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Poll pellets


The pollster who once claimed Haligonians were eager to have the 2014 Commonwealth Games now wants us to believe Nova Scotians want to elect more Stephen Harper’s Tories.

Don Mills of Halifax-based Corporate Research Associates told Halifax’s Metro newspaper that his company’s latest public opinion poll showed “a big positive change” for the ruling Tories and, if the trend continues, the Tories could gain “a seat or two” in Nova Scotia in the Oct. 14 federal election.


Well, yes, the numbers do show Conservative support in this province up to 34 per cent—of decided voters—from the 27 per cent they recorded in a similar poll in May, while those saying they support the Liberals fell by nine per cent in the same period.

But the poll was conducted from Aug. 7-20, before the election was even called, so its best-before is undoubtedly already well and truly past.

But that’s just the beginning of the problem of trying to read anything for the future into those results of the past.

The survey sample included just 403 Nova Scotians, making the poll results, in the jargon of the trade “accurate to within 4.9 percentage points 95 times out of 100.” Extrapolating from such skimpy province-wide results to suggest the Tories could win one or two more seats in specific local ridings is, in the best of circumstances, wildly speculative.

To make predictions even more of a fools’ game in this case, 41 per cent of those polled—more than 160 out of 403—said they were “undecided, don't plan to vote, had no answer or refused to answer.”

The reality is that, within the margin of error, Conservative may have been—back in August when the poll was conducted—at the same level of support they were in May. And their support may be very different today. Or not.


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