From day one of involvement in politics, I was leery of polls. Even the polls that I did along with my late friend Keith Davey were subject to careful scrutiny, analysis and adjustments. Unless you know just who did the poll, what techniques they were using and how they balanced out the demographics, you have every reason to be skeptical. And this includes polls that I scripted and trained volunteers to carry out. Polls have a range of error for good reason.
Polls have become more difficult as telephone technology advances. There are far too many people who will not answer a call if they do not recognize the number that is calling. There are no reliable directories. And no, not everybody carries around a smart phone.
But it would sure help if everyone who said they were going to vote did so. One of the hardest predictions is the part when you estimate how many will get to the polls before they close. There is nobody more disappointed than the politician who loses by less that a hundred votes.
With my experience in elections, it is tough for me to find people who will make a bet against me, but when I am wrong, I am very wrong. The 2016 American presidential election proved every forecaster wrong when Clinton won the popular vote by more than 2.8 million votes and lost the presidency. I lost all bets in that election but won them back in 2020.
I picked this topic today because of the reaction some people had to a recent federal poll in Canada. They were excited that Justin Trudeau might get his comeuppance. It seems that this poll showed the conservatives coming up to within 2 per cent of the liberals. Sorry, that was just one poll of many. If that one poll excites you, get ready for a roller coaster ride to election day.
A few tips might help. The liberal vote is always slightly under-estimated, as is the conservative vote. This reflects the ability of those parties to get out their vote. And with the larger number of advance polls and the ease of taking advantage of them, the parties are doing even better. Conversely the new democrats and greens will be slightly over-represented in the polls because there is far less effort in electoral districts where they are not expected to win.
Remember that the only poll that matters is the one counted on election day.
Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry
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