After inaccurate poll results, reform sought

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After inaccurate poll results, reform sought

The leadership of the three main political parties is pushing to reform the Public Official Election Act in order to prevent inaccurate election polls.

Woo Sang-ho, the floor leader of the Minjoo Party, said Tuesday, “There has been no instance where inaccurate opinion polls have resulted in effects as harmful as in the recent 20th general elections. Within our party, we are preparing for a debate on reforming polls and pushing to amend election laws.”

Woo previously headed a motion that included similar amendments to the election law in August 2012, asking that surveys predicting support for a political party or candidate not be released if they have a response rate of less than 10 percent.

Lee Jong-kul, the former floor leader of the Minjoo Party, said, “inaccurate polls are a statistical knife,” adding that a system to officially authenticate polling agencies has to be put in place in order to enable their “credibility and responsibility.”

Such a certification process will set specific criteria for officially recognizing polling agencies and those that receive a certain level of disciplinary action from the National Fair Election Survey Deliberation Commission will have their certificates revoked.

The Saenuri Party has also been tackling problems with the public system through its think tank, the Yeouido Institute.

For the April 13 general elections, Saenuri conducted a bottom-up selection of candidates through primaries and opinion polls in an effort to tap into public sentiment, a move that backfired when several veteran politicians who were subsequently passed over ran independently, creating a rift in the party.

Kim Jong-seok, president of the Yeouido Institute, said, “We are deliberating over whether to use big data and other methods to supplement opinion polls.”

Rep. Kim Kwang-lim, the party’s chief policymaker, said, “We need to strictly regulate the nomination process to preclude opinions polls that have a high likelihood of distortion.”

Kim Young-won, professor of statistics at Sookmyung Women’s University and head of the National Fair Election Survey Deliberation Commission, told the JoongAng Ilbo that trivial regulations such as banning the release of polls six days before elections should be relaxed, while actual illegal acts should be strictly curtailed.

He further emphasized that rather than focusing on conducting polls cheaply, there need to be surveys that can actually predict the result of elections.

The commission, which was launched in 2014, found 87 cases of problematic polls related to the April 13 general elections.

Despite the commission’s efforts to supervise polls, there has been criticism concerning the corruption of such polls.

Kim further noted, “It was the desire that through opinion polls, voters could distinguish between the good and the bad, but through this election, I realized acutely that was not the way things rolled.”

“The problem with polls is the tendency of political circles to try to conduct surveys as cheaply as possible. We need to move toward a developed-nation model where agencies with the right tools can analyze data and produce accurate results.”

BY JUNG HYO-SIK, PARK YU-MI,NAMGOONG WOOK [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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