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Angus Reid says he didn’t lose sleep over B.C. polling

Angus Reid says he was surprised, but he doesn't take the blame. His poll, like so many others, failed to predict Monday's B.C. election results. That's fine, he says.

"It's going to take a while to deconstruct what's happened. First of all, I don't think the polls were wrong," said Mr. Reid, who polled for CTV and The Globe and Mail. His final result, on Monday, had the Liberals trailing the NDP by nine per cent.

He thinks pollsters simply missed the late Liberal surge, rather than consistently underestimating Liberal fortunes.

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"I actually didn't really have trouble going to sleep [Monday] night. I thought it was really a marvellous example of maybe polling at its finest, in the sense that we and Ipsos and others were saying to the province of British Columbia in the days leading up to the final vote that there was an NDP train coming down the track, and that obviously got the attention of a lot of people and may have actually lulled some of the NDP supporters into thinking it was a fait accompli," Mr. Reid said.

Pollsters had caught the trend, he said. Liberal Leader Christy Clark began as a huge underdog, but closed the gap. "I think what's stunning is the crescendo of that comeback on election day," Mr. Reid said.

Times are changing, with low turnout and declining poll-response rates giving pollsters trouble. It now costs more to poll, and media agencies don't want to pay for comprehensive polling, he said.

"The amount of effort really required to do this properly probably exceeds the budget these days of media organizations that are used to paying nothing for polls," Mr. Reid said.

The days "of co-operative respondents who want to tell pollsters what they think and of good citizens who show up to vote" are largely over, Mr. Reid said. The results, he admits, leave the industry facing something of a crisis of confidence.

"I think there's going to be a healthy skepticism for a while about polling. I don't think the industry can completely dodge this one as it looks at trying to establish credibility going forward.

"And maybe that's a good thing," he said. "I felt at the end of the day, I said to my wife: 'You know, this feels pretty good about the democratic process. It would be a pretty mechanical world if indeed we pollsters were vested with the scientific accuracy, precision and magic wand to allow us to predict every twist and turn of the voter mood right up to the very end.'"

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