Adventures in polling -

Adventures in polling

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


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.)


Adventures in polling

  1. It is just continuation of Globe/Taber meme that NDP/Lib coalition would be the most democratic and wonderful thing to happen to Canada in over a century. I think it was last week, or the week before, when I read Taber/Nanos article about how oppo groups we about to pull plug on Parliament and call election because the two parties had just enough seats to form coalition. Globe/Taber/Nanos won't shut up about the delights of coalition.

    And I often wonder if Taber would even had a job if we had a properly functioning msm? I don't think so. I bet there are many political news junkies out there who would love Taber's job and who wouldn't be nearly so half-assed at it.

  2. In my best attempt to mimic a famed Hidalgo, I note that the lovely Jane does provide a link to the actual poll. (Thereby allowing the dastardly Wells to place her on the mocking block.)

    In related news, a recent poll showed that quoting publicly unavailable polls had replaced not naming unnamed senior government/party officials as the most irritating behaviour of political journalists by a margin of 7 to 5, (the poll being accurate to within 5 percent, 9 times out of 10 and on Tuesdays.)

  3. Even a question about coalition governments would be hard to construct in an unequivocal manner, given the limitations of quickie national polls. There are too many complex hypothetical assumptions that can vary from respondent to respondent (is it a Lib-NDP coalition, a Lib-NDP-Bloc coalition; would such a coalition constitute a majority, etc.?).

    I don't see how Nanos shares any culpability for Taber's abuse of the results. Isn't that a bit like blaming the butcher for the burnt roast?

  4. Convoluted questions, questionable conclusions. Whatever happened to -"If an election were called tomorrow, who would you vote for"?

  5. Actually, a source close to this issue said on a promise of anonymity that the poll was accurate on both Tuesdays and Sundays. Make of it what you will.

  6. Shouldn't they ask who we'd vote against? ;-)

  7. Wouldn't most Canadians (at least those who pay attention to politics) assume that it would be a Liberal-NDP coalition of some sort?

  8. Was it just a source or a senior source?

  9. "(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.)"

    From a newspaper or a particular reporter ? Honestly, what do you expect from a gossip columnist.

  10. Senior, of course… he must have been at least 65 years old. At least.

  11. Paul Wells is back with some bite!

    This is the kind of commentary I relish. I'm glad somebody has finally called out the ever-daily-THIS-POLL-MEANS-SOMETHING-DRAMATIC garbage of the Globe and Mail.

  12. What interpretation would you suggest of the answers to a polling question that required you to guess what the respondents were guessing?

  13. Don't start!!!

  14. I'd take the guess that showed my position in the most positive light, of course.

    It seems to me that you are trying to apply logic and science to politics when it is more accurately described, for better or worse, in terms more common to alchemy and wizardry.

  15. I can't help it, the deadline fever hasn't hit me yet so I must avoid doing my work.

  16. I'm stuck in waiting for a Telus repairman. We could probably get this whole thing straightened out by noon.

  17. Is anybody else surprised that Taber's column is attempting to make the same point as Warren "Meow Mix" Kinsella's blog this morning? Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised to find out that they were sleeping together. The only people who are pushing the coalition idea are spited ex-Liberals who are attempting to damage the brand (ie. Kinsella).

    Really, if a party in our country can't survive 5 years out of power without selling it's soul to the highest bidder, then our democracy is in real trouble.

  18. I think the questrion is fine. While it could have been worded somewhat more clearly–i.e. "if the government changed"–but avoiding the word "party"–i.e. "if the party in government changed–is important as people tend to answer questions about parties in partisan terms that don't necessarily reflect their views on the specific issue at hand. I would phrase it as "some think that a change in government would put our economy at risk while other believes that a new government in Ottawa would not effect of economic stability".

    On the other hand, I do think it's a relevant question. The Conservatives have portrayed themselves as the only party that can be trusted to "manage the economy". They've painted all the opposition options as unacceptable. This question demonstrates–in so far as a single survey can–that the Conservative line onm the economy hasn't penetrated beyongd their base.

  19. On the one hand, any criticism of the absolutely abysmal interpretation of polls in the media is welcomed. The penchant to interpret vast amounts of meaning into stochastic noise verges on the absurd at times. Also, this question clearly says nothing about the coalition – with you so far Wells. However, I think it is unfair to call it a useless or vague question. "If the government changed" is pretty clearly a reference to a change in who governs – that is at least the standard usage. So the question is asking something meaningful, namely whether the respondent thinks that a turnover of power would upset economic growth, but to read into that that the respondent would assume the turnover were to a coalition is totally absurd. The question also isn't a great one in that by leaving it open-ended as to who would now govern, they allow the respondent to assume their preferred choice making them much more likely to answer it as a partisan question (do you or do you not support the current government) than one about the economy.

  20. "I wouldn't be surprised to find out that they were sleeping together;"

    Wow. You jumped that shark real good, ya did. Uh huh.

  21. Interesting theory. Kinsella has been Taber's "anonymous Liberal source" on multiple occasions, and it's widely known that his marriage has been on the rocks for a while. Maybe he's just letting things slip over pillow talk.

  22. You sure it wasn't a senior in college?

  23. Right now, the UK coalition is not a happy place. The Lib Dem's are taking all sorts of crap, because they let the Conservatives bump tuition bills! I said it would last 8 months before that took place, it hasn't been that long.

  24. Really? where.?

  25. Q2. Please tell me whether you agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree or disagree with the following statement: in the next federal election, I will vote for a different party than the last election.

    ATL is highest with 32% to change who they will vote for. BC is the lowest with only 14.5%.

    Does this mean ABC in the EAST is going to be ABL in 2011?

  26. Angus Reid did a Poll in May 2010 during the recession and asked a more clearer question who should lead the merger of the Liberals and NDP.
    Blog post found Layton better than Ignatieff or Rae. It should have included the young Dauphin.
    Angus Poll below.

    h/t Wilson

    Ekos also ran a poll in June along the lines of a coalition.
    The only poll asking THE question was Ekos, a Frank Graves poll, and Iffy's numbers have not improved since.

    June 22, 2010

    ”If you were forced to choose between a Conservative government led by Stephen Harper and a coalition government made of up Liberals and New Democrats and led by Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, which would you prefer?”

    choice: Harper led government
    18.1% Liberal voters would switch to the CPC
    18.9% NDP ( the coalition of losers would lose nearly 1 in 5 voters, from each party)

    (those numbers are very similiar in the ‘second choice' question.)
    Only 66% of Liberal and 57% of NDP voters would vote for a coalition…. big problem for Iffy and Jack.

    The question hypothetically gave only 2 choices.
    In the real world, the Bloc would still exist, and likely the Greens too,
    so this poll's only relevance is with those who vote CPC/LPC/NDP

  27. I hope this isn't the first time this month you've considered the possibility that our democracy is in real trouble.

  28. "Liberal" agent and activist Jane Taber along with her comrades in the media continue the specious narrative of selling the "Liberal"/Separatist/NDP coalition. Poor pathetic MSM drones of the left like Taber and Wells are displaying the same desperation of the "Liberal"?Separatist/NDP coalition, and their collective lust for a return to power.

  29. Polling is the work of the devil.
    The devil – I tells ya….

  30. Jane Taber is the reason why i nolonger watch CTV or read the Mop & Pail,i have no dought behind the scene Tabor is a big coalition supporter,tring hard to convince her libdip coalition pals to force thoughs filty westerns out of Ottawa.In all honesty the woman makes me gag,she is the poster child for what is wrong with this countries so called media.then we have CBC which we all pay for but don't watch do pretty much the same thing.I really pray these libdip idiots make a play for power with there coalition of the stupid, Jane and her libdip friends will get a big surprise, but then again people like Tabor are generally to stupid to understand how toxic Canadians, i mean normal Canadians find the thought of libdipbloc coalition,they simply live in another world look how shocked they were to see Ford elected,even as they tried so hard to keep him out.Just imagaine if the media remained nuteral, but we know this will never happen,not until we take the system back that is.

  31. 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.

    No. The blame lies with Taber, a propagandist and Liberal advertiser who masquerades as an opinion columnist. This kind of crazy analysis is standard for her.

    I guess you could blame the Globe and Mail for employing her.

  32. I agree. Her writing is tripe. She might as well be paid by Liberals and NDPers.

  33. Yes, when the Liberals aren't in power, our democracy is in peril. When Liberals run the place, our democracy is strong,

  34. Yeh just go ahead and try it. You Liberals are all talk no action.

  35. Cool, that's exactly what I said. It's like you read my mind. My criticism of Harper is ontologically identical to the suggestion that only the Liberal party is fit to rule. Glad you're here to grasp the subtleties.

  36. Damn you Wells…

    I read that piece in the GM [ non too closely obviously] idly wondering if Canadians were finally thawing on the idea of a coalition.

  37. Say's the guy, just talking.

  38. I wonder, if by "normal Canadians", you mean to intimate that to be "normal' one must be "to the Right of Mr. Gingrich". Is Mr. Harper's Can-American Republican conservative vision of Canada the only "normal' and correct one? Is "anyone but Harper" toxic? Or is the view you expose toxic? In this case, I worry about the toxicity of the Neo-Con view of Canadian Democracy, a world of "evil lives in the minds of all who do not give full commitment to the Leader who tolerates no dissent".
    There is no perfect democracy, to be sure, but democracy means that people have a voice…All people, not only the ones who are "Right-minded".

  39. I agree with Liberals Senators and MPs failing to show up to vote our democracy institutions are in trouble. Another general election sending those vote shy Liberals to defeat should send a strong message.

    Michael Ignatieff has now reached the top spot on the list of Members of Parliament absent from recorded votes in the House of Commons and is clearly #1 at skipping out on his job of representing the people who elected him to be their voice in Ottawa in order to do other (and I assume more important to him) things. In essence proving that he is in it for himself.

    It sends a wrong message to the Liberal senators and the MPs. They should have had a convention and allowed the grassroots to pick their leader.

  40. I would be pleased to see a liberal-NDP coalition take over from that super control freak Harper.I think Layton would be the best leader,or Bob Rae.With the way Harper acted in Copenhagen and the Conservatives in the Senate,they have lost almost all their integrity,just like what Paulo Wells is telling us about Quebec…Don Bater.

  41. And her performance on CTV Power Play as substitute host is that of a giggling, blathering teenager. She does not control the discussion but butts in to others biased presentation. Other of the temps have been much much better.