Dr.Dawg

Polls...and the polls

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Alberta saurus.jpg

I’m no expert on polling, but neither, it seems, are the pollsters, so perhaps I have some free rein here.

A couple of observations/questions this morning, then, as Canada wakes to discover that Alberta has moved from the Jurassic to the Pleistocene, despite every polling firm and pundit’s prediction to the contrary.

I could dine out on the humbling for weeks. Enjoyably, CPC veterans, in there like flint for Wildrose, were no doubt (in columnist Colby Cosh’s words) “obliterated with horror.”

Reverse-engineeering is now taking place, of course, at a furious clip. It must have been those last-minute bozo eruptions. Young people were embarrassed to vote for the WRP. It was a new internationalism. It was the lib’rul media (of course).

There’s an audible sigh of satisfaction today in many quarters. Even progressives, visibly relieved to have someone in office who will merely flog dirty oil to the world but avoid cross-burning, have been a tad overenthusiastic, although it must be said that Redford appears to embrace a decent set of values. Facing what she faced, with the polls and the pundits predicting her political demise, she was not moved in the least to adopt a northern George Wallace strategy.

The Wildrose party, with a third of the vote, isn’t dead yet: expect calls from the Right at this point for the abolition of first-past-the-post, at least in the great state of Alberta. But its rise proved to be resistible: its candidates were stomped and mauled like a newbie bronc-rider at the Calgary Stampede.

Wha’ hoppen?

Danielle Smith blames her bozos and strategic voting.

She’s partly right. Was there ever a significant base that believed (in AD 2012) that gays and lesbians would burn forever in a lake of fire, or that white folks have a natural advantage in politics? An advocate for the former won all of 17% of the vote; the fellow who articulated the latter sentiment fell to a, er, non-Caucasian. Moreover, the leaching of Liberal support to the PCs is strong evidence of the strategic voting she speaks of.

Yet I suspect there’s more to it. Did a mere two bozos, and Smith’s inept handling of them at the end of the campaign, really cost the WRP the election?

I would suggest that there is a third factor to consider—the polls themselves. The recursive nature of polling never seems to be taken very seriously, but it should be. Polls affect the very people being polled. As voters saw the “inevitable” victory of the WRP looming, various effects could be, well, predicted. One would be that some WRP voters, confident of the coming landslide, might stay home. Those opposed, of course, would be more moved to turn out, and, swallowing hard, to change their vote to a strategic one towards the end, prompted as much or more by the polls than by a couple of Albertosauri.

The sheer unanimity of the pollsters could not but have played a significant role in determining the paradoxical outcome of their public crystal-gazing. The more general question before us, then, is whether these sondages enhance or detract from the democratic process. Comments on this point are welcome.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr.Dawg published on April 24, 2012 10:34 AM.

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