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Has the performance of opinion polls improved since 2018?

26 October 2020

Will US polls for Presidential election be more accurate than in 2016? Lords to ask Sir John Curtice and others

The House of Lords Liaison Committee will this week hold two evidence sessions alongside former Members of the Political Polling and Digital Media Committee as it explores what the polling industry has learnt from the Political Polling Committee’s 2018 report The Politics of Polling.

The report recommended the British Polling Council should take on a more substantial oversight role to ensure polls were conducted according to its guidelines and should work with the media to ensure coverage of polls was accurate. It also called recommended all published voter intention polls conducted during elections should be registered with the Electoral Commission.

On Wednesday 28 October the Liaison Committee, joined by Lord Lipsey, the Chair of the Political Polling Committee, and other members of that Committee, will hear evidence from witnesses including Professor Sir John Curtice, President of the British Polling Council, on how the industry has responded to the recommendations.

The evidence sessions will be screened live on Parliament TV. The full witness details are:

10am

  • Professor Patrick Sturgis, Professor of Quantitative Social Science, LSE
  • Professor Stephen Fisher, Associate Professor in Political Sociology, University of Oxford

11am

  • Professor Sir John Curtice, Professor of Politics, University of Strathclyde, and President, British Polling Council
  • Jane Frost, CEO, Market Research Society

The Committee will also ask the witnesses whether the polling industry in the United States has learned the lessons from the 2016 Presidential Election for the current campaign as they once again predict a Democrat victory over President Donald Trump as polling day approaches.

Other issues that will be covered include the reasons for the apparent improved accuracy of opinion polls at the 2019 election compared to 2017 and 2015, the impact of a reduction in social class based party allegiance on the accuracy of opinion polls, and how the British Polling Council is working with the media to improve the accuracy of its coverage of political polls

The meeting is the second in a new procedure where the Liaison Committee works with former members of time limited Special Inquiry Committees to re-explore issues raised by the original reports, and to press witnesses to explain how their organisations have responded. Following the session the Liaison Committee will publish a short report.

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