Were they foiled by the ’10-second Socred’? A look at several possibilities.
By Tom Barrett
May 17 2013
“Any election is like a horse race, in that you can tell more about it the next day.” — Sir John A. Macdonald
Greg Lyle has seen a lot of election campaigns — and campaign polls — as a pollster and a political organizer.
He says there’s a key difference between parties’ internal polls and the polls you read about in the media.
“Parties spend a lot of money on polling,” Lyle said in an election night interview.
A major party will spend between $150,000 and $200,000 on polls during an election, he said. Public polls, the kind you read about in the media, are either sponsored by media outlets at a relatively low cost or given away free.
Pollsters tend to be political junkies. They like to be a part of the campaign drama and they want to know what’s happening. That’s part of the reason they give campaign polls away.
But political polls are also loss leaders for pollsters. They make their money testing public opinion for people who want to sell shampoo and potato chips; having the media talk about their election insights helps attract such clients.
So if you’re a pollster, calling an election correctly is great publicity.
Having people say “How did the pollsters get it so completely, utterly, ridiculously, ludicrously wrong?” is not great publicity.
’10-second Socred’ syndrome
Lyle, managing director of the Innovative Research Group, thinks the answer to that question lies partly in pollsters’ methodology. Many of the big polls taken during the campaign were online polls: a pollster assembles a panel of tens or hundreds of thousands of people who are willing to answer questions, sometimes for a token fee. The pollster conducts a poll by drawing names from that panel and sending out emails with links to questionnaires.
Some experts argue that such polls pose problems. While online polling has generally been pretty successful, some, like Lyle, argue that online polls don’t “respect the rules of polling, which is that everybody has a random chance, or an equal and known chance of being selected.” Continue reading