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Report No. 255

(i) United Kingdom

8.14.1. The United Kingdom presents an important framework demonstrating successful self-regulation. There are currently no statutory restrictions on the publication of pre-election surveys, although the publication of exit polls taken before voting closes is prohibited by the Representation of the People Act, 2000.

The Act contemplates a fine or imprisonment of no more than six months for publication of such exit polls.359 The British media is committed to self-regulation and impartiality. For example, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), for example, has internal guidelines on reporting opinion polls that have reportedly been effective for a number of years:360

359. Representation of People's Act, 2000
<http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000/2/pdfs/ukpga_20000002_en.pdf>

360. BBC Draft Election Guidelines for May 2013
<http://www.bbc.co.uk/editorialguidelines/page/draftelectionguidelines-2013-01-24/#6.Polls%20and%20other%20tests%20of%20opinion>

  • "not leading a programme or bulletin with the results of a preelection poll;
  • not including the results of an election survey in a headline;
  • not relying on the interpretation given to a poll's result by the publication or organization which commissioned it;
  • always reporting the expected margin of error, and where the gap between the two leading contenders is within the combined margin of error, saying so; and
  • always reporting the dates of the poll, and who commissioned and carried out the poll."

8.14.2. Moreover, the Office of Communications Code, known as the Ofcom Code, states that broadcasters may not publish the results of any opinion poll on polling day itself until the election or referendum poll closes.361

361. Section 6.5 The Ofcom Broadcasting Code
<http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/broadcasting/broadcast-codes/broadcast-code/elections/>



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