Polling, The Evening Pravda & The Garden Bridge

7 Aug 2016

Dawn Foster is a writer on politics, economics and social affairs as well as contributor to the Guardian. Yesterday she put out a poll-tweet asking if anyone wanted the Garden Bridge to which overwhelmingly, and fairly obviously, they didn’t.

Do any of you want the garden bridge to happen

— Dawn Foster (@DawnHFoster) August 5, 2016

But to what extent have polls been useful, or accurate, when thinking about the Garden Bridge?


The Garden Bridge Trust repeatedly quoted a claim that 87% of Londoners supported their little developmont. This derives from a poll they commissioned (with public money, one can only assume) from ComRes just when first indications of the dodgy procurement were reported in the press and opposition was growing fast. That figure has since had to be removed after the Advertising Standards Agency ‘rapped them over the knuckles’ (£) and it has now been changed on their website to state “78% of Londoners support the Garden Bridge”. This is still patently absurd though, so it’s worth looking at how they reached that figure.



ComRes had a sample of 2000 people broken into two groups – Lambeth/Westminster and elsewhere in London – then asked various leading questions about walking and parks before asking “Do you want the Garden Bridge?”. You can see the questions and data here with the full data available from a pdf on the same page. Some of the questions in the poll, such as access for wheelchair users, are totally unrelated to the main point and are covered under existing Disability Discrimination Act standards but in there to lend goodwill by association, and others such as “should London needs public transport improvements (such as to buses or the tube)” are unrelated by sow the seeds before the big question on the bridge.

That data provides all sorts of other interesting numbers, though ones that the GBT are less shouty about – such as the 90% of people who knew between “nothing” and only “a little” about the Garden Bridge when at the time of the questioning. They were basically asking people with no prior knowledge about the bridge whether they liked it or not with seriously leading questions and without balanced information. Importantly, the data shows that nearly 50% of those asked from Lambeth/Westminster had never heard of the bridge. This was in mid-2015, after the GBT had been given planning permission (with conditions) and carried out what they claim was wide public consultation and community engagement.

In May the Architects’ Journal published this article by Ben Page, Chief Executive of Ipsos MORI. He points out: “As with so many issues where there is low awareness, how you ask the question makes a huge difference – as does the information you present.” He goes on to state, importantly in light of the fact that 90% of those asked didn’t know much about the development, saying “this low awareness means question wording will likely make a big difference to the answers” and a year ago there was also a take-down of the poll in the excellent Mortimer.


I spoke to Ben Page and he said there isn’t much point in doing a genuinely balanced poll on the Garden Bridge any more as the politics of it are so well known that it would be impossible to word or present one without bias in either direction. But it is nonetheless interesting when there are Twitter polls such as that by Dawn Foster and previously carried out by A Folly For London here, here and here.

Do you trust the Garden Bridge Trust?

— follyforLondon (@follyforlondon) November 12, 2015




In March this year the Evening Standard published another of their unbalanced puff-pieces on the Garden Bridge, this time being by “political correspondent” Joe Watts. At a time when local politics and news in Britain is critical the Standard have been the prime example of the decline in local journalism and they have proved themselves to be the most shameful and disgusting rag throughout the Garden Bridge debacle.

When they report that their own owner is part of the team trying to make it happen and then they singularly fail to ever report balance on the project – let alone never mentioning once the huge allegations against it and Boris Johnson in relation to procurement (which were reported in Los Angeles, Washington, Italy and Japan – but not in their publication) you have to ask how their ‘reporters’ can look in a mirror at night.

“The reason everyone has come to believe in the bridge — including the owner of the Evening Standard, Evgeny Lebedev, who has agreed to be a governor of the scheme — is the persuasive capabilities of Heatherwick himself. The rich and powerful (New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, George Osborne, Boris Johnson) have all been captivated by their visits to his studio in King’s Cros.” says the Evening Pravda in one of their earlier spews, and in March the editor Sarah Sands wrote the most sycophantic, patronising drivel.

She calls for politics to be left out of the Garden Bridge discussion – a project which will affect Londoners hugely; blocking views, costing huge sums, dripping with allegations of political malfeasance, currently under investigation from numerous political inquiries and only exists because of the previous mayor…. Leaving aside that all architecture is political, how she can sit and write that this is not political in any way is shameful – and she is at the top of this appalling newspaper.

And how she can say it isn’t political when her paper have championed it every step of the way, the paper’s owner hosting the former mayor at his villa in Italy with Johnson’s “close family friend” Sands paying for his taxi to and from the airport, and indeed when she possibly only has her job because of Johnson’s insistence that she be made editor despite her rather disastrous work history, is plain bizarre. But then her logic is often absurd, as we saw recently when she compared the bridge to the Hanging Gardens Of Babylon.


So it’s hilarious when even readers of the Evening Standard, subjected relentlessly to their patronising guff and skewed journalism trying to lead their audience to their agenda, still vote that they don’t want the Garden Bridge in a poll hosted on their site:


The vote currently has nearly 6000 people taking part, and you can still go on to mark your opposition here.


As Ben Page said, the Evening Standard poll is as unrepresentative as the ComRes or Twitter ones, but it’s telling that the only survey which shows support for the project was paid for by those interested in pushing it all through.


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