New poll! New confusion!! Every sentence in this headline has an added exclamation point!!! Really!!!!


CBC Newsworld is on air right now with a new Harris/Decima poll: Conservatives 41%, Liberals 26%, NDP 14%, Greens 9%. Link when it becomes available.

This poll rather profoundly contradicts yesterday’s Nanos numbers. Commenters should feel free to indulge the most convoluted conspiracy theories to explain the divergent results, because offhand I can’t think of any rational explanation.


New poll! New confusion!! Every sentence in this headline has an added exclamation point!!! Really!!!!

  1. It’s like the price of oil. Next poll, conservatives 50%, liberals 20%. Eventually, conservatives will be at 90%.

  2. Back to my hope that one day a clever investigative journalist will really explore polling methodologies and this will change the face of poll reporting in Canada….and that poll results will not be reported “willy nilly” (pardon the technical term) but with a substantive argument for why that particular poll was deemed acceptable to report.

  3. One month ago….

    Kory Teneycke: “Here ya go sir, just what the doctor ordered”. *passes Stephen Harper a dark blue v-neck sweater*
    Harper: What’s this for Kory? It’s the middle of summer, I don’t need a sweater.”
    Teneycke: “Read the tag on the back, sir”.

    *Harper turns sweater around to look at tag and reads out loud* “For Majority Use Only”

  4. Contradicts? Tories up, Grits down seems to be main theme in both. Margin of error of 5% on both and I am strangely unconfused!!!!!!!!!

  5. I love it. The age old poll issue it’s very simple really if you support a particular party and the polls are in your favour then of course it is a realistic sample of the current political millieu however if they are going from bad to worse as the Liberals are and they better be prepared for more of the same … then it is a problem with the distribution of the sampling ratio and obviously indicate the use of algorithms using fuzzy logic!

  6. The Canadian people are having mood swings?

  7. The Tories have gotten so much press no-one realises there are other parties running?

  8. There are other parties?

  9. No surprise. Canadians DO love their slush funds and they can smell the one in the Conservative Turning the Corner plan from where they’re watching TV. Hard to compete with that.

  10. Canadians know there’s such a thing as a Conservative Turning the Corner plan? Really?

  11. “This poll rather profoundly contradicts yesterday’s Nanos numbers.”

    Really for only one party (the Liberals). Here’s a comparison:

    Party | Nanos | HD

    CPC | 37 | 41 (+4)
    LIB | 32 | 26 (-6)
    NDP | 13 | 14 (+1)
    GRN | 9 | 9 (-)
    BQ | 9 | 9?

    Given that polling is far from an exact science, different companies have different methodologies, etc., is it really that surprising?

  12. Paul,
    Its all about trends. Blood pressure cna vary on any given reading, but watch it if it is rising over time.

  13. Of course Canadians know – it’s been mentioned in Macleans comments! Hi out there adoring public.

  14. If the NDP starts pulling close to the Liberals in polls consistently, they’ll have a real case to make that disaffected Liberals and realistic Greens should come to them. More polls like this, however, will really damage that case.

  15. It doesn’t contradict the Nanos trend line, though. The previous Nanos poll had the Grits ahead or tied (it was within one percentage point if I recall correctly), so if we compare apples to apples (Nanos to Nanos?), I’m not sure the Grits should have been as encouraged by the polling guru as they were reported to be.

  16. I think Ben has it. I think all these polls show us collectively that people are all over the place at the moment because they are probably not paying attention yet and there is little difference between the parties.

    People have perception that it doesn’t really matter who they vote for because all the parties are offering virtually the same vision and nothing much changes from one government to the next.

  17. Well aside from te possibility of this being a rogue poll (the 1 time out of 20), I think the small sample sizes explain it.

    The two polls combined asked 2606 people thequestion. That is not a very big sample, in a country as large as Canada. Presumably they asked all over the country, but who knows how they differentiate between regions – for example in a 1400 person survey, they might get 150 in Toronto – if they ask 100 from “old” toronto and 50 from the burbs, they will get a very different result than if they ask 50 people from “old” toronto and 100 from the burbs but all of these people are from Toronto. And a difference of 1% of 1400 people is only 14 individuals.

    FInally, in a country where you have some ridings (Vanouver Centre) with over 120,000 voters and some ridings (PEI) with 35,000, the numbers can be off a little bit.

  18. Yes, it does seem much of the press is on the Tories, either heavily negative or heavily positive.

    Kady: please, please do not use the term “contradict” to describe the difference between two polls when they fall within each other’s margin of error.
    I suspect you are using satire, however, but the remainder of the press will see this poll story as a Conservative conspiracy.

    Nanos numbers are +- 3.1, which means that his poll shows conservative support could be at 39 or 40, liberal at 26 or 27.

    The harris poll is +- 2.6.

    Readers should also keep in mind that 1 out of 20 polls is wrong OUTSIDE the margin of error. And there is no way to know which one!

    The magic of statistics.

    No contradiction here.

  19. Polls only reflect the attitudes of the people willing to participate in them…


  20. There’s a Conservative Turning the Corner plan?

    You don’t mean “Tanning the Canner,” that old NL practical joke?

    What’s the sourcing on this?

  21. It’s obvious..because Dion is really not a leader on Fridays.

  22. The interesting thing from the polls is that the puffin, the RCMP and the other supposed Conservative “gaffes” have had absolutely no effect (so far, anyway).
    Instead, the Conservatives have maintained the lead.

  23. Obviously, the CBC has a pro-Conservative bias!!!

  24. I’ll wait to see what Nik’s numbers show tonight.

  25. The Star has the story up on their website. I’d link to it but I fear my post would not go through.

  26. SF – this is a four day rolling poll, sampling 300 people on the 8th/9th/10th/11th. So over half of the people were polled before the “gaffes” (can we get an alternate word to use – gaffe is becoming so annoying)

    The story is up on CBC’s website now

  27. sf: Only my closest friends get to call me Kady. I’m afraid you don’t know me well enough.

  28. Do the polls account for lying in their methodology?
    I’m willing to bet more and more people are starting give false replies.

  29. I’m watching Dion on TV now. There are really two Dions. The speechmaker, who is an absolute disaster. And the Q&A guy who could beat pretty much anybody in a debate. It’s like two different world – don’t know how it will play.

  30. Ha, my apologies Paul Wells and Kady O’M.
    I was clicking around and I thought I was on Kady’s blog.

  31. comment by Paul Wells on Friday, September 12, 2008 at 12:15 pm:

    “Canadians know there’s such a thing as a Conservative Turning the Corner plan? Really?”

    You’d have to give me odds on that one.

  32. What happened? Easy, it was a different 1000 people.

  33. Dion in a group situation is good….then when on stage/press conference….has more trouble. I think it’s because the press are more interested in how he sounds then what he says so they can all write about his English the next…I wonder if he’s so self-conscious because of the constant media criticism day in, day out.

    ….just wondering

    You know, because that’s the most important thing in this election – Dion’s english and boy oh boy we really do need to read about it every day.

  34. Wow, tell me more: what corner gets turned? Shouldn’t this be in the, you know, news or something?

    PW wants an explanation from among the irregulars for the “contradiction” between polls showing Tories ahead vs. waay ahead. Ever your humble servant, sir, I offer the following:

    1. Not so much a contradiction as a question of degree of Liberal implosion (carefully note I did most certainly not say Conservative well-deserved approval).

    2. Pollsters just make stuff up.

    3. Maybe it’s a little less than “nineteen times out of twenty” after all, eh you smarty-pantsed statistics nerd, wherever you are?

    4. More sinister, perhaps: just like Harper allegedly spooked the country last time with premature talk of a majority, the CBC will do its utmost to spook Canadians this time. This only works as a theory because the CBC believes “Conservative majority” would be spooky indeed.

  35. Three words: Margin of Error

    The margin of Error on each poll is roughly 3% 19/20 times.

    That means that if the CPC is polling at 41 +- 3% then really they are anywhere between 38 and 44.

    Nanos says that they are at 37 +-3 so that mean they are actually anywhere from 34 to 40.

    So there is actually no contradiction between these two polls. If the CPC’s actual level of support was say.. 38.. both polls would be correct.

  36. JB wrote: “Do the polls account for lying in their methodology?
    I’m willing to bet more and more people are starting give false replies.”

    Not something that can be accounted for, and it’s unlikely it would be widespread enough to become an issue.

    However, there are pitfalls aplenty in any such poll, including:

    -applying national statistics to an election based upon local races. (for starters, it is of little use to know that the BQ polls at 9%nationally). But conducting polls of each riding would be too expensive.

    -the variability of voter turnout: all the expressed support in the world won’t help a party if those supporters don’t cast ballots.

    -faulty representation: it’s not just those without land lines who are missed by such polls. It’s hard to know just who is motivated/bored/polite enough to take the time to complete the telephone survey.

    -longitudinal drift: which is a high-fallutin’ way of pointing out that “rolling surveys”, completed over several days, are prone to serious errors if news and/or events arise in the midst (puffin poop, etc…)

    And those are just the broad problems with surveys that are conducted with professionalism and integrity. Poorly constructed surveys, mis-managed interviewers, fudged sampling criteria to meet deadlines, and a whole host of other issues can undermine things.

  37. Sounds pretty much like the end of it …

  38. Its because the whole ghastly disaster that’s the Tory campaign has yet to sink in yet.

    Ohmmm! Ohmm!

    Its the early days!

    Ohmm! Ohmm!

    You fools, if Harper gets a majority…there goes the metric system! Furthermore, downloading will be illegal! Creationism will be made mandatory in our classrooms!

    Wells knows all this too! He wrote a book! Tell ’em Paul!

  39. (for starters, it is of little use to know that the BQ polls at 9%nationally).

    Unless you can do math and multiply 9 by 4.

  40. No, David, you’re still nowhere with a four-times table. If a poll won’t tell us the party rankings “inside Quebec” (where one party limits its play) vs. “outside Quebec,” then a nationwide poll tells us very little.

  41. And rolling polls aren’t exactly stat of the art – the National Election Study has been using them for at least a decade.

    I never commented that they are bad, merely that some of the bad news from the Conservative campaign wasn’t reflecte in this poll.

  42. What we really need is hourly polls. Daily is too slow.

  43. Stay tuned to CTV tonight. We’ve got a doozie of a poll. This campaign is looking like 1984 all over again.

  44. Geez Mike Duffy, are ratings that bad that you’ve to troll the Inkless well for viewership?

    NANOS is out — Tories 38, Libs 31 basically flat from yesterday. Separately, upto 60% could change their votes.

  45. Simple, Canadians are becoming increasingly frightened that they will be the next target of Conservative attack ads, so they are telling pollsters they support Harper. No one wants to be on the receiving end of bad Flash.

  46. Mr. Duffy, are you saying that you’ve got footage of Stephane Dion patting Iona Campagnolo on the butt?

  47. Hey SF : you got my vote this political junkie needs an hourly fix – tolerance builds up after as many years as I have been hooked on the stuff. But I still get a kick out of how people like to adjust the numbers to fit into their pre-conceived political view rather than tracking the trends and trying to determine what is happening and then are always distressed and blame the polls or (old Liberal Habit – blame the intelligence of the voter)

  48. Oops I almost forgot but I see Andrew picked up the ball – the next campaign highlite will be Dion patting Ms May’s posterior.

  49. Where’s Kody? It’s obvious that the liberal MSM is conspiring to promote the Conservatives potential for a majority early enought that Canadians can be scared into changing their minds! Somebody do something!!

  50. Ekos is also out and tells of a Conservative vote that has declined every day this week. Go figger.

  51. Hey Mike, are you going to cover the bit where Robert thibault called the PM a pig in a sweater?

  52. By “1984 all over again,” do you mean Orwell’s 1984 or Brian Mulroney’s? It’s hard to tell where Harper’s concerned.

  53. Let’s hope big Mike reveals the results of all the recent polls and has someone comment on them all in an intelligent manner!

    If CTV becomes too partisan it will loose the trust of a majority of its viewers. This would not be good for CTV stockholders

  54. Ekos is also out and tells of a Conservative vote that has declined every day this week.

    Silver lining I guess, but the Conservatives are still up by ten points in that poll!

  55. Been over a decade since my last stats course, but IIRC…

    Chris B.

    The sample size is fine. 1000 will give the +/-3% 19 times out of 20, which is considered adequate and affordable. I believe that the sample size would have to go up SUBSTANTIALLY in order to significantly increase either accuracy or confidence.

    Fun little factoid for all of you.

    The margin of error is only as stated when the a result polls 50%. Margin of error decreases as you trend towards 0% and 100%

    For example, if a party polls at 4%, and the MOE is 5%, is it possible for the party to have -1% support? Obviously not. (Bad analogy, sometimes I think that is possible)

    So on the polls to date, the “leader” (CPC) actually has a MOE a little less than that reported by the poll, because. The second place party has a MOE less than the CPC, and so on.

  56. bigcitylib…

    it’s a little dangerous to take the smaller sample of a rolling poll, look at daily results, and then state that a party’s numbers are dropping…

    the daily polls have a small sample size, and hence, a much larger margin of error.

    if this happened over a significant period of time such that there started to be a separation between the polling on day one, minus the daily margin of error, and the polling on day X, plus the margin of error, I would give it more weight.

    did the polling company actually give that interpretation, or was it a party spindoctor, media analyst, etc.? I would be surprised if a polling company would make that statement.

  57. It’s said in some circles that P. Donolo is a Liberal. Don’t believe it. There are far too many CPC-hanger-oners in all these polling companies (excluding Nik) and especially in their umbrella organization, Hill and Knowlton. There was absolutely nothing in the pre-election dynamic that could have foreseen this spate of polls all pro CPC and pro NDP. And gee, Strategic Council has contracts with the federal government. Figure it out.

  58. Is this the whole PC Ndp campaign?

    The ad’s are not negative they are vicious and malicious,a new low in politics, and the press is party to it.

  59. Ken, I thought Nik was a Conservative too. Isn’t that correct?

    Nik’s polling numbers have been good in past elections, but his side questions about “leadership” stuff just seem to me to be Conservative agenda fluff. I like the guy, but am disappointed on the mindlessness of the extra questions he asks.

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