The Daily Mail has countered allegations that its EU referendum was open to corruption by touting the results of a massive parallel opinion poll conducted by ICM.
Its national referendum on whether the public should be allowed to vote on the new EU constitution attracted 1.7 million votes – 90 per cent of whom agreed with the paper’s position.
The ICM poll – commissioned by the Mail – on the same issue saw 55,000 people questioned across the UK and found 88 per cent in favour of a referendum on the issue of the European constitution.
The Mail referendum was criticised by the Electoral Reform Society and The Guardian as being open to vote-rigging.
Executive editor Jon Steafel responded by saying: “The ICM poll was the biggest opinion poll of its type ever done and it came up with the same outcome as our survey. We would argue that their result validates our exercise.”
Steafel declined to reveal how much the operation had cost. But he said: “It is a substantial sum of money – we regard it as good value in terms of the high-profile attention and impact it has created.”
The poll involved ballot boxes being sent to 6,500 newsagents, Wetherspoons pubs and other locations. Provision was also made for voting by internet, telephone, text message and post.
Ballot papers were printed in the Daily Mail and on advertisements which appeared in The Guardian, The Independent and Evening Standard as well as more than 70 regional papers.
The decision to hold the ballot was made three weeks before polling day, 12 June, and it followed a response of 200,000 when the Mail invited readers to fill out a coupon asking the Government for a European referendum.
Steafel said: “There was quite a small editorial team of about eight or nine people involved but a lot of work was done through a wider network.
“Circulation and promotions people were involved and we needed outside companies to do things like produce ballot boxes, run phone lines and count the votes.”
He said: “No British newspaper has ever done anything on this scale before. It’s a huge political issue and it will continue to be so over the coming months. Would it be wise for a Government that likes to be seen to be in touch with the electorate to completely ignore such an overwhelming vote?”
By Dominic Ponsford