Friday, May 09, 2008

Idiot polls, idiot answers

From the latest CPAC-Nanos poll on Canadian political leadership:

Question: As you may know, Stephane Dion is the leader of the federal Liberal Party, Stephen Harper is the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, Jack Layton is the leader of the federal NDP, Gilles Duceppe is the leader of the Bloc Quebecois and Elizabeth May is the leader of the federal Green Party. Which of the federal leaders would you best describe as:

(The numbers in parenthesis denotes the change from the previous Nanos Research survey completed in February 2008 (90 day change).)

The most trustworthy leader

Stephen Harper 31 (+1)

Stephane Dion 14 (NC)

Jack Layton 14 (-7)

Elizabeth May 5 (-3)

Gilles Duceppe 4 (-2)

None of them/Undecided 32 (+12)

The most competent leader

Stephen Harper 39 (NC)

Stephane Dion 12 (-4)

Jack Layton 11 (-4)

Gilles Duceppe 5 (-1)

Elizabeth May 1 (-2)

None of them/Undecided 32 (+10)

The leader with the best vision for Canada's future
Stephen Harper 31 (-1)
Stephane Dion 14 (-3)
Jack Layton 14 (-4)

Elizabeth May 4 (-2)
Gilles Duceppe 3 (NC)
None of them/Undecided 35 (+11)

This illustrates why I hate polls. Three completely different questions have been asked about the leaders, and yet, the answers essentially breakdown the same way for each! On the question of trustworthiness, did the person answering the question really think about their answer? What is trustworthiness? Trust in what? That they tell the truth? Recent polls on the Cadman affair and In-N-Out scandal have shown that a majority of Canadians don't believe Harper's version of events. But he's the most trustworthy. On competence, the Prime Minister, regardless of party, usually scores highest. We've never seen Layton or Dion or Duceppe in a position to run the country. Gilles Duceppe should obviously score low for his vision of Canada's future. But Elizabeth May only has 1 point higher? Do the people being polled even know what her vision is? I'd say it is just as clear to the public's as is Harper's vision (or lack thereof). What is most striking is that there is little to no variation in the answers, regardless of the question. Aside from Dion's score, the numbers appear to track national party standings.

It would seem that all this poll is asking is which leader Canadians like most. It doesn't matter what the question is, its just a popularity contest. Stupid politically unsophisticated media-illiterate Canadians apparently aren't capable of separating their dislike of a candidate from performing an objective appraisal of each leader's qualities.

And yet, these polls come out, time and time again, their value dubious at most, except as fodder for lazy journalists to do hit-and-run jobs on various politicians.

Idiot polling, idiot answers. It is any wonder that Canadian politics now tends towards pandering to the lowest common denominator in a policy-free race to the bottom?


Kai_Wolf said...

Ah, I get it. This is a poll that has results that reflect very poorly on the Liberals; Dion in partiular. That is why you dislike it so much. Not because of the methodology.

I appreciate the typical Liberal spin though. Very entertaining. :D

Mike B said...

I'm not sure where in my post I stated that the results reflected poorly on Dion, or that this caused me to dislike the poll.

In fact you fit all the criteria of a prototypical poll respondents: Doesn't listen, doesn't read what is presented to them, blindly answers based on partisan political beliefs.

Thanks for contributing. Highly entertaining.

WesternGrit said...

A lot of polls are just ways to MAKE PEOPLE THINK A CERTAIN WAY. I studies a lot of polling and questionnaires in experimental design and statistics classes, and we designed some good ones. Asking people the question "Is someone trustworthy", then airing the results simply reinforces peoples doubts about the person. They usually base their answer on their knowledge of the person.

It would be really interesting to do a national poll asking people if they knew who these people are. I can bet you - guarantee - that Stephen Harper would be THE MOST RECOGNIZED NAME. He's all over the news, filmed on foreign visits, at hockey games, etc., etc. It is a known fact about these polls that they always favor an incumbent early in their career. Later on, when scandals emerge, or when the government is "long in the tooth", their numbers go down (see Dubya). Give time to the scandal, or come back to us during an election to get truer polling numbers - when Canadians are actually paying attention - and the media has to try to give the appearance (at least) of equal coverage for all the leaders.