Monday, August 14, 2006

Dueling Pollsters

Compas firm attacks Strategic Counsel's poll on Lebanon/Israel conflict:
In one corner, the Strategic Counsel firm is standing by a recent survey that suggested only one-third of Canadians shared Harper's staunch pro-Israel stand. In the other corner, the head of the Compas firm says the prime minister enjoys twice that much support and accused his rivals Monday of conducting a "misleading anti-Harper poll."

Compas said its rival invited an anti-Harper response by asking about "Israeli actions" - a term it decried as a hostile-sounding statement that swayed respondents.

Coming to Strategic Counsel's defense:
"The Strategic Counsel has produced a fair and reasonable study of how Canadians feel about some of the issues here," said Bruce Anderson, president of Decima Research.

"The criticisms are not terribly well-founded."

I find it quite ironic that Compas speaks of misleading questions, given their biased questions. Here is how Compas reached its results:
Compas arrived at its conclusion that Canadians supported Harper after asking the following four questions:

-Does Israel have a right to defend itself? (82 per cent responded in the affirmative)

-Was Iran wrong to arm Hezbollah and call for the destruction of Israel? (69 per cent agreed)

-Was Syria wrong to arm Hezbollah and disobey the United Nations resolution requiring Syria to keep guns out of Lebanon? (68 per cent agreed)

-Did Hezbollah in Lebanon start the war? (Just 38 per cent agreed)

Compas then took those four responses, averaged them out, and concluded that 64 per cent of Canadians supported Harper's policy.

Most sane people wouldn't dispute Israel's right to defend itself. In fact, I don't even see that as a serious question, ditto for foreign countries arming Hezbollah. The only question that really asks anything in my mind is the, "did Hezbollah in Lebanon start the war?", of which only 38 per cent agreed. That response is the most telling because it speaks to intent and blame. I am actually surprised that more didn't agree with this statement, because it has become conventional wisdom in all reporting that Hezbollah initiated the violence.

If anyone was "skewing", it would appear to be Compas, with its broad questions that didn't address Israeli response. How someone can conclude that taking the average of these four questions is representative of Canadians views is beyond me. Compas might want to remember the saying "if you live in a glass house...", because the more scrutiny their own polling receives(see link), the more it stinks of patent bias and manipulation of opinion to cobble a desirable result.


Canadian Tar Heel said...

Thanks for the poll info. Like you, I was a bit shocked by some of the results. I would have expected different numbers given the widely accepted notion that Hezbollah provoked the hostilities. Also, I would have thought that more would have been against Iran's and Syria's support for Hezbollah. It seems rather like sucking and blowing to support Israel's right to exist, and then be ok with two countries, which do not recognize that right, providing weapons to an organization that also does not recognize Israel's right to exist. Odd, eh?

Scotian said...

So why didn't they ask this question? Do you agree or disagree with PM Harper's position about the current Israeli-Lebanon conflict? Even if they had to spell it out to make sure the responders actually knew his position this would have been honest, but to claim that 2/3rds support Harper's position despite no question asking anything close to that seems more than a little dishonest if you ask me.

To use such a dishonest means to come up with their claim of support for Harper's position is bad enough, but to then use this means to attack the credibility of the results of another polling firm? Are they really that stupid, or arrogant, or what to believe that anyone that examined their own "methodology" would not also have serious issues with their own conclusion? Man, this seems like rather blatantly attempting to bolster the position of the current PM and his party and I have to wonder why Compass would do such a thing, don't you?

Steve V said...

I think the fact that Decima actual took a side in this speaks volumes about the Compas poll questions.

The fact that Harper changed his tune on a Quebec radio station, saying "conditions had changed" since his initial assessment, tells me that the Tories own polls were in line with what Strategic Counsel found.

I think Canadians support Israel's right to exist and its right to protect itself, without simulateneously endorsing their gross over-reaction.

"Do you agree or disagree with PM Harper's position about the current Israeli-Lebanon conflict?"

Yes, why beat around the bush- just ask the direct question and then you don't have to manipulate the data.