Wildly different opinion polls in Ontario election have one pollster crying foul

This week's wildly diverse polling numbers for the Oct. 6 Ontario election has one pollster ranting about methods used to collect the data.

In an Abacus Data poll published Tuesday in the Toronto Sun Tim Hudak's Conservatives have the support of 41 per cent of decided voters followed by the Liberals at 32 per cent and the NDP at 20 per cent.

Another poll, released on the same day by Nanos Research and published in the Toronto Star, showed the Liberals in the lead with 38.1 per cent support,  the Tories at 34.7 per cent and the New Democrats at 24.3 per cent.

"WTF?" Darrel Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs, told the Globe and Mail in response to the very varied figures.

In an open letter posted on the Ipsos website, Bricker and his colleague John Wright blame both media and "marginal" pollsters, who he calls "hucksters selling methodological snake oil", for the conflicting polling numbers.

"Polls are NOT created equally. And, in spite of what you may assume, pollsters are never held to account for their indiscretions, incompetence and mistakes (there is no "polling police"). Some marginal pollsters count on your ignorance and hunger to make the news to peddle an inferior product," they wrote.

"Journalists are no mere dupes in this process. We've also seen a disturbing trend of late in which questionable polls find their way into an outlet's coverage because they appear to match an editorial line, or present a counter-intuitive perspective."

Bricker and Wright provide six rules for media to live by when considering publishing polls. It's probably also good advice to those reading polls.

Among these recommendations are: don't trust the accuracy of robo-calling polls, beware of pollsters using online methodologies and get to know your pollster.

They conclude: "Kick the tires before publishing a poll, and make it harder for bad or misleading polls to get published. That's the way it's done in jurisdictions that take polling seriously. It's sad that this isn't the case in Ontario today."

(CP Photo)