Political Perspectives is produced by the students and faculty of Carleton University's School of Journalism and Communication, Canada's oldest journalism school.


The trouble with online polls

Posted by padams under Election 2011, Election 2011 Campaign strategy, Election 2011 Media commentary, Media Commentary

Paul Adams

The redoubtable tcnorris has a post on the methodological issues with online polls and the reason that many, perhaps most, reputable news organizations in the United States give them a wide berth.

Online polls, especially those based on “opt-in” panels — that is, those that poll respondents who have signed up to be polled rather than being recruited by a random process — have a very checkered record in elections. Angus Reid, for example, produced an excellent result in the last Canadian election, but blew last year’s British election badly.

There has been considerable confusion about the conflicting “stories” told by the polls recently. Some have the Tories in the mid-thirties and others in the low forties.

However, if you exclude the online panels (Angus Reid and Leger), what you find is that all but one of the polls conducted by phone show the Tories at the lower level.  Nanos, Harris-Decima and EKOS are telling similar stories, with the Tories very much in minority territory. Among phone polls, only Ipsos joins the online polls in showing the Tories with a majority-territory lead.

Paul Adams is an associate professor in the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton. He is a former Parliament Hill reporter and worked in the polling industry. You can follow him on Twitter @padams29