What is the Polling Observatory?

There has been a steady increase in the volume of campaign period polls conducted and published in many countries, including Canada and Britain. This increase in polls has been met by an increase in the percentage of the news media coverage of the campaign devoted to reporting on them. Controversy surrounding the accuracy of these same polls has raised important questions about their normative value and costs. While some argue polls provide valuable political information to voters, the failure of polls to accurately forecast the winner has led others to call for greater regulation of public opinion polls, especially those taken and published during elections. Presumably, both perspectives take it as given that information from polls can have an impact on voters' decisions and, in turn, on electoral outcomes. Yet, this basic premise has very little grounding in social science research. Even the so-called "failure" of the polls may be overstated. With little to go on, informed discussion about the regulation of polls and poll reporting is impossible.

The purpose of the Polling Observatory is to report on and provide an analysis of the election polls leading into the next Canadian Federal and British General Elections. It also acts to disseminate the latest research on polling accuracy and poll effects on voters. Online commentary by and debate between journalists, academics and members of the market research industry is encouraged. The website provides a basis for discussion, with the hopes of improving election polling and the reporting of election polling.

 

The Polling Observatory team is Rob Ford (University of Manchester), Will Jennings (University of Southampton), Mark Pickup (Simon Fraser University) and Christopher Wlezien (University of Texas at Austin).