Ontario election blues, May 23 .. Why are the polls so volatile, and what does it say about the place to stand today?

May 23rd, 2014 | By Randall White | Category: In Brief

I remember an eminent authority on such matters saying, just before the Mike Harris Tories in Ontario won their second majority government, almost exactly 15 years ago now : “The pollsters usually get it right.” And in that case they did.

They may still get things more or less right in 2014, just before the June 12 election date. But as of right now, on May 23, the trouble with the Ontario polls so far is that they’re still quite wildly inconsistent, and even contradictory!  Take these two articles from this past Tuesday, eg : “Who’s ahead in the Ontario election? Depends on the poll” ; and “Public is conflicted, pollsters are bewildered.”

Or take the two latest polls,  reported on yesterday. Ipsos Reid is saying Conservatives 35%, Liberals 31%, and New Democrats 28%. Forum Research is saying Liberals 41%, Conservatives 34%, and New Democrats 20%.

(And note that these two polls are not just in conflict about whether Liberals or Conservatives are leading. If you believe Ipsos, Andrea Horwath’s New New Democrat strategy just may be working. If you believe Forum, New Democrat voters who are worried about just what a victory for Tim Hudak’s Conservatives might mean have already started migrating to the Liberals — who, some would say, are campaigning left of the NDP this time around in any case.)

For the moment, it still seems to me that almost anything could finally happen on June 12, including both a Tory majority and (albeit at some outer realm of possibility no doubt) an NDP minority government. How the three main leaders stack up against each other in the TV debate  on June 3 — a week this coming Tuesday — may be more important than usual.

Meanwhile, like so many others, I am left wondering just what the current bewilderment among pollsters means? Does it imply, eg, that Ontario — formerly “one of the most inarticulate communities in human culture” but also “A Place To Stand” — is approaching some big watershed in its regional history? And those Ontarians who are still interested in voting in elections have yet to arrive at any serious consensus on just how to navigate the challenges ahead? Voters are trying various possibilities on for size — one thing today, another tomorrow? The only possible conclusion for the time being is just “stay tuned.”

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