The News Rundown
- Your 2021 Reminder on Why You Should be Skeptical of Polls
- As with any election time comes the deluge of daily polls.
- Polls are a useful tool in determining where public mood is but there are so many factors that can determine the results of a poll that it’s foolish to treat them as gospel.
- The first thing that we talk about when looking at a poll is its sample size.
- In statistics, the greater your sample size, the smaller your error will be.
- These error rates are seldmonly mentioned in the media but reading the fine print in polls you will often find a line that says, “a sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 2.5%, 19 times out of 20.”
- What this means is that with that poll's sample size, 95% of the time if the people did what they said they were going to do and went out and voted as that was, the result in the public would mirror the numbers shown within 2.5%, 95% of the time.
- This error rate was from a recent poll taken in the federal campaign and it was looking at the error of the top level national numbers.
- Now we know that we don’t decide who wins elections based on national popular vote, instead it’s determined in the provinces in each of the 338 ridings.
- The polls will also show results for the provinces and regions, these provinces and regions will have their own error rate which will be higher than the top level numbers.
- This means while we can say a top level poll is within the margin of error of 2.5%, it’s likely going to be higher if looking at a specific province, to the tune of +/-4-8%. This is very important when it comes to polling aggregators which we’ll discuss later.
- Methods can also have an impact on results. Some firms use online, some use IVR (interactive voice response, talking to a computer), some use live agents, and some use a hybrid of both.
- Each method has its benefits and drawbacks and we should be leery of polling firms that combine methods.
- Aside from sample size and methods, who you poll also has a huge impact. A pollster hopes to catch a representative cross section of the population. If they don’t, they need to weight that result with respect to recent demographic data from a census or statistics Canada.
- If a poll is improperly weighted to the voting population, the poll will be dead wrong. This is what happened in the 2016 US election. It was because of polls weighting incorrectly combined with polling aggregators and forecasters suggesting that Hillary had an 85%+ chance to win but we know what happened there.
- Polling aggregators average polls received from the polling firms. The averages are weighted meaning certain polls are given more preference.
- Just how these are weighted is determined by the person or group doing the aggregation. Every person who builds an aggregator will have a different model of aggregation.
- This means in reality that polling averages live or die based on the person doing them and unless that person is 100% transparent with their methods, it’s impossible to know how accurate they will be.
- Going back to the error rate of single polls. When averaged together any errors will work their way into the average. This means that to account for the potential error in one poll, another must be exceedingly accurate.
- We must also note that in scientific analysis it’s generally frowned upon to combine the results of studies, let alone studies with different methods, sample populations, and sample sizes.
- For this reason polling aggregation is pseudoscience at best.
- Polling aggregators are very popular because they have also taken to performing seat forecasts.
- Seat forecasts work by looking at what a party averaged in a specific region in previous elections and comparing them to a polling average in the current election. From that a factor is determined based on that ratio then that is applied to the vote result from the last election to determine what we may expect the vote total to be in this election. This is called the proportional swing model that most seat projectors use.
- For these to be accurate we make many assumptions.
- We have to assume our poll is accurate, we have to assume that voters will actually turn out in those proportional numbers to cast a ballot. Factors like new parties on the scene or turnout enhancing or inhibiting factors can also play a huge role in determining actual outcome.
- For our purposes here at Western Context we run these kinds of projections internally but we don’t average polls, instead we look at each poll individually while applying a healthy grain of salt to the situation.
- In summary, pollsters have to get it right. They have to have their sample size right, they have to have sound methods, they have to have an accurate sample of the voting population, and if not then weight it correctly. Then you might have an accurate poll but then again it all depends on turnout.
- This is why in 2021 polls should be taken with a hefty grain of salt and that’s why the best answer is to just get out and vote despite what the polls say.
- For the first time, the BC government is actually releasing data surrounding Covid admissions to hospital. But they're not doing it out of the goodness of their hearts and a love of spreading statistical information to the public, it's because they're wanting people to get vaccinated. Unfortunately, the data that they released can be viewed in many different ways, depending on your personal views. We're going to talk about those implications and what they could mean for the province, given the large-scale protests we saw a week ago about Covid restrictions and the vaccine passports, which are due to roll out on Monday.
- Provincial Minister of Health Adrian Dix said there are 130 people in intensive care in the province as of Thursday. Of those 130, 111 are unvaccinated, 10 are partially vaccinated and nine are fully vaccinated. Moreover, of the fully vaccinated in a BC ICU, none are under the age of 50.
- Justin McElroy, a local CBC reporter who has made easily accessible graphs and stats known about BC's Covid transmission rate, has just posted his last set of data, as after a year and a half, he is going back to BC political news. In his own words: "It has been draining and frustrating pushing a government with a $60 billion budget to provide basic accessible data about a deadly pandemic".
- Despite BC's wealth and large budget for healthcare, there is a surprising lack of transparency of statistics from the BC NDP during the pandemic, which is something that the Alberta UCP have been quite open about, with their regular release of detailed information about hospital admissions and health co-morbidities.
- The problem with the Covid data released by the BC government, is that people can look at it in many different ways. People urging for the vaccines will say "Hey, 85% of people in the ICU are unvaccinated, go get your vaccines," while the people in the protest last week will say "Hey, there's only 130 people in ICU out of a province of 5,000,000 people, why are these restrictions being constantly forced on us", and young people and students who are fully vaccinated might say, "Hey, there's literally no one in my age demographic in ICU right now that are vaccinated so why do I still have to suffer wearing a mask in my hot classroom for hours on end?"
- That's the problem we're having right now. The release of this information by the government to get more people vaccinated will not work. Our transmission rates continue to climb, despite all the restrictions, and the 80% of the population who have vaccinated themselves are being punished with restrictions when we were all told in the spring that getting vaccinated would be the end of those restrictions.
- At this point, because of the strain that unvaccinated patients are putting on the ICUs around the province, and due to John Horgan's power grab election last fall, we're going to have to deal with draconian policies going forward. And the one reporter making sure that the public knows about the lack of transparency and accountability from the government won't be covering it anymore. Looks like the end of 2021 will be much the same as the rest of the year.
- We have long spoken here at Western Context about the ties of special interest groups and political action committees to Alberta’s political parties.
- The Alberta NDP is fairly egregious in this, having many ties to union groups as we’ve covered recently in relation to the so-called doctors protests.
- This week though we have to take a look at their influence into municipal politics since most of the attention is on the federal race.
- On October 18th Edmonton and Calgary will elect new mayors and in Edmonton in particular there has been a push to see progressives elected.
- Postmedia obtained emails going back to March 2020 which suggest that a group called the Election Readiness Coalition will support and recruit progressive candidates including training their volunteers.
- This group though includes people like NDP MLAs including former health minister Sarah Hoffman and Rachel Notley’s husband, Lou Arab.
- Lou Arab is with the Canadian Union of Provincial Employees which for some reason was not a conflict of interest while Rachel Notley was Premier.
- When contacted recently, the Edmonton Journal was told that the group had “fizzled out”.
- Now, despite this, the group has been actively discouraging candidates not to run.
- Ward papastew candidate Kirsten Goa said she was approached by people within the group trying to convince her not to run in an attempt to ensure only one progressive candidate was on the ballot.
- Ashley Salvador running in Ward Métis said she was asked to take part in a nomination process to select the progressive candidate but turned down the request.
- For those listening outside of Alberta, it needs to be said that for the longest time our city councils have been largely free of political party influence. It would seem the NDP wants to exert their influence at the local level.
- Despite the group not meeting for months, those initially involved did receive endorsements from various NDP MLAs.
- In speaking with Post Media, Sarah Hoffman said her endorsements were based on shared values with the candidates.
- Michael Janz also running in ward Papastew said that not only has he been endorsed by the NDP, Rachel Notley’s husband, Lou Arab is running his campaign.
- He said that he welcomes the characterization of being the NDP candidate in the race because in his view it shows the voters what he stands for.
- We need to be very clear that partisanship in municipal politics is often frowned upon and in most cases when a third party group or political candidate inserts themselves, it typically draws fire from the media.
- This week we can conclude that the media either has no idea this is happening at the high level or that this has been swept away in favour of bigger stories talking about the federal campaign.
- At the end of the day this underscores the importance that residents do their own research.
- Find candidates that align to your views and ones that aren’t running just to run or push some silly cause.
- Residents also need to realize that most of these candidates running for mayor and city council have NO idea what their true powers actually are and think they are much more than they will turn out to be.
- As a result of this, most city councils resemble high school student council bodies because of the excessive power these candidates in some cases think they will have.
- This can also be seen as the further building of a beachhead, elective progressive councillors locally and they may just help you come the 2023 provincial election.
- The NDPs part in this can not go unnoticed because if it were the UCP organizing in Edmonton or Calgary we would not hear the end of it.
- The Trudeau Liberals have some explaining to do on a hot-button issue after one of their candidates said the party will be taxing people who sell their homes. The Conservatives have been claiming the Liberals will, if re-elected, bring in a tax on the sale of primary residences — something not currently done in Canada.
- Jason Hickey, the Liberal candidate for the riding of New Brunswick Southwest, currently held by the CPC's John Williamson, was asked about the issue of the government applying a capital gains tax on the sale of primary residences and he seemed to indicate it was something that would be done, during the online chat with residents of his riding: “But of course, anyone selling their primary residence, if you do make money on that, unfortunately you will have to pay tax on that. I wouldn’t agree to that either, but it’s what we have to do.”
- Moments later, he was asked again about the issue of taxing home sales and this time Hickey said no: “I don’t believe we plan on bringing that forth — I don’t think we do that.”
- Conservative MP and candidate Pierre Poilievre said “Justin Trudeau has claimed that despite a promise in his own platform, Liberals have no plan to tax the sale of your home. However, now we know the truth — Justin Trudeau will tax the sale of your home when you decide to sell.”
- Earlier this week, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau rejected the idea of taxing the sale of primary residences: “We will not do that. That is something that we are not interested in doing.”
- Affordability is by far the number one issue in this election, and all parties have tried to address it. O'Toole has had the best reach on this issue, with a swing in the polls largely attributed to Trudeau's lack of action on the file.
- The Liberals have tried to campaign on housing affordability as part of the party’s platform in this year’s federal election, even going so far as to promise an anti-flipping tax. To flip a home is to buy and sell it within one year, and it's how many of the real estate speculators have made their money, at the expense of a majority of Canadians who can no longer afford their own house.
- But, one of the Liberals' candidates in Vancouver, one of the most unaffordable housing markets in the entire world, has been found to have flipped 21 homes since 2005. Taleeb Noormohamed, the candidate for Vancouver Granville, originally dodged questions about his flipping activities, saying that he didn’t “want to speculate” on how many rapid-fire real estate deals he’s been involved with.
- Noormohamed has sold at least 42 properties within Metro Vancouver within the last 17 years, holding 30 of them for less than two years. And the tech executive has made a tidy profit along the way, making $4.9 million in the process, a remarkable $3.7 million of which he’s bagged in the last six years.
- While nothing Noormohamed has done is illegal, these new documents paint a far more extensive picture of his real estate activity during an election in which his party leader has described real estate speculation as “predatory.” Of the 42 home sales made by Noormohamed since 2005, 21 would have qualified for the Liberal anti-flipping tax had it been in place.
- Housing activists have labelled Noormohamed’s real estate activity as consistent with flipping behaviour, in which a person buys a home only to sell it in a short time span for a profit. Flipping has been criticized as one of the contributing factors in rising home prices in Metro Vancouver and throughout the country.
- In response to Noormohamed’s real estate dealings, the NDP is asking Justin Trudeau to clarify whether it is “acceptable that a Liberal candidate in Vancouver has made millions of dollars flipping dozens of homes while people and families have paid the price.” The party is calling on Trudeau to clear the air on whether he knew of Noormohamed’s house flipping.
- Yet again we see another case of Justin Trudeau trying to capitalize on a major issue and failing miserably. With all this said, and with his own candidates profiting off a broken system that he's allowed to fester, can anyone trust that he would fix the problem that he had 6 years to address?
Word of the Week
Flipping - buy and sell (something, especially real estate or shares) quickly to make a profit.
Quote of the Week
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Flipping Out
Teaser: We look at how polls work and why they can’t be trusted, the BC NDP releases ICU info to get people vaccinated, and the Alberta NDP are influencing local municipal candidates. Also, Trudeau’s record on housing affordability is in question.
Recorded Date: September 10, 2021
Release Date: September 12, 2021
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes