Select Committee on Political Polling and Digital Media
The politics of polling

Report of Session 2017-19 - published 17 April 2018 - HL Paper 106



Chapter 1: Introduction

Political polling in the United Kingdom

The Committee’s remit

The Committee’s work

Chapter 2: Background

What is a poll?

Who commissions polls?

The accuracy of voting intention polls

Are the polls getting worse?

Is it getting harder to poll?

Persuading the public to take part

Decline in the value of socio-economic class as a weighting variable


Financial constraints and the impact of the internet

Voter volatility

The impact of voting intention polling

Impact on voters

Impact on the media ‘narrative’

Impact on political parties


Chapter 3: Media reporting of voting intention polls

Concerns about media reporting of polls

The ‘horse race’

Lack of reference to important caveats

Headlines and margins of error

What can polling organisations do?

The challenges faced by journalists

Views on what could be done to improve media reporting of voting intention polls

Giving polls less prominence

Training for journalists

Chapter 4: The use of policy issues polls

Methods used by polling organisations

Methodological approaches

Case study: IPSO complaint upheld against the Daily Express

Case study: Survey of members of the Royal College of Physicians

The use of polling results

Case study: IPSO complaint upheld against The Sun

Case study: Press Complaints Commission complaint resolved with the Daily Mirror


Chapter 5: Oversight of polling

Current oversight of polling

British Polling Council

Market Research Society

Media regulators

The overall landscape

International comparison: France—Commission des Sondages

The case for action on regulation

The Electoral Commission

A co-ordinated approach

Banning of polling

Chapter 6: Digital media


Digital media and polling

Social media

The use of social media data for predicting elections

Spread of misinformation on social media

Social media and political campaigning

Options for tackling the challenges posed by social media

Summary of conclusions and recommendations

Appendix 1: List of Members and declarations of interest

Appendix 2: List of witnesses

Appendix 3: Informal briefings

Appendix 4: Call for evidence

Appendix 5: The polling industry in the UK

Appendix 6: British Polling Council: A Journalist’s Guide To Opinion Polls

Appendix 7: Letter sent to Liaison Committee

Appendix 8: Acronyms and glossary

Evidence is published online at and available for inspection at the Parliamentary Archives (020 7219 3074).

Q in footnotes refers to a question in oral evidence.

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