Friday, 9 September 2016

Two senior UPNG academics and researchers to analyse 2017 voter preferences using SMS technology - to see if post-nomination period is accurate for winning elections

THE 2017 General Election has provided a unique opportunity for two PNG researchers to analyse voter preferences over the next 12 months.

University of PNG academics, Dr. Lawrence Sause and Dr. Leo Marai, have decided to address scarce and outdated knowledge on voter behaviour and preferences by conducting a nation-wide opinion poll survey using SMS technology.

“Our study is being done to contribute to the wider body of knowledge on electoral politics in PNG and in particular, on the utility of the survey opinion poll as a tool for predicting election outcomes,” said Dr. Sause.

“We’re using the 2017 General Election as a test case by examining whether voter preferences in the pre-nomination period and actual candidates in the post-nomination/campaign period is an accurate predictor for winning the election.”

Dr. Marai added that the survey has two primary objectives; to determine the extent that popular preferences translate into winning results, and the key issues influencing voter choice.

“We decided to use SMS as the primary vehicle for our survey because mobile phone penetration in PNG is extremely high, and the technology allows us to interact with our respondents in all 111 electorates across PNG.

“As a means to allow us to establish who the preferred candidates in each electorate are, SMS is the most efficient, timely and cost-effective way to reach out to our people.

To establish a control database, the survey will be done in two periods; the pre-nomination and post-nomination windows so that we can tap into what people are thinking in the lead up to the election. Once the results come out, we can then look back at our data and draw appropriate conclusions.”

Following a public awareness period, opinion poll survey SMS messages will be sent out to key population areas in each electorate across PNG, asking respondents to nominate four preferred candidates for each seat.

“When we get valid responses, the answers will be vetted to ensure they’re credible – if they are, the first 100 validated replies from each electorate will receive K5 credits on the Digicel network. We are working with the Trend Media Group to roll out this research on the Digicel network because they have the largest mobile phone customer base in PNG,” said Dr. Sause.

The research will have long-term implications on understanding and strengthening elections in PNG. “There are a number of interesting elements to what we’re doing in this exercise; obviously, there’s clearly a political dimension; finding out who the likely candidates in each seat will be,” added Dr. Marai.

“There’s an opportunity to demonstrate the utility and usefulness of survey opinion polls; then there’s the element of predicting the outcome of the voting process and finally there’s the use of mobile phone technology for nationwide surveys, to get an accurate read of what people are thinking right across PNG.

“I think this is a really exciting project and I’m really interested to see what the early results will provide us,” he said.

The survey will run from Wednesday, September 7.

Source: Press Release


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