Why Adrian Dix and the NDP shouldn't freak out about the latest Forum Research poll

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      Today's big provincial political story is a new poll, which suggests the B.C. Liberals are narrowing the gap against the NDP.

      Forum Research has reported that the governing party has the support of 35 percent of decided voters. The NDP stands at 39 percent.

      As I read about these results in this morning's National Post, a few things jumped to mind.

      First of all, there's the margin of error, which is at plus or minus three percent, 19 times out of 20.

      The ThreeHundredEight.com site indicates that Forum is reporting significantly higher support for the B.C. Liberals than all of the other polls. 

      The next closest was 33 percent by Abacus, which polls for the right-wing Sun News Network.

      Secondly, many polling companies have fallen into disrepute in recent elections for missing the mark.

      For instance, Forum Research predicted shortly before the September 2012 Quebec election that the Parti Québécois was "headed to a comfortable majority". In fact, the PQ barely won a minority.

      Two days before the Alberta election last April, Forum Research called for a "bare majority" government for the Wildrose Alliance. The Progressive Conservatives won a majority.

      That's not all. Before the 2011 Vancouver municipal election, Forum Research head Lorne Bozinoff claimed that the NPA's Suzanne Anton had a chance of winning. She lost by nearly 20,000 votes.

      With a track record like this, perhaps the B.C. Liberals might want to look upon this recent poll with some skepticism.

      Thirdly, Forum relies on what it calls "an interactive voice response telephone survey".

      It doesn't publish the rate of refusal in its news releases.

      Anyone who ever took the time to read Margin of Error, which was journalist Claire Hoy's 1990 exposé on pollsters, knows that the rate of refusal is the industry's dirty little secret. Most people refuse to participate in telephone surveys.

      Another problem with telephone surveys is that they often under-report the preferences of young people, who are more likely to vote NDP.

      That's because young people live on their cellphones and often don't have access to landlines.

      Angus Reid Public Opinon relies on online surveys, which are better suited for capturing the views of young people.

      The last Angus Reid poll had the NDP at 45 percent, compared to just 31 percent for the B.C. Liberals.

      Fourthly, there's the issue of motivation. Was the Forum poll driven by the B.C. Liberals or financed by its supporters with the goal of boosting support and rallying the base? It will certainly help the B.C. Liberals raise money in the final push toward election day on May 14.

      My final concern about  the Forum Research poll regards its overall conclusion.

      The president, Bozinoff, determined that the NDP would win a one-seat majority with a four-percent lead in the poll.

      That misses how the New Democrats have traditionally fared in B.C. elections.

      Because the B.C. Liberal vote has been heavily concentrated in its strongholds—such as Richmond, the North Shore, and wealthy ridings like Vancouver–Quilchena and Vancouver-Langara—the B.C. Liberals sometimes require a higher percentage of the popular vote to achieve as many seats as the NDP.

      This was most apparent in 1996 when the NDP won a majority of seats even though the B.C. Liberals captured a greater percentage of the popular vote.

      The NDP vote is more efficient in that it's distributed in a way to maximize the number of seats.

      Bozinoff is based in Ontario. For him to suggest that the NDP would win a one-seat majority with a four-percent lead in the popular vote tells me that he's not a scholar of B.C. politics. If the two parties were tied, the NDP would still likely win a majority—and it would be greater than by one seat.

      Then again, Bozinoff didn't exactly hit the mark last year in Alberta or Quebec, either.

      I would rather hear about a few more polls before I'll place a great deal of stock in his most recent prognostication.

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      May 2, 2013 at 11:26am

      there are liars, damned liars ... and pollsters


      May 2, 2013 at 11:44am

      Let's have an Angus Reid poll on Forum Research's credibility.

      James Blatchford

      May 2, 2013 at 11:46am

      Lorne Bozinoff's 'Dewey Defeats Truman' moment. Popcorn polling at its best.


      May 2, 2013 at 12:08pm

      I listened to Keith Baldrey on Bill Good and he just said that Forum Research tends to skew to the right and the only polls that you can trust are the Angus and Ipsos Reid polls. Curious this poll comes out 1 day after Clark "The Comeback Kid" shameful, deceitful attempt to fool us voters. I have always maintained this woman is a charlatan, and this is just the latest in her and her parties appalling deceptions.


      May 2, 2013 at 12:40pm

      Hmmm, Vancouver Sun also has a poll going about who won the televised debate. Christy wins with 68%, versus Dix with 22%. Does the left wing Straight and it's readers also want to deny that poll? How many other polls will you dismiss due to your bias?


      May 2, 2013 at 12:55pm

      It's also curious to see that they only put the NDP at 39%, with the exception of 2001, the NDP has always polled between 42-47% in elections. I suspect that the Liberals are closing the gap slightly and the 34% is probably accurate, but I think green and independent support is probably overstated (Can they really get 12%, it's doubtful)... Moreover, the UBC prediction markets are not taking this poll seriously, there has been no upward movement for the Libs or downward movement for the NDP. The NDP still probably have a comfortable 10-12 points.


      May 2, 2013 at 1:13pm

      From the same logic, Liberals should not worry about Angus Reids polls as they were done through online, where capturing majority of young people views. However, this is the group who votes least!


      May 2, 2013 at 1:37pm

      Nice to see the straight sheepishly getting in line with the New Debt Party. So much for objectively.


      May 2, 2013 at 1:38pm

      @tkemper: I think you misunderstood the Vancouver Sun poll. The actual question was:

      "With whom would you most like to run a red light?"

      Christy won 68-22 over Dix.

      Christy was also voted "Most Dateable", "Most Likely to Get Back Into Radio" and "Best Debate Outfit By a Female".

      She's a Comeback Kid, that kid.

      P Kelly

      May 2, 2013 at 1:49pm

      Interesting that this poll puts the NDP support less than its 2009 electoral tally.
      NDP aren't freaking out at all. They're pretending the numbers are real and its motivated its supporters even more. In fact, it will galvanize the anti-liberal vote to get off the fence and vote NDP and deliver a landslide *with* a majority vote.