Evidence doesn’t support voters being swayed by election polls: expert

Party insiders worried about how polls will affect voter behaviour election day can rest easy, says an expert in voting intentions.

Research from professor Scott Matthews of Queen's University suggests the Tories and Liberals shouldn't be afraid of a surging Jack Layton, at least psychologically.

Matthews told Yahoo! Canada News reading or hearing about polls doesn't influence the way people actually vote.

"In a lab setting there is evidence that people respond to consensus information. What others are thinking affects what I'm thinking," he said. "But that doesn't necessarily extend to the real world."

Matthews said since this election is more "exciting" and "competitive" than the last two elections, there is potential to see an increase in voter turnout, especially among young people.

Not suprisingly, the NDP is 'playing-up' the polls. Its recent news releases are peppered with references to the the NDP's "rising momentum" and "winds of change."

Even if there's evidence voters don't side with a 'winner' in the polls, it hasn't stopped the Liberals and Conservatives from reinforcing troops on the ground.

The Toronto Star reported Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff told a partisan crowd in Sault St. Marie, Ont. it won't be pollsters, but the people of Canada who choose the government on Monday.

"The opinion surveys don't tell the whole story. Polls don't measure the ground game," he said in reference to parties' local organizations.

"They don't measure the commitment (of the party faithful), they don't measure the men and women who are working as volunteers."

Jenni Byrne, national campaign manager for the Conservatives, sent an email to supporters with the same missive.

"We are concerned that due to media coverage or "so-called polls", some might feel that the election is already over. That is not the case," she wrote.

"Make no mistake — nothing is decided yet. There are many close races where even a handful of votes will make the difference."

The latest Nanos poll published in the Globe and Mail shows Conservative support at 36.6 per cent nationally with the NDP just six points behind at 30.4 per cent. The Liberals have 21.9 per cent.

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