Polls are for dogs, right Dief?
It's been a difficult day for poll hounds.
Are the Conservatives building their lead? Or is it shrinking? Depending on which narrative you prefer, you could find a poll to support it today.
Whose poll is correct? Or could they all be, in a way, correct — even when they lead to opposite conclusions?
In an attempt to cut through some of this, Politics with Don Newman interviewed Elly Alboim today. He's advised a lot of people over the years — from former Prime Minister Paul Martin to journalism students at Carleton University. For a number of us in the Parliamentary Bureau, he's also a former boss.
The short answer is that the kinds of rolling polls so de rigueur in the media now were never intended to be used the way people in the media are using them. They were designed to help political parties test how well their messages were received over the course of the campaign — not to predict whether or not we'd have a majority government from one day to the next.
You can test the accuracy of my precise of his explanation by listening to the full interview at our Politics website, where we post the full edition of all of our daily programs — even when we aren't in an election campaign.
For the record, Alboim is particularly critical of the methodology of the Strategic Counsel "battleground riding" polls, which you may have seen featured in other media.
Now that I've thoroughly rubbished the media's use of polls, let me share two specific polling results I found to be very, well, useful today, in reflecting on the first week of the campaign.
Nanos-Sun Media (discussed by columnist Greg Weston) suggests that while Stephen Harper is Canadians' top choice as a leader, 79 per cent of Canadians don't intend to cast their vote based on who they think is the best leader.
This causes one to pause to reflect on the merits of a leader-centric strategy, such as we've seen so far from the Conservatives.
EKOS Research put the issue of the Green Shift directly to their respondents — explaining it in one sentence. They found pretty much a dead heat between those who do/don't support it.
There's been a mind-boggling amount of spin about this policy. But to identify just two of the many questions this polling result raised for me personally:
- Why, if EKOS can explain the Green Shift to voters in one sentence, it's still constantly referred to as complicated?
- And why, if a polling company can get the general idea across in one sentence, the party that thought of it can't communicate it more effectively?
On that note, I wish all our readers a weekend utterly free of phone calls from polling companies. But if they do call, and you aren't busy eating supper or changing diapers or something, you know, important — please don't lie to them. We're confused enough as it is.
— Janyce McGregor
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