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President Harry Truman holds an edition of the Chicago Daily Tribune, which, based on early results, mistakenly announced ‘Dewey Defeats Truman’ on Nov. 4, 1948. (BYRON ROLLINS/AP)
President Harry Truman holds an edition of the Chicago Daily Tribune, which, based on early results, mistakenly announced ‘Dewey Defeats Truman’ on Nov. 4, 1948. (BYRON ROLLINS/AP)

The Conversation

May 18: This week’s Talking Point, the polling disconnect – and other letters to the editor Add to ...

Why were the polls so wrong about the B.C. election? Interesting question. Some much more interesting questions: Why are media commentators so enamoured of polls, so naive and gullible about polling data, and so unwilling (or unable) to bring even a smidgeon of skepticism to polling results?

How many times does Dewey have to “defeat” Truman before the so-called pundits learn a few rudimentary lessons about survey research, among them: Sometimes people say they’re going to do something, like cast a ballot, and then they don’t. Sometimes they change their minds. Sometimes they tell lies.

Jerry Ezekiel, Victoria

.........

If you colour the B.C. Liberals blue, which is what they are, and not red, then the graphs show that pollsters are consistently not accurately polling the conservative vote. That mirrors the reticence of many conservatives voters I know to signal their voting intentions, and contrasts with the enthusiasm of more progressive voters to crow about theirs.

Raymond Lindsay, Sidney, B.C.

.........

Polling should not be allowed, except for internal party use. Any individual who needs to see a poll to determine anything related to how to vote either isn’t educated on the issues or isn’t interested enough in them to make an informed decision.

Steven De Lorenzi, Toronto

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Lessons from the B.C. election:

1. A winning smile, simple message, and relentlessly negative campaign trump substance, a photographic memory, and a strategic attempt at decency;

2. Environmentalists who are passionate enough about their cause to field candidates in their own green party help ensure the election of governments diametrically opposed to their cause;

3. Professional pollsters are desperately in need of a new methodology.

Alan Rutkowski, Victoria

.........

I have long had doubts about pollsters’ predictions. The B.C. election has confirmed those doubts. The pollsters served no useful purpose to either party.

The predicted NDP win probably caused many NDP supporters to stay home and Liberals to get out and vote. Reverse the circumstances and you could have the same impact.

As the saying has it, dogs know the best use to make of poles.

Tony Turner, Richmond, B.C.

.........

Angus Reid’s article on the discrepancy between the B.C. election and public opinion polls addresses several important issues, but questions concerning polling methodology also need to be investigated (Politics Changed. Polling Will, Too – May 16).

How representative are online polls, even when steps are taken to ensure that they replicate the demographics of the country, or in this case, the province of B.C.?

A growing number of polling firms are using automated methods to conduct their surveys (a computer-generated voice asks the questions and the respondent typically makes a selection using their phone’s keypad). Are there particular biases built into this method, and how can they be corrected?

Over the better part of two decades, those concerned with sampling methods have been working hard to ensure their surveys remain representative of the population in the face of the growing use of cellphones and the decline of land lines. Did the sampling methods used by various pollsters in the B.C. election adequately address this issue?

It would be a mistake to dismiss public opinion polls, but there is good reason for the consumers of public opinion to ask how these methodological issues are being addressed.

Jodey Michael Derouin, Ottawa

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The number of people called who actually answer pollsters’ questions is shockingly low. Those people skew heavily toward certain demographics.

Pollsters have no way of knowing who is actually going to show up on election day, and those are the only people that matter.

The methodology is fatally flawed for today’s electorate.

Chris Eaton, Fredericton

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Polls are good at providing a snapshot in time, but they shouldn’t be obsessed over.

Although I am happier with the B.C. Liberals than the NDP, the abysmal voter turnout shows that people don’t really like any political parties in B.C.

Most of the NDP voter base was identified as younger while the Liberals had the most support in the 40-plus age group (most likely to vote). Age groups need to be taken into account more in polling for a better representation of what will happen in an election.

Broad support is clearly an ineffective projection for any given election.

Eric Lombardi, Waterloo, Ont.

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I wish the pollsters would get into predictions for the stock market and offtrack betting. I’d make a fortune. They wouldn’t.

Craig Gordon, Fonthill, Ont.

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On Reflection: More letters to the editor

Quit the Senate, Mr. Duffy

Re Mike Duffy Quits Tory Caucus Citing ‘Distracting’ Controversy (May 17): Conservative House Leader Peter Van Loan says Senator Mike Duffy showed leadership when he repaid $90,000 in expenses. Paying back what one wasn’t entitled to in the first place is not “leadership,” it’s restitution.

It would be honourable, however, in the circumstances, to immediately follow up restitution with resignation, not just from the Conservative Party, but from the Senate.

Ken Dunham, Ottawa

.........

Mr. Ford’s personal life

Re Toronto Mayor Rob Ford Denies Drug-Video Allegations (online, May 17): I’m becoming annoyed with the double standard being applied to Mr. Ford’s personal life.

If the video was of anyone else, we wouldn’t even hear of it. The video’s authenticity is not confirmed, we don’t know what was in the pipe. The video is clearly an attempt to make money.

As a society, we should reject this and move on to addressing the real reasons that Mr. Ford should not be re-elected.

Hershl Berman, Toronto

.........

Odds aren’t good

Re OLG Head Paul Godfrey Fired (May 17): Too many of Ontario’s citizens are unable to recognize that every dollar paid to the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. is simply a disguised, inefficient and regressive tax. A

lthough one can only hope that the firing of Paul Godfrey will start a process to extricate the government from its dependence on the revenue generated from gambling and lottery sales, I am afraid this is wishful thinking.

Where is our elected officials’ moral compass?

Frank Malone, Aurora, Ont.

.........

What that tremor was

Senator Mike Duffy resigns from the Conservative caucus after financial irregularities come to light.

The Ontario lottery corporation’s chair, Paul Godfrey, is fired. The rest of the board resigns.

A video appears of what is alleged to be Toronto Mayor Rob Ford or his doppelganger smoking crack cocaine.

A magnitude-5.2 earthquake rattles parts of Ontario.

Earthquake? That was no earthquake. It was the shiver felt down the collective spines of old boys’ networks across the province.

Robert Crocker, Mississauga

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