Pollsters have been warned to get their “house in order” or risk facing a ban on publishing surveys during general election campaigns to combat an “insidious threat” to Britain’s democracy.
A report from the House of Lords Committee on Political Polling and Digital Media published on Tuesday has demanded the British Polling Council (BPC) be given beefed up powers.
The cross-party committee of peers said the industry’s regulator should require polling companies to publish details of all sources of funding.
It also should provide training and guidance for journalists on how to accurately report on polls, the Lords said.
Lord Lipsey, the Labour chairman of the committee, criticised the “breathless media” for misreporting the importance of minor changes in voting intention.
He said the BPC should be more proactive in reporting inaccurate coverage of polls to media regulators such as IPSO, IMPRESS and Ofcom.
“The polling industry needs to get its house in order. Otherwise the case for banning polling in the run-up to elections – one we for now reject – will become stronger,” he said.
“Taken together, a lack of transparency and sometimes inaccurate polls, and the murky world of online political communications, pose an insidious threat to our political system.
“While we may be one of the oldest democracies in the world we must face up to these very contemporary dangers. Government, parliament and the polling industry must act now, before the damage goes deeper.”
The committee was established in the wake of the 2017 general election.
Polling companies have been widely criticised following perceived failures in how they analysed the 2015 and 2017 general elections, the 2016 EU referendum and the 2016 US presidential election.
Lord Foulkes, a member of the committee, warned in the wake of the 2015 election polling companie were becoming “corrupted” by money from newspapers who want to influence the outcome - a charge was rejected by pollsters.
Polling companies have argued that banning UK publications from conducting opinion polls in the UK during an election would be impractical in the internet age - as surveys could be commissioned reported by foreign media outlets.