Professional codes urged for exit polls

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 September, 2008, 12:00am

Professional codes in the media and the research arena would be the best way to end the controversy over election exit polls, University of Hong Kong pollster Robert Chung Ting-yiu said yesterday.

Speaking four days after the Legislative Council election, in which his public opinion programme's exit poll saw a sharp drop in response rate compared with 2004, the academic said withholding exit-poll data from the media and barring non-academic groups from conducting exit polls would be a backward practice.

'Media all over the world, when they do exit polls they grasp the data from the first minute,' he said. 'In Hong Kong ... they have assumed that electronic media running exit polls should not get hold of the data until very late. This is not the international standard. This is a great misunderstanding of the issue.'

While pan-democrats have suggested to the Electoral Affairs Commission that all non-university organisations be prohibited from conducting exit polls, to prevent candidates from obtaining data during voting hours, Dr Chung opposed such a restriction.

'I do not agree with the banning of exit polls on any organisation. I think if political groups or candidates want to do their exit polls, that would be fine provided that they adhere to some kind of ethics, like they don't lie to the respondents.' He said the media and pollsters should set down professional ethics to follow when carrying out and using exit polls.

With the public opinion programme still analysing data collected on Sunday, Dr Chung noted that some respondents might have faked answers in response to political parties' calls to show distrust of pollsters.

He said he might not do exit polls again in future elections if the phenomenon persisted.

'If that kind of trust [between pollsters and the public] disappears, then I think it'll be very dangerous to do any kind of research or interpretation using opinion data and I would have reservations in continuing our exit polls.'