Tag Archives: Political polls

Polling the pollsters

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The urgent news of the day for New Brunswick is in. It’s now time to close the shutters, batten down the hatches, head to bed with a nice cup of steamed hemlock. For, the pollsters have spoken.

Those who moil for meaning in the nether reaches of the online world – the Internet, blogosphere, social media – have tendered their latest profile of public opinion about Canada’s most youthful premier.

Now we know, and now we may sleep, comfortable in the knowledge that half of this province’s grown-ups think Brian Gallant is just swell; the other half isn’t so sure.

Says Corporate Research Associates of Halifax: “The New Brunswick Liberal Party continues to be preferred, with just under one-half of New Brunswick decided voters supporting (45 per cent, down from 55 per cent in November 2015).

“Meanwhile, one-quarter back the PC Party of New Brunswick (27 per cent, compared with 25 per cent), while two in ten residents support the New Democratic Party (18 per cent, up from 12 per cent). Green Party support is stable (eight per cent, compared with seven per cent), while two percent of voters back the People’s Alliance (compared with one per cent).

“The number of residents who are undecided rests at 29 per cent (compared with 25 per cent), while seven per cent refuse to state a preference (compared with nine per cent), and five per cent support none of the parties or do not plan to vote (compared with three per cent).”

Of course, I’m reasonably certain that, should I turn the tables on the polling industry, itself, public responses would track along predictable lines.

Question: How much do you trust polling data?

Answer: About as much as I trust politicians.

Question: How much do you like being bugged by pollsters while eating supper or beating a deadline?

Answer: About as much as I like answering the door on a sweet, sultry Sunday afternoon.

According to writer Nate Cohen in the New York Times in January, “The polling industry has been hit hard by high-profile misfires in recent years. Exactly why the polls err often remains a mystery. Potential sources for error abound: The initial samples could be biased, the likely-voter models may not reflect the actual electorate, or voters could make last-minute decisions that make even an accurate poll wrong on Election Day.”

Mr. Cohen also references a Pew Research report that declares: “Polls have failed to accurately predict winning candidates in several recent elections, including the 2015 race for governor in Kentucky, several 2014 U.S. races for Senate and governor, the 2015 British general election, the 2015 Scottish referendum on independence, and the 2015 referendum in Greece on acceptance of the European Union’s terms for a bailout. In the 2012 U.S. presidential election, many surveys underestimated the share of the vote that Barack Obama would receive. Errors in modeling the likely electorate are suspected of contributing to many of these polling failures.”

Or could the problem simply be the intellectual triangle pollsters, politicians and the press have managed to forge over the past few decades? After all, these are the only “audiences” who seem to benefit from periodic public opinion surveys.

We, the great polled, couldn’t care less; except, of course, enough of us are more than willing to offer an opinion when gently pressed to do so.

Is Brian Gallant the greatest thing since sliced bread? Sure. Nope. Doesn’t matter. You’ve answered the question, done your civic duty. Now go to bed as images of real and important matters fail to dance in your heads.

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The great ‘Lib-Dem’ divide

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Political polls, timely and alluring, always, somehow, manage to say it all even as they point so clearly to our splendid isolation.

Where once the young Justin Trudeau seemed destined to reconstitute his father’s party – shoving Thomas Mulcair into a neo-Liberal corner not even Jack Layton’s ghost would haunt, and relegating the reformer Stephen Harper to a chapter of history where John Diefenbaker takes tea with Ward Cleaver – the telegenic politico is suddenly falling flat on his lovely, red face.

Naturally, the sharks are now circling the inland waterways that surround Parliament Hill, smelling political chum at its very best.

According to an EKOS Politics public opinion survey, released not long ago, “For five of our last six polls, the NDP has improved its standing with Canadian voters and the party now stands at 33.6 per cent, a 16-point improvement over its modern low just four months ago.”

Indeed, “The NDP have nearly double the support that they did this time out from the 2011 election. Support for the Conservatives and the Liberals, meanwhile, continues to languish with the two parties standing at 27 points and 23 points, respectively.

This suggests that had the brass, responsible for the fortunes of Canada’s two opposition parties, managed to pull their noses out of their respective navels four years ago they might now be looking at a “Liberal-Democrat” hegemony come October.

As things stand, they can expect another Tory win right up the middle of the Main Street they have managed to pave and split on their own dime.

Of course, none of this prevents either Mr. Trudeau or Mr. Mulcair from pretending to disagree about issues on which they obviously concur. Perversely, electoral politics in this nation encourage it.

Still, both leaders want Canada to cradle a degree of social justice it hasn’t enjoyed in more than a decade. Both want a demonstrably democratic, proportional system of representation in Ottawa. Both want to see a Senate, corrupted by its own rules, either radically reformed or abolished. Both endorse a system of long-term, early childhood education, supported and subsidized by the federal state as a means to a proper end for mums, dads, teachers and, most importantly, kids.

As the Grit and NDP policy platforms are so evidently compliant with one another – in fact, nearly identical in every important way – does their fiction of friction make any sense at all?

If recent opinion polls show one thing, they show this: Canadians are not evenly split between the right and the left; they are confused and confounded by their traditional loyalties to political parties that no longer represent their values, interests, secular beliefs, and actual circumstances.

Can we be fiscal conservatives and still recognize the importance of public investment in municipal and community infrastructure?

Can we be social progressives and still acknowledge the need to live within our economic means?

How do we balance ourselves on this thin beam that traverses between the gravity of our reality and the flight of our fondest fantasies?

Inevitably, we meet ourselves in the middle – at work, at home, in politics, and in life. If we are true to ourselves, we demand the same of those whom we send into public office.

Messrs. Trudeau and Mulcair are clearly missing the point in this election cycle. Together, they own 57 per cent of the popular vote; alone they fail.

The polls say it all: We, all of us, are stronger, smarter and kinder standing together than when we perch at the periphery of our society in splendid isolation.

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