Regulating Opinion Polling: A Deliberative Democratic Perspective

23 Pages Posted: 1 May 2016

See all articles by Graeme D. Orr

Graeme D. Orr

The University of Queensland - T.C. Beirne School of Law

Ron Levy

Australian National University

Date Written: April 29, 2016

Abstract

The quantity and quality of political opinion polling are sources of concern for electoral democracies worldwide. A significant number of countries regulate polling by embargoing publication in the latter stages of the election period, or by mandating disclosure of key information about each poll. Such regulation, however, is rare in common law systems, where ‘free speech’ arguments tend to hold sway, sublimating concern for the deliberative health of political discourse. This article examines the issue, comparing regulation and case law internationally in light of the evolution, benefits and pathologies of opinion polling. A distinction can be made between polling on issues, which permit us all to reflect on the positions of fellow citizens on substantive issues, and the almost endless stream of polling on voting intentions, which offers little from a deliberative perspective. We recommend regulation to ensure disclosure, at the point of publication, of key information about each opinion poll (eg who conducted it, the wording of questions and margins of error), as well as a campaign-period embargo on publishing electoral opinion polling.

Keywords: Election law, Opinion Polling, Deliberative Democracy, Election Campaigns

Suggested Citation

Orr, Graeme and Levy, Ron, Regulating Opinion Polling: A Deliberative Democratic Perspective (April 29, 2016). University of New South Wales Law Journal, Vol. 39, No. 1, 2016. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2772419

Graeme Orr (Contact Author)

The University of Queensland - T.C. Beirne School of Law ( email )

The University of Queensland
St Lucia
4072 Brisbane, Queensland 4072
Australia

Ron Levy

Australian National University ( email )

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2600
Australia

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