Sep 042009
 

Believe or not: in Germany, it is illegal to publish results from exit polls before the polling stations close (at 6pm – we’re German) on polling day. Last Sunday, state elections were held in three Länder, and someone leaked alleged results on twitter while the stations were still open. The political class was outraged and suggested just about anything from banning exit polls to suing twitter, which inspired me to rant against these draconic and silly proposals over at Andrea’s and Thorsten’s Wahlen nach Zahlen blog (in German).

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  3 Responses to “Twitter and Exit Polls in Germany”

  1. There have been some partial parallels in Denmark in the latest elections (Folketing – 2007; EP and referendum – 2009) when TV channels released the results of exit polls while polling stations were still open (until 8 pm in DK).

    2009 was interesting because TV2 Denmark declared that the referendum on the royal succession act would result in the act being rejected because of low turn-out (you need 40% of all voters voting in favour to pass a constitutional amendment in Denmark). As it turned out, turn-out was little under 60% (same as in 1953) and the act passed without problems.

    The interesting question is if reporting with 4-5 hours to go boosted turn-out. (Another problem is if or how scheduling the referendum with the EP election influenced the distribution of votes in that election). The answer is: We don't know, but it is not unlikely that the conclusions drawn from the polls were wrong.

    In any event, what we are seeing is TV stations competing for viewers. There really is nothing to report before 9.30-10 pm but just as with football matches coverage starts earlier and earlier.

  2. You're probably right, though I am not familiar with the legal details. Donsbach and Traugott (in their contribution to the Sage Handbook of Public Opinion Research) report that at least 30 countries in the world regulate the administration and publication of pre-election polls, but they do not say very much on any single country (comments/details welcome!).

    Donsbach has also published a 30+ page manifesto in which he argues vehemently (and with very good reasons) against such restrictions: http://www.unl.edu/wapor/who-is-afraid-of-opinion… One country that is particularly restrictive is Greece, which has been repeatedly criticised by the World Association for Public Opinion Research (WAPOR) for banning the publication of survey results as early as 15 days before the actual election: http://www.unl.edu/wapor/WAPOR_PressReleaseAugust

  3. If I am not mistaken, Germany is not the only country in which exit polls may not be published on election day, in order not to influence voters…

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