Thursday, February 08, 2007

80% of Canadians think they're above average drivers: poll

A few of my fellow Libloggers were rejoicing over this poll yesterday:

The relatively heavy saturation was helped in no small part by the news media. Almost a third of the 388 respondents who said they'd seen the spots recalled them only in the context of news coverage, slightly more than had seen them only as paid TV ads.

About 59 per cent said the ads were unfair in describing Dion. Only 22 per cent felt the ads were fair.

And two thirds of the respondents said the information in the ads was not relevant to their choice in the next federal election, compared with 26 per cent who said it was relevant. Among the subset of respondents familiar with the ads, the margin of error is plus or minus five percentage points, 19 times in 20.

The problem with a poll like this is that Canadians will always say they aren't influenced by negative ads, even when they are. Negative ads are considered ugly and no one wants to admit they're affected by then - hell, no one wants to admit any ads affect their decision.

Ask Canadians what they think about reality TV and I'm sure 59% will say it's trashy...and then Deal or No Deal will come in at number 1 in the most watched shows of the week. Ask them if the media focuses too much on celebrity gossip and 59% will say yes...and then rush out to read the latest on Brangelina.

The relevant number in this poll is that 38% of Canadians saw the ads, a third of them on the news. So the Tories communications strategy for the ads worked beautifully. I tend to think the ads weren't that effective but that's not because they were attack ads - it's because they sucked.


  • CG - bang on as always.

    Another point that should be made is that 26% of people saying these ads influenced their voting intentions. That is not a low number.

    Consider 36% of people voted Conservative in the last election. We do not know who these 26% are, but if we were to assume that none of them were existing Tory voters, as the ads probably wouldn't have turned them away, and that they were all influenced to vote Tory by the add, that would bring the Conservative vote total from 36% in 2006 to 62% in the next election. The largest popular majority ever and probably enough to guarantee them 250 seats.

    Obviously that is a stretch, but people should not rejoice over a poll like this, quite the opposite. If the Tories get 4 or 5% more in the next election, we are looking at a Harper majority.

    By Blogger nbpolitico, at 2:32 p.m.  

  • CG - You think like a statistician. Why could that be?

    I have more faith in people and in the intelligence of Canadians.

    And I share the view that people driving slower than me are morons while those driving faster are maniacs.

    My unscientific observations of people's reactions were

    1. They were bored by the ads.
    2. They were not impressed by their quality or accuracy.
    3. Inevitably, the comment was that the Conservative ads were unfair or mean-spirited.

    I heard this reaction frequently in different social settings.

    My conclusion was that the message delivered was really the message behind the message.

    The ads reflected more about the mentality of those who created them than the actual content.

    By Blogger Down & Out in L A, at 2:48 p.m.  

  • Negative ads are not aimed at the majority of voters, they are aimed at swing voters - a small segment of the electorate. Negative ads are typically targeting unsure and relatively uninformed voters.

    At the same time, as with most polls, to counter nbpolitico, you will get a lot of Tories saying the ads "influenced them", but unfortunately, this not being Chicago, they can only vote Tory once.

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 2:55 p.m.  

  • There was nothing very surprising about the ads or their results. They didn't tank, although this poll makes it seem as though they did, which in and of itself is good.

    The CPC knew the media would 'run' the ads far more than they would. And the LPC knows that the media running this poll constitutes more 'backlash' than the real 'backlash.' The wonderful meta-world of public opinion voodoo.

    I'm glad the ads sucked, and I'm glad that what 'backlash' there is has also gotten free news coverage, but good, bad? More like meh.

    Hopefully a few bucks wasted, but it'd take a wiser man than me to know for sure. See Ted's comments over on Scott T.'s blog for some more thoughts.

    By Blogger Jason Townsend, at 3:25 p.m.  

  • nbpolitico,

    Those 26% are among the mere 38% who actually remember seeing the ads or hearing anything about them, working out to about 10% of the electorate. 62%? Get real.

    We do not know who these 26% are, but if we were to assume that none of them were existing Tory voters...

    Does that sound like a reasonable assumption to anyone here? And even if that is true, is it likely that they were all "influenced to vote Tory", even though they were asked only about the relevance of the ads to their choices and nothing else?

    That's a stretch, yes, and no election was ever won over a single set of mediocre ads months before the vote.

    By Blogger Josh Gould, at 5:31 p.m.  

  • Good analysis on the whole. I don't think the ads were effective, but their goal was probably to plant the seeds of doubt. If Dion doesn't measure up to what he was portrayed as, they will fail miserably, but if he does during the campaign turn out this way, they may be effective. Lets remember most ads are tested on focus groups so they at least have some idea how they will work.

    I think the real danger for the Tories is not the ads themselves, but the timing. Listening to 5 weeks of attack ads is bad enough, 2-3 months of them is down right annoying.

    By Blogger Miles Lunn, at 5:43 p.m.  

  • josh gould,

    Actually, it looks like the 26% is of all respondents, not just those who saw the ad. But even if it did influence 10% of voters, that would be a pretty big swing.

    And the ads won't influence a partisan from any party, so in reality, maybe all the 26% tells us is "are you a swing voter?"

    It also doesn't tell us what party it is influencing people towards. Maybe the ads made some swing voters more likely to vote Liberal. Who knows.

    The more I look at this poll, the more pointless it looks to me.

    By Blogger mecheng, at 6:37 p.m.  

  • Polls are for also-rans!!!

    On the drivers . . . remember a few years back when Rolf Schumacher was in TO at a BMW dealership, before he was driving the LOSERTOYOTAS . . . a media-type asked him what he though of Cdn Drivers . . . he just stood there and laughed and laughed.
    I have driven in Germany many times . . . its a rush . . . the people around you actually know whats going on . . . so unlike Canada . . . of course there is one explanation for the poor drivers here all hogging the left lanes . . . THEY'RE ALL SOCIALISTS!!!

    By Blogger EX-NDIP, at 8:59 p.m.  

  • Canadians will always say they aren't influenced by negative ads, even when they are.

    That is so true. Specific ads may backfire (ie. the "military in the streets" ad from the last campaign, the 1993 Tory ad featuring Chretien's face, etc). However, human nature being what it is, politicians and parties will always use "negative" ads for one reason - they generally work.

    By Blogger Brian in Calgary, at 9:51 p.m.  

  • The ads were designed to create buzz and to remind their base to donate money.

    Face it, you aren't going to change peoples' minds about their vote during a football game, but you certainly can remind a bunch of Reformers that their opponent is a "from Quebec", an "environmentalist" and a "liberal".

    Anyone that thinks these ads were designed to do anything else has entirely missed the point.

    Remember, now that they are in govt, the tories can't just send out a form letter dumbing on the Liberals, or solict money to fight gay marriage, gun control, etc. They now have to be creative.

    Only the Tory bag men know if these ads worked.

    We'll find out soon enough.

    By Blogger Mark, at 10:05 p.m.  

  • you are bang on cg. the ads are also part of a long series of ads that will take shots at his leadership vs harper's. the first in the series plants the idea, and later on in a series of smears some of the mud starts to stick. kinda like how people threw a glob of mud at volpe in the leadership race. around glob 5 or 6 people start to think twice, as they will do with dion in all likelyhood.

    By Blogger ktr, at 10:48 p.m.  

  • If anything the ads probably were aimed at mobilizing Harper's base. Considering voter turnout struggles to reach the 60% mark, I think Harper might be banking not so much on the swing votes but rather hoping that his base which is only about 30% has an 80-90% turnout rate. In fact much of the Right's success when it happens is not because their policies are more popular, but simply the demographic they appeal to is the one mostly likely to show up. They largely appeal to older, rural, white, male, and upper middle income.

    By Blogger Miles Lunn, at 12:14 a.m.  

  • but you certainly can remind a bunch of Reformers that their opponent is a "from Quebec", an "environmentalist" and a "liberal".

    Anyone that thinks these ads were designed to do anything else has entirely missed the point.

    ...except that the ads didn't say anything about Dion being from Quebec, and criticized him for not being enviromentalist enough.

    By Blogger The Invisible Hand, at 3:21 a.m.  

  • I'm personally against negative ads, and they *do* make me look poorly on the party behind them. However, I believe all that you say here. Especially the ads weren't that effective but that's not because they were attack ads - it's because they sucked. I know lots of people who could do up better ads for a good dinner, for pete's sake.

    By Blogger Jason Bo Green, at 9:28 a.m.  

  • Considering voter turnout struggles to reach the 60% mark, I think Harper might be banking not so much on the swing votes but rather hoping that his base which is only about 30% has an 80-90% turnout rate.

    Miles, I think you're onto something there.

    Sitting back and looking around, I do find that Liberals are less enthused currently about Dion than Conservatives are about Dion.

    Very interesting, Miles.

    By Blogger Jason Bo Green, at 9:30 a.m.  

  • Check out the Market-Leger poll today. I don't put stock in any particular poll, but this one shows the CPC at 38 percent and the Liberals at 31. I'd say that the electorate is volatile wouldn't you?

    Support for both Liberals and Cons seems to be "loose" and can easily fluxuate. I wonder of the ads had anything to do with these latest numbers?

    By Blogger Riley Hennessey, at 9:55 a.m.  

  • The biggest part of those ads was not the attack on Dion's "leadership" as much as it was introducing English Canada to Dion's English.

    With the new poll having the CPC at 38 to 31 for the Libs (before the CPC has even run any ads in Quebec) look for a spring election so Harper can get Dion in a Nationally televised English debate before he has a chance to improve his horrible Anglish.

    Dion's honeymoon is over. And I'll bet the next Liberal leadership race is starting up in the back rooms. An unfortunate side effect of those ads for the CPC is that it makes Iggy look good..and he knows it.


    By Blogger le politico, at 10:32 a.m.  

  • The stronger Iggy is, the better it is for the Tories. They have the same positions and the Liberals would be radioactive if another leadership feud tore the party apart. Turner/Chretien, Chretien/Martin, Dion/Iggy? Bit much.

    By Blogger matt, at 11:52 a.m.  

  • "The problem with a poll like this is that Canadians will always say they aren't influenced by negative ads, even when they are. Negative ads are considered ugly and no one wants to admit they're affected by then - hell, no one wants to admit any ads affect their decision."

    Dan, that's a very accurate statement.

    By Blogger Hatrock, at 12:00 p.m.  

  • Another Liberal civil war, oh please let it be so. Sleazebag accountant vs. bottom feeding lawyer, brother vs brother killing other like the hogs they are, all for a place at the public trough. The best part is when they get there PMSH will be there to hold the surviving pig's head under until it stops squirming.

    Unlikely, I grant you, but a guy can dream.

    By Blogger Grithater, at 12:05 p.m.  

  • This "how do these ads make you feel?" poll is, in my view, almost totally useless. What matters (in the short-term, obviously) is the broad public opinion polls taken after the ads starting running. Count the Leger poll as one and another couple with the Tories ahead by 5-ish points or more and I think we can safely say the ads were successful.

    As for Iggy I actually think he looks worse than Dion in these clips. He stumbles in his charge at Dion in the "Not a Leader" ad and it's sort of ambiguous as to for whom the crowd is cheering later in the same clip. If anybody looks statesman-like and well-spoken it's Dryden. I say this as a Tory encumbered by the leadership-race baggage.

    By Blogger Rhetoric, at 4:25 p.m.  

  • Josh Gould,

    I think you need to re-read my post. You say, "[d]oes that sound like a reasonable assumption to anyone here?" Of course it isn't even the person that put it forward didn't think it was.

    I said, with respect to this poll meaning that 62% would vote Tory, "[o]bviously that is a stretch". I was exagerating my point, which was that 26% of those polled (or even 10% if your read of the methodology is correct) is not a low number as some have been saying.

    I and most other Liberals would agree that Harper is bad and that it would be better for Canada if the Liberals won the next election. However, we can't get caught in our own little echo chamber and think that because we didn't like the ads and because we don't like Harper that the sun is shining and all is well and wonderful.

    This poll moved voters and, as I pointed out, "[i]f the Tories get 4 or 5% more in the next election, we are looking at a Harper majority."

    We need to start taking this stuff seriously, we can't just assume the rest of the country thinks as we do.

    Have people not learned their lessons from recent history?

    Lesson One: 2004 election... Harper surges but before he can define himself, the Liberals define him negatively and he looses the election.

    Lesson Two: 2006 election... Harper defines himself and takes control of the agenda before the Liberals can and wins the election.

    We need to use the 2006 model, but if we don't start branding our party and our leader the Tories will use the 2004 model against us and we'll be toast.

    By Blogger nbpolitico, at 5:29 p.m.  

  • Jason Bo Green - I don't think it is that Liberals are less enthusiastic about Dion than Tories are about Harper, I think it is just that people who are ideological and angry at the way the country is are more likely to show up then people who are generally happy with what Canada is. We may have a Conservative government in power now, but we are still a liberal nation.

    By Blogger Miles Lunn, at 9:06 p.m.  

  • That might be stretching it a bit Miles. The Tories are always unhappy so they vote, the Liberals are always happy so they don't?

    Having invested quite a bit of time reading Liblogs/Prog Blogs/Dipper Blogs for a while, I'll argue with examples, that the "Angry Blogger" syndrome isn't divided along political lines.


    By Blogger lance, at 9:37 p.m.  

  • Meh, I think just about every "Western" nation is liberal, really. Stephen Harper is, to my mind, a liberal.

    It is my own read that Conservatives are more enthused about Harper than Liberals are about Dion. If it seemed I was putting words in your mouth, I apologize - they were intended for my own.

    Right now, I've come to believe that Canada is not functioning properly, and while I for one was excited about Dion's victory, I'm growing disenchanted with him. We've got a lot of problems with the structure of the federation. I am not convinced that Dion can fix them. I hold hope that Harper can remedy some (not all) of them.

    (Though I anticipate voting Green this time around - not sure though)

    By Blogger Jason Bo Green, at 10:39 p.m.  

  • It's 3 30am and my brother's kids are keeping me up - so O/T, I get antsy when people are down but not out, and I think Boisclair is going to surprise everyone with a serious chance at becoming Canada's hottest and most coke-addicted Premier.

    By Blogger Jason Bo Green, at 3:27 a.m.  

  • Attack ads beget attack ads. Liberals do it, Conservatives do it. I would like to remind everyone that Canadian attack ads are mild when compared to American attack ads. They've obviously had some effect and I am starting to sense a backlash against Dion as columnists like Jim Travers are starting to become critical of Stephane Dion - not sure if there is a backlash mind you, but the constant emphasis on "all environment all the time" and the sheer complexity of the issue not to mention the fact that there is wide disagreement from all sides of the political spectrum on whether or not we can actually reach our Kyoto targets; well, it just seems that the one issue the Liberals have tried to capitalize on might come back to bite them in the butt.

    I don't see how, for example, supporting Pablo Rodriguez' private member's bill can possibly benefit the Liberal party. My gut tells me that if voters see that there is so much division on whether we can reach our Kyoto targets combined with tremendous fear that getting our emissions below 1990 levels within five years would hobble the economy, well, voters might actually believe Harper's approach is best and he'll get his majority.

    By Blogger Sean Cummings, at 8:13 a.m.  

  • Harper wants that bill to pass.

    Once it does the CPC goes out to southern ontario to tell them about the plant closures that will be necessary and the loss of 24hr a day electricity. Then he heads out to NFLD and shows them how Hibernia will have to be shut down...

    Then he points out to AB and SASK that the oil sands are dead as the generators have to be shut off.

    Then its back to Ontario to remind them how much industrial material is being sold to AB oil firms.

    A quick trip out to BC to close down the forest industry and then call the election.

    So how would that scenario benefit Pablo or the Libs?

    By Blogger renegadejet, at 1:49 p.m.  

  • Not bad, RenegadeJet -- I really don't know what Dion et al are thinking with this bill. Either they're geniuses too great for me to behold, or I should be giving lessons.

    Hmmm, odds are probably on the former.... ;)

    By Blogger Jason Bo Green, at 5:05 p.m.  

  • It's an interesting question of what happens if Harper calls Dion's bluff and triggers an election over Kyoto implementation. The bill is worded to allow the Tories to craft the Kyoto compliance measures (as an aside, that makes the bill painfully passive-agressive), which have to be certified by "independent" Glen Murray.

    So Harper does three things:
    a. drafts a straight-up plan to comply with the bill that will fuck power generation, the oil sands, the auto industry, which Murray happily signs off on
    b. calls an election on the issue, with the Tories promising not to implement the plan,
    c. spends a crapload of money on television ads promoting (with pretty, easy to understand graphs, the way he should have the first time) the comparative emissions declines as between the Clean Air Act and the UK/France/Ignatieff plans and gets industry and economically sensible media onside (Globe, CanWest).

    Anyone remember the '88 election?

    By Blogger matt, at 6:55 p.m.  

  • Anyone remember the '88 election?

    I do, quite clearly. The Tory ad featuring the 49th parallel being drawn back in, and the voice over saying, "That's a lie, and this is where we draw the line," helped turn the campaign back around for the government.

    By Blogger Brian in Calgary, at 9:24 p.m.  

  • Actually Matt, I was just saying yesterday to Olaf that I would welcome an election based on Kyoto, and I mentioned the same election you did.

    People don't know very much about Kyoto - if they really do care so much about the environment (and I hope they do), then let's have a serious, no holds debate on it and decide.

    By Blogger Jason Bo Green, at 9:59 p.m.  

  • Still ruminating over what I would do were I PM...where's Magna and video camera when you need one....

    I was reading the Pembina Institute's parliamentary testimony re Bill C-2888, which makes that point that the cost of the necessary overseas carbon credits which Canada would have to purchase to meet its Kyoto target by 2012 is a sizeable fraction of the GST cut. In other words, rather than cut the GST, we should buy overseas carbon credits.

    So Harper comes up with a reasonable plan that falls short, but industry makes some exagerated moans nonetheless. Calls that Bill A. Comes up with a plan to buy overseas credits. Calls that Bill B. Gets Murray to sign off on the tandem package. And then calls an election about whether the public would like 5% GST or Bill B, noting that Bill C-2888 requires Bill B but that Bill A will go ahead anyway. He could even give Bill A a catchy, feel good name like "Improved Clean Air Act."

    By Blogger matt, at 10:09 a.m.  

  • its Kyoto target by 2012 is a sizeable fraction of the GST cut

    Interesting. I'd still, however, far rather keep the money here, invested in research or development, than sending it overseas. I personally find the Kyoto idea nuts - that money could go into wind power incentives, CANDU research, heck, it could towards tree-planting, which would do more to offset carbon dioxide than sending cash to other countries, I feel.

    By Blogger Jason Bo Green, at 10:46 a.m.  

  • JBG, you are correct, but Maurice Strong is in China, setting them up to sell carbon credits to the idiot round eyed devils, with a healthy cut for ol uncle Mo, and the Grits worship Mo. No overseas credits, no fragrant grease for uncle Mo, ergo the Liberals love overseas credits.

    Hey Grits, I have a question. What are you guys going to do if the PM ups the ante on Pablo? The CPC is itching for a good excuse to take you guys to the hustings for a well-deserved dusting, do I detect an outbreak of Norwalk in your caucus? Or do you guys seriously believe you can win one now??

    By Blogger Grithater, at 2:03 p.m.  

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