However, I’d like to point out that the methodology of a Strategic Counsel poll differs greatly when the Liberals are expected to lead compared to when the Conservatives are expected to lead.
Let me explain…
Consider the question order of a Strategic Counsel poll from July compared to that released on November 4th.
July (minority parliament and summer break)
Q1. Thinking back over the year, what would you say is the most notable achievement of this minority government in terms of accomplishments and legislation passed?
Q2. And which of these activities would you say is the most notable achievement, is it… The health care accord with increased federal spending, Same sex marriage legislation, Tsunami relief effort, Agreements with provinces for substantial federal funding of day care, Off shore oil deal with Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, or the significant increase in social spending through the budget?
Q3. Overall, would you rate the performance of the Liberal Minority government as very good, good, poor, or very poor?
Q4. And how about the operation of the minority parliament. Would you say Parliament has been working very well, somewhat well, not very well or not very well at all?
Q5. And if you had your way, would you prefer a minority government or a majority government?
Q6-9. For each of the following leaders, I’d like to know if your opinion of them has improved, stayed the same or gotten worse in the last year?
Q10. If you had your way, would you like to see (ROTATE The Liberals,The Conservatives, The NDP, and in Quebec, The Bloc Quebecois) keep or replace their current leader?
Q11. As you know, the federal government enacted legislation legalizing same sex marriage. Following the next election, do you think the government in power should allow this legislation to stand or should they attempt to repeal the legislation?
Q12. Gay rights advocates have been making the case that since gays are now allowed to marry they should also be allowed to adopt children as couples. Overall are you very supportive, somewhat supportive, not too supportive, or not at all supportive of allowing legal recognition to gay couples to adopt children?
Q13. The G8 meeting of the major economic powers is taking place in Scotland this week. Which of the following is the most important global issue that you would like to see the major powers deal with?
Q14. If the federal election was being held tomorrow, do you think you’d be supporting the Liberal candidate in your area, Conservative candidate in your area, the NDP candidate in your area, or the Green Party candidate in your area or (Quebec only) Bloc Quebecois candidate in your area?
November 4th (post-Gomery)
Q1. As you may know there has been considerable discussion about the possibility of a federal election in the near future. In your view what is the most important issue in the next election [question wording in previous polls: “In your view, what is the most important issue facing Canada today”] – that is the one about which you are most concerned? (Healthcare, Sponsorship scandal/Gomery Inquiry/Corruption, Government leadership/stability, Taxes, Economic issues (excl. Govt. spending/unemployment), Education, Other social issues (excl. healthcare), Environmental issues, Government spending, Unemployment/employment, Terrorism)
Q2. From what you can tell, which party, if any, is gaining the most popularity and momentum towards winning a possible federal election. Is it the Liberal/Conservative/NDP/Green/BQ/None/Other/Don’t Know?
Q3. If the election was being held tomorrow, do you think you’d be supporting the (ROTATE LIST) Liberal candidate in your area, Conservative candidate in your area, the NDP candidate in your area, or the Green Party candidate in your area or (QUEBEC ONLY) Bloc Quebecois candidate in your area?
Q4. In that case, which party’s candidate in your local area would you be leaning towards at this time? Would it be the (ROTATE LIST) Liberal candidate in your area, Conservative candidate in your area, the NDP candidate in your area, or the Green Party candidate in your area or (QUEBEC ONLY) Bloc Quebecois candidate in your area?
Q5. As you may also know the first part of the Gomery Report was issued on Tuesday. Have you heard a great deal, a fair amount, next to nothing or nothing at all about this Report?
Q6. And from what you know about the Gomery Report, do the findings indicate to you that what went on during the so-called sponsorship scandal was much worse than you ever expected, a bit worse, about as you expected, not quite as bad or no where near as bad as you might have expected before the report came out?
Q7. Paul Martin has said that he was not involved in the sponsorship scandal. Now that the Gomery Report is out, do you find this claim very believable, somewhat believable, somewhat unbelievable or very unbelievable?
Q8. (asked Nov 4) Based on what you have seen, read or heard about the Gomery Report, has it changed your feelings about the Liberal party under Paul Martin in any way? (IF “YES”) Are you now significantly more supportive, somewhat more supportive, somewhat less supportive or significantly less supportive of the Liberal party than you were before?
Q8. (asked Apr 27) Based on what you have seen, read or heard about what Paul Martin has been saying lately about the Gomery inquiry, has it changed your feelings about the Liberal party under Paul Martin in any way? (IF “YES”) Are you now significantly more supportive, somewhat more supportive, somewhat less supportive or significantly less supportive of the Liberal party than you were before?
Q9. Paul Martin has been saying that he is sorry for the abuses that had occurred under the sponsorship program.
Some people say that this indicates to them that the Liberal party is beginning to accept responsibility for the abuses of the program. Other people say that that this indicates to them that the Liberal party is desperate to stay in power. Thinking of these two points of view, which one best reflects your own?
Q10. Some people say that while they are very angry about the abuses of the sponsorship program they do not believe Paul Martin was responsible and that he should not be held accountable for what happened.
Other people say that they are angry about the abuses and that even if Paul Martin was not directly involved, as Finance Minister and as the leader of the Liberal party, he must be held accountable for what happened. Thinking of these two pints of view, which one best reflects your own?
Q11. Some people say that Paul Martin’s offer to call an election once Judge Gomery has submitted his final report of the inquiry in February of next year [Apr27 wording: his report of the inquiry in November of this year] is a reasonable one and that they are prepared to wait until then for an election. Other people say that the offer is unreasonable because we have heard enough and it is now time to call an election. Thinking of these two points of view, which one best reflects your own?
Q12. If the Conservatives joined with the other Opposition parties to force an election, would this make you more likely to vote for them, less likely to vote for them or have no impact either way on any decision about voting Conservative or not?
Q13. Who do you hold responsible for the sponsorship scandal? Do you hold the federal Liberal Party responsible or do you hold a few individuals in the Liberal Party responsible?
Q14. From what you can tell, which party, if any, is best at cleaning up the abuses that have occurred in the federal government? Is it the Liberals/Conservatives/NDP/BQ/Green/Other/Don’t Know?
The pre-Gomery poll (in July) asked 12 questions (many of which prompted the respondent) before it asked the headline question of voter intention. The post-Gomery poll (Nov 4) is a more accurate poll in that it asks two relatively neutral questions before it asks for voter intention (in the 3rd question).
Please see my analysis of the July poll here. I discuss how the questions preceding the voter intention question prompt the respondant to think about Liberal accomplishments before asking how the respondent would vote.
(Regarding the voter intention question that appears last after 13 question in the July poll) It is the only question that really matters in the context of the news and it is the motivation behind the commissioning of the poll. Further, as reporters digest this polling information, [this last question which polls voter intention] is the most interesting question and it will be the most widely discussed (more often exclusively). Ask yourself whether or not a more accurate poll result would have been obtained if this question were asked first?
Furthermore, imagine this headline question was preceded by a question asking the respondent not about the “most notable achievement” of the Liberal government but of the “most admirable quality” of Stephen Harper’s leadership. Imagine also if the respondents were asked to choose from a list of generally positive attributes. The results would become skewed more favourably towards the Conservatives. The Strategic Counsel heavily prompts the respondent into thinking positive thoughts about the Liberal party before they are asked about voter intention. This is especially dishonest as the co-sponsors (the Globe and Mail and CTV) are likely to only report the results of the pre-biased voter intention question. Of course, polling only serves to influence public opinion as well so you can see how this becomes a manipulative political cycle.