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Government Regulation and Election Embargoes Can Threaten Poll Quality

24 September 2018

Tuesday 25 September at ESOMAR Congress, findings from the joint ESOMAR WAPOR 2017 report on the Freedom to Conduct Opinion Polls are going to be presented by Kathy Frankovic. This is the 6th report in the series, which began 1984. A truly global study in which 133 countries are represented.

The study specifically looks at the limitations of polling around the world, from embargos to declining response rates, and the role of media. 61% of countries reported a pre-election black-out period. The study shows that, in particular, the typical Latin American country has a week-long embargo, compared to most European countries having either short, or no publication embargo. Latin America is the most regulated, with every country reporting an election poll embargo.

Black-outs don’t help poll quality, actually, they may lead to polling getting worse. Countries without blackout periods are three times as likely to report very high quality of poll methods. Last year at Congress, Jon Puleston presented a paper showing that up to a third of the electorate make up their minds in the last week of the campaign, and polls getting more accurate closer to the election day, meaning that voting embargoes will often lead to inaccurate polling results. Government regulation does little to ensure that polls are reported properly.

The study also looks at the polling environment becoming harder or easier. 39% of countries reported it was getting harder to conduct polls in their country, only 19% thought it was getting easier. Many pollsters in Europe responded polling getting harder in their country, with the main culprits being: budget cuts, declining response rates and increased costs.

The ESOMAR WAPOR report can be downloaded througth the link below. The paper on the accuracy of polls, and other resources on polling will soon be made available on the ESOMAR website.

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