'Dodgy' Ad Saying Most Local People Back Third Runway Banned

Back Heathrow continue to claim majority of residents support expansion

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An advertising campaign by the Back Heathrow group which claimed majority local support for the expansion of the airport has been banned by the regulator.

Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that the press campaign ‘Rallying for the Runway’ which included with the line “Don’t believe the hype. Most people living in communities near Heathrow Airport support its expansion” did not have adequate polling data to back the claim. The lobby group which is part funded by Heathrow Airport said in a footnote to the ad that the latest independent polling showed 60% of local residents had “expressed an opinion in support of expansion”. The ASA found that to get to the statement of 60% in support, the Back Heathrow campaign had excluded 15% of those surveyed on the grounds they had not expressed any opinion.

The ASA received five complaints that said the claim that the group had widespread local support was misleading.

Their ruling states, “Given that a significant number of respondents, who had expressed an opinion albeit a neutral one, had been excluded from the sample, we considered that this was not a suitable methodology by which to draw such a conclusion. We considered that the evidence held back by Back Heathrow demonstrated that only 50% of all those polled were in support of expansion.”

They concluded that Back Heathrow had not backed their claim that ‘most’ people living near the airport backed expansion and said they should not be repeated unless they held ‘robust substantiation.’

Rob Gray, Campaign Director, Back Heathrow said, "The ruling is confusing because even by the ASA's own definition of residents living near to Heathrow, the evidence clearly shows a majority of support for the airport's expansion. Nevertheless, we are pleased that the ASA acknowledged that more local people support a new runway at Heathrow than oppose it.

“In the recent Airports Commission public consultation, 82 per cent of the 70,591 responses were in favour of Heathrow expansion. Most of these were local residents so we think the ASA is on wafer-thin ice with this ruling. In the 10 constituencies defined as 'local' by the ASA, there is a 53 per cent majority in favour of Heathrow expansion.”

John Stewart, chair HACAN, the campaign group which opposes Heathrow expansion, “This ruling is a real blow to Back Heathrow as a cornerstone of its strategy has been to try to convince decision-makers that a majority of local people back a third runway. These claims are now starting to unravel.”

Robert Barnstone, Campaign Co-ordinator for Stop Heathrow Expansion, said: “Yet again the pro-Heathrow expansion lobby have been caught placing dodgy ads. The ASA rulings are a fitting indictment of the misleading facts and statistics that are splurged across the political spectrum in order for politicians to back their third runway proposal.”

April 20, 2016

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