Globe and Mail: Pollsters finally call an election correctly

October 9, 2013
ÉRIC GRENIER
Globe and Mail
Wednesday, Oct. 09 2013, 9:32 AM EDT

After the disasters in British Columbia and Alberta, the polling industry needed a good result in last night’s provincial election in Nova Scotia. For the most part, they got it.

The stakes were high in Tuesday’s vote not only for the politicians whose jobs were at risk and the hopeful candidates who dreamed of sitting in the Legislative Assembly, but also for the pollsters who had a reputation to rehabilitate. It came as no surprise, then, that a small province like Nova Scotia had three polling firms conducting daily tracking polls by the end of the campaign. Per capita, the amount of polling in Nova Scotia produced for public consumption was more than four times that of the 2011 federal election.

The extra effort was rewarded. These polls accurately depicted the race in that they pegged Stephen McNeil’s Liberals as enjoying a wide, roughly 20-point lead over Darrell Dexter’s New Democrats, and that the Progressive Conservatives of Jamie Baillie were nipping at Mr. Dexter’s heels for the job of Official Opposition.

A simple average of the final polls from the Corporate Research Associates, Abacus Data, and Forum Research gave the Liberals 47 per cent of the vote, the NDP 27 per cent, the Tories 24 per cent, and the Greens 2 per cent. The actual result (45.5 per cent for the Liberals, 26.9 per cent for the NDP, 26.4 per cent for the PCs, and 0.9 per cent for the Greens, at press time) was hardly different.

The daily tracking poll conducted by Abacus Data for the Sun News Network, which was conducted with live interviewers, was the strongest performer of the night. The final result of their tracking poll, gathered between Oct. 3-6 and surveying some 400 decided and leaning voters, was closer than the last polls from CRA and Forum Research. Abacus Data pegged the Liberals at 46 per cent to 28 per cent for the PCs, 24 per cent for the NDP, and 1 per cent for the Greens, meaning that the firm accumulated a total error of 5.1 points (1.3 per party). All results were within the margin of error of the poll.

Interestingly, Abacus also calculated the voting intentions of likely voters. That polling firms did not do so in British Columbia has been identified as one of the main factors contributing to the miss there. This estimate by Abacus Data was even closer to the mark: 46 per cent for the Liberals, 27 per cent for the Tories, and 26 per cent for the NDP, for a total error of just 2.1 points (0.5 per party) – a remarkable performance.

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