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Some pollsters eating crow after predicting BC Liberal win in Nanaimo by-election

Last Updated Jan 31, 2019 at 1:45 pm PST

Nanaimo polling station. (Liza Yuzda, NEWS 1130 Photo)

Political scientist admits polling isn't a perfect science, but says they are generally reliable

Pollsters need to work with a consistent model because people expect them to be right, says expert

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Some pollsters are back-pedalling after predicting a BC Liberal win in Wednesday’s provincial by-election in Nanaimo.

Political scientist David Moscrop points out polling isn’t a perfect science. But he says generally, “it’s reliable. And if you do aggregates, they tend to do pretty well.”

“To me, the answer is ‘Let’s be very, very careful of any individual poll,'” he added.

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He says the media, pundits, and others can take some of the blame for jumping on dodgy numbers.

“We fall for it all the time — myself included, to some extent. You see sort of a sexy headline of ‘wow, the Liberals are 12 points ahead. That’s unexpected.’ Nevermind that it’s bollocks. The damage is already done.”

Moscrop says pollsters need to work with a consistent model.

“In general, polling has a decent record, even still. But some folks haven’t adapted to the Internet/cell phone age quite as well as they [could]. If we’re going to keep them, these folks need to figure out a better, more consistent model because people expect them to be right.”

“I would imagine in a different political landscape — one where you didn’t have to worry about strategic voting so much — polls would be less valuable for citizens,” he added.

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So, until that happens, do we even need polls?

“Sort of,” Moscrop said. “In an electoral system where people want to vote strategically and they’re trying to coordinate the vote against the polls, it’s kind of one of the best mechanisms we have.”

“It’s not ideal,” he admitted.

 – With files from Sonia Aslam