09.30.2014 08:06 AM

Likely voters, likely schmoters

I and others got burned in Ontario’s election, big time, when we started to believe in this “likely voter” category.  Right until election night on June 12, it made sense to me that “likely voters” are the demographic that we need to pay the most attention to – and, as such, the Ontario Liberals and Ontario PCs were therefore tied in voter intention.

Before I was going to go on air, however, I ran into Abacus’ David Coletto (now on his honeymoon – hi, David!) and asked him this: “Um, have you pollster guys worked out what this ‘likely voter’ category is, perchance?”

Said David: “No.”

Uh-oh.

The rest is history.  The “likely voters” weren’t nearly as “likely” as we’d been told.  A (very likeable) Kathleen Wynne and her Ontario Liberal election team won a majority when (a rather dislikable) Tim Hudak’s PCs snatched defeat from the jaws of victory with their 100,000 pink slips craziness.

Do we in the media, and sundry pollsters, learn from past mistakes? Ha! Surely you jest!

Thus, this morning, we have Angus Reid Global telling us that, among “likely voters,” the Harper Conservatives and Trudeau Liberals are now tied.  Read it right here.

Me, I don’t believe it.  Once bitten, twice shy.  Fool me once, yadda yadda.

Trudeau is ahead, full stop.  That’s what my gut is telling me, and I shouldn’t have ever stopped going with it.  Hasn’t failed me, ever.

Likely? Schmikely.

27 Comments


  1. Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /nfs/c05/h06/mnt/72829/domains/warrenkinsella.com/html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
    que sera sera says:

    Although self-soothing is a laudable goal in infants and toddlers – not so much for politicians.

    Mind, it’s arguable that the boys in short pants running the Conservative government are not that much past the toddler stage, as MP Calandra can attest while MP Rathgeber bears witness.


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    MississaugaPeter says:

    I thinks you’re right.

    All the other polls that have JT ahead are wrong?

    But year is eternity.

    Elections matter too.


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    Lance says:

    Well, the Tories usually have a more motivated voter base, but this time, I have to admit they might have their work cut out for them.


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      Patrick says:

      Their base will still vote for them. For me the bigger question is whether the soft voters they gained in the last election to give them a majority will stay with them this time. If those votes go to another party or stay home the Conservatives could be in trouble.


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        Ridiculosity says:

        Yes, the Cons are in trouble. And deservedly so.


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    Reality.Bites says:

    So I followed your link and once again, there’s not the slightest indication of what a “likely voter” is.

    Now I can think of all kinds of criteria that might make one person a likelier voter than another person, but my criteria are likely not yours. And they don’t necessarily mean anything. A likely Liberal voter might be someone who voted Liberal in the last three federal elections. But it’s also not hard to believe that faced with a choice between Harper and Martin/Dion/Ignatieff some voters decided staying home was a more attractive option. It doesn’t follow they’ll make the same choice when it’s Trudeau versus Harper (or Jason Kenney, as Bourque is claiming)


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      Ridiculosity says:

      Jason Kenney? Seriously? The Liberal win will be bigger than I think.


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    Tiger says:

    Likely voter screens are useful — often come up in polls Stateside.

    But they have to be based on clear and objective criteria “did you vote in two of the last three elections”, or some such, not “are you likely to vote?”


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    Ron says:

    It would make me happier if a decent percentage of voters voted at all.


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      Lance says:

      Good point.

      I’d rather have any party or candidate I support lose if it meant that more people would embrace their franchise more consistently.


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        Ron says:

        There aught to be a law, but I won’t live to see it. The politicians don’t have the sand for it.

        It would actually validate the winner’s mandate, actually requiring that they gain (gasp) 50% plus of the vote.

        I can’t see how 35% or so will cut it if the turnout was as it should be. I could live with the result much more easily as well.


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    !o! says:

    It gets better (or worse, depending)…
    The last poll that Angus Reid did, had the Tories at 31 to 30 for the liberals, amongst ALL voters. That was mid-June. The current poll’s numbers for all voters is 36 to 30 for the liberals, which is a swing of 5% to the liberals using Angus’ methodology.


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      !o! says:

      …7%. not 5.


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    Matt says:

    Polls are interesting to look at and talk about. That’s about it.

    Like the recent Crop poll in Quebec showing the NDP have regained the lead over the Liberals 37% to 35% (the NDP lead jumps to 38% to 28% among Francaphones). Interesting, fun to talk about.

    But they shouldn’t be trusted. People cound simply be lying to the pollsters.


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    Michael says:

    I am a LPC & OLP member and I really want to believe the polls, but I am leery.

    It is going to be not only unprecedented, but a huge challenge to go from 37 seats, leapfrog over the Official Opposition and win 130+ seats to form government or 170 for a majority.

    I’m worried that this isn’t Tim Hudak cira 2011. Dissatisfaction with the government, huge lead prior to the election, only to blow it.


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      Matt says:

      Or Wild Rose in Alberta. Or the NDP in BC.

      IIRC, Dion had the Liberals ahead of the Conservatives before the 2008 election was called as well. As soon as the writ was dropped, they were behind the Conservatives.

      We’ll all know for sure around 10:00pm October 19, 2015.


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        Lance says:

        I don’t know if citing Dion by way of contrast is all that relevant; Trudeau’s lead has been consistently sustained for longer and has no real signs of abating. Though when I think about it, wasn’t Mulroney far behind in ’88 and came back with another majority?


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    debs says:

    do we have any “likely voters” left? I mean this country has such a poor turnout to all elections …that I am surprised there is a category labelled that.
    I see only 2 categories remaining CONs, and “if we feel like it” and maybe the odd election…the “I hate that asshole”(special interest group)


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    socks clinton says:

    “Dogs know best what to do with polls.”
    – John Diefebaker


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    ottlib says:

    Predictably, those who support the Conservatives have been pooh-poohing the polls while those who support the Liberals are more accepting of them.

    It was the other way around when it was the Conservatives leading and the Liberals trailing. Such is the way of political partisans.

    Polls are not a predictor of future behaviour. They are a snap shot of opinion during a given reference period so no one should be too excited or too nervous about them.

    All that being said it cannot be denied that polls taken for the last 18 months from most polling firms indicate that the Liberals seem to be more popular than the Conservatives.

    To put that into perspective, dozens of polls, taken over a dozen or so reference periods with aggregate samples totaling probably close to 100 thousand respondents have been producing estimates where the Liberals have shown persistent leads over their chief opponents ranging from 6 percentage points into the double digits on a few occasion.

    From that perspective it cannot be denied by anybody that the polls are showing that something is afoot. What it is and what impact it will have during the next election is still unknown but there is no ignoring it.


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    JH says:

    Polls depend upon the questions asked. That usually is what the client wants asked and how, or if there is no sponsor, then it depends on what slant the polling firms decide they want to focus on. Neither of these cases necessarily produce the info a political party would be seeking and their polls in the past have produced quite a different result and the correct one. Much, I might add. to the chagrin of some of the well-known polling firms. I speak with some small experience in the matter and distrust all results, unless I’ve seen all the data and how it was developed. I’d be very careful about believing any of these numbers, as any poll can be slanted unwittingly or not.


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    James M. says:

    A wise man once said Warren I always trust my gut but then I realized my gut has shit for brains.


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    Bobby says:

    ‘”Trudeau is ahead, full stop. That’s what my gut is telling me, and I shouldn’t have ever stopped going with it. Hasn’t failed me, ever.”

    You were pretty sure about Olivia Chow once too weren’t you?

    Just sayin’


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      Warren says:

      Yes, because she was, numb nuts.

      But I haven’t been involved with that campaign for many, many weeks, now.


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    Ridiculosity says:

    “58 per cent of eligible voters said it was time for a change in government.”

    Bet that’s keeping Harper & Company up at night.


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      Lance says:

      Because it sure kept Kathleen Wynne up at night. How’s THAT go again?

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