Excerpts from: Polling and the supposed NDP surge, Ira Basen, CBC
...The most provocative critic has been Allan Gregg, chairman of Harris-Decima, which provides political polling for the Canadian Press. He is also a regular member of The National's At Issue panel on CBC TV.
Gregg has been doing political polling since the 1970s and in an interview with the Canadian Press he said that "there's broad consensus among pollsters that proliferating political polls suffer from a combination of methodological problems, commercial pressures and an unhealthy relationship with the media."
"The dirty little secret of the polling business," he went on, "is that our ability to yield results accurately from samples that reflect the total population has probably never been worse in the 30 to 35 years that the discipline has been active in Canada."
...Thirty years ago, about 70-80 per cent of people called by pollsters agreed to be surveyed. Today, that rate is under 15 per cent and Gregg believes those people tend to be older, less well-educated and more rural than the general population.
But for the purposes of their polling, researchers are obliged to assume that the 15 per cent of callers who agree to spend 20 minutes talking to them are representative of the 85 per cent who are too busy or whatever to participate or who never pick up at all because they can identify a pollster through Caller ID.
...There are now more cellphones than wired phones in Canada (25 million vs. 17.5 million), and those cellphone numbers are harder for pollsters to get. That leaves a large number of people, many of them younger, whose views may never be surveyed.
...The basic methodological assumption of the polling industry has always revolved around random probability sampling, meaning that everyone has an equal chance of being interviewed. That is now clearly no longer the case.
...Over the years, researchers have discovered that where the political question is placed in the survey, and what else is being asked of the respondent, can affect how a person answers the question. But these placement concerns are rarely factored in to the results.
..."I believe the quality overall has been driven to unacceptably low levels by the fact that there's this competitive auction to the bottom, with most of this stuff being paid for by insufficient or no resources by the media," Frank Graves of Ekos told the Canadian Press in February.
...Polls are the best news that money can buy. They keep the campaign story moving along, even when everything else has been thoroughly talked out.
...But the problem with using polls here is that, too often, the reporting of them is based on creating drama where none exists.
In the process, non-trivial issues like margin of error, problems with samples and methodologies tend to get pushed aside.
Conflicting polls confusing, headache-inducing, Joan Bryden, Cdn Press
...Voters trying to make sense of the raft of contradictory daily public opinion polls during this federal election campaign are likely to wind up with a migraine. So who among the plethora of pollsters should they believe?
"Nobody," says veteran pollster Allan Gregg, an outspoken critic of his own industry and chairman of Harris-Decima, which conducts polls for The Canadian Press.
As far as Gregg is concerned, the election campaign has magnified problems with political polling: methodological issues that are skewing the results of both telephone and online surveys; commercial pressures that are prompting pollsters to over-hype their surveys; and an unholy alliance with journalists who routinely misconstrue data and ignore margins of error.
"Over the last four weeks, there's been all this hyperventilating, almost daily, about what's happening," he says. But if one looks at the aggregate results of all the polls — the only reasonably reliable way of measuring voters' party preferences, in Gregg's view — the story loses most of its drama.
"The fact of the matter is, all of the parties have been within one to two percentage points of where they had been right at the start of the campaign. No change. Nothing." And that puts them almost exactly where they ended up in the 2008 election.
..."It's an imprecise science," he says, adding that reporting polls daily down to a single decimal point is "either deceiving or stupid. Take your choice."
..."Do polls influence voting choice? ... No, not directly. But what they do influence tremendously is how the media covers a campaign and, in doing so, can influence voter preference," says Gregg.
...given the problems facing the industry and the hyped coverage of polls, Gregg maintains: "All we've done with these horse-race polls is move people from uninformed to misinformed."
Excerpts from: Polling, media and where are the Greens? Elizabeth May
I get a lot of people wondering about seeing Greens at 4%, or lower. It is hard for Canadians to know that those numbers are from polling companies that sometimes don't ask voters if they plan to vote for the Greens. In other words, these numbers are the same as pre-writ. It is only 4-5% of people who will say when asked “do you plan to vote Conservative, Liberal, or NDP?” -- “I plan to vote Green!”
So where are we in those polls that actually ask about Greens? The last one was EKOS for the week of April 21. We are down a bit over the pre-writ levels of 10%+ at 7.8%. No surprise given that the mainstream national media has not provided anything approaching equitable coverage. Not only did the TV media executives, "The Consortium," decide Greens did not belong in the Leaders’ Debate, they decided to keep our platform launch off the news, ignore the national leader’s tour (inconvenient to mention it once they announced we had no national tour), and neglect to mention our existence 90% of the time.
What is impressive is that those numbers – 7.8% -- reflect a higher level of support than in 2008. And higher than the Bloc.
...the Greens are holding on to 2008 support and building.
...The EKOS seat count projections show the Conservatives losing seats. There is no longer ANY prospect of a Conservative majority. EKOS sees Conservatives dropping from 143 seats to 134. Liberals and NDP seat count goes up. And we are in striking distance of several seats (acknowledged by EKOS text, but not included in their seat count). The closest riding is here in Saanich-Gulf Islands, where Gary Lunn and I are in a race that is too close to call.
Article - Polling and the supposed NDP surge, Ira Basen, CBC
Article - Conflicting polls confusing, headache-inducing, Joan Bryden, Cdn Press
Blog - Polling, media and where are the Greens? Elizabeth May
Site - StudentVote.ca (Videos embedded above)
Site - AllanGregg.com
Bio - Allan Gregg
Wikipedia - Allan Gregg
TVO - Allan Gregg in Conversation
CBC - At Issue Panel
- EKOS Research Associates (Most reliable) -- Media Centre
Nanos (Conservative bias, Devil incarnate)
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