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The opinion polls: in praise of measurement

Vol. 59 No. 4, 2017 p.405–408

Simon Atkinson

In this viewpoint, the author looks at opinion polls and their varying success in the wake of several global elections and referendums. Across the globe, people are increasingly unhappy and decreasingly loyal to political parties, leading to increasing volatility in their behaviour. This had led to differences between opinion polls and election results, but people should not completely lose faith in polls. There have been successes in Ireland and the Netherlands, and poll performance in a range of countries is in line with the historical trend. The UK and US are complex countries for market researchers and despite the perceived failures, polls were actually remarkably accurate. It is difficult to develop an accurate prediction model, and future practice will likely involve more historical data and Big Data.


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