Interesting idea in BNP manifesto

I never thought I’d find a thought-provoking idea in the BNP manifesto — it’s not a party of deep, lucid or original thinkers — but I did think this was, if not a good idea, at least an intriguing one:

30. Outlaw the conducting or publication of opinion polls in the last three weeks of an election campaign to prevent manipulation of the democratic process.

I can only assume that this policy has its origins in conspiracy theory — part of the BNP’s ‘New World Order, Jews control the media’ schtick — but it would genuinely be interesting to see what would happen if we tried this. Because it seems quite clear that polling results do feed back into peoples opinions and effect their voting intentions.

To take an example from the current campaign, the single thing which has done most to grant Nick Clegg credibility is the polls showing the Lib Dems overtaking Labour to move into second place. It’s one thing to watch the debate and think that Clegg did well, but quite another to learn that loads of other people thought so to. And everyone likes a winner.

I don’t know what the impact of banning polling would be: would it favour the minor parties? Would it hand more power to the newspapers? Certainly there’s no obvious reason to think it would produce better politics or better results. But it’s an interesting thought experiment. At the very least it would be amusing to watch the pundit class floundering as they tried to divine the public mood without the help of any actual information.

2 Comments

  1. Elaine
    25 April 2010 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    No way! How can banning something benefit democracy?

    Polls are great – just look at how much Murdoch is hating his little poll that didn’t show what he wanted. The sun trying not to print the results of a poll that doesn’t fit their pre-written story, now that should be banned.

  2. Harry
    26 April 2010 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    Well, I don’t really think it is a good idea, but we ban things in an attempt to improve democracy all the time: we have strict rules to enforce impartiality in broadcasting during the campaign, and indeed on election day itself the media has a complete embargo on political news until the polls close.

    I just think it’s an intriguing thought experiment. Forget the banning part of it. How different would our politics be if polling had never been invented? Who knows, the media might even spend more time on the policies rather than the horse race.

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