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).