Released: My views on opinion polls

Everyone is trying to manipulate, or read the future, right on election night.

Article content

If you were to poll the polls, I suspect 25 percent of Canadians would say they love pollsters calling them, another 25 percent would say they hate it, and 50 percent would be undecided and want to see the polls sooner. decide.


Article content

Once again, polls were an underlying actor in our recent federal elections.

The election that nobody wanted was started by pollsters in late summer when some pronounced Trudeau was 11 points ahead of O’Toole’s conservatives, probably enough for a majority government.

And so the idea for our nasty September vote was probably born.

Since the election call, neverendum polls have continued their prediction, from Ipsos, Ekos and Nanos to Nostragamos. On my own There were 152 electoral polls only between August 15 and September 19.

I received at least 10 calls from survey companies seeking to know what I was thinking. I never responded, as I didn’t feel like lying, again.

Most of us don’t tell pollsters what we think. We tell them what we want them to think we think. We then read your survey days later and changed our thinking, based on what other people like us pretended to be thinking.


Article content

Everyone is trying to manipulate, or read the future, right on election night. I watched the election night coverage on CBC, generally excellent, including an enthusiastic guy on a giant electronic screen.

It was a minor version of the “magic board” used by CNN’s famous John King on US election nights. King painstakingly manipulates and dissects colorful electronic maps of districts’ vote changes and predicts where the “trend” is everywhere, from entire states to individual streets.

You will soon be predicting individual households.

“In the last hour, Phyllis O’Grady at 33 Florestra Drive in Boca Raton has gone from undecided to Republican, while her neighbors, the Herniakovitches, remain undecided, but with a Democratic lean. So CNN now projects that Floresta Drive will lean toward the Democrats. “


Article content

We apologize, but this video could not be loaded.

CBC board member David Cochrane used nimble fingers to zoom in on various maps of the election race, reveling in the latest results from Parry Sound – Muskoka to Calgary Nose Hill, valiantly trying to spot early trends.

A friend who was looking at me said the guy reminded him of Percy Saltzman, Canada’s first “meteorologist” when I was a kid. Saltzman was on television every night standing next to a large chalk board, his arms twirling like windmills as he feverishly scrawled clouds, cold foreheads, and lightning bolts in chalk, connected by puzzling hand-drawn arrows.

He would then predict the “forecast” for the next few days, before tossing his chalk into the air and saying, “And that’s the weather, folks!”

Meteorologist Percy Saltzman finished his segments with a signature toss into the air of the piece of chalk he was using.
Meteorologist Percy Saltzman finished his segments with a signature toss into the air of the piece of chalk he was using. Montreal Gazette Archives

The CBC board chairman looked like a modern-day Saltzman reading trends in a flurry of bars, arrows, and electronic figures scrawled across his screen.


Article content

All he was missing was the chalk and say, “And that’s the election people!”

Saltzman was often wrong and things have not changed. In recent years, The main pollsters have been quite wrong in numerous elections. from Donald Trump’s impressive victory in 2016 to the size of Trudeau’s minority in 2019 to the recent British elections and the Scottish referendum.

Some think that polls interfere with elections and should be banned before the vote. But I think polls have become a crucial part of Canadian democracy that allows us to play electoral chess and change our thinking with each new poll.

– “Hmm.… The Liberals could be getting a majority. No thanks. I’ll tell the pollsters that I’m voting for the Conservatives!”

– “Oh! Now the Conservatives have gotten too high! I’m going to switch back to Liberal. “


Article content

– “Uh oh. Liberals are too high again. Forget it all, I’m going to vote for the Communist Party!

Surveys help cautious Canadians hedge our bets. They introduce us to a kind of Canadian collective unconscious where we all know what others are thinking, or say they are thinking, so that we can change our votes accordingly.

Quebecers began this behavior decades ago, when just before each election, we shifted our vote en masse to the leading party, giving them a majority and a debt to Quebec.

Polls weren’t very accurate then, so journalists had fantastic theories about Quebec’s “jungle drums”. Or maybe Aunt Mathilde in Gaspé made calls at midnight just before Election Day, saying:

Tell everyone in Beauce to switch to the liberals. Votez rouge! “


Article content

So 2000 Aunt Mathildes in Quebec fixed the elections. In recent years, Canadians are behaving similarly, but using polls and the Web instead of an English aunt Deb.

Many commentators say that it is disturbing that we get an almost identical election result this time as we did last time. But I think that’s precisely what Canadians wanted and deliberately chose: the status quo, again.

In five of the last seven Canadian elections, we have strategically chosen weak minority governments by brilliantly dominating the polls.

It only agrees with our nature. America was born into a fiery revolution. Canada was born in part to those fleeing the American Revolution and seeking a Silent Evolution.

We know what we want (for now): a dull, unchanged Canada with a weakened PM sharing rooms in a parliamentary divided house.

Our national motto should be: “We are united, divided.”

[email protected]



Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civilized discussion forum and encourages all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments can take up to an hour to moderate before appearing on the site. We ask that you keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications – you will now receive an email if you receive a response to your comment, there is an update from a comment thread you follow, or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Principles for more information and details on how to adjust your E-mail settings.

Leave a Comment