This is a follow-up of this accepted answer for the question: "Restricting polls because of the “Bandwagon effect”":

forbidding opinions for months would be detrimental to the development of public opinion and the law is already controversial as it is.

I cannot get the logic of this argument, as for me it seems to work the other way around: polls seems to distort public opinion, by favoring the most notorious/popular candidates regardless of their political platform, program etc. Given current technological level, without public polls there are still plenty sources for public opinion development: TV, radio, social media, parties and candidates web sites.

I will develop more on this in the following paragraphs.

This article argues about how political polls influence voters:

“the bandwagon effect”, where voters who think a particular political party will win the election may end up voting for that party or candidate.

Strategic voting is motivated by the intention of voters to affect which party wins the election. The move of voters to the perceived majority view is called “contagion”.

This study seems to confirm that polls do influence the vote:

The findings emerging from these three sets of analyses converge on four main conclusions about the 1988 Canadian elections:

  1. Polls affected voters' perceptions of the various parties' changes of winning
  2. Polls affected the vote
  3. Polls affected strategic voting as some voters became less inclined to support a party whose chances of winning appeared slim
  4. Polls did not have a contagion effect, since voters did not come to evaluate the parties and leaders who were doing well in the polls more positively.

However, its results are very limited since it deals with only one election.

Of course, I am not referring to private polls as parties and candidates must know how to adapt their strategies.

Question: Why are (public) political polls typically allowed even very close to the elections despite of their apparent disruptive effect on voters perception?

Note: I am talking about polls that are done before the elections is started, not exit polls.

  • @Alexei Thanks. There are many countries that hold elections. Is your question specific to America?
    – Readin
    Jul 8, 2018 at 21:48
  • @Readin - an answer covering US is fine for me.
    – Alexei
    Jul 9, 2018 at 4:17

2 Answers 2


In America the 1st Amendment to the Constitution protects the freedom of the press. Forbidding newspapers and other news organizations from publishing poll results would clearly violate that right. Attempting to prevent the polls from being taken would also run into difficulty because the 1st Amendment protects freedom of speech so you couldn't prevent pollsters from stating their questions and nor could you prevent people from answering.

  • 1
    Do note that this right is not absolute. Judges' gag orders, incitements to violence, shouting "Fire" in the proverbial crowded theater, etc. So there is still a legitimate question about whether the harm in such publication is so strong as to override the free speech provisions. I'm personally not a big fan of polling, but I think that's they probably don't meet this threshold. But it's an interesting question. Sep 12, 2018 at 17:09
  • 1
    @scott-sauyet In America courts usually give the strongest protection to political speech. Any speech related to an election or that could influence an election is political.
    – Readin
    Sep 15, 2018 at 18:20

In some countries they are actually forbidden - for example in Poland on election day and the day before. On those two last days called literally "pre-election silence" it is forbidden to perform any campaign or publish opinion pools. The only related thing allowed on election day is publishing data concerning the general number of people who voted.

This law used to be a reasonable way of letting people calm down a bit before voting, but right now in era of Internet it ceased being enforceable.

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