Do opinion polls have value?

Methodology under fire as election predictions have been wildly off in past BY DAN BARNES, EDMONTON JOURNAL APRIL 9, 2015 EDMONTON – With the provincial election campaign underway, public opinion polls are already surfacing — and with them, concerns about their methodology, accuracy and value to the public after they failed miserably in previous votes. Three years ago, not one poll available to the public accurately predicted the Progressive Conservatives would surge past the front-running Wildrose. The next year, in B.C., 10 polling companies failed to forecast the Liberal win over the NDP. So, what can be done? Are accurate polls a thing of the past, relegated to a time when everyone had a land line and answered their calls? “There’s no excuse I think for what happened in Alberta and British Columbia. That’s not even close to accurate, so there was something we need to learn about,” said Abacus Data CEO David Coletto. “But even in more recent provincial elections in Ontario and Quebec, where the polls generally did OK, the assumption is always that we have to be dead on accurate. Polls can’t always do that. If they do, it’s more luck than anything. They’re meant to be snapshots. There is error built into it.” Still, there is a huge divide in methodology, and for the public, that’s not always readily apparently when political parties are waving various numbers around. On Wednesday, for example, the Wildrose was pointing to a Think HQ poll that found their party, the PCs and the NDP in a dead heat; another poll from Mainstreet Technologies released Thursday is showing a similarly tight race. They follow on the heels of two polls last week, one by Mainstreet and the other by Insights West, that also both found the...

Young Canadians are more optimistic than pessimistic about the job market

Young Canadians are significantly more optimistic than pessimistic about the job market and, by a two-to-one margin, believe their generation will enjoy a standard of living higher than that of their parents, according to a new Abacus Data survey of Canadians aged 18 to 35. Close to half (45%) of young Canadians say they are optimistic about the job market for people such as themselves, compared with 20% who are pessimistic.  However, opinions on the job market itself are mixed.  Asked to describe employment opportunities for people like them who may be looking for work in the area where they live, 48% said they were excellent or good, while 51% said the situation is poor or very poor.  Those living in the Prairies and Quebec were more positive about the job market than those in BC, Ontario or Atlantic Canada. Respondents aged 18 to 24 were somewhat more optimistic about the job market than those aged 25 to 35. Among those currently pursuing post-secondary education, respondents studying in information technology, health, business and engineering/science fields were more optimistic than those in arts or social science programs or the trades. The Canadian Council of Chief Executives commissioned the study in advance of a national conference next week in Ottawa on education and skills.  The conference – Creating Opportunities: Jobs and Skills for the 21st Century – will bring together 200 business leaders, educators, senior government officials and recent graduates to explore ways of equipping more young people to find meaningful and rewarding careers. “Clearly it is not all doom and gloom for Canadian millennials as some would suggest,” said David Coletto, CEO of Abacus Data and the lead researcher on the study. “Most young Canadians don’t see themselves as ‘Generation Screwed’ or ‘Generation Jobless’.  Most are quite optimistic...

Federal Liberals lead by 27 in Newfoundland and Labrador

According to a new VOCM-Abacus Data random telephone survey of 600 eligible voters in Newfoundland and Labrador conducted from July 28 to August 1, the federal Liberal Party holds a large, 27-point lead over the federal Conservative Party. The federal Liberals have 54% support among committed voters compared with 27% for the Tories and 15% for the NDP.   The Green Party has 1% support while 4% said they would vote for another party. Among all respondents, 14% said they were undecided. Compared to the 2011 Federal Election results, the Liberals are up 16-points while the NDP are down 18-points.  Conservative support is fairly consistent, down one from the 2011 election. Demographically, the Liberals lead among men and women (men 62%, women 45%), and among all age groups.  Among those aged 60 and over, the Liberals have a very large 38-point lead over the federal Tories.  The Liberals have 59% support among committed voters aged 60 and over compared to 21% for the Conservatives and 13% for the NDP. Regionally, the picture is similar.  The federal Liberals have a substantial lead in every region of the province.  On the Avalon Peninsula and in St. John’s the Liberals lead by 30-points with 54% of committed voter support.  The Tories are at 24% while the NDP, which holds two seats in St. John’s, has 18% of the vote. When we compare provincial and federal voting intentions there is a fairly strong correlation between the two.  89% of those who said they would vote for the NL Liberals would also support the federal Liberals.  Similarly, 76% of provincial NDP supporters would support their federal cousins.  Among NL PC voters however, the correlation is a little weaker.  While 70% of NL PC voters would support the federal Conservatives, 17%...

Will Scotland leave the United Kingdom?

On September 18, Scots head to the polls to decide whether they want Scotland to become an independent country.  Polling suggests that the NO side is leading, but there are enough undecided voters that the outcome is still too close to call at this point. On Tuesday, the leaders of the two campaigns, Alex Salmond (the First Minister of Scotland and leading independence supporter) and Alistair Darling (Labour MP and former Chancellor of the Exchequer to Gordon Brown) squared off.  It was a lively debate from the start with both politicians going after the weaknesses in the other side’s arguments. For Darling, the attack on the YES campaign focused on what currency Scotland would use following independence.  Salmond insisted that his preference would be to use the Pound, but Darling kept asking what Plan B would be if the Bank of England decided not to allow a currency union between the UK and Scotland. For Salmond, his arguments were far more emotional.  He kept asking Darling whether he agreed with UK Prime Minister David Cameron that Scotland could be a “successful independent country”.  He attacked the NO campaign for its tactics – dubbed “campaign fear”. Overall, my sense was that if you were undecided about how to vote, odds are the debate was of little help in making a decision. You can watch the best part of the debate here: Polling conducted for the Guardian newspaper by ICM found that among those who watched the debate, a plurality selected Darling as the the winner (Darling 47% vs. Salmond 37%).  Fifteen percent said they were unsure.  However, looking deeper at the poll results, it’s clear that perceptions about the debate were strongly correlated with one’s position on independence (no surprise!).  Among those who would vote...

Paul Davis favourite for PC Leadership; 53% of NL has positive impression of NL Leader Dwight Ball

According to a new VOCM-Abacus Data random telephone survey of 600 eligible voters in Newfoundland and Labrador conducted from July 28 to August 1, PC leadership candidate former Health Minister Paul Davis has the most positive personal rating of the three candidates running to become the next leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland and Labrador. Davis also leads in a three-way hypothetical match-up among all respondents and among those who voted PC in the 2011 provincial election.  Davis leads former Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Kent by seven-points among all respondents and by 14-points among those respondents who said they voted PC in 2011.  Former MHA and cabinet minister John Ottenheimer places third with both groups, trailing Davis by 13-points among all respondents and 16-points among those who voted PC in 2011. When presented with provincial ballots with each of the leadership candidates named as PC leader, the Liberal Party and its leader Dwight Ball lead on all three, although a PC Party with Davis as leader performs slightly better than when voting preference is tested with Kent or Ottenheimer as PC Leader. Overall Impressions: Davis +35, Kent +21, Ottenheimer +20 vs. Dwight Ball +41, Lorraine Michael +3 Respondents were asked how they feel about the three candidates running for PC Leader as well as the two other political party leaders in Newfoundland and Labrador. Overall, respondents were more likely to have a positive impression of former Health Minister Paul Davis than either of his two rivals, although all three candidates had net positive ratings.  Forty-six percent of respondents had a positive impression of Davis compared with 11% who had a negative impression.  His net rating was +35, 14-points higher than Steve Kent and 15-points higher than John Ottenheimer. However, none of the...

NL Liberals lead PCs by 14

According to a new VOCM-Abacus Data random telephone survey of 600 eligible voters in Newfoundland and Labrador conducted from July 28 to August 1, the NL Liberals continue to hold a large lead over the PC Party. The Liberals lead the Tories by 14-points with support for the Liberals at 48% among committed voters compared with 34% for the Tories and 16% for the NDP.  Support is the same as the previous VOCM-Abacus poll back in January 2014 following the resignation of Premier Kathy Dunderdale. Among all respondents, 14% said they were undecided while 1% said they would not vote. If a provincial election was held today, which political party would you vote for in your local electoral district?  Would you vote… Change since Jan 2014 in Brackets   All Respondents (n=600) Committed Voted (n=512) Liberal 41% (+4) 48% (-1) PC 29% (+3) 34% (-) NDP 13% (+1) 16% (+1) Other parties 1% (-) 1% (-1) Undecided 14% (-8) Not voting 1% (-1) Margin of Error + 4.1% + 4.4% Liberals ahead in all regions of Newfoundland and Labrador The Liberal Party leads in all regions of the province.  On the Avalon Peninsula and in St. John’s, the Liberals have a 13-point lead over the PCs among committed voters.  The Liberals have the support of 47% of committed voters compared to 34% for the PCs and 19% for the NDP. In Eastern and Central Newfoundland, the Liberals lead by 11-points with 48% of committed voter support compared with 37% for the PCs and 10% for the NDP. And in Western Newfoundland and Labrador, the Liberals lead by 22-points, with 52% of committed voters supporting the Liberals compared with 30% for the PCs and 16% for the NDP. Half of past PC supporters are currently...

Research Note: Did Undecided Voters Give the Liberals Their Majority?

For many, the Ontario majority Liberal win on June 12 was a surprise.  Our own polling showed the Liberals ahead among eligible voters for most of the campaign, but tied with the PCs among likely voters in our final release.  As Eric Grenier at threehundredeight.com has shown, the eligible voter estimates from polls were better at forecasting the result than any of the pollsters’ attempts to identify who was most likely to vote. However, except for the automated telephone or IVR polls conducted during the election(although these polls underestimated the NDP’s vote), no other pollster predicted that the Liberals would win a majority government. So what might have happened? I am a member of the academic CPEP team for the Ontario election and we will have some detailed analysis out soon on the election based on a post-election survey of 1,000 eligible voters. In the meantime, I went back into our data sets to try and understand what might have happened in that final week of the campaign. A Different Way of Measuring Vote Intention On all of our Ontario election tracking studies, we asked respondents to select the party they were either likely to vote for or the party they were leaning towards supporting.  For the final poll, we also first asked respondents if they had voted in an advanced poll, and if yes, which party they voted for. Did you vote in one of the advanced polling locations already? Which party did you vote for? If the ONTARIO election was today, which party would you vote for in your local constituency? We noticed you said undecided, is there a party you’re currently leaning towards? These were the questions that our ballot tracking was based on. However, we also asked vote intention using a probabilistic question which...

Federal Politics: Liberals lead Tories by 3

A new national survey (June 25 to July 3, 2014) shows the federal Liberal Party with a 3-point lead among committed voters, at 34% followed by the Conservatives at 31% and the NDP at 23%.  Among all eligible voters 28% said they would vote Liberal, 25% Conservative, 19% NDP and 19% are undecided.  Since March, Liberal support is unchanged while the Tories are up three and the BQ is down three. Three Way Race in BC, Liberals ahead in Quebec This survey oversampled respondents in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec allowing us to make more confident assessments of regional voting intentions.  In British Columbia, the three main parties are locked in a close three-way race with the Conservatives at 32% among committed voters and the NDP and Liberals tied for second at 28%. In Ontario, the Liberals and Conservatives are statistically tied with the Liberals at 36% and the Conservatives at 34%.  The NDP is well back in third at 22%. In Quebec, the Liberals have a 12-point lead over the NDP with the Liberals at 36%, the NDP at 24% and the BQ at 19%.  The Conservative Party remains in fourth place in Quebec at 17% of committed voter support. Liberals lead among women and those aged 30 to 44.  Tories lead among those aged 60 and over. The Liberals have a six-point lead over the Tories among women (35% to 29%) while the two parties are tied among male voters (Liberals 34%, Tories 33%).  Among different age groups, the Tories lead by six among those aged 60 and over while the Liberals have a 13-point lead over the Tories among those aged 30 to 44.  The Liberals also do well among those who have some university education, leading the Tories by 10-points (Liberals...

Hill Times: Ontario polls show how it should be done

The polls were not exactly the miss they have been made out to be. What’s more, some polls provided good examples of how to do it right. By ÉRIC GRENIER Published: Monday, 06/30/2014 12:00 am EDT The Hill Times https://www.hilltimes.com/polling-pollsters/politics/2014/06/30/ontario-polls-show-how-it-should-be-done/38960 OTTAWA—No, the provincial election results in Ontario were not to polling what the most recent provincial elections in Alberta and British Columbia were, despite the claims of some. Most polls, whether they were recording the intentions of likely or all eligible voters, had the Liberals winning, the Progressive Conservatives in second, and the New Democrats in third. Some even suggested a Liberal majority was in the works. Certainly, the polls were not as accurate as they were in the most recent provincial elections in Quebec and Nova Scotia. The likely voter models that were employed by most pollsters turned in worse performances than the unadjusted numbers. But that was a failure of the turnout models, not the polling itself. None of the polls conducted in the final days of the campaign, recording the voting intentions of all decided Ontario voters, had the PCs ahead. Some pollsters did worse than others. But two that stood head and shoulders above the rest provided important examples of how polling should be done going forward: EKOS Research, headed by Frank Graves, and David Coletto’s Abacus Data. The final EKOS poll suggested that a Liberal majority was a distinct possibility. The poll gave the Liberals 37 per cent support against 31 per cent for the PCs, not far from the eventual result of 39 per cent for the Liberals and 31 per cent for the PCs. However, the NDP tally of 19 per cent was significantly below the actual 24 per cent the party received, and EKOS’s likely voter model—while giving...

Canada’s Best and Worst Provinces: 2014 edition

Alberta still reigns: viewed as best managed, lowest income taxes, and best place to open a new business Today Abacus celebrates our 3rd annual Best and Worst Provinces Survey release. Just as we did in 2013 and 2012, Abacus has measured Canadian perceptions  on a number of metrics. As we approach Canada Day, Canadians were once again asked their opinion on country’s best and worst provinces. The survey found that Alberta and British Columbia topped the list on five of the six positive attributes tested while Quebec topped the list in three of five of the negative attributes tested. Alberta was most likely to be viewed as the best managed province, the province with the lowest income taxes, and as the best place to open a business. In contrast, Quebec was most likely to be viewed as the worst managed province, the worst place to open a business, and the province with the least friendly people. Other winners (or losers) included British Columbia as having the most beautiful scenery and the place Canadians would most like to visit on a vacation and Newfoundland and Labrador as having the friendliest people. Ontario was perceived to have the highest income taxes while Saskatchewan had the unfortunate distinction of being perceived to have the least beautiful scenery in the country. Best and Worst Managed 2014 Best managed: Alberta (40%), Ontario (17%), British Columbia (16%) Worst managed: Quebec (40%), Ontario (23%), Newfoundland and Labrador (7%) / British Columbia (7%) / Alberta (7%) 2013 Best managed: Alberta (35%), Ontario (21%), British Columbia (14%) Worst managed: Quebec (43%), Ontario (24%), Newfoundland and Labrador (7%) There were some small changes in Canadians’ perceptions of provincial management from 2013 to 2014. Alberta continued to be seen as Canada’s best managed province by a plurality...

Battleground Ontario: Watch for regional swings tonight.

Today’s election is too close to call.  Our last poll had the Tories and Liberals tied at 36% among likely voters.  The seat projectors predict that unless the Tories can win much more of the popular vote, the Liberals should win a minority.  Why?  Because of how regionalized the results are and the inefficiency of the Tory vote (they run up big margins in rural seats). For those watching the election with interest tonight, one thing to look for is how well the parties do regionally.  Throughout the election we have been tracking public opinion across five regions based on postal code.  Those results indicate that Ontario is very much of two worlds: with the GTA and rest of the province sharing little in perceptions and vote intentions. The table below reports the results of the 2011 Ontario election across the five regions.  I am going to be managing the results desk for Sun News tonight and will be looking closely at the change in votes across these regions (make sure to tune in). The early numbers will tell us a lot about how the election might turnout. Here are a few thoughts: 1. If Liberal support holds in Toronto and the GTA, the Liberals will likely win the most seats.  In our polling, they have consistently led by wide margins in Toronto and have been competitive with the Tories in the suburban communities around Toronto.  If the Tories cannot break through in the 905 region, it will be hard for them to form government. 2. The southwestern region of the province has been the most volatile over the election.  Our polls have shown a close race between the NDP and the Tories.  If the NDP increases its vote share in the SW, it may...

Too Close to Call: Liberals and Tories Tied at 36% Among Likely Voters; NDP at 23%

As voters head to the polls on Thursday, the election is too close to call.  While the Liberals lead by three points among eligible voters, the Tories and Liberals are tied among likely voters, with 36% each.  The NDP’s gains in our last survey have been sustained although they continue to do well among eligible voters with 26% support.  However, among likely voters, NDP support has dropped to 23%. The big wildcard in the election is turnout and the motivation of voters as they decide whether to vote at all.  We know that PC voters are more motivated which could make the difference in breaking the tie we report from the survey. We are not in a position to call this election for either party.  It is clear that either the Liberals or the PCs will win the most votes, and either could also win the most seats.  However, we are not making any seat projections. Despite a long and often negative campaign, our numbers have been consistent throughout the campaign.  The Liberals have been ahead among eligible voters since our second week of tracking with the Tories around the low thirties and the NDP around the mid-twenties.  While the leaders’ debates stalled Liberal momentum, its effect was not substantial enough to  prevent the Liberals from winning.   Kathleen Wynne has also consistently led as best premier, demonstrating the dilemma many voters are facing as they head out to vote on Thursday.  Many like Wynne personally but also think its time for a change.  That’s the conflict percolating within many swing voters’ thinking. For  Tim Hudak, the opposite is true.  A majority of voters have a negative impression of him, and even among PC supporters, positive impressions  are tepid at best.  But for voters...

Nearly 60% of Pickering/Ajax Residents Opposed to a New or Expanded Casino Built within 5km of Their Home

A new random telephone survey of 500 residents of Pickering and Ajax finds the percentage of respondents strongly opposed to a casino in Pickering is far greater than the number who strongly support a casino (32% strongly oppose vs. 14% strongly support). Overall,  one in two residents (50%) are opposed to building a casino in Pickering, as it is currently proposed.  30% support the casino development while 10% of residents are unsure.  Opposition to a casino was also stronger among women (54%) and older residents (60+, 58% opposed). “There is significant opposition to a new casino in Pickering and Ajax,” said Abacus Data CEO David Coletto.  “And that opposition intensifies when we test a casino built within five kilometers of a resident’s home.  Most residents think there are enough gaming establishments already in the region, and half are concerned about the extra costs the development would mean for policing and other social programs.” When asked if they would support or oppose a new or expanded casino built within five kilometers of their home,  41% of respondents said they were strongly opposed with another 17% mostly opposed. The survey also found that: 51% of residents agree that a new or expanded casino would bring extra costs for community policing and other related social programs that will have to be paid for by residents of Ajax and Pickering.  41% disagreed while 8% were unsure. 64% of residents agree that there are enough gaming establishments in the Ajax/Pickering/Scugog region already.   30% disagreed while 6% were unsure. “The Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation has been proudly running the Great Blue Heron Charity Casino for nearly twenty years. It has provided much needed economic stability and employment for my people, as well as significant charitable donations to organizations...

50% of Voters Aren’t Satisfied with Any of the Choices

One of the more interesting things in this election has been the low level of interest in the campaign itself.  We have been tracking how much voters have been following news of the election and how much thought they have given to it.  Interest has barely increased since the start of the campaign and less than a majority of eligible voters have thought a lot about the election. There is also this story about the None of the Above Party and efforts to encourage voters to decline a ballot when they go to vote You may have even felt the same lack of enthusiasm if you have spoken with people about the election.  They say they aren’t happy with the choices and no one gets them excited. We asked survey respondents of our  recent survey about the choices in the election. Specifically we asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the following statement: “I am not really satisfied with any of the choices in this election” A bare majority (50%) of eligible voters agreed with the statement while 37% disagreed.  Another 13% said they were unsure. When we look at how people are voting based on their response to the statement, it is clear that PC supporters are more motivated.  47% of those who strongly disagree that they are not satisfied with any of the choices in the election said they are going to vote PC.  Another 34% are voting Liberal and only 16% are voting NDP. Among the large group of dissatisfied voters, the results are much closer.  This suggests that we could see a big swing in vote intentions in the last few days of the campaign.  It also indicates that turnout is really going to matter.  If Liberal and NDP voters say...