27 DECEMBER 1963, Page 13


There are other and more sensational ways of describing 1963, and my own may seem a little bizarre. But it has, I think, been the year of the opinion polls. Looking back, I have the weird impression that no one really had an opinion about anything at all: there was just a hazy opinion polled for all of us. There are, I suppose, two reasons: first, that the polls are more and more asked to undertake specific jobs by the newspapers which run them; and, sec- ondly, that the computing machinery which they now use enables them to rush out their verdicts almost overnight. This, in fact, seems to me to defeat their object. To read that a poll about, say, the Buchanan Report was taken a day or two after its publication makes the whole thing -only a game: no one—least of all, the man in the street—can really have an opinion about the Buchanan Report within twenty-four hours. The polls are not, in fact, polling opinion at all, but instant responses. Was there, in fact, a 1961? I am not sure we are entitled to say until a poll has been taken on New Year's Eve. Are there, in fact, such things as events outside polls? I do not know. Opinion, if this goes on, will not be polled, but poll-axed. Presumably it will be worse in general election year.