Thursday, October 14, 2010

Lies, Damned Lies and Opinion Polls

The Toronto Star is trying a new tactic in its war on informed democracy today.

Up until now, opinion polling numbers have been reported as fraction of decided voters. So, for example, when they said that Ford had 39% of voter support, what they meant is that 39% of the 64% of the people polled said they would vote for Ford. Which actually means that 24% of the people polled said they would vote for Ford. This tactic was useful in scaring people into thinking they need to vote strategically – I would be willing to bet that almost none of the undecideds were undecided about whether they were going to vote for Ford.

But this morning, they have cleverly switched to simply reporting that second number. Before, if you added up the percentages for each candidate, you'd arrive at 100% and the undecideds would be extra. But today, if you add up the numbers for Ford, Smitherman, Pantalone and Rossi, you get 76% which is conspicuously close to the number claimed in the article as decided voters.

The Star is using this to show the runaway-freight-train-like momentum of Smitherman's campaign. Of course, if you look at the real numbers, Smitherman's current rating looks a lot like his old rating plus Sarah Thompson's rating. So basically, at this point, all the candidates are within the margin of error of their previous values. In fact, if you look back on the opinion polls, there has been basically no change since July, with the exception of Thompson's dropping out.

So again, if you want to feel all clever because your strategic vote kept the Stupidest Man Who Ever Ran For Mayor* out of office, go ahead. We all know how that ends.

Or, you can do your research, learn about the candidates plans for transit and if you still want to vote for Smitherman, we'll argue some more.

* I realize that there have probably been stupider candidates. It's even possible one of them won.


Rory said...

I have been grumbling about that every time they released a poll! Still haven't made my final decision, that probably won't happen until i need to vote. So much research to do!

Rob (a.k.a. Dad) said...

I thought I heard that Rossi had dropped out, leaving you with a two-jackass, er, -horse race in The Big Smoke, or am I misinformed?

If that's so, then maybe this election should be titled "Dumb and Dumber 2010".

chocolate cake said...

if the signs in the neighbourhood I frequent are representative (I have no idea if they are,) the councillor and trustee signs way outnumber the mayor signs. I would bet the undecided number is even larger than the poll suggests and that at least some people willing to name a single candidate for the poll are in fact still undecided.

terriblenews said...

Joe Pantalone is still very much in the race. Unfortunately, I suspect a lot of people who would have voted for him based on his policies and personality are going to vote for Slitherman just to defeat Ford. I have heard several people say as much and at least one city councillor has started a campaign to do so. This is what is so very dangerous about these polls.