EDITORIAL: Election polls an obstacle

NANAIMO – Pollsters are going to have to come up with a different formula for how to gauge public voting methodology prior to elections.

Pollsters are going to have to come up with a different formula for how to gauge public voting methodology prior to elections, because their last two attempts have been so far off they’re on the verge of rendering themselves incompetent.

All major pollsters had written the B.C. Liberals off prior to Tuesday’s provincial election – not one of the polling companies got it right. The surprising Liberal win could have been considered a fluke, except that pollsters blew it in Alberta’s election in 2012, predicting incorrectly the Wildrose Alliance would win over the Conservatives. The Conservatives cruised to victory.

These misfires lead to the inevitable question: Should pollsters play a role in elections? The truth is they do.

While some voters are consistently faithful to a certain political party, a significant amount decide who they will vote for in the final days or hours before casting a ballot. Polls play a part in the decision-making process, and therefore election outcomes. They shouldn’t.

One has to wonder how much of a role the inaccurate polling and resulting media attention played in Tuesday’s election results. Pollsters blamed low voter turnout – only 52 per cent of eligible voters voted – and fickle young voters for their poor projections, but aren’t these the very people who would be most influenced by polls?

The bottom line is polling has become more of an obstacle in the election process than an asset. Elections belong to the people, not the pollsters.

Does it really matter which party has the momentum three months, three weeks or three days before an election? Not really. As any veteran politician will tell you, one day in politics can feel like a year.

Next time, let’s leave it to the pollsters to predict trivial things like Canadian Idol winners or hockey champions, and leave the important stuff, like elections, to the real experts: the public.

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