Election polls or sondages as they are called in Québec are usually devoured by the media hungry for headlines.
Of course, the methodology of polls, whether they were taken from a properly weighted and conducted random sample from the population and published with the appropriate margin of error and also indicating that one time in 20 they can be completely wrong beyond the margin of error are important factors in their credibility. One of our more outspoken prime ministers John Diefenbaker used to make Canadians laugh when he stated that polls were for dogs to urinate on and good for nothing else. But despite these strictures they continue to dominate the media coverage of elections.
Last night in Alberta they turned out to be very wrong as they had been predicting that a new right wing party would sweep into power in our oil rich province of Alberta ending the 41 year dynasty of the Alberta Conservatives. This new right wing formation called Wild Rose(When I grew up in Winnipeg there were beautiful wild rose bushes all along the CPR rail line tracks where I use to play with my friends. ) appeared to have the backing of key former players in Stephen Harper’s entourage so the media was keen to pronounce on the impending victory. But lo and behold the party fell 10 % points behind the incumbent government who swept back into power with a majority much to the shock of the media. The polls had been wrong and their methodology is suspect.
Nevertheless, there is a new poll out in France with a sample size of 1145 using a quota method sampling on line (Which makes it more unreliable ) that claims a margin of error of 2-3 % points . (The poll is by Opinion way Fiducial for Radio Classique and les Echos and is reported in the French press) It gives Hollande 54 %to Sarkozy’s 46%. Their support is drawn from the other candidates in the first round as follows. Hollande gets the votes of 91 % of Melenchon’s vote of 3.96 million; 36 % of Bayrou’s vote of 3.24 million ;27 % of the 6.4 million who vote for Le Pen, and 19 % of those who abstained last time or deliberately spoiled their ballot. I will also give him 90 % of the Eva Joly votes and 80 % of the small fringe left vote which totals 703,500. If we do the math that works out to an additional 7.9 million votes for Hollande which yields him 18.24 million votes not counting the 19 % of those who didn’t vote last time or spoiled their ballot but plan to vote for Hollande this time.
Sarkozy on the other hand is expected according to the poll to capture 2 % from Melenchon voters, 41 % from Bayrou, 47 % from Le Pen which works out to an additional 5.23 million votes for a total of 14.045 votes. This total would also include 10 % of Joly’s vote. Even if we add to this all the votes of Dupont-Aignan some 639,000 votes Sarkozy’s score is still just below 15 million at 14.92 million.Sarkozy like Hollande is expected to get the same percentage of the voters who abstained last time but now will vote. Hollande will be the clear winner if the poll is accurate.
But as Alberta shows sometimes the polls are wrong even when the party name is Wild Rose.