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Thursday, February 02, 2012

'Tis the Season to be Polling

Upon returning home tonight our phone rang and I found myself answering a poll conducted by Chase Research or Chase Marketing - I didn't catch the full name. With a provincial election around the corner these polls will start to fly fast and furious, and I sometimes entertain myself by guessing whether or not the poll was commissioned by a neutral party or hired by a political party in order to push the results in directions favouring that party.

I have a feeling Chase may have been hired by the Wildrosers. I say that because in addition to asking the standard questions - "If an election were held today, would you vote for party a, party b, party c" etc. - they also asked whether or not you had favourable or unfavourable views of Premier Redford and Wildrose leader Danielle Smith. They didn't ask this question about the other party leaders. They also claimed that Premier Redford is considering raising taxes and listed a number of way she might do so. And finally, they asked whether or not the illegal contribution scandal would make you more or less likely to change your vote/make it more or less likely to vote PC, one of the Wildrose party's pet issues. (To be fair, this question might also be asked by a firm hired by the Liberals; we've been pushing the issue pretty hard too.)

Sometime in the next few days, the results of this poll will be released to the media, and more likely than not the media will provide plenty of coverage regardless of whether or not the poll was conducted legitimately. Of course my own analysis is mere conjecture, but if an average citizen like me can smell something fishy about the way these questions were asked, you'd think the fourth estate would start asking questions too.


Totty said...

I got a similar one a couple of weeks back with a similarly slanted question (which totally invalidates true polling). The basic form (with samples) seems to be "Do you favour [Fines for distracted driving] or would you rather [we run our cars on the blood of orphans]?"

Earl J. Woods said...

Thanks for reminding me, Mike - this poll included a pretty slanted question about the new drunk driving legislation as well.

Stephen Fitzpatrick said...

I got that call as well, and smelled Wild Rose all over it; "which way should the government raise taxes?". Sheesh.

"Jeffgel One" said...

I thinks folks are assuming that polls are like a public service. those that pay for polls and those who operate them have narrow requirements and expect specific results:

1) Do you answer your phone?
2) Do you vote?
3) Are you willing to listen to the questions, even jut a tiny bit?

If you answer yes to all three, as you kind folks have, then you are entered into the Big Political Party Database, much like the one the Libs collected with their Free Join The Party And We'll Let You Vote For The New Leader tactic. You can look it up for yourself, the Libs freely admit that the value of collecting names that answer "Yes" to those three questions (or questionns much like them) are worth more than the hassle of processing $5 entry fees for each name.

It's advertising disguised as a poll, the intersection of republic-style democracy with the new information age.

Earl J. Woods said...

I suspect there's some truth to what you say, Jeff, but do you have any evidence that most polls are collecting that kind of information? The Alberta Liberal tactic was different; we were quite openly asking for name, address, etc. - people had to register to become part of the database. With these randomly-dialled polls, the only data they have is that you answered the phone and answered the questions. You might wind up in a marketing database that way, but not a party database.

Unless you answer a partisan poll, I guess, during which, theoretically, they could do a reverse-lookup on your phone number and put you in their database as a supporter, assuming you answered the questions in the way they wanted. I don't know - seems a little too much trouble, even for political parties.

It certainly bears further information. I'd be interested in reading any investigative reports on the privacy risks of answering telephone polls. Something to Google...