Thursday, December 2, 2010

115% of Anglos and Ethnics to Vote NO in Referendum!

Having some experience as a pollster, (I organized internal polling for several political candidates, in a past life) I have come to trust them less and less.

Even though pollsters remind us that their polls are accurate to about 3 percentage points, 19 out of 20 times, we tend to view a poll printed in the newspaper as automatically being a true representation of what people are thinking.

But polling is inexact and even asking the simplest of questions is complicated, as I learned from experience.
Let's say you want to find out whether people are going to vote for Candidate 'A' or Candidate 'B.' It seems that it would be as simple as phoning people within the voting district and asking them for whom they'll vote.

Simple right? Not really.

There's no use in asking someone about their preference, if their intention is not to vote. So you've got to qualify voters before. What about all those who refuse to answer? Do those people have a decided preference?
What about people who don't have a home phone and are impossible to contact? They tend to be younger and more mobile and would likely vote strongly for one candidate over the other, but their voices are not counted.
What about the cross section of the sample? (those polled.) Did the pollsters get an accurate cross section that accurately reflects the district?
Modern pollsters face these problems and work to to make sure their polls are as accurate as possible, but sometimes they fail miserably. 

Even the largest of polling firms can fall victim to these problems which can result in a flawed pool. Here's an example of a much ballyhooed poll that has problems on every level. So many problems that the whole thing should never have been published. It appeared in the Journal de Montreal last week and was conducted by Leger Marketing which actually used a very large sample, supposedly making it even more accurate.

First problem is the question;
"Do you wish Quebec to become a sovereign state within ten years"
If someone wants to see Quebec sovereign within ten years, does it mean that he or she may not want Quebec to become sovereign in the eleventh year? They should have put a period after the word 'state' and chuck the rest. Reminds me of the famously flawed referendum questions.

The poll purports to show the opinion of francophones towards a sovereign Quebec and separately the opinion of the entire population, including anglophones and allophones.
Too bad it doesn't have a separate bar to show how the allophones and anglophones polled as a group, it would have been interesting.

Here's the problem.

Francophones make up between 80%-82% of the Quebec population. For argument's sake, let's take the lower number, it makes the math easy. (The higher number makes the poll's accuracy even worse)

If one believes the poll and applies the 52% figure to that 80% group of Quebec Francophones, (80 x 0.52) the answer comes out to just under 42% of the total sample and this before any of the allophone and anglophone numbers in favour of sovereignty are added in. (if there are any.)

In fact, for the poll to make sense, 115% of the allophones and anglophones would have to have answered negatively! Hmm.

We all know that the anglophone/allophone group is massively against sovereignty, but 115%?

What likely happened is that the pollsters over sampled the anglo/allo side, a fatal mistake that can be easily corrected through 'weighting,' a process whereby the sample of anglos is reduced down to a level that represents their true demographic weight.

The sample should have included  anglos and allos in the 20% proportion that they represent  and not the actual poll sample which works out to about 25%.

It's the only answer that makes sense.

It's an amateur's mistake and I'm a bit surprised at the flaw (but not overly)

As far as I know, not one member of the the media pointed out this fatal flaw in the poll.

These errors are a lot more prevalent than you think. Here's a funny one from FOX News;

This above error is comical, the numbers add up to 110%.

But how the numbers got to where they are is a concern. It looks like somebody massaged the numbers and then made an adding mistake. Not so funny.

By the way, I haven't touched on how certain polling  questions are so leading that it's obviously going to affect the response.

 As you can see from the questions on the right, how you phrase a certain question affects the response.

51% of the polled group agree with those who object to  Muslims building a mosque near the World Trade Center, yet when the question of rights is phrased differently, as in the second question, the answer don't coincide!

As for polls, I view them all cynically. A dishonest pollster can easily manipulate data or ask a skewed question.
Then there's the methodology problems as illustrated above.

My least favourite type is those voluntary Internet polls that are completely unscientific.
I tend to agree with the late Prime Minister Diefenbaker who commented rather famously that "Polls are for Dogs!"


  1. Mississauga Guy said...

    Don't fret over all this. Lying with statistics is as old as the hills, and it will take place forever after every person living today on this earth is subsequently dead.

  2. POlls and statistic are bullshit because its always tainted/modified by the group or the institution who ordered it.

  3. What should really be done is a poll outside Quebec. Yes a poll that asks the rest of Canada if they would like to turf, kick out Kebec out once and for all.

    A nice simple question suck as – Are you sick and tired of the racist, bigoted anti-English language laws in Kebec such as bills 22, 178, 101…or Are you sick and tired of being forced to send billions yearly into a racist province?

    I think some of you clowns in Kebec would be shocked at how many of us would love to see you leave, the sooner the better.


  4. Mississauga Guy to Apparatchik:

    Yesterday, Dec 1 @ 10:18AM, I responded to your third and last entry from the Nov 26th thread, Charest's Last Gambit. I returned some poignant questions that I believe merit an answer. I would very much like to read your answers to my question on that thread. Thanks.


    Retournons ces sales péquistes en France sur des rafiots infestés de rats.

  6. La langue française n'est pas éteinte salauds ! Les statistiques que vous voyez ne sont pas là pour toujours. La majorité des francophones en ont assez des anglais. Pour devenir indépendants, il faudra souffrir un peu, se transformer un peu, mais cela peut se faire.Quebec est déjà indépendant, par sa langue, sa culture, ses organisations, ses écoles et universités, etc... alors un peu plus de réalisme avec les mines de gasoline, vendre l'électricité à meilleur prix... cela se fera, oui cela arrivera. Les organisations gouvernementales qui sont des pro-organisateurs avec les sydicats devront s'en aller.... avec les rats, les vrais rats, ceux qui nous veulent du mal.

  7. Not only can polls be manipulated, but they have also been shown to influence the public opinion. Those who invest in the polls often have a hidden agenda. The PQ, notoriously, conducts "internal" polls that always seem to support its platform.

    There were, for a while now and in many democratic countries, calls to ban all opinion polls prior to major elections, or at least freeze the release of poll's "findings" to the general population. I have to say that I agree with this idea.

  8. QUEBEC IS OUT, YOU ARE LATE IN THE NEWS. You are the one we want to kick out, because of everything you say against a nation who is legitimate.