Sunday, February 25, 2007

Are Pollsters Being Abused by MSM?

Are pollsters being caught up in the Stockholm Syndrome? Are they being require to position individual poll results as points of “light” as if they were heralding a new Messiah? The distinctions being made are in reality with out a difference because they ignore that the results that are being touted are statistically non-existent or exaggerated based on the margins of error.

The commentary by very qualified pollsters is becoming close to the guest slots on the Entertainment Channels who are seen giving “expert” evidence on compelling stories like why Brittany shaved her head or who gets the custody of the Anna Nicole Smith body. This has seen reputable MSM turning polling, and I worry about political commentators too, into a sideshow at best but closer to farce for the most part.

Sure there MSM commentators who are exceptions. Chantal Hebert, Andre Pratte, Rex Murphy and Lawrence Martin are my trust worthies even if I disagree with them, which I do on occasion. There are more who are not hostages to the system, I am sure...but those are my dependable independent thinkers.

Look at how polls and pollsters are also being used as the attention getters in the rating wars of MSM and how they are being abused in the process. "Political Infotainment" must be included the Oxford English Dictionary by now.

Here are a couple of examples of what I think is the MSM abuse of poll results. A Globe and Mail/CTV polls recently showed we "know" Harper more than Dion. After all he has been in the political party leadership game for five years compared to Dions almost 3 months. That is a ratinale as to why we would give him a bigger nod on speculation as to if he would be perceived as the best PM today. It is hypothetical anyway without an actual election call.

The pollster spokesperson on this "story" says with this polling evidence of a Prime Ministerial preference for Harper he should go to an election soon. The more considered analysis shows the real "issue questions" in the poll results showed both men were statically tied within the margin of error range. Generally 25% of the poll participants were undecided...not an insignificant fact to be considered before calling or engineering an election.

We all knew then that Quebec was going to an election sooner and the outcome there, namely a Charest victory, was key to the Conman’s strategy to a federal majority. Why would Harper go now when waiting gives him a potential for a big edge in Quebec? Quebec support for the Cons is the key to a majority government. No reason to go earlier as the story on the poll results suggested…other than a “surge” in the poll. The Cons "bump" by the way was less that the Green’s “surge” in percentage terms in the same poll.

Not to be outdone Canwest/Global a few days later runs its own poll with another firm and the spokesperson for this pollster says the Cons have the momentum but it is insufficient a margin to go to an election. However the sponsoring newspapers headline, notwithstanding the results reads “Tories Top Liberals in Latest Poll.” The story has the following quote from the pollster:

“The survey, conducted by Ipsos-Reid for Canwest News Service and Global
National, says the Conservatives have the support of 36 per cent of the
population, compared to 34 per cent for the Liberals.

The two-point edge enjoyed by Stephen Harper's Conservatives falls within the margin of error, leaving the two parties in a statistical tie, said pollster Darrell Bricker."

The reality is here the Tories do not “Top Liberals.” They are tied and have been for a while. The headline may be lying, if you decide to impute motive. It misleads in any event, regardless of motive. The headline is factuallly wrong but it is a better reader "hook."

The hype and hyperbole in the competing MSM attention wars is not serving the voter well. No wonder more people are turning to Blogs and the Internet for information and analysis. On the Web you know you need a reality filter but the biases are more obvious and often worn on the
writer’s sleeves.

You will not likely be misled and you can weigh the anonymous Bloggers against those who identify themselves as for credibility and integrity. Competition has been sacrificed the objectivity of the MSM. It is as worthy of your mistrust just as Prime Minister Harper is worthy of your distrust given his reckless and politically motivated meddling with the judicial review