Should Political Polling be Banned?

I wasn’t sure if this should go under “Elections”, but it seemed more of a debate subject that about a specific election.

I’m watching the Mayoral race here in Chicago, and it seems Rahm Emmanuel is running away with it. Seems like it is the key here.

I’m no political expert, but it seems to me that the so called will of the people would be better served if we had no idea who would win an election ahead of time. Sort of like we have no idea who will win the Oscar ahead of time.

After all, if a candidate someone doesn’t like is 20% ahead in the polls or whatever, doesn’t a lot of voter apathy set in? Wouldn’t people who would otherwise go out and vote for a candidate they prefer, feel like “what’s the use?” if their favorite is lagging significantly behind? Doesn’t this sort of make the polls decide the election instead of the voters?

What makes these polls so infallible anyway? It’s just a random sampling of a brace of surveys. Why should the results of 600 people decide ahead of time the choice of what should be millions of people on the day of election?

I’m trying to see a downside to banning political polling, but I can’t come up with anything. Can you?

I think that the main downside is that it would be extremely hard to enforce the ban. And that it would be a violation of the first amendment.

That’s like banning scales because they depress fat people.

Polling is simply a measurement of public opinion. If a poll shows 20% support, then there is ALREADY voter apathy for that candidate. It’s just a tool.

Polling can help voters make informed decisions about strategic voting. For example, if the latest poll has A 45%, B 45%, C 5% and undecided 5%, a supporter of candidate C can decide to switch their vote to the more preferred candidate between A and B. Why would you want to deny that voter the information needed to make such a decision?

Instant Runoff Voting would solve that problem.

Yes, but you’re never going to get that in the U.S., given the stranglehold the two major parties have on the system.

It doesn’t. Anyone else remember “Dewey Defeats Truman”? Well, OK, I don’t personally remember it, but I read about it in the history books. When the polls disagree with the actual election, we go with the results of the election.

For your comparison to the Academy Awards, there are plenty of media outlets that speculate who’s going to win what and by what margins. Those sources would use polls of the voters if they could, and the only reason they can’t is that the voters for the Academy Awards are a very small and specific group. Polls do work for judging how large numbers of people will decide, but do not work for small numbers.

The opposite happens as well. Polls can generate interest in the election and lead to increased voter turnout.

Polls can be far more impactful in three party races. Back in the UK, I part ran a local counsel campaign. The seat was made up of 99% students and university lecturers, and was a 4 year term, so each time was a completely new electorate. Most noteably as well, the student voters would be very much anti-national encumbent.

At this time, it had been, for a while, I fight between Labour (my party) and the Liberal Democrats. The conservative vote was around 20%, with Labor at around 45%, LibDems 30% and Greens 5%. The trouble was, the Conservative voters knew they wouldn’t win, and hated Labour enough to hold their noses and vote Liberal Democrat. Which often put them over the top. We knew, however, that they hated doing it, because they hated the LibDems almost as much as they hated us.

So we needed a poll, and we needed it to show that Labour was winning in a run away. So, unscientifically, we held a poll in a pub, with about 100 people there. Labour got 70% of the vote. Admittedly, it was held just after we had all piled out of an activist meeting to the pub, but there you go… Anyway, we included the result of the poll on the election day fliers, and on the day of the election, the Conservative vote held up nicely, and we won the ward handily.

I don’t see them as having a similar impact in a two party situation.

Polls are also insurance against election fraud. If an election is rigged and polls are banned, how would you even guess the election results were faked unless they were really, really blatant about it?

Mjeh. It’s not going to threaten the monopoly, at least not in the short run.

Or can you think of a place where the swing vote plus independent vote equals an amount close to a third of the vote? That’s the bare minimum for it to have a real effect. The independent needs to get more than at least one of the R and D candidates, and be the prefered second choice of a big majority of that candidates voters.

But both parties would want it in places where they have two candidates running. And you could actually HAVE two candidates (or more) running for the same party, and benefit from it.

Polling is protected by Constitutional rights–people have the right to ask other people what their opinions are. And reporting the results of polling is also protected by Constitutional rights–people have the right to publish. So it’s illegal to prohibit either polls or the reporting of poll results.

The solution to speech you don’t like is not to ban it. The only acceptable solution is more speech.

If we had that many independent voters, the third parties would already be in. The key is that there are a lot of folks who would be independent if they could, but vote for one of the Big Two anyway because those are the only votes that matter. Make the other votes matter, too, and the number of independents grows.

How about in Australia, where neither major party won a majority in the lower house in the last election, and the balance of power is held by independents who are unlikely to have been elected in a first-past-the-post system? You don’t need 33% overall for minor parties and independents for them to have an influence, because they can pick up seats because of local circumstances. (In the state electorate where I used to live in New South Wales, the main opposition candidate polled fifth, after the Labor candidate, two independents, and the Green candidate. There, it was possible that either independent could win, but the Labor candidate did.)

Look at the Nov 2010 governor’s race in Illinois. Pat Quinn (Dem) was losing at the polls and at one point Bill Brady (Rep) claimed victory. The it turns out he won.

In close races polling does help get the apathetic voters out. Polling has also gotten BETTER each time. If a poll is way off it’s because of a reason. Pollsters examine this and redefine their methods and make it more accurate.

I understand the OP line of thinking, but this “group mentality” doesn’t help any. I am not found of American’s system of elections. It was very good in the beginning but I feel it’s outdated in the 21st century. But it won’t change any, 'cause the people in power aren’t going to give it up.

Just for the record, here in Minnesota, instant runoff voting is slowly being implemented. It was used for the last election in the city of Minneapolis and I believe other cities have adopted it as well. There is a very active grass-roots organization that is trying to expand it.

It will still be an uphill climb to adopt it for state-wide elections, but they have gotten a lot farther than I expected.

Since polling is vital to the function of single non-transferable-vote campaigns, & certainly useful to other kinds of elections, I would say no.

Knowing where support lies allows candidates to make tactical alliances. Candidates going in blind as individuals can just give the election to a less-well-liked plurality candidate.

And I personally remember three Presidential elections that were too close to call until the next morning - or later, in the case of 2000. (The other two were 1968 and 1976.) Can’t remember what the last polls said.

Polling affects the outcome of elections.

In the U.K. not that many years ago all the polls showed that the sitting Labour government would have a runaway election victory and that the Conservative Party shouldn’t even bother turning up.

The result ?

The Labour voters stayed home in droves, " They don’t need my vote its going to be a shoo in, I’ll watch my favourite soap instead".

Meanwhile the Conservative voters were , "OK I’ve got really bad influenza/a twisted ankle/its my anniversary…but the party needs every single vote that we can muster ".

The result was a shock, and I do mean shock, (even for the Cns. Party) victory for the Conservatives.

So there is a case for banning political polls before an election.

But otherwise its useful as a reflection of the electorates opinions mid term, hopefully free of political manipulation.

Sorry to double post, I was so busy making my point that I forgot to reference the election.

Can’t remember the year, but it was the election that made Ted Heath Prime Minister.