Freedom to Publish Opinion Polls 2017

Findings from the joint WAPOR/ESOMAR 2017 report on Freedom to Publish Public Opinion Research were presented during a panel session at the 71st Annual Conference in Marrakesh. This is the 6th report in this series, which began in 1984. The main themes of the study have remained the same, with a focus on national poll embargoes prior to elections, restrictions on conducting and publishing exit polls, awareness and conformity to professional codes and guidelines, and evaluation of overall poll quality and problems in conducting polls.

The survey was fielded between July 11 and October 1, 2017, with responses obtained from 133 nations. Multiple sources were employed to identify persons qualified to report on conditions in their country. These included outreach to WAPOR and ESOMAR members, persons who responded to the 2012 Freedom to Publish Survey, and national representatives to various international survey collaborations, including the various Barometers, World Values Survey, and ISSP programs.

Poll Embargoes: Overall, no blackout period was reported in 32% of the nations responding to the survey. One-third reported blackout periods of 1-6 days, and 23% reported periods of 7 days or more. The median blackout period was 4.5 days (among those reporting a blackout period), with a range between 1-150 days. Another 5% reported having a blackout period, but were uncertain of the length, and 2% were uncertain as to whether or not a blackout period was in effect. A final 5% reported that election polls were not conducted in their county.

Exit Polls: There was considerable variability in regards to restrictions on the conduct of exit polls. Thirty percent indicated there were no restrictions, and another 17% reported no restrictions – although no exit polls had been conducted to date in those nations. Nineteen percent indicated exit polls cannot be conducted inside polling stations, and 9% reported they could not be conducted within a specified distance from polling places. In 11% of the nations surveyed, exit polls could not be conducted at all, and respondents in 14% of these nations were uncertain.

Professional Codes and Guidelines: Majorities of national informants indicated being somewhat or very familiar with several sets of professional Codes and Guidelines. These include the ESOMAR/WAPOR Guidelines for the Publication of Public Opinion Poll results (70%), the ICC/ESOMAR International Code on Market, Opinion and Social Research and Data Analytics (62%), the WAPOR Code of Ethics (55%), and the WAPOR Guidelines for exit polls and election forecasts (51%). Respondents felt, though, that conformity with these codes and guidelines was less consistent, with only 21% reporting that most pollsters conformed with them, compared to 26%, 28%, and 7%, respectively, who indicated that some, few and no pollsters conformed (18% did not know).

Poll Quality: The methodological reporting of public opinion polls was rated as considerably higher than the journalistic reporting of them. Two-thirds (66%) felt that methodological reporting was of a very high or somewhat high quality, whereas a plurality of 49% felt that journalist reporting was of a somewhat or very low quality.

Problems Conducting Polls: Finally, there was considerable sentiment that it is becoming more difficult to do public opinion research in many parts of the world as a consequence of costs and declining response rates. Specifically, 54% of all nations identified budget cuts and the increasing costs of data collection as contributing somewhat or a great deal to increased difficulty conducting research. In addition, declining response rates were cited by 49%, respondent unwillingness by 39%, inaccessibility of respondents due to physical barriers by 28%, data privacy concerns by 27%, respondent inaccessibility due to crime/insecurity by 20%, and new government regulations by 19%.

Regional Differences: There was considerable variability in polling conditions across world regions. The following reports provide regional summaries presented during the panel session. They speak to the commonalities and differences in freedom to publish public opinion research around the world.

Timothy Johnson
Chair, WAPOR Professional Standards
Director, Survey Research Laboratory
University of Illinois at Chicago

Current version (2017): Freedom to Conduct Opinion Polls: A 2017 Worldwide Update

Copyright © ESOMAR/WAPOR 2018

Freedom to Publish Opinion Polls Questionnaire 2017

Previous version (2012): The Freedom to Publish Opinion Poll Results: A Worldwide Update of 2012 

Copyright © WAPOR 2012

Previous version (2002): The Freedom to Publish Opinion Polls: Report on a Worldwide Update

Copyright © ESOMAR/WAPOR 2003
This study was supported in part by a grant from the International Social Science Council SRP 105-30a and SRP 106-30b

Previous version (1997): The Freedom to Publish Opinion Polls: Report on a Worldwide Study

Copyright © ESOMAR 1997

The Foundation for Information is an independent organization registered in Amsterdam. It was formed in 1996 by ESOMAR. The Foundation will operate on a worldwide scale. It will take action to protect the rights of individuals and commercial enterprises to obtain and make use of information without any unfair or unnecessary restrictions. The Foundation will be actively involved in organizing training and education courses and will produce a range of publications.

Founded in 1948, ESOMAR-The World Association of Research Professionals is the international body representing established marketing specialists. With over 3,500 members in over 90 countries, ESOMAR stands for the highest possible standards, both professionally and technically.

Founded in 1947, the World Association for Public Opinion Research- WAPOR aims to further the use of scientific survey research in national and international affairs. There are over 450 members in more than 60 countries.

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World Association for Public Opinion Research
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
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