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Polls, damn polls and statistics.

September 16, 2008

Now I’m not one to diss statistics, my bread and butter are literally tied into stastitics.  But polls, that’s another thing entirely, especially political polls.  After a few heady days into the Federal election many people were raving about the possibilities, even the high likliehood, of a Conservative Majority.  This was based on two polls conducted immediately after the Election was officially called last sunday.  Well, now there is  another poll that somewhat contradicts that story. Now the story is becoming, that the Conservative lead is ‘softening’ after a week of scrutiny.

Don’t get me wrong, I like stories, and as I said, I like statistics, but you need to be careful when using either of them to make important decisions.  The story that Conservatives are near a majority and are being pulled back from the brink is compelling.  But what is lost in that story is the fact that the people making this decision are barely beginning to pay attention to the fact that there is an election and that the trend in support over the next four weeks will not follow any kind of straight line.  In reality, there is no trend at all.  Whats happening right now is lots of noise being shaken out of early, pretty meaningless polls that only test peoples preformed opinions of how the government is doing and their impression of the parties.  Now that people are actually faced with a decision they will look at different issues.  They will look at the possibility of changing the status quo to improvement the situation.  They may decide to keep the status quo, but in the meantime, the daily snapshots of opinion will go up and down all over the map.

These polls at this point really only tells us what we already knew

  • that the election is the Conservative’s to lose
  • the Liberals have not gained or lost any significant support
  • the NDP is gunning for the Liberals
  • the Greens are still being ignored even though they have the support of half a million to a million Canadians

Well, so when does the next come out, maybe that will clear it up! Polls are fine, but they shouldn’t be taken too seriously until a lot more data is collected and the only poll that counts, is the one on Oct 14.

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