Saturday, September 26, 2009

Polls and Snake Oil

It has always managed to get under TC's skin that our media swallow polling results literally - without a hint of skepticism. Recently there have been several polls on federal party leadership (such as this Nanos poll and some numbers in this Angus Reid poll). Why? Presumably in part to give us some idea about how the next election might go. However, leadership polls can be extremely misleading.

As readers of my previous two posts know, TC holds no brief for Michael Ignatieff. However, the fact that he trails Stephen Harper on this particular scorecard doesn't tell us much. For example, consider this poll from Nanos Research taken on September 7, 2003. The results inform us that the leader Ontario voters favoured in the provincial election then less than a month away was Ernie Eves: he had 41% support, followed by 25% for Unsure and 24% for Dalton McGuinty.
However, the very same poll asked the ballot question: Which party would you support? The poll reported the Liberals with 45% compared to 43% for the PCs. This answer was much closer to the voting results of the general election on October 2, 2003 when the Ontario Liberals won a large majority with 46.5% of the popular vote.
We will return to his topic again.

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