Public opinion research standards body to announce details of inquiry into Calgary election polling results this week

Posted on January 29, 2018, 12:49 am
7 mins

PHOTOS: Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, apparently as puzzled by the results of some polls last fall as many other Calgarians were. Below: Marketing Research and Intelligence Association CEO Dr. Kara Mitchelmore (Photo: Linked-In), Mainstreet Research President Quito Maggi (Photo: Mainstreet Research), Mount Royal University political science Professor Duane Bratt (Photo: Twitter), losing Calgary mayoral candidate Bill Smith (Photo: Twitter), and Nenshi Reelection Campaign Chair Chima Nkemdirim.

The Marketing Research and Intelligence Association will announce this week the details of its promised independent inquiry into the problems with polling results in the Oct. 16, 2017, municipal elections in Calgary.

“We are going ahead with the review,” Kara Mitchelmore, chief executive officer of the national standards body for public opinion research, told AlbertaPolitics.ca late last week. “We are in the process of finalizing the review panel’s membership, mandate and scope of work.”

On Oct. 27, MRIA issued a press release saying it would launch the inquiry “into underperforming and conflicting election polling results published during the recent municipal elections in Calgary.”

“We call on the pollsters involved to submit their data and methods,” MRIA said – an important request since Mainstreet Research, the polling company responsible for polls commissioned by Postmedia’s Calgary newspapers that predicted Conservative candidate Bill Smith would win by big margins over incumbent Mayor Naheed Nenshi, is not a MRIA member.

On Oct. 7, Mainstreet said Mr. Smith had a massive 17-percentage-point lead.

On Oct. 13, another Mainstreet poll said Mr. Smith was still leading the progressively minded Mr. Nenshi by 13 percentage points.

On election day, of course, Mr. Nenshi won with a lead of eight percentage points.

Mainstreet President Quito Maggi immediately took to social media to describe his “utter shock and embarrassment” as the results came in, and to admit the company’s results were “completely and totally wrong.”

Dr. Mitchelmore confirmed last week the MRIA panel “will look at all research companies that publicly released polls over the course of the Calgary elections.”

And Mr. Maggi said yesterday he and his company “intend to co-operate with and participate in the MRIA review.”

However, Mr. Maggi called on MRIA to request data from all polls done during the campaign, not just those that were publicly released.

“Claims are being made online, as recently as yesterday, that there were accurate polls available to some,” Mr. Maggi said in an email to AlbertaPolitics.ca. “Surely, at this point months after the campaign it would serve everyone’s interests, including the MRIA, to look at all polls and determine what frame design, methodologies or scripting worked to accurately capture voter intentions in Calgary. The MRIA’s mandate is to serve the best interests of public opinion research and as such it should not limit the review to just publicly released research.”

This, of course, may be easier to call for than to be made to happen since the nature of private research is that it’s private.

In his email, Mr. Maggi also said that “contrary to what MRIA has publicly stated, they have not directly or indirectly communicated with us to date about their review,” and noted that his company “is a member of the World Association of Public Opinion Research and follows standards that meet or exceed Canadian standards.”

Reaction to the Mainstreet polls was highly critical, before Oct. 16 and after.

“We have great confidence in our internal numbers,” said Chima Nkemdirim, chair of Mr. Nenshi’s reelection campaign, immediately after the Oct. 7 poll was released. “We’ll leave it up to the media to question the validity of the polls. We strongly believe that Calgarians will vote to move forward … not backward.”

Mount Royal University political science professor Duane Bratt was very sharp in his criticisms of Mainstreet – prompting what sounded very much like a threat of a lawsuit from another company official. However, Mr. Maggi later apologized to Dr. Bratt.

In its Oct. 19 report, the CBC said there had been “allegations that Mainstreet coordinated with its media partner, Postmedia, to influence the campaign” in favour of Mr. Smith, a former president of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party.

Mr. Maggi responded to the CBC: “It was suggested that we coordinated polling with the Bill Smith campaign, conducted push polling, and/or worked for the Calgary Flames organization. None of that could be further from the truth.”

MRIA said in its October news release that its main concern is the results of various polls had “shaken confidence in our industry.”

“It is the reality of our industry that bad election polls or the undisciplined conduct of pollsters can tarnish the industry’s credibility and call into question the reliability of all survey research,” the news release said.

Last week, a Mainstreet poll of Alberta voters’ intentions was reported to indicate Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party has a huge lead over Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP. “They also lead among every single demographic that’s out there,” Mainstreet Vice-President Joseph Angolano told media.

That poll also showed very strong results for both the Alberta Party and the Alberta Liberals, plus a high percentage of decided voters, which, if true, would signal additional difficulties for the NDP.

However, while other recent private polling has shown similar levels of support for the two major parties province-wide, it indicates far higher levels of undecided voters, continued strong support for the NDP among young voters, women and in Edmonton, and the Liberals and Alberta Party barely on the radar.

10 Comments to: Public opinion research standards body to announce details of inquiry into Calgary election polling results this week

  1. David Harrigan

    January 29th, 2018

    In December of 2016, MRIA found that Mainstreet Research violated the following Articles:
    1. Article 1 (Basic Principles)
    2. Article 2 (Honesty)
    3. Article 3 (Professional Responsibility) and
    4. Article 11 (Publishing Findings)

    In October of 2017, Postmedia’s Calgary newspapers commissioned a poll by Mainstreet Research.

    I think that says enough about them both.

    Reply
  2. Fred

    January 29th, 2018

    Why keep giving Mainstreet’s proven BS any air time at all, David? The quotes in your article say it all; when asked about colluding with PostMedia, Mr. Maggi refuted three other unrelated/unasked claims. He didn’t answer the actual question which was asked! So that speaks volumes.

    Mainstreet is a discredited clown shop, they are political PR posing as valid pollsters. They should be made to register as third party influencers with the various elections bodies, and have their finances examined.

    Reply
  3. Albertan

    January 29th, 2018

    So Mainstreet has the UCP in a huge lead over Rachel Notley’s NDP? Well, surprise, surprise……
    I am one Albertan who sure, will not, be voting for the UCP. I have also been hearing a lot of, probable purposeful, rhetoric about the deficit. Here is some info:
    “Good news: Alberta’s economy growing, deficit isn’t such a worry, economist says. Increased exports and strong job creation mean the economy should grow faster than in almost any other province this year, RBC chief economist Craig Wright said.”
    http://www.edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/good-news-albertas-economy-growing-deficit-isnt-such-a-worry-economist-says

    Reply
    • Farmer Brian

      January 30th, 2018

      Albertan, every person reads an article and get a different take home message. Quoting from the article:”He described the 2.3 percent increase in gross domestic product, exceeded only by the gains in Saskatchewan, as a bounce following years of recession, rather than part of Alberta’s traditional boom-bust cycle.” What I find amusing about your choice of article to downplay Alberta’s accumulating debt is that the province that Premier Notley has been taking pot shots at over economic policy is projected to have a higher growth in GDP in 2018 than Alberta, that being Saskatchewan. Enjoy your day

      Reply
      • Farmer Dave

        January 30th, 2018

        Farmer Brian, I know you get a different perspective how Alberta is doing financially. Looks like Alberta will lead the entire country in growth in 2018 and likely as a result that this Government didn’t panic and start cutting jobs, services, etc. I went through Ralph Klein’s cuts (as many did) in the mid 1990’s and many like myself suffered miserably for no reason for these cuts. Ralph never understood or thought he was dealing with people and families lives, maybe he was drunk at the time he made these decisions. I know as I lived in Calgary when Ralph was elected as mayor and after he was elected he changed the Calgary Hall meeting times from something like 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM because he was to hungover to attend any of the 9:00 AM meetings. Ralph (RIP) however his leadership is something Alberta does not need, in the future, to proceed as a good leader in Canada for our future. In fact I see Notley doing a respectable job so far for both you and me and the general population in Alberta.

        Reply
  4. January 29th, 2018

    For polling to work the company has to accumulate the opinions of a truly random sample of the population. This has been getting increasingly difficult. First unlisted cell phone numbers has made the time honoured technique of calling numbers in the phone book increasingly less reliable as larger and larger segments of the population are excluded.

    As well, people are getting tired of being surveyed. It is pretty bold to phone someone and ask them to give you a segment of time, and more and more people are hanging up. It would be interesting to see what kind of demographic is willing to participate in surveys.

    Personally I quit participating when I realized survey companies were asking me to give them 15 minutes of my time so they could sell the information I was giving.

    Reply
  5. David

    January 29th, 2018

    I noticed a funny thing with the latest Mainstreet poll, it got very little coverage in the newspapers. I suppose they were burned quite badly in the Calgary election coverage and Mainstreet’s credibility is in tatters. Even some Conservative commentators took to referring to it as “a recent poll” and avoided mentioning the word Mainstreet.

    However, I suspect the Conservatives will not give up on their victory is inevitable strategy and message, they will probably just have to find another dubious pollster with a different name.

    Maybe part of the Conservatives strategy is to make it seem like it is inevitable they win and hope the less enthusiastic will just jump on the bandwagon. It may have worked in Alberta years ago, but it certainly didn’t in the Calgary municipal election. If anything it motivated Nenshi and his supporters to work harder and perhaps caused voters to scrutinize Smith and his vague platform and dubious backers much more closely.

    Reply
  6. Farmer Dave

    January 29th, 2018

    I wonder what Mainstreet Research will do if Alberta NDP win the next election, change their name like the PC’s and Wildrose did so they could cover up all their fake news and polling results?

    Reply
  7. Farron Kelly

    January 29th, 2018

    Add to Maggi’s lack of credibility the fact that the vast majority of people who aren’t mad as hell and/or retired won’t bother to answer these demon-dialers. I know I sure don’t.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

  • (not be published)