Polls apart! Political, research and ethical lessons from UK pressure groups' use of opinion polls

Authors

  • Clive Nancarrow,

    Corresponding author
    1. Bristol Business School, University of the West of England, Frenchay, Bristol, BS16 1QY, UK
    • Bristol Business School, University of the West of England, Frenchay, Bristol, BS16 1QY, UK
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    • Clive Nancarrowis a professor at Bristol Business School and a research and teaching specialist in marketing research and research methodology. He is a full member of the Market Research Society. His interests are in research method, polls and consumer psychology. He is a trustee for a wildlife charity (Working for Wildlife) and is currently working on a project for NFU Services.

  • Martin Evans,

    1. Bristol Business School, University of the West of England, Frenchay, Bristol, BS16 1QY, UK
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    • Martin Evansis Senior Teaching Fellow at Cardiff University and Visiting Professor at the University of West of England specialising in marketing research and direct marketing. He is co-author of ‘Applied Marketing Research’ and a member of the Market Research Society.

  • John Pallister

    1. Bristol Business School, University of the West of England, Frenchay, Bristol, BS16 1QY, UK
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    • John PallisterPhD is Head of the Marketing and Strategy Section, Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University. His research work focuses on ethics, particularly in the context of marketing research practice, and includes research into strategic positioning and marketing to ethnic minorities in the context of financial services. He has had numerous articles published in these areas. He currently teaches at Masters level and supervises at PhD level.


Abstract

Pressure groups use opinion polls to help further political agendas, as in the case of hunting with dogs. The authors evaluate the two types of poll that have featured in the campaigning: ‘scientific’ (representative) polls and ‘straw’ polls. The shortcomings of straw polls are well known and the new problem of ‘piling in’ where pressure groups direct their supporters to such polls is described, raising a number of potential ethical issues. The apparent discrepancy in ‘scientific’ opinion polls commissioned by the two sides of the debate is examined and an attempt to reconcile the differences is made. The authors' observations raise questions about the value and limitations of polling as well as technical and ethical issues the polling industry and professional bodies need to address. Copyright © 2003 Henry Stewart Publications

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