NZ Election Polls Under the Microscope
New Zealand's research and media communities have begun discussions over the way election polls are conducted and the influence they exert over voting, with a public forum held at the country’s Parliament this evening.
Industry spokesmen say the aim is to establish a code to ensure a high standard of political polling across all research companies, and to guide the media and other users in interpreting and discussing findings to avoid bias and provide well-informed comment and opinion to the public.
The move is positioned as proactive, rather than a response to criticism of specific polls or companies. Results from polls in the last days of the recent election swung significantly, according to Rob Bree, Executive Director of research body the Association of Market Research Organisations (AMRO). Bree says undecided voters ‘revised their voting choices in response to current events and the media's reporting of those events’, and adds that voters on election day exercised tactical votes ‘based somewhat on the polls and where they felt their votes would count most’, according to www.nzherald.co.nz .
While the established polling companies continued to produce quite accurate results, the growing importance of polls makes a review imperative, according to researchers. According to David Farrar of National Party pollster Curia, ‘Considering their power and importance in elections we want to be quite careful about them.’ He also cites research by the Electoral Commission suggesting that the perception from polls that the National Party was headed for an easy victory was one of the factors in low turnout last year.
The initiative, with AMRO and the country’s Market Research Society at its core, will aim to set standards not only for polling itself but for media reporting of polls; and will aim to make their results more readily available online to the media, academics, political organisations and other interested parties.