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French presidential election 2012 - record number of opinion polls

By Johnny Summerton
Posted Apr 24, 2012 in World
Now there's a headline that's bound to shock.
How could anyone living in France or familiar with its politics imagine that to be the case?
After all in the run-up to the first round in this year's presidential elections there were only 375 according to the Commission des sondages, the regulatory body which, as its name suggests, oversees opinion polls.
That figure far outstrips the total number in both rounds during recent presidential elections; 293 in 2007, 193 in 2002 and 111 in 1981.
And the commission sure has its work cut out with newspapers, television and radio constantly turning to the likes of BVA, CSA, Harris, Ifop, Ipsos, Opinion Way and TNS-sofres to question French voting intentions.
In a world that's far from being perfect those conducting opinion polls seem to be...well even less perfect.
Oh yes they might be congratulating themselves at the moment on getting it "almost right" but several of them underestimated by a couple of percentage points the support for the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and others overestimated for the far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
The numbers aren't so dramatic according to pollsters who always give themselves that all so important "margin of error" but that doesn't stop the French from being fed up with the frequency of published polls and the perceived impact they have on voting intentions.
That's according to - of all things of course - a poll.
You just can't get away from them can you?
Even though talking to anyone on the street in France would probably give you much the same result, that would only be anecdotal of course and lacking the "objectivity" of the poll conducted by Ifop.
Anyway, according to this, in a manner of speaking, "poll of polls" 63 per cent (of those questioned) think the media publish too many of them and 60 per cent believe they have an influence on the way people vote.
But here's the thing.
By and large those questioned only consider polls can influence the way other people vote; only 15 per cent say their choice can be swayed.
As far as Frédéric Dabi, the general deputy director of Ifop is concerned, that's proof that polls have a value without distorting the outcome.
(you might need to read the following quote a few times because it seems like a classic case of doublespeak)
"Even if that percentage (believing polls can influence the way people vote) isn't negligible, the fact that the overwhelming majority believes that the surveys do not affect their vote undermines the whole discussion about the influence of polls," he says.
"It's the sort of debate that occurs every time a party or a candidate is in trouble."
Right. Understood.
So 375 opinion polls which reflect (more or less) voting intentions without having an impact on the outcome in the first round and more - many more - to follow in the second.

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