Panel Discussion on Political Polling & Media in Canada: “Election Polling in the West – Has it Changed The Research Industry For the Better?” #MRIA14 #MRX


Live blogging from the #MRIA national conference in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Any errors or bad jokes are my own.saskatoon

Panel Discussion on Political Polling & Media in Canada: “Election Polling in the West – Has it Changed The Research Industry For the Better?”

Moderator: Steve Mossop, President, Insights West; Panelists: Éric Grenier, polling analyst and the author of ThreeHundredEight.com; Tim Olafson, Co-founder, Stone-Olafson; Scott MacKay, President – Probe Research Inc.; Lang McGilp, Senior Research Executive, Insightrix Research

  • [note – there is lots of debate and differences of opinions among the speakers, i have not indicated who said what]
  • many voters change their minds at the very last minute, political polling is not broken in canada
  • 22% of voters changed their mind in the last few days of the election
  •  we always ask “how would you vote today.” We need to ask the right questions
  •  there is still a role for public election polling, parties have the information so the public should have it as well
  • campaigns will be dominated by internal polls because they will put out poll results themselves
  • no more trust between public and pollsters and we need to rebuild that trust; better polling costs money, money that we don’t have, need more cooperation between pollsters and journalists is reported the right way
  • pollster in-fighting looks terrible, media sees the fights and focus on the people who got it wrong
  • Embedded image permalinktired of giving away free polling to build up brand recognition
  • pollsters doing a crappy job of setting the context, they focus on a time frame or election, they don’t look back at the last election at society at the bigger picture
  • we need to get rid of the ban on polling publication
  • industry needs to be less competitive and more open with best practices
  • we have civic reasons to do the polling, good for democracy
  • there are many people who want us to get polling wrong
  • there are too many free polls, angus reid in the west complains the most
  • some people think more pollsters is better – 280 pollsters were doing it in the US, Canada probably only needs around 12. comparatively, not as many in Canada
  • do engineers or lawyers offer free engineering and free lawyering? Free undervalues our work
  • some firms refuse to release any public that is not paid for
  • paid for polls are more accurate because you ask more questions
  • we trivialize elections with so many polls based on insufficient survey questions; will the media cover costs of a 60 question survey
  • polls these days are just horse race measures
  • how can we prove that polling works – we’ve called elections accurately for the last 50 years, except when it’s wrong [margin of error people]
  • polling used to be much more accurate, record was unblemished. what happened? we started using online panels. some panels aren’t good for this kind of research. telephone method is not dead. it works well. panels won’t work in smaller regions. Do not write off the phone at this point.
  • there are region specific panels that were built carefully, based on telephone recruit. These panels are extremely accurate.
  • method doesn’t matter. society has changed. it used to be the newspaper in the evening and news on TV at night. Now news is instant all day long.
  • not a lot of telephone any more in ontario but any methodology can get it right
  • turnout determines accuracy of polls, it’s luck
  • voter turnout is declining especially among younger people which means we will need to build likely voter models, this is new for many people
  • some region have publicly available voter lists, can be purchased, can determine who has and hasn’t voted
  • is it intention, past behaviour that predicts best?
  • we don’t ask the right questions, need to probe the undecided better, shouldn’t focus solely on undecided voters and they could be leaning heavily into one camp
  • maybe we don’t know what’s going on
  • how can we do a better job of predicting elections? voter models which we really haven’t been using [seriously? you aren’t using models? i’m seriously shocked.]
  • a publication ban is not a polling ban, we should keep polling until the end so we get a better sense of what’s going on
  • perhaps publish your numbers as an exit poll
  • people dislike polling because ‘we’re wrecking democracy,’ we’re telling people ahead of time what will happen
  • need more transparency, show the numbers, show the questions, show the weighting – this helps to avoid in-fighting
  • prediction markets – one happened in BC and followed the polls exactly but it was wrong at the outcome like all of the polls

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