Vox pops attract fierce criticism, but they can tell you things that opinion polling and election data still can’t.
By John Harris and John Domokos
If you do the kind of political journalism that involves talking to the general public, something faintly magical can sometimes happen. As events swirl around and you try to make sense of huge, complicated themes, a single conversation will bring everything into focus. And not via words alone: facial expressions, gestures, and the way individual words are emphasised can give you a vivid sense of how people think, and the way their feelings could create political change. The encounter might be fleeting, but a connection can be made; as one side understands, the other feels heard.
Since 2010, we have been responsible for the Guardian video series Anywhere But Westminster, in which we try to explore the gap between high politics and life as it is lived. With so much political coverage now based on opinion polling, we are interested not just in how people might vote, but what is behind their political choices. Vox pops have long been a crucial part of what we do.