Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sorry Iggy, but Polls Do Matter

This CBC article is unfortunate, though the spin is understandable by Iggy:

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is downplaying recent poll results that see his party well behind the governing Conservatives.

"Polls don't matter," Ignatieff told reporters in St. John's Monday. "What matters is what we're doing in this room, talking to seniors about issues that concern them."
Sorry Iggy, I support ya, but the fact is, polls do matter - otherwise we wouldn't be discussing the matter, and there wouldn't be a CBC article on it.

Whether or not a poll is inaccurate or an outlier or whatever you may think, they do drive a certain narrative. If Party A starts consistently losing to Party B in poll results, then the media - always hovering behind you, waiting for blood - will pounce on those polls, saying "Party A is going to slide into oblivion!!" Which, of course, just drives a narrative either against Party A or Party B, depending on how an individual looks at those results.

So when polls coming up stating that we're losing to the Conservatives by at least 10%, there's a certain narrative being driven/drawn by the media that will start to affect your campaign, to the point where you have to start denying that effect (denial of the effect is in fact an effect itself!). And that narrative that the Liberals are trying to build about being the only party able to take on Harper? Well, get more polls like this and it'll fly over everyone's head, since you're we're doing a lot of taking on, are we?

I hate to say it but they're something of self-fulfilling prophecies, these polls. They may in the end all be statistical noise, but when you start to lose steam in polls, the fact is, you're going to feel that among your supporters, most likely in the form of a loss of motivation. Denying that won't make it any less true - you may just have to end up working with it.

Also, did anyone else notice the CBC point about the Conservative numbers going higher because of the West? It's not true - they're higher because of better numbers in Ontario. If anything, the Conservatives could stand to do a little better in the West.


  1. Don't forget that six weeks before the January 2006 vote, Paul Martin was fifteen points ahead of Harper in the polls.

    I would pay more attention to polls measuring opinions on issues. When comes election time, we'll hear a lot more about issues than we do now. You have to be ready to discuss these.

  2. There's a difference between then and now.For one thing, there wasn't the 'threat' of 'evul' coalitions as they are now. Yes, Harper wrote that coalition letter to then GG, Adrienne Clarkson in 2004 to bring down the Martin gov't potentially, but somehow, it didn't seem to have the waves as the dreaded, dastardly 'coalition of losers' does today.

    It is entirely possible that folks may well see the neo-con utopia of Harper's as a lesser evil than the coalition of 'losers', 'separatists' and 'socialists'

    I have a feeling that as a spring election becomes more of a reality, that's the reason for the plummeting polling numbers for the Liberals and the NDP.

    I always believed that Harper's attack ads were helping them, but couldn't, alone, have caused the recent polling numbers.

  3. No polls do not matter because they are not predictive.

    I still remember reading the following headline just a couple of days before the writ was dropped in 2004.

    "Liberals Heading for a Majority: Poll"

    We all know how that election turned out.

  4. Lorraine,

    But, that was before the New Year - directly after the New Year, Harper was ahead by a hefty margin in the polls. It was the 2005/2006 split, where Martin ran an OK campaign in Dec 2005, but fell behind in Jan 06.


    I agree, I think the imminent election is starting to cause some horse-trading of peoples opinions. Iggy's low approval/disapproval numbers as well also factor in. But, as they say, campaigns matter...


    Sure, but I never said they were. I said that they drive narratives and can increase or decrease the momentum felt by a party, depending on the context of the poll.