Driven by data; ridden with liberty.
Just as politicians wants to speak for the person on the street, broadcast journalists want to reflect the voice of the people in their reporting. The use of vox populi – short, informal interviews with members of the general public – is part of the contemporary language of television news.
When I was walking around Bristol with colleagues, a journalist for ITV News asked me: “Which party do you think is best for small business, and why?” I did not see the broadcast, and so do not know if my interview was used.
Despite asking the same question to potential voters, vox pops are not polls. The purpose is to provide short clips, breaking up the author’s voice and show different faces for the viewer. Multiple vox pops are filmed, and then picked for the report. Polling seeks to identify the level of support for political parties and policies among the general public. Vox populi interviews seek to provide diverse answers, so a few can be shown. For a political question, answers favouring the three major parties are typically chosen.
Vox pops represent a tiny sample, based on how many interviews the reporter and their camera-person can endure. These interviews are severely self-selected. Vox pops come from people who happened to wander into the prowling reporter’s path, from those who are interested in politics and from those who accept that their face may be shown in living rooms across the nation.
The answers provided by people who satisfy all three of these criteria may be dissimilar to the overall electorate. Furthermore, the journalists do not know if they are talking to independent voter, who has yet to decide their political preference for this election, or to a card-holding party member.
Polling companies rarely survey specifically about small companies, but often ask questions on the most favourable party for businesses. According to YouGov, the party with “the best policies towards British business” are the Conservatives, with 33%. Labour trail with 19%.
Vox populi is Latin for voice of the people. These sporadic and unscientific interviews only give the lazy hum of the people.