Leveson Report: Do The Public Back State Regulation? Yes, But No

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VICKY POLLARD LORD LEVESON
Have the public gone a bit Vicky Pollard over Leveson? | PA/BBC

The British public overwhelmingly want to see state-backed regulation of the press. Also, the public do not want to see state-backed regulation of the press.

Two recent YouGov polls released ahead of the publication of the Leveson report on Thursday appear to give contradictory results on the type of regulation voters would prefer.

One poll conducted for the Media Standards Trust, which favours state regulation, found that 79% of those asked responded favourably to this proposition:

"There should be an independent body, established by law, which deals with complaints and decides what sanctions there should be if journalists break agreed codes of conduct."

However confusingly, as pointed out by ConservativeHome's Tim Montgomerie, another recent poll conducted by YouGov for The Sun, which opposes state-regulation, found that only 24% backed state regulation when asked if they wanted to see:

"A regulatory body set up through law by Parliament, with rules agreed by MPs."

YouGov president Peter Kellner explains the apparent contradiction in a blog on The Huffington Post UK. The public don't like journalists - but they like MPs very much either.

"The MST question refers to ‘independent’ and ‘law’, but makes no mention of MPs. In contrast The Sun question refers to ‘Parliament’ and ‘MPs’ but does not contain the word ‘independent’," he says.

"In short, it is a matter of framing. We don’t like the idea of politicians curbing the freedom of speech; but neither do we want editors and publishers remaining in charge of regulation."

SEE ALSO: Tory MPs Warn Cameron To Reject State Regulation

Kellner explains that the public want a new law to make journalists behave themselves but do not want MPs making the law.

"The trouble with that, of course, is that law-making is the central function of MPs. More than anything else, that is what we elect them to do," he says.

"The reason for the apparent inconsistencies in our attitudes to press regulation flow from our distrust in politicians as a breed, which rivals the distrust that most of us have towards the press."

The polls are published as David Cameron comes under pressure from different wings of the Tory party on press regulation.

On Tuesday evening a cross-party group of more than 80 MPs and peers signed a letter warning that state regulation would endager freedom of speech.

However more than 40 Tory MPs have also put their names to a letter saying the status-quo is not sustainable and statutory regulation must be introduced.

As for public opinion, cynics might say it depends who asks the question and how.

READ IN FULL: Peter Kellner Explains The Polling Contradiction