Monday, September 01, 2008

You Guessed It

I'm a poll junkie, and even I'm fatigued. Guess what, new poll. This time Strategic Counsel weighs in. Short but sweet, not buying:
Conservatives: 37 per cent (+5)
Liberals: 29 per cent (-1)
New Democrats: 17 per cent (-1)
Green Party: 9 per cent (-1)
Bloc Quebecois: 8 per cent (-2)

The Ontario numbers frankly look goofy:
Conservatives: 41 per cent (+10)
Liberals: 35 per cent (-4)
New Democrats: 15 per cent (-3)
Green Party: 10 per cent (-2)

Two polls last week, reputable one's at that, showed the Conservatives down to their lowest point in any polling down since 2006, now Strategic Counsel puts them at dizzying heights. Double digit Liberal lead in three polls, now SC with this result. I'll defer to my gut here, there is nothing happening here in Ontario that makes me entertain the Conservatives surging. Reeking outlier alert.

The most curious part, despite the apparent big lead, SC shows the Liberals doing well in Quebec:
Bloc Quebecois: 34 per cent (-12)
Liberals: 26 per cent (+4)
Conservatives: 23 per cent (+7)
New Democrats: 12 per cent (+5)
Green Party: 5 per cent (-3)

The leadership numbers seem entirely in tune, Harper has a big gap over Dion, just more evidence I suppose.

The poll also suggests the Conservatives have momentum in British Columbia, Liberals fading, which could well be the case. Overall, you do get a sense from all the polls that if there is any movement, it hasn't been with the Liberals.

I think SC has blown it with the Ontario numbers, some quick mental math, take three off the Cons, give it to the Libs, we have another national statistical tie. Sound good?


liberazzi said...

The only problem with this one is that CTV has it as their current top story and is playing it up like the Cons have momemtum. In CTV's effort to push this poll through they are completely ignoring all the other polling that have come over the past week. I like what CNN does as combines a variety of polls and I wish CTV and the like would do the same to give us a true picture. However, its all about the story and less about the facts sometimes with these news outlets. I'm sure Duffy will be playing this poll up large tomorrow.

Steve V said...


If you want to make sure Harper doesn't get a majority, the best thing to do is have the impression out there that he might.

I was just checking some other polling periods, when everyone released in succession. SC sometimes falls in line, but just as often they seem to overstate, relative to others.

Jeff said...

With the House having been out of session for the summer, I wouldn't be surprised to have the Cons open a lead of a few points. That's been the pattern, they do better when people aren't paying attention.

In an election though, people will be paying attention. I'm sure Nanos will soon be back with his daily tracking numbers/poll crack. I hope you're geared-up for daily analysis Steve. Pace yourself...

Anthony said...

Strategic council screams majority?

I frankly am completely shocked


Walks With Coffee said...

Mr. Nanos is the one to watch - as we all know. CTV has been shilling the CPoC handbook for two years... costs them $.

Their are deaths because of derugulation and CTV is where on that story? Nuff said.



Steve V said...

"Strategic council screams majority?"

How many times have we seen that headline since the last election, or during the last election for that matter?

BTW, SC was off a full five points in Ontario for the last election.

Like I said before, it's not necessarily a bad thing, if certain outlets push the "brink of majority" theme. Duceppe is already making a majority a central theme to counter Harper, and the prospects of Harper unleashed strikes fear in Ontario, so in the grand scheme, outlier or not, not a bad prospect for people to consider.

Also, note how Harper keeps saying a majority just isn't in the cards, the same sort of thing he said last election, when people started to fear the possiblity.

Anonymous said...

What I find so laughable but a bit frightening is how G&M frames this today.

On their front page with bold headlines about Harper close to majority and sub-title articles about how the economy will be front and center in the debate and another on how the public questions Dion's leadership.

It isn't that they are offering all of that, it is the pronouncement way they are presenting all three.

Things like that always weigh in with my belief that polls these days are used to generate news and momentum, NOT to report on the public's moods.

They simply provide a launching pad for the media to spin whatever storyline they want to develop. Only when actual events come crashing down on them will they deviate from the script.

With this poll, G&M has laid out Harper's objectives in this election better than any campaign strategists could ever hope.

"Make the election about Dion! Scare people about the economy! And point out with the right vote, our party can guide the economy with a steady hand!"

Are we sure that the media doesn't receive actual talking points as was revealed about Faux News a while back?

Despite all this, I don't see any harm in this. The mood of the country says something different than the results show so it doesn't "smell" right. If it were all this rosy, Conservative would have been on the verge of taking a couple of seats in by-elections the next few weeks. As it is, there was more talk of them finishing an embarrassing 3rd in all of them.

Personally, I think many people who aren't paying a lot of attention will wake up and be frightened by the prospect of a conservative majority.

Libs should boomerang this by making a push at that frightening prospect, and run on just what a conservative majority would mean, based on the actions of the past 3 years.

Steve V said...


What I really love, how a particular media outlet acts as though their commissioned poll is the only one. No qualifier, just an absolute proclamation, which is frankly irresponsible. The media is supposed to be balanced, and yet, you'll never hear anything like "other polls show the Conservatives trailing badly in Ontario", nope, it's as though our entire political framing is dependent on the poll the outlet paid for.

As you say, polls are now used to pump narratives, which is why I ultimately think there should be some accountability with public polls, because they do affect the discourse, they do alter the discussion, people base opinion on what a poll tells them, and yet, no verification to ensure high quality results.

What can, and might have happened already, a political party finds allegiance with a particular pollster, and they deliberately work in concert. For example, isn't it odd, that just before Harper starts marching toward an election, a poll comes out of the blue, all of sudden showing Canadians are warming to an election (2.5 years of nobody wants anything to do with one, then a huge swing on the eve of Conservative posturing). It's as though the poll provided cover, as media digests the results, and is more apt to accept the rational, "hey, that poll says Canadians want one". I'm suspicious, and I'm not comfortable with presenting data, without some sort of accountability or scrutiny.

Anonymous said...

I agree. I think your theory about political parties teaming with polling firms and working in tandem is happening and expanding before our eyes. Just in my life experience, I think the phenomenon is more blatant and extensive now, especially when you have firms like KLR-VU spring up and being so readily accepted as "reputable" polling firms with little vetting (I'm beginning to like that word a lot; it should be applied more ; ).

It is already clear political parties and media are more tied than ever before, which creates a sort of frightening triad of manipulation when you add the possibility of polls being in the mix as well.

A large portion of the voting public seems to understand media bias. But polls, until recently, were regarded with a bit more respect. You do see more questioning of polls in public dialogue these days, which I think is healthy as the results become more suspect. But media still often portrays them more as "whispers of pure unadulterated truth" rather than the results of a very human endeavor.

On the newspaper bit, Vancouver has two "quick read infotainment / news" rags one can pick up free all around town. They are actually much easier to find than a mainstream paper.

I found it interesting today that one - "24" - was practically a complete talking point on the expected election call, laying out a basis for Harper to call for an election more blatantly hyper-partisan than ANY other reference I have seen or heard. The article was filled with quotes from Harper and other conservatives. Not one quote from Dion or any liberal (or any other party for that matter), and really only one paragraph just barely hinting at the fact that "perhaps" it could be considered breaking the spirit - if not letter - of the law for Harper to make the call for an election.

On the other hand, the "metro" was practically the opposite, highlighting up front Dion's excellent comments after the meeting yesterday and then making the argument that these meetings were part of a Harper charade to provide cover for his desire for an election.

So, in a way, you could argue there was "balance" in the media here. But not all communities have two voices these days - most don't in fact.

I was just struck at the fact that even the "quick read" papers are essentially political mouthpieces now, just with some celebrity gossip and racy ads in the back pages ; ).

Interesting times.

Steve V said...


That's a good real world example.

While I think people look at polls with a critical eye, it seems the media take their cues from the results, or use them for justification. You watch a guy like Duffy, and he pumps certain polls to put people on the defensive, ignoring what he doesn't like, it's quite telling to watch.

Anonymous said...

With the release of the Strategic Counsel polling results today in the Globe & Mail that seem to fly in the face of two other polls carried out over the same time period (i.e. Nanos, Decima) in regard to the relative standings of the Conservative and the Liberal parties both nationally and in Ontario, I was curious. Therefore, I googled Strategic Counsel and this was what came up. Read for yourself and come to your own conclusions:

Wonder whether G&M is aware?

Steve V said...


Here's the link for the lazy ;)

Steve V said...

Here's an example of how one poll can affect what is reported:

He dismissed questions about a poll showing the Tories on the brink of a majority.

"Polls are like tides, they come and they go," said Dion. "Our reaction is always the same. Whatever the poll, work harder, we need to win this election."

Let's pretend for a second, SC didn't come out with a poll this week. Is the line of questioning the same, Dion defending where he thinks they're at, or is it "polls show a statistical tie", allowing to Dion to talk confidently about the Liberal chances.

Steve V said...

Here's another example of what I was saying earlier:

Dion dismisses gloomy poll

On the defensive, about a poll that wasn't even commissioned by the publication. It's like the three polls last week are irrelevant...

liberazzi said...

680 news was also playing up this poll this morning, saying Cons on the brink of a majority and the Green Shift is tanking. I am not sure if the media in this country are biased or just lazy and stupid. Harper doesnt need to campaign he can just get the media to do it for him. And now CTV has got Kenney's views on the Lib caucus/Green Shift as one of its top new items. How are the views of a windbag like Kenney front page news?!

I know besides the ol white guys and or the macho pricks most Canucks are wary of a Harper majority, but if Harper looks likes he is headed towards a majority, then it could become a self-fullfilling prophecy.

PS. I'm a white guy, so I can make fun of them.

liberazzi said...

I meant fufilling. No spell check on these damn comment boxes!

Möbius said...

I meant fufilling.

You were closer the first time.

liberazzi said...

Mobius: Damn your right - "fulfilling". Christ, i botched that one.