Lords tell political pollsters to ‘get house in order’ | Politics


The House of Lords has called for the polling industry to “get its house in order” following three straight years of political polls “calling it wrong” over two general elections and the EU referendum.

In its report, the House of Lords committee on political polling and digital media also noted that the use of social media to adversely influence the political debate was “deeply concerning”.

There has been a “widespread loss of confidence in polling” since 2015, when the pollsters failed to predict a Conservative win, the report says. There are also “concerns about the extent to which inaccurate polls might be shaping the ‘narrative’ during election campaigns, and therefore how they might be affecting the democratic process”.

As a result, the Lords recommend expanding the role of the British Polling Council, the self-regulatory body of the public polling industry, to go beyond simply ensuring transparency in how pollsters operate.

In the future, the report says, the BPC should “work with the Electoral Commission, the Market Research Society and media regulators such as Ipso and Impress to ensure that the best methodologies are used, that sources of poll funding are declared, that polls are better reported and that polling performance is openly reviewed after each general election”.

Lord Lipsey, the chairman of the committee, said: “The polling industry needs to get its house in order. Otherwise the case for banning polling in the run-up to elections – one we for now reject – will become stronger.

“We heard compelling evidence that polls influence the narrative around elections and thus go to the root of our democratic debate. This makes it vital they are conducted properly and held to the highest standards of accuracy.”

The committee also examined the role of social media during elections. It backed calls to require disclosure on online campaign material, requiring an imprint – similar to printed pamphlets – stating who has published it.

“This will be crucial in helping to ensure that public confidence is maintained in the electoral system,” the report says. It notes, however, “that this will do little to address the challenges posed by international actors who try to operate below the radar”.

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