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Do individuals and parties running for a democratically elected office, in employing polls and focus groups to decide on, and tinker with, policy, end up choosing policy based on popularity rather than efficacy?

Does polling bias the electorate's perception of a coming election? Does polling affect turn out?

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  • Exit polls conclusively affected turnout in at least one US election, where early release of East Coast exit poll #s affected turnout on West coast (I can't find the reference at the moment so it's a comment, not an answer). There's a strong argument often made that polls showing big Clinton lead may have affected turnout in 2016 elections in US as well, though i never saw conclusive proofs
    – user4012
    Jun 7 '17 at 14:09
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    The announcements of the results of the Florida race while the Panhandle still had the polls open were designed to affect the results. This was because the panhandle is in the Central time zone, while the main part of Florida is in the Eastern time zone. The exit poll announcements were designed to cause Bush voters in the Panhandle to give up and not vote. Jun 7 '17 at 14:29
  • @user4012 Jimmy Carter conceded while the polls were still open on the West Coast. While it may not have effected that election, it did raise concerns. Jun 7 '17 at 14:35
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The announcements of the results of the Florida race while the Panhandle still had the polls open were designed to affect the results. This was because the panhandle is in the Central time zone, while the main part of Florida is in the Eastern time zone. The exit poll announcements were designed to cause Bush voters in the Panhandle to give up and not vote.

Similarly, the results in the Eastern states when Jimmy Carter lost to Ronald Reagan were announced before the polls closed in the Western states. This caused Mr. Carter to concede by 5 PM Pacific time and the polls were still open on the west coast.

In the latest election (Trump vs. Clinton) some states were declared for Clinton that went to Trump in order to affect voting in the later time zones. However, we cannot verify if this had an effect or if it caused Trump voters to show up.

A study in France Exit Polls, Turnout, and Bandwagon Voting: Evidence from a Natural Experiment showed

We estimate that knowing the exit poll information decreases voter turnout by about 12 percentage points. Our study is the first clean empirical design outside of the laboratory to demonstrate the effect of such knowledge on voter turnout. Furthermore, we find that exit poll information significantly increases bandwagon voting; that is, voters who choose to turn out are more likely to vote for the expected winner.

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