Media too influenced by poll data

Polls don’t influence voters decisions all that much, but the media, well that’s a different story. According to polling experts quoted in a post-election Canadian Press story, journalists “over-analyzed” the polling data in this year’s election and doing so affected the types of stories they wrote.

The story quotes Mark Pickup, a political science professor at Simon Fraser University who analyzed stories in
two national newspapers and four regional dailies during the 2006
campaign and found about a quarter of the stories were about polls that year:

“If the Liberals suddenly decline in
popularity, the tone and the coverage tends to be about what did the
Liberals do wrong to produce that downward move in popularity. If
it’s in the range of a one-to-two percentage point change, with the
sample sizes we’re dealing with, there’s no way that you should provide
any interpretation to that movement.”

Also quoted is Fred
Cutler, a University of British Columbia political scientist and polling expert:

“It’s clear to us that the polls play a big role in reporters’
decisions about what they think they need to explain.”