Friday, March 31, 2006

Nothing More Dangerous Than Statistics

The first of the Liberal Leadership polls I've been dreading has been released. You can read the article for the results and the four "frontrunners" score surprisingly close.

But I won't post the results from this poll, or any other similar ones, because these are dangerous polls that people should completely ignore. They are based on nothing more than name recognition, and most Canadians know very little about the big names, never mind the hidden jewels of the race (no...not you Joe...not either of you...). It's one thing to have someone say, in a gut reaction when a pollster asks them, "sure, I might vote for that guy". It's another thing to have that person vote for them after they see them as a Liberal, talking about Liberal policies, debating, debating en francais, and running in an election campaign. Kind of like how a Red Sox fan might like Roger Clemens, until he puts on Yankee pinstripes.

These fictional polls are, in my opinion, one of the worst ways to decide who to support for leadership. Some may point to "the scream" as the reason Howard Dean lost the Democratic primary in 2004 but, in reality, it was because of polls which showed John Kerry would do the best against George Bush in hypothetical elections. Democrats, desperate to beat Bush, decided to put their faith in hypothetical election polls and jumped to Kerry, not realizing what a dreadful candidate he was. Paul Martin used to get projected out to 200 seats on these polls and he certainly was far from an unknown at the time.

Voting on electability is perfectly legitimate. If you think a candidate has stuff in their past or lacks a skill set which will make them unelectable, that's a perfectly valid thing to base your decision on. But to base it on polls like this would be sheer insanity.

13 Comments:

  • Gritter, can you write about something other than the Fiberal Librano leadership 'race' for once? Your blog used to be interesting, but honestly, hearing how great it would be to have a PM with a Massachusetts' accent, or one who single handedly destroyed the Ontario economy is a cure for insomnia.

    By Anonymous Jack, at 10:05 PM  

  • Dear Calgary Grit:

    You might think these Polls are foolish but you can bet your next pay cheque that the four mentioned frontunners (Belinda, Brison, Rae & Inatieff) all got a big boost in terms of new volunteers and $'s flowing to their campaigns.

    You might not like it, but that is how it all unfolds.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:10 PM  

  • Ignatieff, Stronach, Rae, and Brison? I completely agree, the Liberals should ignore this poll.

    I also agree with what Jack said above. The Liberal leadership race is probably the least interesting thing going on in Canadian politics right now. It won't be decided until December. Is CG going to blog exclusively on this topic until December? Not to mention that since the field is wide open, its very possible that someone no one has heard of can pick up steam in the last couple of months and run away with the race. Even if you are interested in the Liberal leadership contest, you shouldn't be interested in the Liberal leadership contest right now.

    I understand Canada has a conservative government. Are they doing anything? What are the Quebec separatists up to? Any provincial premier in hot water? If Canadian politics is in a lull you can always look south of the border, where things at least have the fascination of an impending multi-vehicle car crash.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:29 PM  

  • I am an Ignatieff Supporter but I agree I think these pols are junk polls at the best. They really only measure press coverage and name recognition. TO be honest I doubt anyone gets any boost from this as it is a poll of the public and not of Liberals at large and polling Liberals would yeild a very different result.

    (Ignatieff would be way in front folowed by Dion and Dryden);-)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:33 PM  

  • I am guessing that Jack can not read, as 3 of the last 6 posts have been on topics other then the Liberal Leadership race. He does sound like a conservative though, so the lack of literacy is not surprising

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:06 PM  

  • With Ralph's Klein's leadership review and the House opening, I'm sure there will be plenty of opportunity to hit other topics.

    And if Harper's backbenchers can keep making ridiculously dumb comments, that'll help too.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 11:12 PM  

  • Anon8:10pm: How will the fact that none of those four got over 26% of people saying they would even so much as consider voting for them help them?

    Ignatieff only had 20% say they'd consider voting for him? Is that something that's going to draw people his way?

    Or will these four be buoyed by the under 10% who said they would vote for them?

    By Anonymous Tim, at 11:14 PM  

  • Hey Anon 8:05pm

    If you don't like it why don't you cancel your subscription?

    Vote with your money that's how you'll really stick to CG for being so boring.

    :P-------

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:03 AM  

  • CG,

    Why not just come out and say that you love Kennedy and support him.

    Your just pissed that one of Belinda, Brison or Iggy are going to win and than you will run back to your blog and bitch about how John Bethel screwed you out of a delegate spot again.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:05 AM  

  • My short-list swaps Rae for Dion.

    So, I called it pretty close!

    Belinda is the front-runner.

    By Blogger Chuckercanuck, at 6:55 AM  

  • How can a poll be considered legitimate if it doesn't even mention everyone who is running, because it doesn't even know who is running?

    That's like doing a poll and mentioning only Martha Hall Findlay and John Godfrey. Of course their numbers will be artificially high as a result.

    Moreover, the poll is conducted with some people who aren't Liberals and thus not only will they not be able to vote but they may have ulterior motives in their choice.

    If those four are the "top tier" then we're in trouble.

    Two ran for the leadership another Party within the last few years; one led another party within the last 10 years and doesn't have a Liberal memberhsip; and one spent his entire working life in the USA and hasn't spent one day in Parliament.

    I urge the media and the Liberals to look past the hype and consider other candidates -- Ken Dryden, Stephane Dion, Gerard Kennedy, Carloyn Bennett, John Godfrey, etc.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:05 PM  

  • Wow, I never though CG would meet a poll he didn't like.

    Amazingly, this poll is even more useless than most of the ones we saw in the election. Good for saying so.

    By Blogger Matthew, at 1:08 PM  

  • Yesterday's "Toronto Star" featured an unscientific poll suggesting that Justin Trudeau run for the leadership. Hmmmm...an early April Fool joke?

    What Anon at 8:10 said is true. "Soft" politicos will direct their money to someone who appears able to win. I've seen that in many elections, it's the nature of the game. Nonetheless, there is enough time for a gem to emerge. Lester Pearson announced his retirement in December 1967. The Leadership Convention was came less than five months later, April 6. Did Pearson have a clear successor? No. Paul Martin, Sr., Robert Winters, Joe Greene, Paul Hellyer and Mitchell Sharp were all considered solid candidates. Unfortunately, the vicious pro-Tory media and the likes of Erik Neilsen had destroyed the careers of any Francophone ministers. Back then, Bob Stanfield led the polls and the centrish-left vote in English Canada was clearly heading to the NDP. Remember, as well, that the Social Credit was a major force in rural Quebec and still elected MPs from Alberta.

    Who, in January 1968, outside of the English-speaking media, official Ottawa or the legal community had known Pierre Elliot Trudeau? Yes, things were different a generation ago but a new star is always possible.

    David Imrie - dave.imrie@gmail.com

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:49 PM  

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