Political polls past their prime.

Seen any political polls that you believe lately? If not, just wait, one to meet your bias will be along shortly. The only problem is that you have no trust in the sample, the methodology or the laughable chance that it might be right 19-out-of-20 times. It is not just our changing demographics, technology or attitudes as much as it is the inability of pollsters to read the information they do get and to ensure that it is properly explained to the intended audience.

Some of the best polling done in the past was based on voters’ lists from previous elections. That way you could take your sample from among known voters, have highly trained interviewers call them, make adjustments for new voters and base your results on a realistic scenario. The only way automated telephone calls can match the results of that technique is by accident.

This is brought up in light of the ongoing reports from research companies using automated telephone calling methods. While automated telephone calls are the least expensive methodology available, it is also the least trustworthy. It starts with people who are annoyed at the intrusion, raises questions as to the age of those responding and the truthfulness of the responses. You can use as large a sample as you wish and all you do is annoy more people.

What is particularly amusing about this methodology is that it is so cheap that political parties are using it to identify their vote. You know they are doing that when you have three different political parties calling you on election day urging you to get out and vote.

A recent poll based on automated calls shows the uselessness of the technique. This poll was done for a major newspaper and involved less than 2000 Canadians. It seems that 43 per cent of respondents liked Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, 38 per cent liked New Democrat Thomas Mulcair and just 34 per cent liked Prime Minister Stephen Harper. It seems to be the kind of information you can get from their FaceBook pages. And it is just about as useful.

What any reasonably astute political analyst can tell you is that less than half of the Canadian population are interested in ongoing political happenings. People only start to tune in when the elections signs start growing on the streets and the news media and your mailbox are overflowing with political propaganda.

And when that happens, you can start to talk to people and get their opinions. Mind you, the only poll that you really trust is the one when all the votes are counted.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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