| Jan 26, 2006

Feature Article - January 26, 2006

Feature Article

January 26, 2006

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Who got it right?

by Jeff Green

Polling companies were busier than ever during the latest election, and with the World Wide Web it is easier than ever to keep track of the polls. There are also at least two websites that are devoted to analysing polling data, and information from past elections to make riding by riding predictions. Last week, we profiled one of them, DemocraticSpace.com, in the News. Well, how did they do?

The final prediction, in terms of seat count, from DemocraticSpace.com was: Conservative 128 (actual tally 124), Liberal 94 (actual tally 103), Bloc Quebecois 56 (actual tally 51), NDP 29 (actual tally 29), and Independent 1 (actual tally 1).


Although these totals are not that far off, the breakdown shows that the predictions were actually less accurate that meets the eye. It’s a case of two wrongs making everything seem right.

For instance, democraticspace.com, predicted that the Conservative candidate in Newmarket-Aurora would defeat Liberal candidate Belinda Stronach. On the other hand, there were ridings where democraticspace.com predicted a Liberal victory, but the Conservatives won. The seat total looks accurate but both predictions were wrong.

Gregory Morrow, who developed the mathematical model to make the predictions, need not be too chagrined about the results. He based his calculations on a basket of five different polling companies, and some of those proved very inaccurate. For example, on the day of the election, the Globe and Mail published a poll they had commissioned from a company called the Strategic Counsel, which is partly owned by Alan Gregg, who is as well known a pollster as we have in Canada. Gregg himself predicted that the Conservatives would win 140 + seats. It also said the Conservatives would win the popular vote by ten percentage points.

On the other hand, a company called SES, which polled 400 people each day of the campaign, and put together three-day rolling polls, produced startlingly reliable results. In terms of popular vote, SES predicted that the Conservatives would receive 36.4%; the Liberals 30.1%; the NDP 17.4%; the Bloc 10.6%; and the Green Party 5.6%.

The actual voting numbers were: Conservatives 36.25%; Liberals 30.22%; NDP 17.49%; Bloc 10.48%; and the Green Party just under 5%.

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