The Irish Times view on bogus polling: Unethical behaviour will reinforce view that politicians are not to be trusted

Danger that legitimate pollsters’ findings will suffer as result of political parties’ activities

The first hint of the scale of fraudulent polling emerged with the disclosure that Sinn Féin encouraged party activists in the 2016 general election to tell people  they worked for a fake polling company. It later emerged that  Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party had also polled the public during elections without full disclosure. File photograph: iStock

The first hint of the scale of fraudulent polling emerged with the disclosure that Sinn Féin encouraged party activists in the 2016 general election to tell people they worked for a fake polling company. It later emerged that Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party had also polled the public during elections without full disclosure. File photograph: iStock

 

Our major political parties have brought the democratic process into disrepute by using members and other personnel to pose as legitimate pollsters in an effort to find out the political opinions of voters. The systematic programme of deception was an exercise in deceit as well as an intrusion into peoples’ privacy.

The first hint about the scale of the fraudulent polling emerged with the disclosure that Sinn Féin encouraged party activists in the 2016 general election to tell people that they worked for a fake polling company called Irish Market Research Agency and the party even produced fake IMRA identity badges to enable them to pull off the deception.

It subsequently emerged that Fine Gael engaged in a similar practice in earlier general election campaigns with party canvassers using business cards for a non-existent company in an effort to ascertain the political allegiance of voters. The extent of the practice became clear when Fianna Fáil and the Green Party also admitted that party members had polled the public during elections while not disclosing the fact that they were campaigning for a political party.

As well as damaging public trust in politics the disclosure threatens to undermine the work of legitimate polling companies

Such unethical behaviour will only reinforce the already widespread public perception that politicians and political parties are not to be trusted. Democratic politics is already under pressure for a variety of reasons and the polling deception will only encourage the “plague on all your houses” attitude to politics.

The corrosive impact of this view of the political system has manifested itself in part in the election of demagogues like Donald Trump, and imitators across Europe, who have capitalised on public disillusionment with mainstream leaders.

As well as damaging public trust in politics the disclosure threatens to undermine the work of legitimate polling companies. These firms perform an important service in measuring public opinion on politics and a range of other issues and there is a real danger that the credibility of their findings will suffer as a result of the bogus polling activities engaged in by political parties.

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