Pollsters were credible in Ontario’s election
When pollsters blow an election call we’re on them like ugly on a dog, so when they do a pretty good job, we should acknowledge that.
On that note, in last week’s June 7 Ontario election, the polls were reasonably accurate and consistent, generally indicating an early NDP surge on the front- running Progressive Conservatives that faltered near the end, giving the PCs a comfortable majority government, with the Liberals a distant third from start to finish.
The polls did tend to slightly underestimate PC strength and overestimate NDP support at the end, and there was one apparent rogue poll in mid- campaign that briefly threw the election into a tizzy.
It predicted an NDP majority government, prompting complaints from the Progressive Conservatives about inaccurate polling and media reporting.
For comparative purposes, the unofficial results from Elections Ontario, with 8,410 of 8,419 polls reporting for the June 7 election, were as follows:
Percentage of vote won: PCs 40.49 per cent, NDP 33.57 per cent, Liberals 19.59 per cent, Greens 4.6 percent.
Seats won: PCs 76, NDP 40, Liberals seven, Greens one.
Forum Research did well overall, having predicted on June 6 that the PCs would receive 39 per cent of the vote, NDP 34, Liberals 21, Greens five.
Forum also came close on the more difficult prediction of seat counts, predicting 76 for the PCs, NDP 39 and Liberals nine.
The only blemish for Forum was a one- day phone poll of 906 Ontarians conducted May 23 and released May 25, which predicted an NDP majority government, with NDP support at 47 per cent, PCs 33, Liberals 14 and Greens four, and the NDP winning 79 seats, PCs 40 and Liberals five.
That prompted complaints from the PCs that pollsters in general, as well as the media, were out to get Doug Ford, but the controversy died down when subsequent Forum polls reported results similar to the general consensus, indicating a close race between the PCs and NDP in popular support, but with the seat counts working to the advantage of the Tories because of their more efficient voter distribution.
EKOS also did well, predicting on June 6, the day before the vote, 39.1 per cent support for the PCs, 35.1 for the NDP, 18.9 for the Liberals and five for the Greens, with seat counts of 73 PC, 45 NDP, five Liberals and ( the only pollster I followed to do so, accurately) one for the Greens.
Mainstreet Research was also credible, predicting on June 6 the PCs would win 39.2 per cent of the vote, NDP 33.1, Liberals 20.1, Greens 5.6 and a PC majority government, although it did not speculate on seats.
Ipsos also correctly predicted a Tory majority government in its poll released on June 6, showing the PCs at 39 per cent, NDP 36, Liberals 19 and Greens and other parties six.
CBC’s Poll Tracker, an aggregator of all publicly available polling data released during the campaign, finished respectably, its final predictions on June 6 being 38.7 per cent for the PCs, NDP 35.5, Liberals 19.6 and Greens 4.9, with a seat count of PCs 78, NDP 45 and Liberals one.
Leger on June 5 put the popular vote at PCs 39 per cent, NDP 38 and Liberals 18, noting a statistical tie played to the advantage of the PCs, while Pollara’s final number were PCs 38 per cent, NDP 38 and Liberals 17.
Thus, the seven pollsters I followed were reasonably accurate and none humiliated themselves.
On another positive note, voter turnout was 58 per cent, well above the 51.3 per cent recorded in the 2014 election and the highest turnout since 1999’ s 58.3 per cent, which is healthy for democracy.