Monday, October 17, 2005

A tale of two polls

Two recent polls – one by Ipsos-Reid, the other by Léger Marketing – on Ontario party preference tell us why it is best to regard any one given set of poll numbers, to say the least, cautiously. I find nothing more irritating than news reports based on a single survey that cite “polls” as an authority. When you consider the following numbers you can see how foolish much of this type of reporting really is.

The two surveys were back to back – Léger’s survey ran from Sept. 21-26 while Ipsos-Reid’s was conducted from Sept. 27 to Oct. 6. But Reid had the Tories ahead: Conservative – 38%, Liberals – 37%, NDP – 17% and Green – 7% while Léger gave the Grits a big lead of 43% to 31% for the Conservatives with 15% for the NDP and 11% for others.

So who to believe since it is implausible and the minute difference in survey periods would explain the shift. My guess is that Ipsos-Reid is closer to the truth. There have been several surveys over the past year reporting a narrow or non-existent gap between the two leading parties. Léger looks like an outlier but who knows. There is no election for another two years so we will never know for certain.

One hopeful sign in Ipsos-Reid for the governing Liberals is that the public is evenly divided in their approval of the government. In our first-past-the-post system that is all you need.

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