The RSS has helped to amend a UK Statistics Authority policy regarding the publishing of official statistics during election days.
The official policy has been, and still is, to ensure that statistics aren’t published on long-planned election days. However, if a snap election is called, decisions have to be made about when to publish the statistical releases planned for that day. Previously, the policy stated that, ‘Statistics with a high level of public interest should be brought forward to the day before polling day, or if that is unfeasible, then they can be delayed until the next day.’
The date of the 2017 snap election, for example, had 24 sets of statistics planned for release. Of these, 13 went ahead as planned, five were brought forward to the preceding day and six were delayed by a day.
In a Statistics Authority consultation, the Royal Statistical Society and the Statistics User Forum called for this policy to be changed so that all statistical releases planned for polling day are delayed until the following day. Our joint response argued that the change would remove the perception of statisticians being selective regarding which statistical releases might be of ‘public interest’. We also stressed the importance of certainty regarding the release dates for users.
We are pleased to see that the Statistics Authority policy has now changed accordingly and we also welcome its new advice that there should be no pre-release access to statistics published near a polling day.