Friday, September 16, 2011

Bullshit polls

Pre-election polls in Poland are well known for being wrong. In 2005, not a single one foresaw Law and Justice's (PiS) surprise victory. In 2007, one last-minute poll showed PiS winning, though it turned out the senior ruling Civic Platform (PO) won by a wide margin.

Ever since, many Poles believe opinion polls are just another campaign instrument. Some polls are pro-PO, some are pro-PiS. For example, a recent Homo Homini poll showed only 2-percentage point difference between the top two parties. A CBOS poll a few days later showed a 17-percentage point gap. Go figure.

Politicians of both stripes, to no surprise, use the polls to spin their message. Surprisingly, both parties claim the gap is smaller than many believe because both believe that if the gap is small there is a bigger chance their voters will feel greater need to show up at the ballots on October 9. Hence, the entire PO is now underlining how important it is to go and vote, believing that higher turnout increases its chance of victory.

However, what the daily Gazeta Wyborcza did on Friday with its article on polling is one of a kind. A huge frontpage headline blurts "PiS close to PO," one daresay hanging there like a rally flag for PO supporters.

Inside? It turns out that after  tweaking the methodology of the poll to supposedly show "the core electorate" Wyborcza arrived at the conclusion that the PO has 19 percent committed support and PiS has 18 percent. To strengthen their point they quote an election expert -- Radoslaw Markowski -- who says "the PO has more supporters, as many surveys show. I don't know where people get the idea that PiS caught up with PO." Yeah, I wonder too.

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