November 03, 2006


The least worthless poll so far

If you've been following the Alberta Conservative leadership race, you probably know that the publicly-released polls consistently show Jim Dinning in the lead, with Lyle Oberg a fairly close second, and everyone else well behind.

Sounds like a two-way race, right? Wrong. Even a casual examination of the polling methodology reveals that they are simply asking Alberta residents in general who they like best, when the race will be decided entirely by the small fraction of Albertans who bother to buy a five dollar party membership in order to vote.

Polls like the one above essentially measure nothing but name recognition. Candidates like Dinning (who has been campaigning for the Premier's chair for close to a decade) and Oberg (who gets himself lots of free media via the Garth Turner method) do well in them, simply because the general public has actually heard their names.

A good example of how this method fails is the current federal Liberal leadership race (which happens to end on the same day as the Alberta PC one). Shortly before the delegate selection meetings, a similar poll showed Ken Dryden in the lead with 19% of the vote, Michael Ignatieff a distant third with 10%, and Gerard Kennedy waaay behind with 4%. Dryden, of course, was a famous NHL goalie, while Ignatieff was a university prof who has been out of the country for most of the last 30 years and Kennedy was an Ontario cabinet minister with little exposure outside of that province. However, when the ballots were counted, Dryden got less than 5% of party members' support, while Ignatieff received 30% and Kennedy finished third with 17%.

The Next Alberta Premier blog has an excellent analysis of what's wrong with these polls and the various factors which will make the actual results quite different.

So, what would be a good poll? So far, there's been only one poll that's even remotely worth considering. It was conducted by the Progressive Group for Independent Business, and was restricted to only those respondents who were PC Party members, and thus actually eligible to vote. The results were as follows:
Lyle Oberg: 17.2%
Ted Morton: 17.2%
Jim Dinning: 16.0%
Mark Norris: 8.1%
Dave Hancock: 7.5%
Ed Stelmach: 3.0%
Victor Doerksen: 1.3%
Gary McPherson: 0.7%
Alana Delong: 0.2%
Undecided: 16.1%
Wouldn't Say: 12.7%
Of course, this poll still has significant problems. For starters, it did not include any respondents from northern Alberta. More importantly, a leadership race means thousands upon thousands of membership cards will be sold, and so all the existing members at the beginning of the race will only be a minority of the total by the time it ends. As the media is starting to acknowledge, the race will be won by the campaign that sells the most memberships and gets them out to vote.

Nonetheless, by limiting their poll to those Albertans who are actually party members, the PGIB eliminated the single biggest problem with leadership race polling. This earns their poll the honour of being... The Least Worthless Poll So Far (tm).

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It is amongst the most worthless polls done so far. It only canvassed the PGIB membership who were also self identified as PC party members...hardly a represnetative gropu of the PC Party itself...and only 600 were "polled."
I agree entirely. Although the PGIB poll wasnt great either, these other polls have been almost entirely useless.

That article on The Next Premier was very informative as to why!
Good post Invisible Hand!

Here's my take on what's happening:

The race will be decided by two factors:

1. Who can sell the most memberships to reach the second ballot

2. Who can bring the other losing candidates supporters to themselves for the second ballot

I predict that Dinning, Morton and Norris will move on to the second ballot, with Norris a distant third. Norris will then drop off similar to what Rick Orman did in 1992.

The race will then come down to where Norris, Oberg, Doerksen, and Stelmach's supporters and organizations go - and they sure as heck won't mosey on over to Dinning.

So, on December 2nd you will find me firing my unlicensed long gun in celebratory fire over Ted Morton's victory.
It only canvassed the PGIB membership who were also self identified as PC party members

Wrong. According to Craig Chandler's comments on Project Alberta (which were linked to on your blog), the PGIB got the names from the 2005 membership lists of various provincial ridings.

Substitute Stelmach for Norris and you have it right.

But the problem for Ted is that Stelmach is the second choice for many.
Just FYI, the polls Ipsos Reid has been conducting slice the data in several ways: 1) by gen pop; 2) by PC decided vote; and, 3) by stated PC membership - that is, there's a question in the demographics that specifically ask, "do you have a current up-to-date membership?" Leger is doing a similar thing. So although some polls may be asking Alberta gen pop, the smart pollsters are doing their best to get a responsible sounding.
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