[EDITORIALS]The problems with a poll

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[EDITORIALS]The problems with a poll

The attempt to choose between Roh Moo-hyun and Chung Mong-joon has brought about much confusion and amusement. The televised debate Friday night was a smash hit in viewer ratings, but it also bred this fundamental question among many voters: How can two people so different in policies and ideologies join in a single candidacy? Voters are mired in suspicions and questions about the process that will pick a challenger for Lee Hoi-chang.

One of those key questions centers on the possibility of distortion in the opinion poll and the credibility of the poll's outcome. The provision that the result will be thrown out if Mr. Lee's rating falls below a certain average is confusing to many voters. The possibility of some sabotage of the outcome by Lee supporters cannot be eliminated entirely. The provision of disregarding the fundamental limitation in a sampling survey -- the margin of error -- is also a dangerous idea. Some people even question the impartiality of the poll's telephone interviewers.

A public opinion poll is an effective measure of gauging the voters' political preferences. But public opinion is a drifting condition that cannot be measured only in terms of a block of time. A poll inherently carries limitations and the possibility of errors in quantifying the changing minds of voters.

The Seoul mayoral election in June turned out differently from what had been predicted in pre-election opinion polls. The election illustrated the danger of blindly accepting the results of opinion polls. And this may be the reason why many pollsters are wary of taking part in the Roh versus Chung survey.

The two candidates are currently in a dead heat in the polls, give or take a margin for error. A result that falls within that margin would mean that deciding a winner will be like pulling a name out of a hat. There is something unreliable in the unfamiliar method the two men settled on to pick one to run for the country's leadership. And the reliance on a public opinion poll is disparaging to the honorable democratic process of casting and counting every single vote. Giving too much meaning to the details of a public opinion poll will only hurt the spirit of party democracy and democratic elections.
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