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Committee welcomes progress in the polling industry but calls for ongoing vigilance

21 December 2020

The House of Lords Liaison Committee publishes its second follow-up report The politics of polling: an update.


This report examines the progress made by the British Polling Council in the implementation of the recommendations made by the Select Committee on Political Polling and Digital Media in its 2018 report The politics of polling. In the Liaison Committee’s report Review of House of Lords Investigative and Scrutiny Committees: towards a new thematic committee structure published in July 2019, the Committee recommended that the Liaison Committee (on a case by case basis) could hold follow-up evidence sessions on a former special inquiry committee’s recommendations, followed by the publication of a report. This is the second occasion on which this new procedure has been utilised.

Key points

The follow-up report welcomes progress the polling industry has made since 2017. It supports the increased focus on weighting by education level as a more accurate predictor of voting intention than social class.

The report also states that the US polls’ inaccuracy in this year’s Presidential election – where the final result was much closer than pre-vote voter intention polls had predicted - was disappointing after improvements had been made to the techniques pollsters used, including to take greater account of the education level of respondents. The report calls on the “British polling industry to consider in depth the implications of this failure for British polling.”

The report also praises the British Polling Council and Market Research Council for work they have undertaken to produce guidance for journalists reporting on polls and their work with the National Council for the Training of Journalists to ensure journalism courses include the issue in their syllabus. 

Chair's comments

Lord Lispey, Former Chair of Political Polling and Digital Media Committee said:

“The poor performance of voter intention polls at this year’s Presidential election in the US show this is not the time for complacency in the polling industry.

“While we have seen improvement in the performance of opinion polls at the 2019 General Election it is important the British Polling Council keep a firm eye on ensuring polling companies are delivering best practice and adjusting to social changes such as the increasing importance of educational level, rather than traditional social class, as an indicator of voting behaviour.

“In the longer term the BPC should keep under review whether they should take on a clearer regulatory role in the operation of polling companies in the UK. Political opinion polls are important and their accuracy and impartiality shouldn’t be taken for granted.”

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