What Do We Learn From Polls?

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  • Rob you are correct that polls are often correct. The point is that we only get to know which ones were right when an actual vote is taken. A poll months before an election where half the respondents are undecided is not a good predictor of what will happen in a vote.

    Bill B

    Bill | May 24, 2013 | Reply

  • I disagree quite a bit with this post. As far as I can figure out, the main problem with ;polling in recent elections with methodology, and with rapidly changing events. The B. C. Liberal Party polling was pretty well right on. But there were some outstanding developments toward the end of the campaign that, I believe contributed to rapid change: The NDP leader declined to respond/explain his well known involvement in some fishy stuff when he was the Nigel Wright of the last NDP govt in BC. One should respond to attacks. The Conservative collapsed because, like the Wild Rose in Alberta last year, they had a couple of crazy, one of spoke kindly of Adolph Hitler. The Conservative vote then in the latter days of the campaign moved back to the Liberal Party from whence it had come. Also, likely partly because of Mr. Dix’s refusal to respond to the personal attacks, many voters, especially, but not only female female ones, took a second look at the female Premier. Also I think, because Mr. Dix’s pipeline decision, strategically taken to attract Green votes, not only did not do that, it drove some moderate NDP supports to the Liberals. Remember, Campaigns matter. Back to methodology. Some pollsters did cheap polling because their media sponsors did not wish to pay the bucks involved in proper polling. There was excessive of Internet panels, which simply involve going back to the same people time and other Internet type polls. These kinds of polls quite often miss or over rely on certain demographic groups: Regretably, the majority of young people don’t vote, but they do participate internet panels especially, because they are interested in non-political subject these panels deal with. And very older folks, the vast majority of who do vote, are underrepresented in this type of polling.
    In Alberta last year, much the same–looney Wild Rose candidates, A better PC campaign, plus the fact that it was easy for many potential rose folk to
    to go back to the Tories in the closing days, because that’s where they’d been for all of their voting lives. And also public polling companies stopped polling five or six days before the election.
    Again Campaigns matter.

    I don’t enough about the Quebec election to comment intelligently.
    In the federal election of 2011, the NDP surge was caught by the major polling companies in the second half of the campaign. I knew from following the polls that something quite dramatic was happening–didn’t know the exact, but I knew it was big.

    Regarding the local scene, I’ve been following polling for many years, and when I was provincial campaign committees, I had the privilege of working with and learning from Allan Gregg and Peter Butler, the people responsible for our polling–so I have some understanding here. Also the CRA polls have a positive record of being right in Nova Scotia, including in the 2009 election. And as Don Mills has pointed out in recent days, that record has been solid for 25 years. His polls are not Internet polls–they are telephone polls, not robotelephone polls either, but good old fashioned real person to real person telephone conversations. CRA polls have always had a very large undecided number, which seemingly over the years has tended to break the same way as the rest of the vote–I suspect a large portion of the undecided don’t vote. Again a good poll is only a snapshot of the thinking at the time of its taking. Things can change, sometimes very fast. I think the March 6 CRA poll was useful, at least in the sense that it helps explain why there has been no provincial election to date this year. I suspect the June will be even more relevant in this regard. But yes, campaigns matter–and things can change overnight. But I find polling generally a pretty good guide to what folks are thinking. I should also say, that in my experience in Nova Scotia CRA polling results have never differed substantially from the party polling that I have been privy too, admitted that has not been all that recently. I apologize for any typos in the above.

    Rob Smith | May 24, 2013 | Reply

  • Dief said polls were for dogs. What about for those who pay the bill?

    gordon a.... | May 24, 2013 | Reply