Toronto’s National Post – or, as I prefer to think of it, the National Pest – states in its meta tags that it’s “Canada’s trusted source for national news, financial news, world news, blogging, twitter, tweets, opinion, vodcast, podcast, commentary, entertainment and sports.” Really, it does!
But for some reason the Toronto newspaper took it upon itself to publish details of a poll about Alberta politics. Who knows why? Their new managing editor lived in Calgary until recently, so maybe he got nostalgic for the warm tickle of a Chinook on his ears. (For you Easterners who aren’t in the know, a Chinook is a nasty warm wind that makes people act crazy when it blows. They get them a lot in Calgary and almost never in Edmonton, which may account for why we elect more New Democrats up here.)
Whatever the reason, the Post was happy to oblige with a story when a Toronto polling company called Forum Research, which has little or no track record in Alberta, took it upon itself to get the skinny on what we Albertans are really thinking, politics-wise. To do this, Forum used robotic demon-dialing technology to call 1,072 Albertans over the course of one day at the worst time of year to get people at home. Forum knows its respondents were all over 18, by the way, because they all pressed a button their phone saying they were.
By doing all this, Forum came up with results that would be extremely bad news for the Alberta Progressive Conservatives under Premier Alison Redford if they were true.
Based on this information, the Post’s reporter wrote a story that treated the poll credulously and concluded its results were good news for the Redford Conservatives. As previously noted, the local papers – which surely have journalists on what’s left of their staffs who know better – reprinted this yarn whole cloth.
The Forum poll’s key conclusion was that, on Dec. 14, anyway, the intentions of decided Alberta voters broke down like this:
Progressive Conservatives: 38 per cent
Wildrose Party: 23 per cent
New Democratic Party: 13 per cent
Alberta Liberal Party: 12 per cent
Alberta Party: 6 per cent
Other Parties: 9 per cent
The Post’s report reversed the numbers for the NDP and Liberals, and didn’t mention the “Other Parties” column, leaving some readers with the impression Forum’s numbers didn’t add up to 100. (They still don’t actually, but since they’re only off by one, we’re going to chalk that up to rounding.)
Now, if the Redford Tories are really at 38 per cent three or so months from a general election, they are in deep doo-doo. This would mean they are a full 15 per cent behind where they were at the time of the 2008 general election. It would put them close to their lowest level of popularity since first being elected more than 40 years ago.
So, if there were anything to this poll – and the mood around here sure doesn’t feel like it – it would not place the Redford Tories with “a strong lead heading in to next spring’s vote,” as the Post’s scribbler concluded.
In fact, since former premier Ed Stelmach announced he was stepping down last January, most credible polls have put the Conservatives in a much stronger position. For example:
Environics (Nov. 4-8) – 51 per cent
Citizen Society Research Lab (Oct. 1-2) – 48 per cent
Environics (July 15-24) – 54 per cent
Those results by pollsters who used credible methodology suggest the Forum poll is an outlier at best.
Some of the Forum poll’s other results strain credulity too. The Wildrose numbers seem unlikely, but are within the realm of possibility. The Alberta Party numbers, it is said here, stray across the line into fantasy. As for 9 per cent committed to other parties, we can only ask, what other parties? I know, the Communists and Social Credit run a few candidates now and then, but, uh … 9 per cent? I don’t think so, people.
The poll also concludes that Premier Redford’s personal approval ratings are low, Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith’s are high and Liberal Leader Raj Sherman’s are disastrous. There’s no mention of NDP Leader Brian Mason, despite the fact the New Democrats have outpolled the Liberals in several polls, including this one, and outpolled the Wildrose Party in one.
There’s plenty to like about Forum’s poll – but only if you’re a Wildrose supporter who hasn’t been paying attention. Naturally, the comments section of the Post was full of input from such citizens, concluding that “Wildrose should get 40 to 50 seats,” “Redford is a red tory and will destroy this province,” we need to “get rid of this socialist,” yadda-yadda.
My only advice to these nice folks: Don’t bet the bungalow or even the moose antlers in the den on the results of a single poll! They need to remember that this is the same company that back in June predicted that Ontario Conservative Leader Tim Hudak was well-positioned to form a majority government in October.
As for the Post, I guess, they really need to get polling onto that list of meta-tags.
This post also appears on Rabble.ca.