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Public opinion polls and elections 2012

Thursday, 06 Sep 2012

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Yiannis Mavris* – Yiorgos Symeonidis**


The parliamentary election in May 2012 and the repeat election in June provided a challenge for Greek public opinion polls. Apart from the impressions created, the problems that arose are numerous. It is more than likely that these problems will continue and perhaps even intensify. The phenomenon of the growing and largely unforeseen rate of abstention, along with “spiral of silence” effect, in various forms will in the future limit the predictive power of Greek public opinion polls.

Most importantly however, in conditions of generalized electoral volatility, coupled with ideological-political polarization, the ban on the publication of opinion poll results during the last two weeks prior to an election has developed into a crucial issue. Apart from the abolition of citizens’ democratic right to information and the blatant propaganda it nurtured, by abolishing in practice the relevant legislative provision in force, this time the ban also seriously compromised the reliability of opinion polls.

Unlike the experience of previous electoral contests, in both May and June the strong trends that gained momentum during the final two weeks and were recorded in pre-election polls, because of the ban could not be published in time. If this problem is not immediately resolved, then serious questions will be raised about whether the democratic prerequisites actually exist for the conducting and publication of opinion polls, while at the same time it will become increasingly likely that their use will inevitably be curtailed in the private domain.

The following analysis has a twofold objective. On the one hand, to reply to the (well-intentioned or malicious) criticism leveled at Public Issue regarding the June estimate and, on the other, to investigate the real errors that arose in the estimate of the trends that were taking shape among the electorate in the period between the two electoral contests. Continuing with consistency the effort that began with the political Barometer in 2004, we shall attempt a scientific evaluation of the pre-election surveys (as in any case took place with the previous elections) and, in addition, we shall make available the raw data of all the opinion polls conducted by the company during the two pre-election periods. We shall clarify exactly what Public Issue did and did not do with regard to the June election and shall set out in detail the methodology used. Furthermore, in the belief that dialogue and the exchange of arguments, not only among polling organizations but also between polling industry and the academic community, are obvious tools for the furthering of scientific discussion, we shall present the company’s view concerning political weighting and endeavor to compare the application of weighting with Public Issue’s own methodology, in the case of the two parliamentary elections in 2012. We would like to hope that other companies, academic researchers and whoever else may be genuinely interested in the future of Greek opinion polls will take part in this dialogue.

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*Political scientist (PhD), President & CEO of Public Issue
**Statistician (MSc), Statistical modeling analyst for Public Issue