Time for a moratorium on opinion polls

I was interested to see this news item on TV3 : ‘Did opinion polls influence the election?

New research by Michelle Nicol shows those polls may also have contributed to the record low turnout.

Her research found three main influences on people’s perceptions of politics and the election, with a lot of undecided voters going to the ‘popular’ party in order to feel as though they fit in.

I’ve often thought, and argued, that there should be a moratorium on opinion polls in the last three months (roughly) before an election.  They have two effects which I think are bad for democracy:

  1. They influence both turnout and voting behaviour, often in a negative way – e.g. convincing people they should vote in a particular way because of what other people think, rather than according to their own beliefs.
  2. They add to the punditry of discussion about who is going to win and lose, thus removing public space for informative debate about issues, personalities and policies.

Liberation discusses the issue in much more depth here (and comes to a different conclusion).

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One thought on “Time for a moratorium on opinion polls

  1. Forgot to comment on this when it was posted, but my two cents’ worth (having had some time out form Welli to relax & reflect) is that the interference of polling agencies in the political process, along with that of advertising agencies, creates a skewing of the campaigning period, due to the influence of a handful of people who run those agencies.

    They are not political party agents, not under the purvue of the electoral commission, yet they exert unreasonable influence over the general population as a result of their choices about polling methodologies (some of which were downright fraudulent during the 3-month pre-election period), or in the case of advertising, their choices to use highly manipulative and subtle techniques to present propaganda to mass audiences, most of whom are neither highly politically educated or deeply politically engaged, and thus lack analysis of what is being presented by agencies.

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