The Pollcast: Does leadership race polling mean anything?

Polls suggest Kevin O'Leary is the favourite to win the Conservative leadership. Or do they? Paul Adams and David Coletto join host Éric Grenier to discuss the usefulness of leadership race polling.

Host Éric Grenier is joined by Paul Adams and David Coletto

One recent poll suggested Kevin O'Leary was the favourite choice to be the leader of the Conservative Party. But does that mean he is the favourite to win? (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

The CBC Pollcast, hosted by CBC poll analyst Éric Grenier, explores the world of electoral politics, political polls and the trends they reveal.

Kevin O'Leary is the favourite for the Conservative leadership, says one poll. Only he can defeat Justin Trudeau, says another. A majority of Canadians aren't familiar with most of the 14 contestants in the running, according to a third.

But do these polls tell us much about who will actually win the Conservative leadership race?

While most leadership race polling takes all Canadians or supporters of a party as its sample, in the end the only people who will cast a ballot in the upcoming Conservative and NDP leadership votes are party members.

A small and dwindling portion of the population, members are difficult for pollsters to find — so the potential for pollsters to gauge a leadership race correctly is limited.

And it isn't much easier for those in the midst of a leadership campaign.

To discuss the challenges of polling a leadership race, as well as the role of the media in reporting on these polls, host Éric Grenier is joined by Paul Adams, associate professor of journalism at Carleton University and David Coletto, CEO of Abacus Data.

Listen to the full discussion above — or subscribe to the CBC Pollcast and listen to past episodes.

Follow Paul Adams, David Coletto and Éric Grenier on Twitter.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?