Monday, August 15, 2011

The Angus Reid Salt Lick

It's always useful to take polls with a grain of salt - and in particular you might want to steal a salt lick from your nearest cow to get through this one. After all, what does Angus Reid have to lose? They know it's years till the next election, by which time any information contained in this reports will be the quaintest of relics. They could use a sample size of precisely 'everyone who was in the men's room at the time', and it will withstand scrutiny, because... well, because who's going to scrutinise it, really?

Yet it's a nice document to look at if you happen to like the NDP. The overall numbers show no change whatsoever in any of the five party's numbers, which is strange as other pollsters are recording jumps and drops of as much as four percent. But it's what's going on at the provincial (or in fact 'regional' level) that intrigues. TO start, their punchline-worthy Alberta numbers show the Conservatives at 75% and the Liberals at 1% (meaning that there are 7400% more Conservatives in Alberta than Liberals), and Ontario has the Tories 18 points ahead of their neck-in-neck rivals. But after that? Well... if you believe Angus Reid, outside of Alberta and Ontario, the NDP are leading everywhere else in the country.


Again, give that salt lick a slurp or two. But yes. Their Québec numbers show a drop from astronomical to merely sky-high (35%), which allows bumps most everywhere else to get masked. But they somehow outperform the Conservatives in BC and in the four Atlantic provinces by a remarkable one percent each (38% to 37% in BC, and 35% to 34% in the Atlantic), and have a not-insignificant four percent lead over the Tories in the Prairie provinces (44% to 40%).

It's tough to know quite what to think of this. After all, you don't figure that 'former Bloc ties' would really fly in the Prairies, for example - especially where seemingly little has been able to. Certainly there's an aspect of Jack-sympathy in the numbers, though who'd have thought that someone who resisted the 'orange wave' in May would subsequently be won over by a health scare. Unless, of course, it's fear for the health of the Liberal Party, a rather undocumented phenomenon that's bound to be happening in certain parts of the country (like hey! Alberta). I can't see 'the NDP are leading in 8 in 10 provinces' as actually being a realistic sentence, largely given that I can't see them leading in PEI or Newfoundland... but then again, perhaps it took stark election results to finally convince those two provinces that one votes NDP to oppose the Conservatives in 2011 (give them a break; they're islands). And also, sadly, I can't see Saskatchewan actually putting the NDP above the Tories - which suggests that NDP numbers must be pretty-damn-good in Manitoba.

Most of these numbers are well within the bounds of statistical error. Swing them a percent or two the other way and magically you've got 'Conservatives leading in every province except Québec!' - a sentence likely to be equally fallacious.

What the numbers currently mean, in all probability, is that no one can really be bothered at the moment to state on a telephone who they presently endorse. And why would they? After all, didn't Harper promise us that a majority would rid us of the pestilence of politics?

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