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Prof urges poll caution

A few small changes to the federal election act would ensure political polls are better reported, said University of Victoria political science professor Dennis Pilon.

When people report polls they should be required to say who paid for the survey, what were the exact questions and in what order were they asked, he said.

“That stuff is critical for us to know whether we're being manipulated,” said Pilon. “Polling is about trying to create the result you want. That's why millions of dollars are spent on it.”

Polls affect the public in various ways, he said. If people feel an election is already decided, they might not bother to vote. If they feel their first choice isn't popular, they might stay home on voting day. There's also the “winner affect” where some will want to vote for the person they feel is most likely to win.

“That's where all this polling crap starts to become very important,” said Pilon. “There are so many problems with using polling to try to gage what people think.”

As the campaign gets going people will hear a lot of polling numbers, he said. “People should ignore them.”

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