The entire premise by Climenhaga is that Forum's two recent polls - one in December and one out this month - are showing inconsistent results compared to the rest of Alberta's many pollsters, in mainly two ways: higher Wildrose support, and lower PC support, the latter being a special concern due to the fact that Redford should have had a honeymoon period which didn't show up in Forum's polling.
Let me dispel both of these misunderstandings right now.
Issue #1: Wildrose support too high
No. It isn't. Except for the January poll, Forum's results for the Wildrosers remain consistent with other pollsters when you allow for a margin of error and the fact that there will be about a 5% variance between pollsters. It's easy to see.
I think the fair spot to take from would be the polling done since September 2011, which is when the field for the PC leadership was fleshed out (Redford became leader on October 2nd). That gives us six polls to work with, which are the following:
As you can see, the only outlier that Forum shows is in the most recent poll. Their poll in December fit in snugly with the other four polls estimated Wildrose support. The problem Forum has now is whether or not that 29% they show this time will be confirmed by other pollsters. And frankly, 29% to my personally seems like a reasonable level of support.
So this sarcastic comment by Climenhaga - "Forum got it right and was simply the first to pick up on a dramatic developing trend of growing support for the Wildrose Party that appeared in December..." - is based on a misconception, since Forum did not show any "dramatically developing trend" of WRP support in December.
Only in January has WRP support peaked far above the other pollsters, and it's too early to say whether its an outlier or growing trend. However, it is dishonest to question Forum's result on the basis of supposedly outlier results in their December poll, which is simply not true.
Issue #2: PC Support is too low, other pollsters have it higher
In this respect, Climenhaga is indirectly right - 38% is on the low end of the scale for PC results since September, which usually have the PCs above 40%. However, it also isn't necessarily an outlier result; given the margin of error (MOE) in both polls, the PCs could truly be above 40%, just on the low end of the scale. So this argument, while slightly valid, is still not entirely sound.
But that's not exactly what Climenhaga said. This is what he said - "There's something wrong with Forum's sample that is producing wildly different results from those of most other polling companies, which have put support for Redford and the Conservatives at around 50 per cent or better." - which, unless Climenhaga has access to polls I don't (entirely possible, but unlikely) is just not true.
There's two ways to tackle this. One, there's just the raw numbers - only one pollster shows the PCs above 50% (Environics), and a second comes close with 48% and with the MOE could reach 50% or more (Lethbridge). The other two pollsters are below 45%, and Forum is below 40%. While saying "half of the pollsters show the PCs high" is a valid argument, we come to the second way to tackle it.
There's only six polls to chose from, and they're spread across six months! While it's one thing to say that pollsters show different results from other pollsters, the fact is that six polls - four polls, really, minus Forum's - spread across month-long periods is not a healthy base to compare to. There simply isn't enough up-to-date data to formulate specific trends on. You can say that Forum shows lower PC results than the other pollsters, which is true, but you have to admit two things while you say it: that some of the compared pollsters are old, and there's only four of them. Most of all, Forum is the only pollster to come out in December and January! There is no comparison to make because the other pollsters are from November and earlier. You can only speculate about a general trend, which Forum's results are perfectly normal to accept.
I do apologize for this wall of text but Climenhaga's article is just full of misconceptions and it annoys me. It's one thing to claim a pollster is showing outlier results or is a voodoo poll - I've said it a few times. But I do it on the basis of up-to-date results from other pollsters, and real proof that the numbers are truly outliers, much different from what any other pollster has shown. Most of all, I give pollsters the benefit of the doubt at first, because any poll that shows different results could be the start of a new trend.
Climenhaga, despite some of the cavaets he puts in his article, already seems set to conclude that Forum's polls are wrong. And here's this gem right here that shows you where some of the bias comes from:
If that poll's results return to the pattern of most voter intention surveys before Forum entered the field late last year, it will be strong evidence that the Conservatives are on their way to another huge majority, the NDP is the most likely party to form the opposition and that something is indeed wrong with Forum's sample.
As I have shown, Forum's polls are in line with the voter intention surveys of late last year - therefore you can't just up and conclude that another pollster which shows results similar to the other four pollsters contradicts Forum's polls. That is madness.
And what was that last part? Something about the NDP forming the Opposition? What? Only one poll - the Lethbridge College poll of October - gives the NDP enough seats to become the Official Opposition (7 compared to 3 for the WRP and 0 for the Liberals). No other poll ends up putting them in that position. And it seems, frankly, that the NDP are trending downwards anyways, whether you include Forum's polls or not.
Furthermore, Forum's results would be in line with the polling results before Stelmach resigned. That could easily point towards Redford losing her shine, though we'll see what happens. But that never gets mentioned, does it?
So that's it. I've shown and explained reasons why Climenhaga's article is a false premise and full of misconceptions. Ipso facto, I say.