Friday, November 23, 2012

New Calgary Centre by-election poll

Late last night, Return on Insight released a new telephone survey of voting intentions for the upcoming Calgary Centre by-election race. The results generally fall in line with what Forum Research has been reporting, but the poll was heavily criticized on Twitter due to its source. After trading emails with Bruce Cameron, President of RoI, and after being provided with a copy of the raw data report, I believe the results of the poll are credible.
The live-caller survey was conducted November 20-21, so a few days after Forum's last poll of November 17 but just before the brouhaha over Justin Trudeau's newly rediscovered comments from 2010 about Alberta. However, the poll was conducted just as the comments made by David McGuinty were breaking, along with the lightning-quick apology and resignation as critic.

The poll found Joan Crockatt of the Conservatives ahead with 37% support, five points up on Harvey Locke of the Liberals, who was at 32%. That gap is within the margin of error, but again we see that in every poll Crockatt has had the advantage. The odds that all of these polls have been wrong in the same direction is quite low, making a Crockatt lead a very strong possibility.

Chris Turner of the Greens was at 17%, while Dan Meades of the New Democrats was at 12%. Another 2% said they would vote for other parties.

As this poll was done with live-callers, the undecided number is more reliable than what we get from IVR or online surveys (the last IVR poll had about 7% undecided). RoI finds the number of undecideds to be at 16%, while 12% of respondents said they wouldn't vote.

The cross-tabs of the poll has one interesting similarity with Forum's last survey. Though the sample sizes are very small, both Forum and RoI found that Crockatt was leading among voters aged 18-34, while the race was much closer among older voters. That is counter-intuitive, as Conservatives tend to do better among older voters. But there is some indication that younger voters in Alberta are far more conservative than their fellow Canadians, based on some other polling I have seen of Millennials. So, this may not be as unusual as it looks. If it is indeed the case, that does not bode well for Crockatt as this tranche of the electorate does not turnout in large numbers.

In terms of the gender gap, however, the polls are not in agreement. Forum's last poll found Crockatt with a three point edge among men and a seven point advantage among women, while RoI gave Crockatt a nine point lead among men and a two point edge among women.

As to the criticisms that Bruce Cameron is tied too closely to the Liberal campaign, this is what Cameron has to say:

"I am not doing any polling or paid work for the Locke campaign, despite a three second video clip of Harvey [Locke] ripped out of contest pre-writ by the Greens claiming I am ... Harvey is a good friend but I made it clear to him and the campaign manager Donn Lovett that I could not work on the campaign. Nevertheless, Harvey and I talk regularly as we have done often over the past 20 years."

At my request, Cameron sent me the poll's raw data. Having looked over the report, I have little reason to believe that this poll is any less credible than any other. The amount of weighting that was done was quite small (if only this sort of information was made available by some other firms), with the usual corrections being made to account for the low number of younger respondents. There are no major problems with the wording or ordering of the questions asked or anything of the sort. Though I do believe that pollsters should not get involved in politics or even give the impression of being supportive of or opposed to any party or candidate, there are many examples of this happening and I do not believe that it is necessarily a reason to discount a pollster's work without any other justification.
That being said, there is the potential that the poll is under-estimating Crockatt's support as the number of respondents who claimed to have voted Wildrose in the April 2012 election was about three-quarters of what it should be. This could be the "shy Tory"  effect at play, bad memory, or confusion between provincial and federal politics. We will find out on Monday. EDIT: An earlier version said that Wildrose support was registered as 1/3 of what it should be. After verifying with Cameron, this was apparently a glitch in coding. Nevertheless, Wildrose support was still somewhat under-represented, but perhaps not significantly so.

The poll included a few other interesting questions, including certainty to vote. The chart in the media report has some errors in terms of the certainty of all respondents to vote (and also contains a typo in the question, the actual question asked did indeed identify November 26 as election day), but the numbers for each of the parties appears to be correctly recording the certainty of decided voters. It says that 64% of Locke's supporters are certain to vote, compared to 67% for Crockatt, 72% for Turner, and 79% for Meades.

If we just use those findings and assume that it will represent turnout, Crockatt's advantage increases to 38% against 30% for Locke, 18% for Turner, and 14% for Meades.

The survey also asked non-Conservative-supporting respondents who they would choose if they could only select one 'progressive' candidate to defeat Crockatt. The result seems to be very favourable for Locke (40% to 17% for Turner and 14% for Meades), but if we remove the undecideds from the equation we get 56% for Locke, 24% for Turner, and 20% for Meades. That looks better for Locke than it actually is: on the regular voting intentions question, Locke is already getting 52% of the non-Conservative vote, compared to 28% for Turner and 20% for Meades. In other words, when asked this question most people were sticking with their original choice.

This poll does not disagree with Forum's last two surveys to any significant degree. Crockatt and Locke's support is well within the margin of error of Forum's last poll, while Turner's and Meades' is at the outer edges of it. We will have to wait and see if any more numbers will emerge over the weekend (Forum does enjoy the election-eve release). At this stage, Crockatt is still the odds-on favourite but both Turner and Locke could put up some impressive numbers. Will it be enough?

25 comments:

  1. I found it ironic that the Sun Media published the 2010 comments regarding Trudeau at the this time, after McGuinty's gaffe and when the Tories are in threatened what was regarded as a safe by-election. It seemed like they were waiting to publish these comments when "the time was right".

    Nevertheless, Trudeau's comments were wrong and it does hamper his bid to become Liberal leader. Time will tell whether it would harm Liberal chances in Calgary Centre.

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    1. People change over time. What someone said two years ago is not necessarily what someone believes in today.

      -VM

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    2. That would be nice, but in political life anything you have ever said on or in any media is used against you. All people in politics have to be carefull what they said on tv, radio, facebook, blogs etc. The media sigs deep and will find something to use against them. Rickylethbridge

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    3. I don't think that's true.

      For example, much of the more controversial comments that Stephen Harper has said in past years, during his tenure as a Reform MP and director at the National Citizens' Coalition, is simply not talked about by the media.

      And he is Prime Minister - you'd think he'd be an awful big target.

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    4. have you been living under a rock? the media have been dragging that 12 year old statement up every chance they get. But poor little Justin gets a pass for a 2 year old comment, fair?, not a chance

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  2. I'm not seeing anything in these polls to change my opinion that Crockatt will win, albeit by markedly less than the Conservative margin in the general. The only thing of interest I have heard to make me even question that opinion is the creation of a group urging former Progressive Conservatives to vote for Locke. I think that the formation of the group has probably been left too late though. For a real campaign like that, you need more time to get organized and contact voters.

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    1. Agreed. I don't think campaigns such as "lend us your vote" of Paul Martin or urging former PCs to vote Liberal are effective. In this case not only was the organisation left too late but, people have moved on. Progressive conservatives do not exist anymore former PC's have overwhelming come to accept the new conservative party, those who have not have already moved on to the Liberals or another party.

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  3. From what I understand ROI claims they didn't release this poll for any political party or news organization. Why would a polling company do this for free? This is hardly plausible.

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    1. Many polling companies release data for free for the publicity. Forum, for example, does all of its political polling as a "public service". Angus-Reid also periodically puts out press releases, rather than doing commissioned polls for a media outlet. It is not unusual.

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    2. It was released as a poll they were doing, they released a report that they were not working for Locke as was previously stated by another entity.

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  4. The problem with political operatives releasing polling data isn't so much that they will manipulate the data, but they will selectively choose which data to release. What's to stop someone like Bruce Cameron from polling every week and only releasing the results from the polls that favour his preferred candidate? The only thing he has to worry about is his reputation. In our multi-party system it is too easy to argue that voters changed their mind after the poll was released, likely because of the contents of the poll - which is why there's an upside to releasing favourable polls. Strateg

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  5. Polls can be easily manipulated by all parties. When the last forum poll of the riding took place, the Green candidate actually urged his supporters to wait and pick up all phones that day in hopes that more of their supporters can fill out the poll. Not that the public really pays attention to this, but it does inflate the Green numbers in the polls and deflates the numbers of the other parties.

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    1. The odds that something like that would have boosted Green support by more than two or three respondents is extraordinarily low.

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    2. Anecdotally, I heard there were about 9 or 10 GPC supporters who answered the phone who would not have if they did not know the callerID of the caller. That is enough to skew the results amongst the small numbers of decided respondants.

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  6. What is favourable to Locke is that he is tied with Crockett for the 65 plus vote.

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    1. Although I think Crokatt will win with about 40% to 29%, one has to take into consideration the unknown, and actions that seem linked to that; Harper's throwing a couple of policy bones out there on the weekend before the vote -- more time in jail for those convicted under insanity pleas, RCMP and gender, and the heated attack on Trudeau -- with an item tailor made for an election, not for someone who is still just leadership candidate. Makes me wonder what their internals are saying...

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  7. Let's hope Locke wins. Send a message to Harper , we are not happy.

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  8. Eric, after teaching a few courses at UofC, its not surprising Crockatt is doing well among youth. Turnout matters in these by-elections so I'd say young Tories are probably more engaged than young Calgarians in general.

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  9. Liberals panic as their vote falls to the Candidate who's party hasn't had to apologize twice to Albertans in 1 Week.

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  10. I think the poll makes sense. When uncertain, voters default to what they know. In this riding that means Conservative. Nice surge from Turner but his organization will have trouble getting out the vote. I would suggest that there are 100 000 card carrying Conservative members within a 1 hour drive of this riding and that machine will working on election day. The polls earlier in the month that had the Greens and Liberals close only caused the Conservatives to take notice. They want to win this as much as anyone else.

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    1. I agree that getting out the vote will determine the election, but a lot of those are Red Tories who do not like the Harper Conservative/Wild Rose candidate.

      This is a riding that has voted strategically massively to elect Redford last provincial election; Trudeau's comments may very well prompt Conservatives and Liberals to shift to the Green candidate. That's what I would be doing if I lived there.

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  11. The difference is harper doesn't apologize - he made plenty of worse comments than trudeau (see what he had to say about atlantic canada and quebec) but he never apologizes so it doesn't blow up the same way.

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  12. "It says that 64% of Locke's supporters are certain to vote, compared to 67% for Crockatt, 72% for Turner, and 79% for Meades."

    This would suggest voter turnout of close to 68-70% in a by-election. That would be a very large turnout indeed.

    How well do polls like this predict turnout?

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  13. Eric

    Please turn off Anonymous. There is the odd individual who are still using it to escape responsibility.

    Thanks.

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  14. Well it seems the ROI poll underestimated Chris Turner's strength by over 8%, and grossly OVERestimated the NDP's by %10 (even I am surprsied by how badly they did. Also, I keep hearing rumours of a poll conducted by Forum Research on Wednesay and Thursday, which placed the Cons, the Greens, and the Libs withing 1 point of each other, but which was never released. Can anyone verify if this is true?

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