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Two polls, widely different results, and Postmedia only reports one – what gives?

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PHOTOS: “It is indeed Christmas in July for Conservatives!” Maybe it’s July, but is this guy really Santa Claus? Below: Pollsters Quito Maggi and Lorne Bozinoff.

A Forum Research Inc. interactive voice response poll conducted on Tuesday of this week indicates 34 per cent of decided voters plan to vote NDP, 29 per cent to vote Liberal and 28 per cent to vote Conservative.

A Mainstreet Research poll using the same technology on Monday and Tuesday of this week shows 38 per cent of decided voters plan to vote Conservative, 27 per cent to vote NDP and 28 per cent to vote Liberal.

Which one do you believe?

QuitoMaggi-LThe Forum poll is certainly in the ballpark with what other recent polls have been saying. The Mainstreet poll, um, is not. The latter, by the way, was done “exclusively” for Postmedia News, which owns all the daily newspapers in Edmonton and Calgary and most major dailies in Western Canada.

Forum President Lorne Bozinoff notes in the commentary accompanying his poll that “these results represent stability” since the last time Forum asked Canadians the same question on July 14. In other words, not much has changed and the NDP still has a small lead.

Mainstreet President Quito Maggi says of his company’s poll, “it is indeed Christmas in July for Conservatives.” In other words, there’s been a startling fluctuation in a short period of time, and suddenly the Conservatives are strongly in the lead.

Dr. Bozinoff predicts based on Forum’s numbers that there would be an NDP minority government in Ottawa if the election were held today.

Either Mr. Maggi or Postmedia’s Sun Parliamentary Bureau reporter suggests by inference, based on Mainstreet’s “remarkably strong numbers” and past performance, that the Conservatives could win another majority if the election were held today.

The Mainstreet poll, the Sun Ottawa bureau story states unequivocally, “has Stephen Harper’s party enjoying almost the same level of support this week that it got in the general election of 2011 when the party won its first-ever majority government.” Now that’s narrative if I ever heard it!

LorneBozinoff-RThe Forum poll says 29 per cent of respondents thought NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair would make the best prime minister, compared with 25 per cent for Mr. Harper and 20 per cent for Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.

The Mainstreet poll had a larger sample, 5,147 versus 1,208, but while this may seem counterintuitive to some readers, most professional pollsters will tell you that difference in respondent numbers shouldn’t impact the results. It does let Mainstreet claim a smaller margin of error – plus or minus 1.37 per cent 19 times out of 20 versus 3 per cent 19 times out of 20 for Forum.

The Forum poll indicates that jobs and prosperity lead the concerns of respondents, followed closely by ethics and government transparency.

According to Postmedia’s Sun coverage, the Mainstreet poll indicates that the Conservatives have a “huge lead in voter support thanks, largely, to the distribution of $3-billion worth of benefit cheques to parents earlier this week.” (Emphasis added.)

However, on Monday and Tuesday when the poll was taken, virtually no parent in Canada had received their Universal Child Care Benefit cheque. The first ones started showing up in mailboxes in most parts of Canada on Wednesday. I’m just saying.

Well, enough of this. Suffice it to say, the two polls taken in the same time frame with the same methodology and asking much the same questions show dramatically different results. Among a broader sampling of recent polls, the Forum poll is clearly part of a developing trend. The Mainstreet poll is a dramatic outlier.

So, in a few days there will be more polls, and we’ll get a sense of which one got it right.

In the mean time, however, let’s ask another question: If you were a senior editor, which one would you report on in your website and in your newspaper?

Postmedia’s National Post features the Mainstreet poll, with no mention of the Forum survey. National Post stories typically show up in all of the company’s “serious” local papers, like the Calgary Herald and Edmonton Journal.

Postmedia’s Sun Parliamentary bureau’s story appeared in the Edmonton Sun under the definitive sounding headline “Tories take huge lead in latest poll.” That story also had no mention the Forum poll. Sun Ottawa bureau stories usually end up in all of Postmedia’s tabloids, like the Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton Suns.

So if we had a waterfront in Alberta, Postmedia would have it covered – and it’s covering only the poll that supports the narrative it would like, judging from its commentary, Canadians to believe.

Late yesterday evening, no news organizations but Toronto’s CP24 news website and the Toronto Star appeared to have mentioned the Forum poll. The Star story doesn’t mention the Mainstreet poll.

Funny that.

NOTE: This story was amended after publication to include mention of the Star story. This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

Categories Canadian Politics