BBC audiences could have been hijacked by Labour-supporting activists posing as Conservatives, polling experts have admitted.
The warning comes after the audience for a seven-way debate aired by the BBC earlier this week was accused of being “the most left wing ever” despite assurances that it was “representative of the country demographically and politically”,
The head of pollster ComRes acknowledged that the audience the company assembled for the debate gave left wing party representatives a much easier ride than Conservative Home Secretary Amber Rudd and UKIP leader Paul Nuttall
Labour supporters are thought to have been exploiting broadcasters which recruit audience members by using online forms that allow people to sign up repeatedly using different email addresses, The Telegraph reports.
Senior polling experts have privately admitted being aware of groups of Labour activists — some of which are led by grassroots Jeremy Corbyn-supporting group Momentum — urging left wingers to apply to attend political events pretending to be Conservatives so as to give the impression Labour won the debate.
The BBC has confirmed that for audience recruitment it uses open-ended online forms, which sources told the Telegraph is the riskiest kind for avoiding biased and one-sided crowds.
The process was used by the state broadcaster to build the audience for the Question Time election special aired Friday night in which Prime Minister Theresa May, and Corbyn faced questions from audience members, who a BBC spokesman said “were interviewed at length”.
Founder and head of research at polling company YouGov, Joe Twyman, said there are a number of factors with regards to the way audiences are selected that affect whether a group appears biased or one-sided.
Any open website where anyone can just sign up with a small or non-existent pre-recruited panel means you’re far more susceptible to infiltration on a one-off event like this.
“Even if you don’t have groups infiltrating, almost by definition if you have half Labour supporters they are likely to be younger and have more energy, they’re likely to make more noise.
“If you are recruiting 100 people you only need 10 people to actually sound like a lot of noise on TV.”