Monday, December 6, 2010

If 100 Million Was Spent For Public Opinion Polls, Why Does the Public's Opinion Not Count?

When it was discovered recently that the Harper government spent 100 million dollars on public opinion polls, they justified it by saying that they need the public's opinion so they can set policy.

And yet, they do not base their policies on public opinion.

The public wants the mandatory long-form census. It's being scrapped.

The public wants the gun registry and despite a vote in the House of Commons, Stephen Harper is still playing games with it.

The public wants marijuana legalized. Harper is making the laws tougher.

The public wants the Prison Farms kept open. They are being closed.

The public doesn't want more prisons. We are getting more prisons.

The public wants action on climate change. The Harper government has spent billions convincing us we don't need it.

The public opposes more corporate tax cuts. Corporations are getting billions more.

When exactly will public opinion matter?

As one of my readers pointed out, when I blogged on this before, the polls that this government conducts are an attempt to change public opinion, so that the wording of the question itself is more important than the answers.

And yet public opinion continues to run contra to Harper's policies.

I think he owes us one hundred million bucks.


  1. Also, polling companies are in cahoots with the politicians to defraud tax payers. The polling company issues an inflated invoice, then the politician runs it through the accounting dept. After the polling guy gets and cashes his/her government cheque, a big fat cash kick back goes back to the politician.

  2. repost: In answer to your question, I would say polls these days seem to be trying hard to SHAPE public opinion, NOT report on and reflect public opinion.

    snip snip: Poll numbers NEVER mean anything, election or not.

    Polls are advertising. In this case, a newspaper (not confident in their own powers of prophecy) have hired a poll for entertainment value, and a way to keep the story alive.

    In an election, the various parties tell the pollsters to say they are going to win.

    Canada does not need lobbyists or pollsters, we need Electoral Reform.

  3. snip snip: FYI: Polls are paid advertising. We know how the MSM works around here yes?

    If you ask a double barrelled question, you will almost certainly not get answers to all the matters raised. Usually, only the last (spin) point will be dealt with.
    - Bruce Grundy, "So you want to be a journalist?".

    snip snip: The unholy alliance of Ispos Reid and CanWest is good for some good laughs, but their polling (Ipsos Reid) and journalism (CanWest) practises presented in my examples are clearly and severely flawed.

    The confusing polling question (Ipsos Reid) in combination with the flawed analysis (CanWest) appear to have been designed to inflate support for the Conservative Party and deflate criticism of the current government: hard to fully proof, but I'll let you decide.

  4. snip snip: People tend to say “Yes” or “Agree” when they don’t understand a statement, don’t have an opinion, or (Horror!) don’t care about your survey.

    It’s similar to what happens to me when I’m walking down the street, and an acquaintance on the other side yells something at me. If I didn’t hear clearly what he said (an increasingly likely event, I confess) I’ll often just smile and nod and continue on my way. Now this may prove idiotic. Maybe the person yelled, “Bob, you’re walking on wet cement!” But I didn’t know what he said; I assumed it was just a greeting, so I smiled and nodded and moved on.

    Well sometimes people just smile and nod and move on when they’re answering surveys.

    Political party pollsters know this, and that’s why they word their surveys so that agreement will make their side look good, as in, “Do you think the governor is doing a good job?” If 50 percent of the public truly thinks so, the poll may well show 65 percent like the gov.

  5. Repost from: Catherine Flynn: are polling companies holding back recent polls that show a 5% Liberal lead because of fear of offending corporate clients and losing revenue?

    William March: The polling companies are not above that, no.

    William March: "Manufacturing consent" is right in their corporate mission statements.

    James Godfrey: What Polling companies? They will do it. actually, they did it in the past election! They do it to sway the voter!

    Catherine Flynn: @ William: Just out of curiosity, could you find a link to one that says that?

    William March: Just kidding, Catherine. They don't put it on paper, but they are for-profit corporations, and for-profit corporations have certain political interests. Noam Chomsky wrote a VERY GOOD book about the whole power dynamic called "Manufacturing Consent," to which I was jokingly alluding. The CPC is basically the political wing of Canadian big business, of which the polling firms are a part.

    Catherine Flynn: Never read all of Chomsky's book. Just bits I'm afraid. But I do read mission statements. I loooove mission statements. If you want to know what an organization finds it impossible to accomplish read the mission statement. It works every time.

  6. Repost from Dwayne Rogers 9:09 AM on November 18, 2010

    I have been focussed lately on the Globe and Mail's reporting of polling results to include one decimal point. A rather technical and nerdy fixation I will readily admit. This article is a hopeful sign. All the percentages in this article have been rounded save one and here's hoping that was an oversight which we are all capable of.

    As I have noted, the New York Times has published standards for how it deals with polling data. According to the New York Times, "Both the poll’s findings and the margin of error should be rounded to the nearest whole percentage point because results rendered to the tenth of a point suggest an impossible degree of precision."

    Here's hoping the Globe and Mail will no longer publish results to one decimal point. It would be even better if it developed and published standards for polling data.

  7. New York Times published standards for POLLING:

    Not all polls are created equal and polling can be a tricky business. Poll results can be easily influenced by many factors including the wording and ordering of questions and the way the poll’s respondents are chosen.