduct pre-election polls. This contract is quite similar to many other Ipsos contracts around the world with other media organizations. Central to such contracts is the autonomy and integrity of the data and our company."
We are all about honouring contractual obligations and respecting confidentiality. We would not suggest that you breach your contract with ThisDay or any other party. However, we would like to ask you some specifics and we hope that you will kindly respond in kind:
- Does your contract with ThisDay, in the conduct of this polling exercise, specifically PREVENT you from releasing the cross tabs of the polls?
- Are you barred by ThisDay from telling Nigerians HOW LARGE the pool of possible respondents were?
- Does this contract prevent you from revealing how many of the original 11,000 respondents were ALSO part of the second round of interview
- Are you barred from disclosing the SOURCE of the pool of respondents? The geographical dispersion of the 11,000 respondents (how many per state, local government, etc). The age/sex/education/income/occupation/native tongue/religion/party affiliation/etc of the 11,000 respondents.
- Does this contractual obligation forbid you to discuss any particulars of the final 1730 "sampling points" referenced in your report?
Mr. Somers, we wish to reiterate the fact that we are not trying to pick a quarrel with you or your organisation. We are enthused that you are bringing a proven useful tool into the Nigerian political landscape, and we salute you for that. We would like to help you get it right. We would like to help you ensure that, like most other efforts introduced into Nigerian politics, this useful tool is not co-opted for nefarious purposes. We would like to ensure that Nigerians start to understand and believe in the usefulness of this tool. We would like for Nigerians to embrace and begin to have faith in these efforts.
We believe that the most effective way to accomplish these goals is to be as transparent and reliable as possible. It is our considered opinion that neither your response here, nor the press release to which you referred in your email does anything to bring us closer to this goal. We would like to ask you to trust in the ability and intelligence of the Nigerian people a little bit more. We would like restate our request that you do what other research and polling outfits do in the other countries you have mentioned in your email - when polling results are called into question, publicly release the supporting data to the general public and let the people see the man beneath the masquerade garb.