Opinion Polls: Why they remain the reference

The last year has seen opinion and election polling subjected to both criticism and praise. Here we review the evidence, looking particularly at recent experiences in the US, UK, France and the Netherlands.

Opinion Polls: Why they remain the reference

The author(s)

  • Henri Wallard Ipsos Public Affairs, France
Get in touch

Opinion polls and electoral polls have been subject to real scrutiny in the wake of the 2016 experiences, followed by a return to praise in the first months of 2017, in particular after the outstanding precision of polls for the Dutch election and Presidential election in France.

In this paper, I explain why opinion polls remain the reference. At Ipsos we are using a variety of techniques precisely because there is not one unique method to answer all marketing and opinion research questions. Hence our interest in, and passion for, Behavioural Economics, Neurosciences, Machine Learning, Big Data and Social Media. But the business problem to resolve is what drives the choice of the method, and the danger is to let people believe that one given method can answer some problems when it can’t. The art is to combine these approaches in a way which is effective; not to try to force a certain solution if not adequate and ready.

Polling requires very rigorous implementation. There are some caveats, and lessons to learn after each election, but as explained in the paper and echoing academic research, opinion polls are very powerful and do indeed remain the reference.

The author(s)

  • Henri Wallard Ipsos Public Affairs, France

More insights about Public Sector