04 January 2012

More on the polling controversy #nlpoli #cdnpoli

Susan Delacourt, from The Star, December 30:

Canada’s polling industry could be in for a shakeup in 2012, after some major knocks to its reputation in 2011.

Regular readers will recall the controversy from the federal election and from the fall provincial election from the series on polling and politics.

The Delacourt article mentions concerns voiced by pollsters themselves,  including comments by Ipsos chief executive Darrell Bricker.  He complained about the polling firms themselves and the media and how they report polls.

Delacourt also has some observations by Nik Nanos:

The MRIA [the industry association in Canada] does have a code of conduct and does audit polling firms to see whether they meet its “gold-seal” standard, says Nanos. But he’d like to see MRIA being more active in investigating members, and when it finds problems, Nanos believes the association should be publishing details of the polling transgressions, either on the website or through periodic bulletins.

The SRBP series included the MRIA standards. One of the tidbits that didn’t make it into the series was the standards contained in an FAQ produced by Newspapers Canada in 2008.  The broadcast media don’t have any industry standards at all as best as your humble e-scribbler could find, let alone anything close to these standards for newspapers. 

When I publish an opinion poll, what do I have to include?

If you publish a "real" opinion poll that is - not an unofficial "streeter" - you are required to include certain information if you are the first person to release the information or if you publish it within 24 hours of its first release.

You must include:

  • the name of the sponsor of the poll
  • the name of the organization who conducted the poll
  • the date on which or the period during which the poll was conducted
  • the population from which the sample of survey respondents was drawn
  • the number of people contacted to participate
  • the margin of error, if applicable

As newspapers, you must also include:

  • the wording of the survey question
  • instructions on how to obtain a written report of the survey results.

If I sponsor an opinion poll, are there any additional requirements?

If you sponsor a public opinion survey, you must, after the release of the survey, provide, on request, a written report that contains the following information:'

  • the name and address of the sponsor of the survey
  • the name and address of the person or organization that conducted the survey
  • the date on which or the period during which the survey was conducted
  • Information about the method used to collect the data from which the survey results were derived, including:
  • the sampling method
  • the population from which the sample was drawn
  • the size of the sample
  • the number of people asked to participate in the survey and the numbers and percentages of them who did not participate in the survey
  • the number of people who refused to participate in the survey and were ineligible to participate in the survey
  • the dates and time of day of the interviews
  • the method used to recalculate data to take into account the results of participants who expressed no opinion, and any weighting factors or normalization procedures used in deriving the results of the survey
  • the wording of the survey questions and the margin of error

A sponsor may charge up to $0.25 per page for a copy of the report.

That’s a pretty comprehensive list of information.  Following this standard would go a long way to correcting many of the problems with media reports of polling, including their own polls.

Too bad newspapers don’t follow the standards at all.

- srbp -