Adventures in polling - Macleans.ca

Adventures in polling

Here’s a zany suggestion: if you want to know what people think about coalitions, ask them

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Here’s the key question in the new Nanos poll:

“QUESTION: Thinking of our current national political scene [Rotate] some people think that political change would be risky to our economic stability while others think that if the government changed it would have no impact on the stability of the economy. Which of these two views, if either, best reflects your personal opinion?”

Just to be clear, the “[Rotate]” simply means that about half the sample was asked, “Thinking of our current national political scene some people think that if the government changed it would have no impact on the stability of the economy, while others think that political change would be risky to our economic stability. Which of these two views, if either, best reflects your personal opinion?”

Now. Do you think political change would be risky? Or do you think that if the government changed it would have no impact on the stability of the economy?

It’s a trick question. Because whatever you answer, I’m going to give your answer to the Globe and Mail and they’re going to say you were talking about a coalition government.

No, really. I know it sounds hard to believe, but trust the evidence of your eyes.

“Despite the Tory foreboding about a possible coalition government, nearly 51 per cent of respondents believe a change in government would have no effect on the stability of our economy. In comparison, about 30 per cent believe change would be risky.”

So. Despite all the Conservative talk about coalitions, people have mixed feelings about “political change” and “if the government changed.” Which is pretty profoundly not the same question. If the government changed? What? Like you mean if the government got nicer or showed up on time more often? Here’s a zany suggestion: If you want to know what people think about coalitions, ask them. And if you don’t ask them, don’t report the results as an opinion about coalitions. (I believe the blame here is shared between a pollster who asked a not-particularly-useful question about “change” and a newspaper that tried to make something of the results.)