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YouGov's former Chief Executive Officer Nadhim Zahawi resigned from the board to stand in the 2010 General Election and is now a Conservative Party MP for Stratford-on-Avon. The current CEO, Stephan Shakespeare, stood in the 1997 general election as the Conservative candidate for Colchester.
YouGov's Chairman since April 2007 is Roger Parry, replacing political commentator Peter Kellner who now serves as President of the company. Current Chief Executive Officer, Stephan Shakespeare, owns approximately 6% of the company.
The YouGov Group has 25 offices worldwide, across the UK, United States, Europe, Nordics, the Middle East and Asia Pacific.
YouGov floated for £18 million in April 2005. In 2006, YouGov acquired a Dubai-based market research firm (Siraj) and in 2007 it further expanded by acquiring market research firms in the USA (Polimetrix), Germany (Psychonomics) and Scandinavia (Zapera). Between 2009 and 2011, YouGov expanded its US operations with three further acquisitions (Clear Horizons, Harrison Group and Definitive Insights). In 2014, YouGov acquired Asia Pacific based business, Decision Fuel. Each of these acquisitions has been re-branded as YouGov and form part of the YouGov Group, along with the organic businesses in the UK and France.
YouGov's methodology is to obtain responses from an invited group of internet users, and then to weight these responses in line with demographic information. It draws these demographically-representative samples from a panel of some 3 million people worldwide including over 400,000 people in the UK. As YouGov's online methods use no field-force, its costs are lower than some face-to-face or telephone methods. (A field-force are those employees that ask the questions.)
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YouGov has claimed that its opinion polls are most accurate when compared to its competitors and in particular that its online methodology is more accurate than traditional polling methods. For example, YouGov has contended that its opinion polls in recent UK elections have been consistently more accurate than traditional opinion pollsters who repeatedly overestimate the Labour vote. This pattern was evident during the United Kingdom general election 2005 campaign, when most traditional polls reported Labour's support in the range from 38 to 41%, compared with the 36% it achieved on polling day. In contrast, YouGov's nine polls during the final three weeks of the campaign all showed Labour on 36 or 37%, although GfK NOP (published in The Independent) gave the most accurate forecast in their final poll before the election.
Critics argue[who?] that, as not all of the public have access to the internet, online samples cannot accurately reflect the views of the population as a whole. YouGov counters that they have a representative panel and they are able to weight their data appropriately to reflect the national audience that they are aiming to poll.
It is a function of their internet panel methodology that YouGov is not able to pick up turnout factors to the same degree as other pollsters and they exclude it from their methods. However, traditional polls use widely differing methods to take account of turnout, and these produce equally varied corrections to the raw data. No consensus has emerged as to what, if any, correction has greatest validity.
Four weeks before the London mayoral election, 2008, a YouGov poll placed Boris Johnson 13% ahead of the incumbent Ken Livingstone. Livingstone's campaign team branded the poll "fundamentally flawed", arguing that it failed to take account of London's larger ethnic minority population compared to the rest of the country, and saying that it would complain to the Market Research Council of Great Britain. Ipsos MORI and ICM polls put the candidates neck-and-neck. A subsequent poll was derided by Livingstone as "a transparent attempt by the Evening Standard/YouGov to give Boris Johnson a more credible lead". However, Livingstone never made the official complaint that had been announced to the media, and in the event, YouGov's final poll showing Johnson in the lead by 6% was the only accurate prediction.
More recently, during the 2012 US Presidential Election, on the basis of one of the most extensive opinion polls ever conducted, YouGov predicted that Barack Obama would win the national vote by 2%. This prediction proved to be one of the most accurate out of all pollsters covering the election.
YouGov’s final poll on the London mayoral election 2012, conducted for the London Evening Standard, showed Boris Johnson beating Ken Livingstone by 5% in the first round, and by 6% (53%-47%) in the second round. The final outcome saw Johnson lead by 4% in the first round, winning the election by 4% (52%-48%) after second preferences were re-allocated. Across all the candidates, YouGov’s average margins of error were just 1.3% and 1% in first and second preference counts respectively.
In the Nordic region, YouGov is particularly well known for its accurate exit polls all of which are conducted via the internet; for example, YouGov conducted the most accurate exit poll at the Swedish general election 2010.
As well as political predictions, YouGov is known for its accurate predictions relating to popular culture. YouGov’s prediction of a victory for Will Young in the UK Pop Idol (series 1) contest in 2001/2 gave YouGov its first major media attention having been the only research organisation to get this right. More recently, YouGov correctly predicted a win for James Arthur (singer) in the 2012 The X Factor (UK series 9) contest. In a poll of The X Factor watchers conducted before the final weekend, YouGov accurately predicted that James would be crowned the winner, Jahmene Douglas would be the runner-up, and that Christopher Maloney would be eliminated on Saturday night. According to the X-Factor, the Saturday voting numbers were 52% for James, 32% for Jahmene, and 17% for Christopher. YouGov’s figures were James 50%, Jahmene 35%, and Christopher 15%.
In January 2013, YouGov accurately predicted the volume of global Apple iPhone sales.
In 2006 YouGov began expanding outside the UK through acquisitions and acquired Dubai-based research firm Siraj for $1.2 million plus an eventual earn out of $600,000. In 2007 they added Palo Alto, CA based US research firm Polimetrix for approximately $17 million, Scandinavian firm Zapera for $8 million and German firm Psychonomics for $20 million. In 2009 and 2010, YouGov expanded its US operations with two acquisitions; first buying Princeton, NJ research firm Clear Horizons for $600,000 plus an earn out of $2.7 million, then Connecticut-based research firm Harrison Group for $6 million with a $7 million earnout. In 2011, YouGov acquired Portland, OR-based firm Definitive Insights for $1 million with a potential $2 million earn out. In 2011, YouGov made its first organic expansion by opening an office in Paris, France. In January 2014, YouGov entered the Asia Pacific region with the acquisition of Decision Fuel for an estimated consideration of approximately £5 million.