Fine Gael members used business cards from a non-existent firm in polls for the party before 2016, The Irish Times have learned.
A Fine Gael spokesperson said on Thursday evening that all polls from 2016 had been carried out by research firms and independent contractors.
However, while the majority of polls prior to this were carried out by similar teams, the party confirmed that paid or volunteer members also carried out constituency polls.
A party spokesperson said: ‘On occasion they failed to correctly identify where they came from, and when asked some reportedly replied by referring to a non-existent polling company and had supporting business cards.
“It shouldn’t have happened. All survey data was collected in an anonymous format and not retained. Unlike other parties, Fine Gael does not have a central voter database. Fine Gael will respond fully to any request from the Data Protection Commissioner.
Meanwhile, the head of a global research industry body says political parties are in “clear breach” of a voluntary code for market researchers by posing as independent pollsters or fake survey companies.
Irishman Finn Raben, chief executive of the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research, said revelations that political parties pretended to be independent pollsters while researching the public’s voting intentions were “for the less disappointing”.
“While there are mechanisms to reassure the public about the reputation and duty of care of research companies, there appears to be no mitigating evidence to justify political parties’ choice to mask and misrepresent their activities,” he said. Mr Raben told The Irish Times.
Election materials produced by Sinn Féin in an ‘election toolkit’ – a 77-page guide to campaigning ahead of the 2016 general election – show the party encouraged volunteers to tell the public they were working for a bogus Dublin Irish Market Research Agency company. The party even produced fake “IMRA” authorization cards in the guide.
Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the Greens Party and Sinn Féin admitted that their party members polled the public during the election while hiding the fact that they worked for a political party.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said Fianna Fáil volunteers should not have posed as pollsters and the practice was neither good nor proper.
Fine Gael TD and Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney said he was aware party volunteers in his constituency were landing on the doorstep as pollsters and that this should not have happened.
Mr Coveney said it had become clear this was not the ‘professional way of doing things’ and the practice had occurred five, six or seven years ago when the policy was ‘looser “.
Mr Raben said such practices constitute a “flagrant breach” of the General Data Protection Regulation if they take place after EU data protection law came into force in 2018.
“Will the parties in question comply with the recourse requirements of the GDPR? ” he said.
Research companies subscribe to a voluntary code governed by industry group Esomar, which requires them to be transparent about the information they collect and the purposes for collecting it.
The code, covered by the Association of Irish Market Research Organizations in that country, requires companies to ensure researchers protect personal data and behave ethnically.
“It is clear that the reported behavior of political parties is in flagrant violation of these principles,” Raben said.
He added that with growing public concerns about individuals’ ability to control how their personal data is used and for what purpose, “there is an urgent need for clear ethical and professional guidance on how to manage these given responsibly”.
Polling companies have complained that these revelations will hurt their industry and their ability to conduct public opinion research.
“Anyone hiding their true intent – we would consider that unethical,” said Richard Colwell, founder and chief executive of RedC Research, which conducts political polling.
He expressed concern that such disclosures would lead to more people refusing to speak to legitimate pollsters.
“There will be more questions on the doorstep, and when we call people, they’ll ask us ‘are you real or not? This hurts strike rates. This drives up costs. »
Sinn Féin’s use of a bogus company was “a bit of a subterfuge” that went beyond “solicitors knocking on doors and if nobody asks a question they’ll get away with it”, he said. he adds.
Damian Loscher, chief executive of Ipsos-MRBI, which conducts polls for The Irish Times, said the practices highlighted undermine public confidence in the work they do as they “put a question mark in mind of the public” and do the work of true investigators. More difficult.
“As an industry, we rely on the goodwill and trust of the public. We protect our reputation because if we lose public trust, we lose our ability to accurately gauge public opinion.