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Are opinion pollings for election trustworthy or a way to manipulate? Watch

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    In the last couple elections in UK and other European countries the polls were usually predicting falsly results of particular election.
    The last know example in UK was the EU membership referendum where according to IPSOS and other organisation predicted the Remain vote would win with about 52-55% so the Remain campaign was relaxed and expecting a easy victory. The next morning they were in shock (just rember the reaction of the MSM) as it turned the other way, the Leave vote won with 52%.
    Similar happened at the last general elections. According to polls the Torries and Labour were tied with Labour being in a slight advance. Note how the polls overpredicted the results of the Greens and LibDem.
    I can put an example from other countries like for example the last Polish presidential election where the same IPSOS the eurosceptic candidate Duda would be second. But the result showed he was more than 5% ahead from his oponent

    So, in all this polls they were always favoring either a) left-wing candidates (for example Greens and Labour in the UK general election) and b) pro-EU candidates/agenda (see polish presidential elections and UK referendum).

    So, fellow student and intellectuals are polls really a source to determine the opinion of voters or are there a way and attempt to manipulate the opinion of the people like in the UK referendum?
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    Polling is generally flawed as they are very hard to conduct fairly. You question a small number of people about how they might vote and then extrapolate. But there are many variables that are difficult to account for. They include respondents lying, respondents self selecting, the respondent sample not being representative of the general population, and so on. The EU vote was particularly difficult because there were no previous polls on which to take a baseline and every voted counted.

    By contrast, the exit polling for the last general election was bob on. I do wonder if Paddy Ashdown did eat his hat in the end.
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    They're an inexact science, and voter habits are changing rapidly, so older, more reliable techniques of voter prediction need updating. Nobody's got it right yet - hence the fluctuations in their predictability.

    Far cry from claiming that they are tools for voter manipulation. If they are, they do a piss-poor job of it.
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    (Original post by slaven)
    Similar happened at the last general elections. According to polls the Torries and Labour were tied with Labour being in a slight advance.
    Depends exactly when you're talking about but not really, no. A few weeks before projections were divided about who exactly was slightly ahead. By the time of just before election day, while still underestimating the Tory vote, most projections were predicting a slight Tory lead and the Tories to be the largest party.

    There's really no point systematically lying with polls just to make your preferred option look like it's ahead - you'll look like a fool come the election results, and it will have no benefit. Of course, sometimes pollsters make mistakes - even fundamental ones - but that's something altogether different.

    For example, suppose the pollsters really were trying to manipulate voters into a pro-Remain result. How would simply portraying a relatively narrow Remain lead achieve that? It would still make the election look close and motivate both sides to fight for every last vote.

    If they'd faked a big Remain lead, then it would have had the opposite effect - both sides would consider it a given, and not bother as much.

    A similar thing would have happened if the polls had portrayed narrow or large Brexit leads respectively. You can't really use polls to manipulate in simplistic two-option contests. There is a possibility of using them to influence multi-candidate elections, however. though it's limited.

    For a start, you can't deviate too much from the reality, or it will be obvious that you're lying. It needs to be plausible but change the narrative somewhat. For example, suppose you're a Lib Dem campaigner, and you know from a series of private polls in your constituency that the real average is around:
    - Tories 32%
    - Labour 31%
    - Lib Dems 22%
    However, you choose to release one or two polls saying something like:
    - Tories 30%
    - Labour 30%
    - Lib Dems 26%

    Now those aren't too out of whack with the average, so they're certainly plausible, but there's an obvious difference in perception between the two sets. The first looks like a two-way marginal with the Lib Dems in a good third but a decent way behind. The second looks like a three-way marginal, which will bring out more Lib Dem voters without bringing any similar gains to the other two parties (as it's a tight race for them regardless).

    But this is still relatively minor - influencing major elections and referendums through polling is simply unrealistic, simply because there are so many polls and it's a very transparent industry.

    And often pundits like to ignore polling and write their own narratives anyway. The 2012 US election is the classic example - Obama had a modest polling lead more or less the whole campaign - large enough to suggest he should have been regarded as an obvious favourite, but small enough to deny if you wanted to. Which was what commentators did, because a neck-and-neck race is more interesting to talk about.
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    (Original post by ByEeek)
    Polling is generally flawed as they are very hard to conduct fairly. You question a small number of people about how they might vote and then extrapolate. But there are many variables that are difficult to account for. They include respondents lying, respondents self selecting, the respondent sample not being representative of the general population, and so on. The EU vote was particularly difficult because there were no previous polls on which to take a baseline and every voted counted.

    By contrast, the exit polling for the last general election was bob on. I do wonder if Paddy Ashdown did eat his hat in the end.
    This.
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    I think you need to be careful with opinion polls.

    I think they are good at showing general trends and also good at showing when there are big differences in opinions.

    But when they get close or if you look at single polls in isolation, then you're in trouble.

    I also do think that polls have become more inaccurate. I think it's perhaps a sign of changing behavior and attitudes in society which the pollsters haven't adjusted for.
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    This is more a problem with people and the media not knowing how to read polls than polling firms generally being crap.

    Taking the 2015 election for example the media often reported a poll of polls (a stupid thing to do given methodology differences) however when you look deeper what you actually find is that telephone polls had the Tories ahead and online polls with Labour ahead.

    The EU referendum was much stranger. If you look at the week before the Cox shooting then Leave were solidly ahead, it was afterward that we saw a reversion. It should however be noted that ICM declared it's final poll in the week before (seemingly confident that would be the result) as 50-45 for Leave.

    Moral of the story... bin online polling and go with the telephone polls. Also go with ICM.
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    (Original post by Rakas21)
    This is more a problem with people and the media not knowing how to read polls than polling firms generally being crap.

    Taking the 2015 election for example the media often reported a poll of polls (a stupid thing to do given methodology differences) however when you look deeper what you actually find is that telephone polls had the Tories ahead and online polls with Labour ahead.

    The EU referendum was much stranger. If you look at the week before the Cox shooting then Leave were solidly ahead, it was afterward that we saw a reversion. It should however be noted that ICM declared it's final poll in the week before (seemingly confident that would be the result) as 50-45 for Leave.

    Moral of the story... bin online polling and go with the telephone polls. Also go with ICM.
    I wouldn't say that online polling should be binned. Just that the methodology of online polls may need to change. At the very least, the pollsters need to investigate to see whether online polls can be made more representative.

    I do notice though, that online, Labour, Remain etc all seemed to have a higher profile in the run up to respective votes. So it's perhaps no surprise that the more self-selecting online polls are showing inaccurate weightings towards those parties/groups.
 
 
 
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