“As the government in the Republic of Moldova started to fight, at legislative level, fake-news and disinformation, they should bear in mind that manipulative opinion polls can also be a source for poisoning public opinion…”
Polls, source of information or of disinformation?
Opinion polls are usually awaited ahead of elections and during crises. It is normal to be so. Everyone has hopes and wants confirmation that things will develop according to their expectations. The political leaders are the main commentators of polls. As there are few winners and many losers, the latter try to persuade their supporters that the polls are falsified. This does harm to polling companies. In fact, the interested citizens form a judgment about polling companies by the correspondence between poll results and election results, post-factum.
In the Republic of Moldova, there is a dozen of active polling companies. It should be noted that at least half of these seem to be credible. During the last few years, the given companies had the occasion to show their level of professionalism in two parliamentary elections, in a presidential election and in a municipal election. These companies were also able to assess the people’s attitude to the COVID-19 pandemic, primarily the attitude to vaccination. Determining the citizens’ attitude to the Russia-Ukrainian war and the eventual impact on the Republic of Moldova is a new challenge for the polling organizations.
The last poll published on April 13, 2022 was conducted by the company “Intellect Group” and refers to citizens’ perceptions of the sociopolitical life in the Republic of Moldova, evidently in the context of the Russo-Ukrainian war. We should draw the following conclusions from the given study: things in the country go wrong, while the atmosphere is tumultuous (78%); it is necessary to remain neutral to the military events in Ukraine (83%); citizens want Moldova to be an independent and neutral state (60%); Moldovans no longer want European (22%) or Eurasian (10%) integration, or the union with Romania (3%); President Maia Sandu compromises political life (47%); snap parliamentary elections can change the situation to the better (45%) etc. We must admit that after such a poll, things become crystal clear and it is evident what should be done – to immediately cause snap elections. The political forces that plead for neutrality, independence and a balanced foreign policy only announced their intention to have a dialogue with the people on the mentioned offers.
The poll results were disseminated by about a dozen of websites with anonymous beneficiaries and employees. So, everyone’s involved! But something happened probably. The truth is the main political force promoting citizens’ wishes, which is underlined in the polls of “Intellect Group” – the Bloc of Communists and Socialists (BSC) – refrained from officially promoting the promising results that would ensure their victory in eventual snap elections. They probably remembered that another polling organization – the Association of Sociologists and Demographers – during the last two years predicted their victory in the presidential and parliamentary elections, but the results were the opposite. Apropos, the company Intellect Group foresaw that Socialist leader Igor Dodon’s score would be almost twice higher than his challenger Maia Sandu’s score. But it wasn’t meant to be. That’s why, once bitten, twice shy.
What should the certificate of an authentic poling company contain?
From the aforementioned study, we convinced ourselves that we should draw the main conclusion – the military events in Ukraine cardinally changed the integration references of the Moldovans. Respectively, the correct attitude to the tumultuous situation is shaped by BCS. If it is so, we do not have another option than to plead for the triumph of the sovereign people’s wish that was revealed by “Intellect Group”. However, if we attentively examine the questionnaire and the answers, we see some strange things. For example, the question “Do you think snap parliamentary elections are necessary?” does not have the response variants yes, no, I don’t know/will not answer, as the question suggests, but such weird response variants as “It will improve the situation” etc.
If the method of formulating the questions and response variants generated bewilderment, clarity should have been ensured as regards the one that commissioned the poll, its cost, number of operators that managed to interview over 1,000 respondents during only four days. Normally, each sociological company should have a kind of quality certificate. It is not our case. The given information is absent. In such circumstances, we can only examine other polls of the given company so as to see what reputation it has. This way, we can see that the respectable publications in the Republic of Moldova accompany their news items about the investigations of “Intellect Group” with such comments as – this organized the demonstration in support of Vlad Plahotniuc for premiership on January 13, 2016. Furthermore, the dozen of websites with anonymous beneficiaries that served Plahotniuc are exactly the same as those that committed themselves to intensely disseminate the results of the mentioned poll, this time favorable to another beneficiary. In fact, we have nothing to reproach here, except for the lack of transparency as regards the beneficiaries and costs.
As the government in the Republic of Moldova started to fight, at legislative level, fake-news and disinformation, they should bear in mind that manipulative opinion polls can also be a source for poisoning public opinion. The false data promoted systematically and insistently by anonymous media sources can dramatically distort citizens’ perceptions. So, it is desirable for the publication of the results of sociological surveys to be mandatorily accompanied by information about the technical parameters of the studiess, those that commissioned them and how much they paid or these risk being classed as unverified information.