Research World (February 2004)

Date of publication: February 1, 2004

Catalogue: Research World 2004

Author: ESOMAR B.V.


The presentation of research results apparently tends to become more problematic when it is about polling and opinion research, that is to say pre-electoral surveys and research concerning political issues. To an increasing level, the results are communicated to the general public through various stages, different intermediaries and media. This indirect method of reporting can in quite a few instances result in incomplete reporting and over-simplification – especially when politically sensitive issues are addressed this can lead to fierce controversies in an open-ended discussion at an international level without any structure. Over the past few months a single question in a survey commissioned by the European Commission about the Iraq war became major international news. It caused a flurry of diplomatic activity and forced the president of the European Commission to issue a statement of clarification. Comments in the press varied between expressing concern about Europeans being anti-Israel and blaming pollsters for coming up with allegedly unreliable results. Polls are news and journalists will always pick the controversial item or statement in a report in preference to what is often a balanced but rather boring conclusion. It goes without saying that the right to conduct surveys is part of our democratic system. This is in line with basic principles of freedom of press and freedom of speech. But how should we handle these situations as a profession? In this issue of Research World we delve deeper into this controversy.



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