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Why Did the Polls Get it Wrong in 1992?
Opinion polls play a major role in politics, they can be used by the Government
to decide when to call and election, and, among other things, how their pre-
election campaigns are run. Throughout the history of opinion polling, from the
time when polling began to be widely used before an election, in 1945, until
1987, the last general election before 1992, the polls have on average been
correct to within 1.3% of the vote share between the three leading parties, and
the 'other' category (Crewe, 1992, p. 478). This puts all the previous opinion
polls well within the +/-3% margin of error. Because of the past accuracy of
opinion polling, the system has had great credibility and has always been
trusted, both by the public, and political parties. The way polling forecasts
can affect the way people vote is very dramatic, this is because they can be a
'self fulfilling prophecy', in that some voters like to back the 'winning team',
and others only vote for a party they feel has a real chance. This was
demonstrated in 1983, when the Alliance, frustrated with the media concentrating
only on their position in the polls, leaked their own private polls to the press,
resulting in a late surge of support (Crewe, 1992, p.478).
Britain generally has a much greater number of opinion polls carried out than in
other countries, this is due to the large number of national newspapers, and the
amount of current affairs programming on television. The pe...