Are political polls trustworthy? For the 2011 general election not a single polling company came close. The two big polls TVNZ and Roy Morgan had National well above 50% set to govern alone in their polls just before the election. On the day however, National came up short. The polls also had New Zealand First at 2-3% when on the day they achieved 6%. Then there was the Horizon poll, which had National at below 40%. What do all of these polls have in common? They were all dead wrong.
Polls no longer accurately represent the opinions of the populace, but instead play a role in shaping them. the '08 and '11 elections had some of the lowest voter turnouts in New Zealand electoral history. Polls were everywhere and were often the talk of the town. I believe that such constant polling is detrimental to a democratic system. If people are constantly being told what the rest of the population thinks I can see two effects that are a cause for concern. The first effect of this is that a lot of people tend to align themselves with the status quo. If they see a poll with 60% of the respondents saying they think the economy is headed in the right direction, they will be influenced to believe the same. The second detrimental effect is voter apathy. Having polls predicting the results of the election will make many people think that the outcome is decided already, so may not bother to vote. Think of it from the perspective of a left leaning voter. If the polls tell them that National are going to be able to govern alone, what will their one vote do to stop it?
The sad thing is that if all of the people who didn't vote went to the polling booths on election day, the result would have been completely different.
So what about polls post-election showing National still having over 50% support, despite getting under 48% on election day and with all the bad press exposing their internal civil war and factionalism? I don't believe them for one second. If we truly believe in democracy we would stop these pathetic, inaccurate polls that do more harm than good.