NEWS19 June 2015

BPC opposes Lords bill on regulating opinion polls

News UK

UK — The British Polling Council (BPC) has urged the House of Lords to reject the private members bill on the regulation of opinion polls presented by Lord Foulkes.


The bill proposes establishing an authority to regulate polls of voting intentions for all elections and referendums in the UK. The authority could specify approved ways for selecting who should be interviewed, how the questions in polls should be worded and to ban the publication of voting intention polls during an election campaign.

The private members’ bill gets its second reading in the House of Lords today and follows the May General Election, where the polls leading up to the election suggested a coalition government (by overestimating the Labour vote) as opposed to the Tory majority that was actually returned.

Professor John Curtice, BPC president said: “What is needed now is a critical and open appraisal of where the polls went wrong, not the heavy hand of regulation that, in attempting to impose common standards, would make it more likely that the polls all get it wrong again in future.

“As any economic forecaster knows too well, forecasting how people will behave is always a difficult enterprise. No-one has yet suggested that, despite their many errors, economic forecasting should be regulated, and it is not clear why attempting to anticipate how people will vote should be treated any differently.”

Professor Matthew Flinders, chair of the Political Studies Association, the society for politics academics, said the PSA is also opposed to the bill. “The bill is a worrying development for our members, many of whom dedicate their careers to researching public opinion and elections. The important work done by the likes of the British Election Study and EPOP (Elections, Public Opinion and Parties) Specialist Group would be seriously disrupted if they were forced to adhere to rules of sampling and question wording laid down by the authority, as this bill proposes.”

The BPC is conducting an independent enquiry into why the polls were wrong and how they might be improved in the future.

The first meeting of the enquiry, at which BPC members will be presenting their initial findings as to what went wrong, is being held later today.