When one makes a prediction which falls flat on it's face, it's incumbent on the predictor to own up to his mistake and explain it if he can. I shall endeavour to do so now and tell you how I reached the faulty conclusion that I did concerning my prediction that Richard Bergeron would win the race for the Montreal mayoralty.
As we all know there were many unexpected events that shook both the Harel and Tremblay camps over the course of the election. It seemed that Richard Bergeron, the kooky third place candidate was emerging from also-ran status to a legitimate contender.
He had been running at between 10% and 15% popularity at the beginning of the campaign when things seemed to catch fire and with two weeks to go in the campaign his popularity shot up to 25% with the mayor and Madame Harel neck and neck in the low 30%'s.
Days before the election Angus-Reid published a poll in Montreal's La Presse newspaper indicating that Bergeron had made a stunning breakthrough.
In one short week, he had pushed his numbers to 32% and trailed Louise Harel (34%) by just 2%. Tremblay was behind both candidates at 30% and seemed to be sinking fast.
Based on these polling numbers, it was easy to see that an unstoppable momentum was building for Bergeron and should the trend have continued over the last weekend, it was likey that he'd cruise to victory.
But he didn't, so what happened?
Very simply, one of the world's leading research agencies had completely blown the last poll published in La Presse on the eve of the election.
Every polling organization tells you that their polls are accurate to 4% (the margin of error) 19 out of 20 times
WELCOME TO THE TWENTIETH TIME.
Actual Vote 38% Angus Reid 30% Difference 8%
Actual Vote 32% Angus Reid 34% Difference 2%
Actual Vote 25% Angus Reid 32% Difference 7%
The errors in the numbers for Mr. Tremblay and Mr Bergeron are massive and in the polling business represent a humiliating failure.
Perhaps I should have been suspicious of a poll that showed such a monumental shift in opinion over such a short time, but Quebec voters have shown historically that they can jump on a bandwagon quickly. However I take responsibility for making a faulty judgment.
By the way, there's no comment from Angus-Reid or La Presse about the poll. In fact both organizations have purged any reference to the poll from their web sites. It's as if it never existed according to them. The only place I could get confirmation of their numbers were on sites that quoted them as in Branchez-vous. It's as if both organizations are determined to cover up the fiasco.
If you don't believe me, check out both the La Presse site and the Angus Reid site and do you own search.
Poof, the poll has disappeared.
Owning up to mistakes is an important step in reporting. I'm doing so today.
While La Presse rails on and on about the honesty of the Tremblay administration, perhaps they should take their own advice and come clean about the botched poll.
What dishonesty! Shame on La Presse and Angus Reid.