Elections just won't be the same without polls

Armchair Mayor
By Mel Rothenburger
November 16, 2016 - 5:05am Updated: November 18, 2016 - 9:50am

There’s an old joke that 82.6 percent of statistics are made up on the spot.

Toss that one out at a dinner party or a coffee klatch and see how many get it.

Truth is, stats have power. Talk about whether a corporation is doing well or poorly and it means little, but announce the latest quarterly numbers for earnings-before-interest-taxation-depreciation-and- amortization, and you’re well into MBA country.

Same thing for public opinion polls. Was a time when they gave us an honest-to-god snapshot of what people were thinking on a given day, especially during election campaigns.

Well, that was then, this is now. We began finding out just how badly opinion polls were going off the rails back at the last B.C. election. The polls — all except one — said the NDP were going to give Christy Clark and the B.C. Liberals a good old whupping.

As we know now, the only pollster who nailed it was John DeCicco and his barbershop poll. All the big outfits with their telephone surveys and push-pull questions and leanings and all that should have gone for a haircut at the Continental barbershop — they could have avoided a lot of embarrassment.

Since then, of course, we’ve had the Justin Trudeau Miracle and the Brexit shocker… and now the Trump Terror.

What are we to make, then, of the latest poll averaging that shows the NDP ahead of the BC Liberals by a whisker? Nothing, it would seem.

Elections and referendums won’t be the same without all those polls… …. From now on we’re just going to have to wait until election night.

Question remains, though, what went wrong with public-opinion polls? Well, somebody should do a poll on that.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.

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