Don't underestimate the voters - academic on polls
Critics of the potential for opinion polls and other publicity during the three-week local government selection to "skew" outcomes should not underestimate voters, an academic expert says.
"Let's not underestimate the intelligence of voters to interpret polls and make decisions for themselves," AUT University's Institute of Public Policy director David Wilson told NZPA.
"Polls are usually a pretty good indicator of what will happen in the final result," he said, though he noted polls needed to be carried out in a objective way to reduce the margin of error.
Where methods such as people sending 99c text messages were used, polls could be skewed to just the portion of the population able to afford such texting.
"There can be concerns around the robustness of these polls."
Federated Farmers said on Tuesday it wanted to discuss with Local Government Minister Rodney Hide the possibility of the government cutting short the current three-week voting period for council elections, and banning opinion polling for the shorter period.
A spokesman for Mr Hide said the minister did not think it appropriate to comment at this time.
"The government may decide to consider these and other issues more fully in advance of the next local government election," she added.
Federated Farmers president Don Nicolson complained that releasing what were effectively "exit polls" during voting could skew local council ballots.
"It may lead to people choosing not to vote on the basis their favoured candidate is either in pole position or an also-ran," he said.
The publication of council "exit polls" in Auckland and Christchurch before the elections close, might distort results, Mr Nicolson said.
But Mr Wilson said people who made the effort to vote were generally intelligent and researched their choices, unlike some examples in Australia, where electors had to turn out because it was against the law not to vote.
There was potential for voters who saw their favoured candidate trailing in polls to get out and make a greater effort to promote that person.
He did not favour Federated Farmers' proposals to cut the voting period and ban publication of opinion polls during the period for votes to be cast.
"If you're going to limit the media and representations of polls, where are people going to get their information from?" Mr Wilson said.