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Pie in the sky: Irish Times skews Shannon poll result

category national | anti-war / imperialism | news report author Friday March 09, 2007 21:07author by XIT Report this post to the editors

Newspaper does not intend to publish correction

Is it an optical illusion? Is it conservative Irish Times staff subconsciously misrepresenting public opinion on the use of Shannon for the Iraq war? It's a conspiracy theorists' dream.... It has to be seen to be believed... And the most bizarre part is that The Irish Times isn't going to do anything about it.

Intentional confusion or just Irish Times incompetence?
Intentional confusion or just Irish Times incompetence?

The picture really speaks for itself here. The Irish Times last Monday (5th March) published the results of a poll conducted on its website, ireland.com, on the subject of whether Ireland should allow US troops land at Shannon en route to Iraq. 67% of people said NO (i.e. a majority for the anti-war stance) and this figure is printed on the pie-chart.

However, the size of the segments representing Yes and No are mixed up, so that -- visually -- the pie chart indicates that a two-thirds majority wants to continue allowing US troops to use Shannon en route to Iraq, when in fact the majority is opposed.

I watched the Irish Times 'Corrections and Clarifications' column each day this week. Surely the newspaper of record would make a point of clearing up this confusion. I say confusion because initially I wasn't sure whether the numbers were correct and the coloured segments incorrect, or vice versa. Friends I asked were similarly unsure. It was only a visit to the ireland.com website that confirmed that the majority was indeed against the use of Shannon in the Iraq war (the majority has dropped one point to 66%, as I think the poll continued to be live after the pie-chart).

No correction appeared, so I assumed they would clear up the confusion next Monday, when the next weekly poll results were published. But just to be sure, today (Friday 9th March), I phoned the Editor's Office to enquire. The nice lady said the newspaper did not intend to publish any correction, as they felt "it was clear what was intended" in the pie chart.

Is it just me or is that a bit shit? A national newspaper conducts an online poll which finds a clear majority against the use of Shannon in the Iraq war -- an issue of national importance; the newspaper then publishes a pie chart showing the majority in favour of allowing Shannon be used in the Iraq war; and they don't intend to correct or clarify the situation.
(My inner cynic is sure that, had the vote gone with the pro-war side and they had inadvertantly implied the opposite, they would have corrected it. )


The pie-chart was published on the newspaper's Opinion page on Monday 6th March, as part of its weekly 'Head2Head' feature, in which two people put forward opposing views each Monday. The debate then moves online and the following Monday the results of the online poll are published in the newspaper.

See the original debate between anti-war campaigner Ed Horgan and Frank Groome of the Clinton Institute in Dublin, in the Irish Times of 26th February:

See the online debate here:

Conspiracy theorists should click on 'Archive' and note that the Shannon debate is not listed. This means that if you arrive at the Home page of the Head2Head section, there is no way to find the Shannon debate. Presumably just another oversight by the folks at ireland.com

 #   Title   Author   Date 
   'Paper of Record'?     Deirdre Clancy    Fri Mar 09, 2007 22:01 
   What's your problem?     Clive Sullish    Fri Mar 09, 2007 22:08 
   Interpreting the pie chart     Innumerate    Fri Mar 09, 2007 23:34 
   The greedy few     Anarchy Rules    Sat Mar 10, 2007 03:30 
   Has anybody written in?     DM    Sat Mar 10, 2007 08:48 
   Oh, the times     rianorr    Sat Mar 10, 2007 11:42 
   USA Protests: '...or until they are forcibly removed'     redjade    Sat Mar 10, 2007 13:22 
   It would be really shit     soundmigration    Sat Mar 10, 2007 16:49 
   Pie chart     John    Sat Mar 10, 2007 20:07 
 10   Correction     J.K.    Sun Mar 11, 2007 00:23 
 11   Priceless - thanks for sharing this!     Eoin    Sun Mar 11, 2007 11:30 
 12   Irish Times     John    Sun Mar 11, 2007 11:33 
 13   Correct time     John    Sun Mar 11, 2007 11:49 
 14   I can see your point, but ...     Deirdre    Sun Mar 11, 2007 11:53 
 15   Oh dear     John's mother    Mon Mar 12, 2007 10:41 

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