The Associated Press news wire service is changing its standards on reporting on results of polls.
A new chapter in the AP's stylebook, which is used by most news organizations in the U.S., presents a rule that bars journalists from making a whole story out of pre-election poll results, Politico reported Tuesday.
The rule at the top of the stylebook chapter says: "The mere existence of a poll is not enough to make it news.
"Poll results that seek to preview the outcome of an election must never be the lead, headline, or single subject of any story."
The polling industry and the media came under scrutiny during the 2016 presidential election where the coverage of pre-election polls showed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was a stronger favorite to win the presidency than final poll results would have shown, Politico reported.
The goal is to help readers become better informed and to make news reports that are less misleading, the report said.
"It is more vital then ever for policymakers, journalists, and citizens to become better informed consumers of surveys and data," Dan Gaylin, CEO of the University of Chicago's NORC, a nonpartisan research organization, told Politico.
The AP's stylebook reads: "No matter how good the poll or how wide a candidate's margin, results of pre-election polls always reflect voter opinion before ballots are cast," the stylebook reads. Voter opinions can change before Election Day, and they often do."
For a poll to meet the AP's standards, the playbook presented a number of rules:
- The poll most reveal the questions.
- The source must not have a stake in the outcome of the results.
- The poll must scientifically survey a random sample of the population.
The stylebook says: "When writing or producing stories that cite survey results, take care not to overstate the accuracy of the poll. Even a perfectly executed poll does not guarantee perfectly accurate results."
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