Polls: Do they measure or do they influence voting intentions?

Polls are ubiquitous. Here in Germany, these are the final days of the run-up to the federal elections and each and every day we wake up to a new poll. There are so many of them by now that it is hard to keep track even if you wanted to. Platforms like zweitstimme.org and signal&rauschen aggregate these polls and extract the signal in the noise.

Polls do convey valuable information for voters. They inform us us about the voting intentions of fellow citizens, enabling us to vote strategically depending on the presumed vote shares of single parties (parliamentary threshold) or party coalitions (parliamentary majority).

However, polls are unloved. They resemble the trend towards horse-race journalism which treats elections merely as a sportive competition and not as a struggle of ideas or as the honorable emblem of liberal and self-governing societies. A different line of criticism argues that polls not only measure but also influence voting intentions. In the research section you find an old paper draft [German] on this topic with a methodological discussion on investigating it with RCS-survey data. Moreover, yesterday I talked with German radio station WDR2 about this topic [German].

Interview WDR2

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