Monday, 18 Feb 2013

How opinion polls work

By Brice Rambaud , Internews in Kenya.

Opinion polls companies are major stakeholders, if not actors, in the 2013 General Election campaigns.

Polls are regularly reported and commented on in the media. They are an inseparable part of news coverage as there is no more accurate way to gauge the sentiments of the voters, at a given time, than through a carefully designed and executed opinion poll.


But polls are also criticized, especially by political party leaders who disregard results that do not favor them and by some civil society actors who say they promote a two-horse race campaign.  The situation has forced opinion poll researchers and company managers to appear on political TV and radio shows to defend their methodology, and their integrity.


Kenyans can remember that in the run up to the 2007 General Election, the media’s lack of capacity to contextualize and analyze data led to confusion when the results didn’t match predictions. The media had failed to explain the difference between polling data and election results.


Internews in Kenya recently trained a group of radio journalists to improve the use, analysis and reporting of opinion polls. Over 25 journalists were taught to scrutinize the methodology of different polling firms.


When has a poll been conducted according to accepted professional standards? When does a poll’s findings have legitimate news value? What is an appropriate way to publish or broadcast newsy poll findings?


Internews in Kenya Democracy and Governance Programs Director Brice Rambaud responds in the following Power Point presentation.


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