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Peters pushing poll ban

Published: 7:09AM Tuesday March 13, 2001

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has come under fire for his call to ban public opinion polls for a period of 28 days before general elections.

The banning of polls in the lead-up to elections is one of several proposed changes to the Electoral Act announced by the Government on Monday.

Peters says polls in the four weeks before elections are distracting attention from important debates and distorting results.

However, other opposition parties and the companies that carry out the research polls have criticised the proposal, saying the public have a right to know how the parties are shaping up.

On One's Late Edition, Peters told Linda Clark overseas research suggests about 15% of the vote is being influenced by polls.

"The public are interested in campaigns about the issues, about policies and about personalities," Peters says.

"And every five minutes wasted while people navel-gaze as commentators on polls that they dream up, is five minutes less that the public get to know what the issues and personalities are about. I think that's been the case for many elections."

Peters will have to win over the support of the Labour-Alliance Government if the proposal is to make it into law.

Labour is giving no guarantee of supporting the measure beyond consideration by a select committee and its MPs will be debating the issue in Caucus.

While the main opposition party, National has still to announce its position, ACT is strongly opposed to the move while Green Party leader Rod Donald has called the plan ridiculous.

The two main companies that conduct political polls say the proposed ban is an insult to voters' intelligence.

Jeremy Todd from Colmar Brunton, One News' pollster, rejects the assertion that polls can distort election results, as he says voters take heed of many sources of information.

Steve Kirk from CM Research, that polls for 3News, says political parties run their own pre-election sureveys for strategic purposes and the public also should have the right to access that information.

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