Conflicting polls confound voting

While polls can provide useful, and even reasonably accurate data, it is important for voters to educate themselves about their candidates.

There’s been a lot of hullaballoo about polling this election.

Thanks to technology, voters can tap in daily to a whole host of polls, which appear to show everything from the Conservatives winning another majority government to a possible minority government.

Some polls name Harper as the future PM, others suggest its Mulcair, and still more say Trudeau is surging fast for the top job.

Locally, as well, the release of a poll commissioned by an ad hoc group of citizens spearheaded by Warren Bell, caused much flurry among the local camps, especially the Liberals, who then commissioned their own survey that countered some of the findings of the Oraclepoll results.

Polls can provide some interesting information, as they use a small sampling of the population to draw general conclusions about the entire riding. But the information is simply that – another element in the decision-making process.

Everyone can point to polling results which turned out to be terrible predictors of the actual outcome. The 2013 B.C. election is a case in point. Polling results through much of the campaigning period suggested a strong NDP win. Polling conducted a week prior to the election, however, showed the BC Liberals receiving a strong surge in voter support. This indicates how quickly and easily a political party’s fortunes can turn.

Other polling grey areas that can cloud outcomes include the margin of error and the number of undecided voters, who can be leaning one way one week, another the next and, in the end, may not vote at all. (In the 2011 federal election, 39 per cent – two out of five – of eligible voters didn’t vote.)

While polls can provide useful, and even reasonably accurate data, it is important for voters to educate themselves about their candidates and their positions on issues that matter to you, as well as the positions of the party they represent.

 

Regardless of who wins, making a thoughtful, well-researched decision at the ballot box is the best thing for our democratic system.