Fact check: flawed online poll falsely predicts results of Leicester election

Voters are being warned that misinformation online could affect their vote.

A bar chart on the website which claims independent candidate Shockat Adam will receive 32.50 per cent of the vote.
A bar chart on the website which claims independent candidate Shockat Adam will receive 32.50 per cent of the vote. Screenshot: Great Central Gazette

A website claiming to be a “locally focused polling organisation” is spreading inaccurate and flawed predictions on who will win in Leicester's three constituencies, as the city and country heads to the polls today.

leicestercityelections.co.uk was first brought to The Gazette's attention yesterday, when a local activist shared it with us and questioned its authenticity. The group behind the website claims they have been polling local people in Leicester since 2016, but have since “decided to digitally publish our polls.” No evidence of previous polling by this group could be found. The website seems to be using the phrase “Leicester city elections” to try to get to the top of Google's search rankings. When you search for “Leicester city elections,” you find plenty of trustworthy sources, like Leicester City Council and BBC Leicester.

The design of the website appears legitimate, with a professional logo, a countdown to the election, and bar charts showing their predictions for each constituency. There is no clear methodology or sample size, and the only information the website cites is “Leicester Ward-specific major demographics” and “National polling organizations YouGov and ElectoralCalculus.” While these companies have polled independents and minor parties highly across Leicester's three constituencies, leicestercityelections.co.uk inflates these figures considerably.

The results show a surprising swing to Shockat Adam (independent) in Leicester South, Claudia Webbe (independent) in Leicester East, and Aasiya Bora (Green Party) in Leicester West. They say that Labour will win all three seats.

The website's home page with a countdown to vote and maps of the constituencies.
The website's home page with a countdown to vote and maps of the constituencies. Screenshot: Great Central Gazette

Shockat Adam, independent candidate for Leicester South who the website favours significantly, said: “Promoting accurate information and transparency is essential to protect our democratic processes. I urge constituents to rely on reputable sources to make informed decisions.”

Mags Lewis, press and media officer for the local Green Party and their candidate for Leicester East, said: “The website looks murky, as polling should be accountable and a domain that has been set up in the last few months with no names and addresses and no methodology raises serious question marks about people trying to interfere with electoral process.”

According to the website's registrar, the domain name was registered on 27 February 2024.

“We need evidence-based data, and today will provide that through democratic processes,” Lewis said.

At the time of writing, we could find no social media posts sharing the website. However, we were first made aware of it over WhatsApp — it is difficult for journalists and researchers to locate the source of fake news on messaging apps, and sometimes impossible, due to its closed nature.

Alistair Jones, associate professor of politics at De Montfort University, said: “What they have presented are pieces of speculation, not polls. They claim to have used other polling data in their references, but it is unclear how that data has been manipulated, nor how other pieces of information have been used to supplement or distort actual polling.

“While engaging, and may get people out to vote, I am rather sceptical of their data.”

Voters have been encouraged to think critically about campaign material by the Electoral Commission, the independent body which oversees elections in the UK. “Getting information to voters in an election campaign is a fundamental part of any election; voters need reliable, trustworthy information to help them make decisions about how to vote,” said Vijay Rangarajan, the organisation's chief executive.

“Yet, our research tells us that most voters see political mis- and disinformation as a problem – 70 per cent said so in our recent survey. So, tackling political dis- and misinformation is essential if we are to protect and build voter confidence in our electoral system.”

Disinformation refers to false information which is deliberately intended to mislead, or intentionally misstating the facts. Misinformation is false or inaccurate information, or getting the facts wrong.

The potential risks of false polls like this one mean voters may tactically vote for candidates who have no chance of winning, to unseat an MP or penalise the two major parties — Labour and the Conservatives.

Most reputable polling companies are members of the British Polling Council, an organisation that “promotes transparency in polling.” The full membership list here can be used to verify credible polls. They should always include links to their methodology and sample size.

The owners of the website did not respond to requests for comment.

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