Flawed polls cast shadow over election results

Calls to ban publishing exit poll results increase after DR and Epinion debacle

Anyone following yesterday’s election coverage heard pretty much all day that according to DR Nyheder’s exit prognoses, Socialdemokraterne (S) was taking a beating at the hands of Venstre (V) and was about to lose its hold on the nations councils. PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt (S) even took to the stage at Vega in Copenhagen to apologise for her part in what appeared to be a disastrous setback. But, as the evenings final numbers rolled in, it became clear that the exit polls were wrong. Very wrong. S maintained its position as the lead party in the councils.

As embarrassing as the polls may have been for DR and its pollster Epinion, at least one expert thinks that they had little effect on the election.

“It can have a different effect on different voters,” election researcher Christian Elmelund-Præstekær from the University of Southern Denmark told Berlingske newspaper. “Some may have decided to help S out by voting for them, while others may have viewed them as a sinking ship and moved on to a winning team. But in the end, I do not think it has much of an effect on the results.”

DR Nyheder's editorial director, Jacob Kwon, has publicly apologised for the polls, but Roger Buch, a media researcher at the Danish School of Journalism, said the faulty polls and the apology were a major blow to DR’s credibility.

“They stood for hours, talking about something that turned out to be completely wrong,” Buch told Belingske.

Hold the results
Berlingske editor-in-chief Lisbeth Knudsen wants exit poll results to be embargoed until after the polls are closed.

“Exit polls should not be banned, but we in the media should follow ethical guidelines and not publish them until after voting has ended,” she wrote.

Knudsen said that DR was already making prognoses by early afternoon.

“It is inevitable that even experienced news presenters would be affected,” she said.

Jyllands-Posten's editor-in-chief Jørn Mikkelsen agreed with Knudsen.

“It is definitely wrong to talk about exit poll results before the polls close,” he said. “It damages the democratic process. Along with SF, DR was the election's big loser.”

Buch said banning exit polls until after voting is completed would be ineffective, because foreign news and internet sites would publish the information anyway.

“DR may be red in the face, but the rest of the Danish media should be as well; they jumped right on the bandwagon;” he told Jyllands-Posten.

Kwon said that DR would continue to issue exit prognoses but that the network would release them later in the day in upcoming elections. 

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