The Pollsters’ Nightmare

Instead of hanging up I listened, even though it was an automated call. As the machine recited the choices I could see the looming problem.

Political leadership races don’t always gain a lot of attention, even in the party holding the contest. So you are forgiven if you weren’t aware the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) is looking for a new leader. The machine wanted to know who I would be likely to vote for.

“For Joe Blow, press one; for Jane Doe, press two” I heard as the list continued down to “for Sam Yusef press nine.” That was it. A little dumbfounded, I waited for further options. None were forthcoming. The machine ran through the same list. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I didn’t press anything. The machine thanked me for participating and hung up.

Nine choices. Last time I checked, there were 13 people running for the CPC leadership. Two candidates have already dropped out. Plus there is a supposed front runner who is waiting another week before entering the race. He doesn’t speak French, and by delaying he avoids having to participate in the French-language television debate. The pollster had deliberately left four names off the list, five if you count the unilingual English guy. What if I had wanted to pick one of those?

When the machine first started giving me my choices I wondered how they would deal with double-digit responses. It didn’t occur to me that someone had already arbitrarily decided four candidates weren’t going to make the grade. What does that say about polling methodology? If you don’t provide a complete range of choices he results are automatically skewed.

Mind you, I am already on record as being suspicious of automated and internet polls. There really is no way of knowing who is providing the responses.  They are cheaper to conduct, but they aren’t scientific.  Pollsters pretend they are, and people lap up the results, but the person answering the phone could have been a six-year-old as easily as a concerned voter. If the respondents aren’t properly screened the results aren’t valid.

I know pollsters disagree with me, saying that the sheer volume of responses makes up for any deficiencies. Their polls, they insist, are accurate. We saw last year how well that worked for Hillary Clinton.

I have met, I think, seven of the current CPC leadership candidates. There are several who would be excellent as party leader and then Prime Minister. Most, but not all of those, were among the nine candidates listed.

There are a couple of candidates who managed to lose my respect before they announced they were running for party leader. While it is understood that it takes an overly large ego to be a successful politician, narcissism is not something I find appealing. I may not be the world’s most adept student of cosmology, but I am pretty sure the universe does not revolve around these individuals. They haven’t learned that yet. When they lose, as I believe they will, there will be mutterings about conspiracies. However, in a democracy narcissists have the right to run for public office. Since it is the voters’ decision, I wish pollsters wouldn’t make choices as to which candidates they think are worthy of my support and drop the others from their poll.


  1. Some Statistical Integrity of a survey poll can be achieved if candidates are pre-qualified by campaign donations.

    1. Although depending on when they entered the race, that could be like comparing apples to automobiles.

      1. * asterisk apples that might be confused as autos.

  2. Maybe the poll will be enough to combat any accusations of unfairness.
    Too many in this race.

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