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December 14, 2005 at 10 AM

Polls: 99% Yesterday’s Polls Meaningless Today

Here’s a shocker. Remember those polls that said New Democrat Party support had collapsed in Ontario? Well, the next day’s poll says NDP support in Ontario is up to 18%. Why it’s doubled in only a day! That’s outstanding! NDP campaigners must be cheering across the land.

Today’s poll from The Globe and Mail says the same thing. Strange how “NDP Support Doubles in Ontario” wasn’t their headline of choice.

It’s as if that 9% number two days ago didn’t mean anything. Came out of thin air. Who would’ve guessed.

Update: Actually, now that I’ve looked at the December 12 poll, I’m pretty sure The Globe and CTV are both illiterate. Here’s the poll from that day and here’s the quote again from The Globe:

That being said, a trend may be emerging in Ontario.

Mr. Martin’s Liberals now have the support of 40 per cent of the province’s voters, compared with 24 per cent for Stephen Harper’s Conservatives and nine per cent for Jack Layton’s New Democrats.

Look through the poll if you like, but you won’t find those numbers on the table that charts Ontario’s support for each party. In fact, the only table that matches those numbers is the one for the question, “Which party has the most momentum towards a federal election?” That’s a very different question from, “Who are you going to vote for?”

In fact, the full question the poll asked was, “From what you can tell, which party, if any, is gaining the most popularity and momentum leading up to the election?”

It’s one thing to attribute any meaning to daily poll results; it’s another entirely to read the poll flat-out wrong and report it as fact. It’s embarrassing that reporters at a newspaper of the The Globe and Mail’s stature can’t read their own poll results properly. NDP support in Ontario is not anywhere as low as 9% and Liberal support is actually higher than 40%. How much more wrong can you get and still blare it as your top headline?

Update #2: I alerted columnist/blogger Paul Wells, who I figured would be interested in this sort of story. For one, I know he loves to mock The Globe, but more importantly, he’s one of the few people in the Canadian press who seems to understand the pointlessness of polls masquerading as news. He’s confirmed my analysis and promises a further report.

Update #3: The Globe has issued a correction in the Thursday edition, though it is vaguely worded and it doesn’t explain how misleading the story, and in particular the headline, was.

Comments

The stature of the Globe & Mail is shrinking.. many people now hold them in the contempt previously reserved for the Red Star.

— ChrisR | Dec. 14, 2005 — 4 PM

You have performed an utterly invaluable service.

— anon | Dec. 14, 2005 — 7 PM

i find all polls to be misleading.

whether that is by accident or design is also up for interpretation.

it is just plain dumb to ask pointed questions of 1000 people, allow them one word answers, then extrapolate a trend for millions.

greg murray | Dec. 15, 2005 — 6 PM

wow. unbelievable that such an error could be made. and what a weak correction notice.

— Erk | Dec. 26, 2005 — 7 AM

The funniest is the CTV news showing a new poll EVERY DAY! What’s the point?!

James McNally | Jan. 2, 2006 — 5 AM

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Previously: Polls: 50% Public Duped by Election Polls

Subsequently: Ho Ho Ho

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