so who's been polling whom? / by Achim Tack

The election of the German Bundestag takes place later this year and, of course, journalists and data-nerds are slowly beginning to think about data-driven stories. For this reason I have refurbished an old scraper of mine, which I wanted to use for quite some time. It scrapes meta information of state level election polls from the great website, which is the go-to place for polling data in Germany. 

Using the scraper I aggregated data on 1885 individual polls beginning in 1999 and including state, release date, pollster and commissioning organisation. Obviously news organisations* concentrate on the polling results but I would like to focus on polling intensity and the question of who is conducting and paying for the polls. This is a little just for fun side-project with a pretty low level of detail.

Polling intensity by federal state

It is clear from the scraped dataset that Berlin has a much higher polling intesity than the other federal states. It is certainly worth pointing out that Berlin as a capital has a higher public interest than say the small city-state of Bremen. Still I consider it hardly remarkable that the intensity ranking does not exactly reflect the population ranking of the states: The data should be normalized against election individual years of the states.

Polling intensity over time

The polling intensity varies between 50 and 150 polls a year with a high in 2011 and a low in 2000 (Of course, the current year 2017 can not yet be fully counted). In 2011, a total of 7 state parliaments were newly elected, so that the peak can be well explained.

Top pollsters and commissioning organizations

Polls in Germany as a rule are conducted by four large pollsters, which in my sample account for a market share of about 72%. The value would be even higher if I had adjusted the data for the merger of Infratest and Dimap which are still included as two different institutions in the older part of the dataset.

Let us take a look at the commissioning organizations involved: Most of them are media outlets - both private and public service media. The strong presence of the Berliner Zeitung is striking, which commissioned a poll at Forsa nearly every month .

Pollster preferences by organisation

In the following table you will find the combinations of commissioning organization and pollster. It turns out that most organizations stick to a single pollster. Use the search mask and find out which media house uses which pollster.

So what?

Only few surprises emerged from this little project: Polls are increasingly being held before elections and most of the customers remain with a pollster. However, I find it interesting to see how many pollsters are in the market and who is commissioning them. There is certainly a "so what factor" to this analysis - but it was a nice project for a rainy sunday morning :)

* Disclaimer: I work part-time as a data journalist for Spiegel Online.