One of these things is not like the others…

conservative-party-support-september-to-november-2007.pngOne of these things is not like the others.
One of these things just doesn’t belong.
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?

——

Ipsos-Reid just released another poll yesterday which, yet again, for the fourth time in a row, shows a dramatically divergent level of support for the Conservative Party than all of the other polls released by every other major polling firm.

Here’s the data in table form sorted by polling firm.

.

   

Cons

Lib

NDP

Bloc

Green

Ipsos-Reid

1 NOV ’07

39

28

13

12

7

Ipsos-Reid

27 OCT ’07

39

27

17

9

8

Ipsos-Reid

18 OCT ’07

40

27

14

9

8

Ipsos-Reid

13 OCT ’07

40

28

16

8

7

Decima

30 OCT ’07

33

29

17

9

10

Decima

9 OCT ’07

35

28

17

8

10

Decima

3 OCT ’07

33

31

16

7

10

Decima

17 SEP ’07

32

29

17

5

14

Angus-Reid

17 OCT ’07

34

29

17

9

9

Environics

14 OCT ’07

33

29

19

8

11

Strategic

14 OCT ’07

34

29

15

10

12

———————————–

UPDATE: Since this post, Ipsos Reid released another poll on November 8 which put the Conservatives at a whopping 42 percent while only three days later (with telephone interviews actually overlapping with the Ipsos poll) Strategic had the Conservatives at 32 percent.

Just a note for those of you who aren’t up on your statistical theory, polls with a 1000 person sample have a margin of error (MOE) of roughly +/- 3.1%. Thus, I invite my readers to critically consider for themselves whether they think it is more likely that Decima, Angus Reid, Environics and the Strategic Council all independently have developed for themselves a flawed methodology whilst Ipsos-Reid’s methodology is sound or whether the opposite is more likely. I also invite my readers to critically think about what role the scientific precept of Occam’s Razor would play in deciding which of these two possibilities is more likely.

41 Responses to “One of these things is not like the others…”


  1. 1 janfromthebruce 5 November, 2007 at 5:57 pm

    What do I win as being the 1st respondent with the correct answer?
    Ipsos-Reid
    I hope I win something really cool, I really, really, really do!

  2. 2 Michael 6 November, 2007 at 11:58 am

    As I have mentioned before in another thread, I really wonder what is causing this discrepancy. Given the margins of error, it is always possible that Ipsos Reid is not too far off the truth, though I hope that is not true.

    Since people are fairly polarized, with support for the conservatives higher among males, and much lower among women and the young, the timing of phone calls for polling could even play a significant difference. Actually being at home in the evenings (I assume that’s when polls are done ?) could easily be something that is not randomly distributed across age, sex and economic position. And phoning as a polling method, while still probably the best option, has got to be increasingly inaccurate as more people get unlisted numbers, plus a higher and higher percentage of young people don’t bother getting land lines and use cell phones exclusively.

    The whole problem, of course, is that polls do seem to influence voter behaviour, at least to some extent, and if the polling firms are getting things wrong due to faulty methodology, they could be really screwing us around (eg. pushing the country into another election soon, because the conservatives think they will get a majority).

  3. 3 SaxBoy 6 November, 2007 at 9:46 pm

    The thing to learn from this (well outlined) post is that we can’t “trust” single polls. They clearly can’t all be right, so use the metaphorical grain of salt. More specific to these polling firms, obviously there’s one firm that appears to favour the Conservatives. Does anyone have any ideas how the Conservatives are able to pull off such favourable bias?

  4. 4 martinp 7 November, 2007 at 7:45 am

    Two things about polls, first, look at who pays for them. Ipsos is not a public service utility-somebody pays the cheque. Two interesting things about that is that sometimes parties will hire them-but everything stays confidential (although parties usually do their own polling, the tories called me the other day).

    Second, and most importantly, polls are like statistics, when you don’t like the results, you can always ‘go smaller’. For example, this poll talked to 874 people. Wow, what a huge number, out of what, 15 million voters? In Ontario, with millions of people, they talked to 341 people. What is amazing is that they have the nerve to give the ‘accurate within 2 percentage points’ kind of garbage.

    However, IF we can beleive their data, and we dont actually know about that, believe it or not, people lie about their age on the phone as well, then the distribution of male to female was about 50% and most were in the 35-54 age range. However, looking at the data it shows that virtually everything you’ve heard about canadians is wrong according to this poll-women aren’t more reluctant to vote tory, and the elderly are only marginally more tory than others.

    I know of people who used to work in nutrition studies and that was a common ruse. If you don’t get the big differences that attract media attention, then you keep lowering the sample rate. There COULD be other things going on, however, people should keep in mind that we don’t have proportional representation, so the ‘popular vote’ is completely irrelevant. As fairvote says about ontario, the only votes that count are the small number of ‘swing votes’ in ‘swing ridings’ which are close.

  5. 5 martinp 7 November, 2007 at 7:51 am

    Just an update, most of these surveys at Ipsos seem to be sponsored by Global and Canwest, who are quite noticeably conservative. It’s a ‘family company’ and so its easy to see why this view is portrayed, the National Post is hardly a beacon of objectivity, and Canwest is commonly known as the ‘Fox’ of Canada. So there you go.

  6. 6 Jim Harris 17 November, 2007 at 3:27 pm

    Great post!!

    I love the one of these things isn’t like the other . . . killer funny. lol.

    I have just come across your site — having traditionally used nodice and DemocraticSpace — and I have to tell you I am really impressed. Would be interested in chatting some time — email me and we can figure out a time.

    Keep up the great work!

    Jim Harris
    Former Leader
    Green Party of Canada

  7. 7 Jim Harris 17 November, 2007 at 5:43 pm

    Hey Paul

    I have posted a blog at http://www.greenparty.ca/en/node/3199 citing your blog and extending its analysis which I think is excellent.

    Jim

  8. 8 John Wright 30 November, 2007 at 12:24 am

    WITHOUT PREJUDICE

    Well, well, well…isn’t this an interesting group of “experts”…

    Some facts…to name but a few…

    Ipsos Reid has used the same methodology for the past 25 years…questions at the front end, nothing leading…

    We haven’t done any political party polling work since the 1980’s and, no, party’s don’t ask us to do stuff and then “hide it”…

    We do $150 Million worth of research a year…95% is corporate commercial…there is no government “stroking” needed or wanted…and our media work, never influenced by our Media Partner whomever they are or have been, is done for about $50k a year…and we pick up the bulk of whatever cost there is…

    In the latest Ontario election we were off by 1 point–and what you see Federally mirrors our approach…ergo, four of those others don’t look like ours and we don’t care.

    But we do care more about other things…

    “Just a note for those of you who aren’t up on your statistical theory, polls with a 1000 person sample have a margin of error (MOE) of roughly +/- 3.1%. Thus it is almost statistically impossible that Ipsos-Reid could be so far off the mark of every other polling firm merely by chance or coincidence. It other words, given the numbers, it’s almost statistically impossible that Ipsos’s recent methodology isn’t radically flawed.”…that is dafamatory and could be actionable.

    “The whole problem, of course, is that polls do seem to influence voter behaviour, at least to some extent, and if the polling firms are getting things wrong due to faulty methodology, they could be really screwing us around (eg. pushing the country into another election soon, because the conservatives think they will get a majority).”…this is actionable as well…

    And this too: “Two things about polls, first, look at who pays for them. Ipsos is not a public service utility-somebody pays the cheque. Two interesting things about that is that sometimes parties will hire them-but everything stays confidential (although parties usually do their own polling, the tories called me the other day).”

    And this as well: “Just an update, most of these surveys at Ipsos seem to be sponsored by Global and Canwest, who are quite noticeably conservative. It’s a ‘family company’ and so its easy to see why this view is portrayed, the National Post is hardly a beacon of objectivity, and Canwest is commonly known as the ‘Fox’ of Canada. So there you go.”

    And this “I love the one of these things isn’t like the other . . . killer funny. lol. ” isn’t actionable but should be Jim because it’s beneath you (…so why do you keep trying to make me your Facebook friend?…and, DemocraticSpace did our seat model in the last Ontario election…)…But Jim, where you have blundered is by putting this on the Green Party site: “I have posted a blog at http://www.greenparty.ca/en/node/3199 citing your blog and extending its analysis which I think is excellent. Jim”…because now it is actionable with you AND the Green Party.

    So, folks, let’s not waste time and words on “freedom of the web” and anything that says we are trying to “intimidate you”…honestly, good political discourse is fun…but when this stuff gets said and is now posted and defacto endorsed by a national political party, it is over the line.

    By way of this blog, you and the Green Party of Canada, are hereby given notice, that if these accusations noted above and now extended to the Green Party site by its former President are not removed and expunged by Monday, December 3, 2007 at 10:00 AM EDT we will be compelled to seek legal redress.

    Please govern yourself accordingly.

    John Wright
    Senior Vice President
    Ipsos Reid

  9. 9 paulitics 30 November, 2007 at 11:30 am

    Mr. Wright,

    I will be seeking legal advice on this matter, but in the meantime, if you intend to bring action against Mr. Harris, might I suggest that you let him know that on his blog because I highly doubt he checks this space regularly.

  10. 10 John Wright 30 November, 2007 at 10:17 pm

    Thanks…will do. Regards,

  11. 11 John Wright 1 December, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    Actually, let me help you out…legal counsel has read the blog and says:

    “Every new posting is a republication. If they identify you (done), say something that has a tendency to defame (done) and is published and seen by some other person (easily done, as Internet publishes instantaneously to the world) then you have a cause of action.”

    We are very, very serious about this. Please remove the offending parts now and let’s resolve this amiably before we get involved in something more protracted.

    Regards,

  12. 12 paulitics 1 December, 2007 at 8:50 pm

    Mr. Wright,

    I thank you for your continued selfless concern for my well-being. Unfortunately you are not my legal counsel. Surely you are not suggesting that I take legal advice from the very individual who is threatening legal action against me, are you?

    In spite of the fact that I have not received any lawyer’s letter from you and thus have received no document of any formal legal weight, I still nevertheless plan to honour the original deadline you set forth in your initial post. If I decide to gratuitously change anything, I assure you that it will be prior to that deadline.

  13. 14 paulitics 3 December, 2007 at 2:00 am

    Mr. Wright,

    Based on the advice of my legal counsel, I have decided to gratuitously change the final section of my original post. I trust you will find this matter resolved amiably.

  14. 15 John Wright 3 December, 2007 at 10:48 pm

    Thanks. That will suffice.

    Regards.

  15. 16 Al Smerv 4 December, 2007 at 1:02 pm

    No one with a brain listens to Jim Harris, just look at his shameful history splitting and nearly collapsing his own party with lawsuits. These two deserve each other, folks.

    But lawsuits are won by whoever puts the most money into it.

    Not whoever has the truth, which Harris may well have found. The legal threat above simply makes Harris more credible.

    John, if you are looking for an appropriate response to Jim, it would be wiser to look into:

    1. The way Jim and his cronies formed the “GPC Fund” in 2005 over the loud and vocal objections of some elected officers, who put some quite interesting things on the record to quote. John Anderson was even accused of fraud very clearly.

    2. Jim’s association with Wayne Crookes (king of BC SLAPP suits) and the lawsuits the GPC filed against Jim’s critics and John Anderson’s critics in the 2005-6 federal election. Which were obviously intended to shut people up as they were dropped immedistely after that election.

    3. Jim’s hijacking of the Ontario 2007 MMP referendum and his refusal to share email addresses with the actual Fair Vote committee that foolishly contracted him to fundraise. One might reasonably ascribe some of the devastating result of that referendum to Jim.

    4. The Green Party of Canada’s ongoing refusal to distance itself from these tactics, from Jim, from Wayne Crookes and others involved. There’s a whole ‘nother Gomery in there.

    5. What Elio Di Iorio said about Jim in his resignation letter, and why Jim didn’t dare file a lawsuit over it.

    6. Jim’s reputation in his own party. In particular the many cartoons portraying him as the Pointy-Haired Boss from Dilbert, and his nickname “Jiminy” (for Jiminy Glick, who he resembles intellectually and physically).

    And if you take lunch with him, watch out! He’ll get photos of you together and claim you’re his greatest supporter.

  16. 17 Cameron Wigmore 5 December, 2007 at 7:07 pm

    Wow. The one polling company that is out to lunch here either has a bias and not-so-secretly supports a certain political party, or they’re consistently inaccurate.

    Which is it?

    John, please don’t threaten me with a lawsuit for making this observation. I hope it’s not illegal for me to make this comment.

  17. 18 just another observer of irony 8 December, 2007 at 12:05 pm

    Rather ironic that the party that Wayne Crookes built is now being intimidated by SLAPP lawsuit threats against political free speech. Natural justice, that’s called. Looks good on them.

    How about suing the Green Party for impugning the good name of the major TV networks? They have been carping for some time that their exclusion from the debates is “unfair”. How dare they imply that the TV networks decisions are not fair!

    Lawsuits for all! Then only the rich can be heard at all.

    It’s the Green Party way.

  18. 19 fire human rights abusers from Canadian corporations 8 December, 2007 at 2:00 pm

    “So, folks, let’s not waste time and words on “freedom of the web” and anything that says we are trying to “intimidate you”…honestly, good political discourse is fun…but when this stuff gets said and is now posted and defacto endorsed by a national political party, it is over the line.”

    Spoken like a true fascist. “Good political discourse is fun” but it’s a luxury to be dispensed with the moment it is “over the line” by which Wright means, costing people money. It’s not “freedom of political speech” at issue but some straw man called “freedom of the web” Wright makes up to knock down.

    That’s not what the UN Declaration of Universal Human Rights says, John. It guarantees the right to political opinion and expression. That is not conditional on your opinion or feelings or “financial well-being” or “reputation” or whatever other nonsense you and your lawyers can make up.

    “Fun”? Really? Hey everyone let’s show John Wright just how seriously we take our “fun”, that is, our right to have and state an analysis or opinion.

    Here’s just one analysis: As an abuser of process and legal threats against human rights, Ipsos-Reid needs to fire you, John. Immediately.

    Another opinion. Ipsos-Reid should make you apologize and withdraw and backpedal and compensate like you never have seen anyone do before.

    Another opinion: You should quit immediately before the whole business of Ipsos-Reid suffers and many people’s livelihoods and career prospects are reduced.

    What do you intend to do when the above gets to your board of directors, John? To your customers? To the mass media?

    Sue everyone who shares the above opinions and states them?

    Political libel is an anachronism and a blight on democracy and until it becomes obvious that no one in corporate life can get away with intimidating political opinion, Canada is going to remain a haven for abusers of human rights globally.

    Hopefully everyone is aware of the suit (filed in Canada of course) against the “blogfather” who started Iranians blogging. This is the kind of thing you can expect more and more if Wright gets to intimidate comment as he did above.

    Get him fired. It’s a lesser evil than those he advocates.

  19. 20 aweb 9 December, 2007 at 11:18 am

    Ipsos Reid has used the same methodology for the past 25 years…questions at the front end, nothing leading…

    Well, that could be the problem right there (my statistician opinion forthcoming)…it’s a well known problem in polling right now that the cell phone generation (the younger voters who skew towards the NDP, Green) is much harder to reach. Those in the younger age group who can be reached off conventional phone lists are not neccessarily representative of that age group as a whole. I assume the standard methodology attempts to weight the received poll results to give a reasonable representation of the entire population (for instance, since older voters are easier to reach by phone for polls, usually, their answers are individually less important than a young, single person, traditionally the hardest group to reach for poll results. Also harder to reach : those who don’t speak English as their primary language). But changes to the pollable population require changes to your methodology.

    I’d be shocked if Ipsos-Reid was still using the exact same methodology they were 25 years ago. The profile of the Canadian population has changed, and become far more complicated, in that time, and would require a different weighting method. Also, in the last 25 years, computers have slightly advanced and made different statistical techniques far easier to implement, not to mention 25 years of advances in Statistics itself. So V.P. Wright, it doesn’t add a whole lot of credibility by claiming to have not changed how you do polling in the last 25 years.

    All that said, as the VP mentioned, political polling is a small percentage of the work they do. Since it is also the most public, they is almost no chance they would intentionaly be making a systematic error and opening themselves up to charges of intentional data manipulation. Businesses (the vast majority of them) want the true information to base decisions on, and would avoid a polling firm rather rapidly is they became widely known as incompetent and/or biased. So something strange is happening with the Ipsos-Reid poll, but I don’t think it’s right to just say they’re biasing the results to conservative.

  20. 21 marcel 9 December, 2007 at 12:53 pm

    But John Wright “doesn’t care” about why every other polling company comes to a differnent conclusion that his.

    Probably someone, sometime has already tried to explain to him that you should change your methods more often than NEVER.

    Probably they got “actioned”

  21. 22 Julien Lamarche 9 December, 2007 at 9:07 pm

    Has anyone actually confirmed that is THE John Wright, Senior Vice President of Ipsos Reid?

  22. 23 paulitics 9 December, 2007 at 10:02 pm

    Saskboy confirmed that the posts all came from computers registered by the Ipsos-Reid corporation. That’s not necessarily proof, but I’m convinced.

  23. 24 marcel 9 December, 2007 at 10:56 pm

    What sort of consequences could Paulitics expect if Ipsos-Reid “actioned” and won? Is there even a ghost of a chance Ipsos would win a court imposed sanction for what was written? I find it hard to believe. Everything tagged as ‘actionable’ seems pretty bloody tame to me. People talk like that all the time.

    I read what John Write claimed is actionable and it didn’t seem like anything. You’re still allowed to express your opinion are you not?

    I wish Paulitics would discuss what legal advice he got.

    I understand Paulitics changed ONE thing on advice from legal counsel , John Write pointed out a number of things that were actionable. Does this mean John Write is as accurate in his understanding of the law as he is in his understanding of polling?

    I guess that’s for the courts to decide. Surely I must not express my opinion. Some pro-conservative bully who likes to intimidate his critics with force might want to “action” me.

    Would Ipsos hire a high priced laywer to “action” a university student blogging on the net? Would that make them look good? “Ipsos Reid launches legal action against a university student who disagrees with their polls”

    DId Paulitics cave into baseless fear?

  24. 25 paulitics 10 December, 2007 at 11:33 am

    Marcel,

    To answer your question, no I didn’t cave into a baseless fear. The legal advice I received all suggested that I had an extremely strong case and one of the lawyers I consulted suggested various avenues for obtaining pro bono legal council from an organization or the law school at Ottawa U., because this is the kind of case which these groups *want* to take. However I have my various reasons for doing what I did and these reasons largely exist outside of legal concerns because, as I said, all of the advice I got said that, had I been actioned, I would have had a fantastic case for ‘fair comment’.

    If you want to read about some of the details of the legal advice I got, I discuss this a bit over at this post:

    https://paulitics.wordpress.com/2007/12/04/saskboy-joins-paulitics-jim-harris-and-the-green-party-in-the-dog-house/

    Cheers.

  25. 26 marcel 10 December, 2007 at 2:37 pm

    Right on, fair enough.

    As you could probably tell, I found the intimidation tactics of our friend to be very, very annoying, and I was dissapointed to see you alter your way because of it. But now I understand well enough.

    Jeez, I’ve never seen anything like that on any discussion board I’ve ever read.

    Appalling behaviour.

  26. 27 aetakeo 18 December, 2007 at 1:16 am

    Um. He quoted that which he considered actionable in his comment. Amazing.

  27. 28 LarryE 30 December, 2007 at 3:20 pm

    I came late to this party, having gotten here by following links that began at Crooks & Liars. But I wanted to say:

    Aetakeo –

    My thought exactly. Not only are John “we’re very, very serious about this” Wright’s threats out of line (and quite silly), but in the course of making them he quotes the original of the text he wanted removed! And he did so of his own choosing in a public forum, leaving him no way to object to their publication as part of that comment. So the very statements he wanted removed are and will remain right there for all to see!

    Fascinating.

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