Results confound pollsters: Numbers meant little in the end. Were people lying to them?

Ottawa – Canada’s electorate appears to have confounded the pollsters. Weeks of speculation, number crunching and supper-hour phone calls to more than 25,000 Canadians over the last five weeks meant little in the end as the Liberals beat projections that they were headed for a sound thrashing in the election…

Those headlines and story appeared in the Toronto Star in June 2004 reporting how the governing Liberal Party was returned to office after gaining six percentage points of the vote more than predicted on the eve of the election by two of Canada’s leading pollsters. I remind myself of that Canadian experience every time I am inclined to put too much faith in the measurements of pollsters.

Not that I can get too much of a guide from opinion polls this morning. As if the differences between AC Nielsen and Galaxy were not confusing enough, with one predicting a Labor two party preferred vote of 57% and the other of 52%, along comes Martin O’Shannessy, chief executive of Newspoll, saying on Brisbane radio that his latest poll, to be published in The Australian tomorrow, indicated a late surge for John Howard.

Not that I discount the late surge possibility. Underdogs have a history in Australia of doing better on the day than was expected before hand with Steve Bracks’ defeat of Jeff Kennett being one example, Paul Keating overtaking John Hewson another and before that there was Andrew Peacock giving Bob Hawke a good run for his money in 1984.

It is the lack of faith in opinion polls with their different messages that has me turn for guidance to the collective wisdom of people as expressed on the market. For months now we have been running the Crikey Election Indicator based on the betting market at Betfair and this morning it puts the probabilities this way: Labor has a 78% chance of winning to the Coalition’s 22% chance.


Labor has been the favourite on the Crikey Indicator for most of this year with the gap widening considerably since the campaign proper got under way six weeks ago.

That movement coincides with the findings of The Daily Verdict where we have rated every day’s campaign performance. By our measure Labor has clearly won the campaign with yesterday being no exception.


Coalition ALP
Television 1.20 2.86
Newspapers 0.29 0.59
Radio 0.26 0.56
Internet 0.16 0.64
TOTAL 1.91 4.66

You will find details of the way the Daily Verdict is compiled, with the help of raw material provided by our friends at Media Monitors, on the Crikey website.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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