The reliability and accuracy of public opinion polls has increasingly come into question. In recent months, tension in the industry seems to be coming to a head, with accusations that multiple pollsters have fabricated data on multiple occasions.
 
The American Association for Public Opinion Research wants to fix the problem. Last month, the organization took steps to ensure the methodology used to do public opinion research is full and open. The Association’s transparency initiative aims to encourage pollsters to regularly release information about their polling practices.
 
Almost 50 pollsters have pledged to support the initiative so far, including big names like the Associated Press, ABC and CBS News and Gallup. And the list appears to be growing.
 
Peter Miller, the former AAPOR president who launched the initiative, says the program is still in development but should be up and running by the spring of 2011. “The idea is to do a public commendation for organizations who participate,” Miller said. “What we need to work through is what constitutes participation.”
 
This new effort comes at a time when some pollsters have come under fire for allegations of misrepresentation and fabrication of data. Most recently, Research 2000 received harsh criticism for accusations that it fabricated portions of information while contracted by the liberal blog Daily Kos. On July 1, Daily Kos filed suit against the polling firm, alleging fraud, breach of contract and negligent misrepresentation.
 
The need to foster a larger sense of transparency in the polling industry came when the AAPOR’s ad hoc committee began collecting pre-primary poll data after major polling errors during the 2008 New Hampshire Democratic primary.
 
The committee had the intention of analyzing several firms’ methodology, then releasing their findings at AAPOR’s annual meeting in May 2008. The report didn’t come out until almost a year later. Some of the organizations either took too long or refused to release information on their polling methods. Soon after, strong evidence surfaced suggesting that Strategic Vision had fabricated some of its data.
 
This led the AAPOR to develop this initiative and revise their code of ethics to include provisions about disclosing information on the methodology. As part of the initiative, AAPOR will recognize those who meet participation requirements, and help organizations that do not meet the set standards work toward taking part in the initiative.