The paucity of predictive power in polling


For Alberta voters this week, the bloom came off the Wildrose party and left pollsters blushing the deepest shade of red, in a province that remained PC blue. Poll after poll predicted a wildrose victory in Alberta.... political journalists gobbled up the misleading data, some boldly wrote about the end of a dynasty So how did the science of public opinion get it so wrong?

Today's guest host is Anthony Germain in St. John's.

Part One of The Current


It's Wednesday, April 25th.

Alberta has a new Progressive Conservative majority government - not the Wildrose majority predicted in polls.
Currently, Albertans say they were going to vote Wildrose but suddenly realized that if they moved any further to the right, they'd end up in Saskatchewan.

This is The Current.

The paucity of predictive power in polling - Political consultant

We started this segment with a clip from Bruce Cameron, the president of polling firm Return on Insight. Its polling showed the Wildrose Alliance with a commanding lead going into the final week of Alberta's election campaign. And his was only one of several polls pointing toward a triumphant breakthrough for Wildrose Alliance and an electoral disaster for the Progressive Conservatives.

Well, the pollsters went down in defeat. Premier Alison Redford is still premier and her party took more than two-thirds of the seats. She was asked about it in Edmonton yesterday and we aired a clip. We also heard from Edmonton-Calder PC MLA, Doug Elniski.

The pollsters weren't the only false prophets this week. Gerry Nicholls wrote a column in the National Post on election day entitled Read it here first - how Alberta's Tories lost the election. Gerry Nicholls is a political consultant and a former vice-president of the National Citizens Coalition. We reached him at his home in Oakville, Ontario this morning.

The paucity of predictive power in polling

So, the pollsters asked the voters questions, as they always do. And they did the math with the responses, as they always do. And they made predictions for the media, as they always do. But Wildrose Alliance will nevertheless sit in the Opposition benches -- and there's no margin of error big enough to explain that one away. So - what went wrong?

Peter Ferguson is an assistant professor in the Political Science Department at the University of Western who has studied political polling extensively. He was in London, Ontario. And Janet Brown is an independent pollster and political commentator. She was in Calgary.

This segment was produced by The Current's Chris Wodskou, Howard Goldenthal and Kristin Nelson.

Other segments from today's show:

Comments are closed.