6. Case Study: Rigging an Opinion Poll

a. In the next subsection of this lesson, we’re going to listen to a clip from a classic British political comedy show, Yes, Prime Minister. This clip involves two civil servants discussing the government’s plan to reintroduce national service.


  • Have you done national service, or do you know anyone who has? What did it involve?
  • What are some arguments in favour of national service?
  • What are some arguments against it?
  • Where do you stand on this issue?

b. Watch the clip. What is Sir Humphrey (the more senior civil servant) demonstrating to his colleague?

c. Listen again and analyse the questions that Sir Humphrey uses. Focus on:

  • the phrasing of the questions (e.g. “Do you think…?”)
  • vocabulary with positive or negative connotations (e.g. “respond to a challenge”).

d. In pairs or singly, do the task described below:

Choose one of the statements below and design a rigged opinion poll with 4-6 questions. Later on, you will have the chance to ask your questions to a classmate and your goal is to make them agree with your chosen statement.

  • Income tax should be raised.
  • Income tax should be lowered.
  • The age at which teenagers are allowed to drive should be raised.
  • The age at which teenagers are allowed to drive should be lowered.
  • The food industry should be more strictly regulated (e.g. animal welfare, junk food)
  • The food industry should be subject to less bureaucracy (e.g. family restaurants, small-scale growers).

e. Now test your questions out on one or more classmates.

If a classmate comes to the ‘wrong’ conclusion, revise your poll and try again.