I suppose Ottawa always needs a couple of controveries on the go to keep things interesting. But man, this stuff with Frank Graves is pretty thin gruel.
Graves's comments about the Conservatives and their supporters struck me as clumsy, cliched and objectionable But those acting shocked at the mere existence of bias are either play-acting, or they don't know much about the polling industry.
Most pollsters I've encountered have strong ideological views, and often partisan ones. Ipsos Reid, for example, is run by unabashed small-c conservatives like Darrell Bricker. Peter Donolo, now the Opposition Leader's chief of staff, used to be a principal at the Strategic Counsel. Greg Lyle, one of the more thoughtful pollsters you'll encounter, had a lengthy career as a political staffer; I'd be shocked if politicians don't frequently call him for advice.
But these are all professional people running lucrative businesses. Most of their clients aren't political - they're corporate. And their whole pitch is built around the accuracy of their research.
I'm not sure why Graves (clumsily) denied having given advice to Liberals. He would have done better to point out the obvious - that he's free to talk to whoever he wants, and hold whatever views he chooses, so long as he does his work properly.
Update: Darrell Bricker has asked me to clarify that he and his Ipsos Reid colleagues don't have any partisan affiliation. I don't know that I ever implied they did - I was referring to personal ideological leanings - but let the record show that they don't.
He also points out that, as the Global CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs he doesn't actually run his company's public affairs polling in Canada; he just comments on it.
No doubt, there's a range of opinions among those who do run the Canadian operations. And to return to my original point, I'm sure those people set aside their own views when conducting research.
Take a look for yourself: