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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Sept. 3)

Editorials from Korean dailies 07:20 September 03, 2021

Dastardly data distortions

With less than seven months left before the presidential election on March 9, suspicion about public opinion polls is growing. The surprisingly inconsistent results of opinion surveys about presidential candidates is why. In some cases, support for a single candidate shows a more-than-20 percent gap among polls. Even the ranking of candidates in the same surveys changes drastically in just a few days.

That leads to public confusion about our presidential candidates and election process. Our political parties actually use opinion polls in the process of nominating their candidates for public office. They are major factors in the primary process. If the results are distorted, that seriously damages our democracy. Worse, a considerable number of polling firms have been under attack for their tendency to support the liberal Moon Jae-in administration. Their critical lack of neutrality has triggered suspicions that they tried to produce the results they wanted by manipulating questions or survey samples.

Those suspicions turned out to be true. A public opinion review committee under the National Election Commission (NEC) found that Global Research attempted to induce respondents to answer in favor of a certain presidential candidate or even used data different from the results of its survey. After a respondent hesitated to answer "Who do you support among presidential candidates?" in a survey released on July 4, interviewers of the company said, "How about Lee Jae-myung [frontrunner for the ruling Democratic Party] or Yoon Seok-youl [frontrunner for the opposition People Power Party]?" After a respondent said he did not support any party, interviewers suggested he vote for the DP.

We are shocked at such shameful practices by polling companies. Data distortion may have taken place at other companies other than Global Research. The opinion survey review committee of the NEC imposed a 30-million-won ($25,873) fine on that company. Peanuts!

With only six months left until the election, such distorted poll results will most likely increase unless the NEC strictly cracks down. A polling company that was fined 30 million won in 2017 after violating the committee's survey standards is still operating.

Misrepresenting public opinion only escalates public distrust of politics and a resistance to accept election results. The opinion review committee should be given stronger powers, including the authority to order such polling companies to shut down. The committee must look into all 76 polling companies listed by the committee to see if they engaged in any types of data distortion, and hold them accountable.
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