There is an overriding lesson from the election results of last Tuesday.
Opinion polls aren’t worth a thing when it comes to predicting which party will be elected, and polls are relied on far too much by the media, and by political parties. As a direct result, there is less focus on issues by both the media and parties.
Every single opinion poll, including those released very close to voting day, suggested the NDP were going to win a majority government. The NDP’s own internal polls told them the same thing.
The BC Liberals may have had some different polling information, but even they were wondering just how the election would end up, given the barrage of negative polls and the incessant comment from every quarter that they were done.
In some ways, this election had similarities to the 1969 election, in which Premier W.A.C. Bennett won his seventh straight victory. The NDP had a new leader, Tom Berger. While the economy was strong, there were a lot of private-sector strikes. Opposition to the government from both the NDP and organized labour was fierce.
In the campaign, which took place in the midst of the summer, many commentators suggested that the Socreds were finished. They said Bennett was too old to be an effective premier (he was 69) and the NDP were the party of the future, with a young Vancouver lawyer (Berger) as their leader. Bennett had a simple answer to all those who suggested he was finished — “Take-home pay with Bennett or strike pay with Berger.”
It was both effective and deadly. He focused on the economy and the importance of being able to feed your family. And the results were gratifying to the Socreds. Bennett won a decisive victory and Berger lost his own seat.
The 2013 polls failed to reflect that the economy was front and centre in many people’s minds, and the NDP campaign was based on those polls. It talked about three years of deficits, new programs and higher taxes. Economic development was barely mentioned.
Polls can never again be relied on as the basis of a campaign, media commentary or strategy.
Polling companies need to make drastic changes to the way they survey people, but the media also need to stop relying on them. Information about policies is far more important than faulty polling numbers.
– Black Press