Regulating Opinion Polling: A Deliberative Democratic Perspective
23 Pages Posted: 1 May 2016
Date Written: April 29, 2016
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
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