Crawl Across the Ocean

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

So You Think You Know Politics?

Prove it - by entering James Bow's election result prediction pool (deadline: not for a while yet), or by trying to answer Calgary Grit's 20 questions about what will happen (deadline: Friday midnight), or by entering RevMod's gaffe-o-meter pool (deadline: tomorrow midnight).


  • December 16, 2005

    ROBBINS Sce Research (1998)

    ROBBINS continues democratic audit of Canadian election, with Mega Poll #2.

    q Less than one third of respondents have “absolute confidence” in the federal government
    q Over 70% of respondents have ‘confidence’ in Canada’s political future
    q It appears Canadians will vote to a similar percentage as last election or better
    q Liberals have lost (.73%) of public support over past month, Conservatives down (1.04%), Bloc up (.32%), NDP ‘approximately’ even.
    q Two-thirds of Canadians are not “frightened greatly” by Stephen Harper and Conservatives winning a minority government
    q Respondents in older demographics more inclined to use charge cards than debit or cash over the holidays.

    Background-This is the second poll by ROBBINS Sce Research (1998) within a one month period involving Canadian public opinion. The first major poll was conducted just prior to the vote of non-confidence in November of 2005, which forced this Canadian general federal election. The size of the representative sample is believed to be unequivocal in its accurate representation of Canadian public opinion. In the Canadian election in 2004 we were critical of the major media’s influence on the Canadian election. Other reputable surveys conducted outside the country have revealed that Canadians themselves perceive their politicians to be corrupt. ROBBINS is mandated to ensure that the media and the polling firms attached to them conduct themselves as impartially as possible. Over the first three weeks, there has not been anything exceptionally untoward in terms of media or polling conduct insofar as considerations of undue influence is concerned, particularly as this relates to perceived favoritism by the mainstream Canadian media and associated polling firms towards the governing Liberal Party of Canada.

    We have confronted one particularly noteworthy and worrisome trend in the conduct of pollsters. This is the habit of publishing a poll for example on Day 12 of Year 1 and disclosing within the methodology that the poll was conducted between Day 3 and 6. Naturally over the days between Day 6 and Day 12 many things could change particularly during the Writ period. However although the newspapers that publish the poll do indicate the polling period dates, the headline aspects of the poll are the featured numbers. In addition, we have identified at least one poll of 1,000 or so respondents throughout the country with an error rate of around 3%. On its face this is reasonable enough, but to declare an undecided rate of 40% and to not declare whether the respondents interviewed were ‘voters’ suggests a margin of error which is much higher than the one disclosed probably more in keeping with those numbers normally associated with the regional counts for the overall poll.

    Thank You,

    Glen P. Robbins

    Question #1-Do you have ‘absolute confidence’ in your federal government? Yes- (28%); No- (72%); {Undecided- (08%)}

    Question #2-Do you have confidence in Canada’s political future? Yes- (72.5%); No- (27.5%); {Undecided- (18%)}

    Question #3- Are you absolutely certain you will caste your vote in Canada’s general federal election by or on Election Day January 23, 2006? Yes- (56.5%); No- (43.5%); {Undecided- (13%)}

    Question #4- Which federal party do you support right now? NDP- (17.31%); Liberal- (31.39%); Conservative- (31.17%); Bloc- (13.95%); Green- (4.37%); Other- (1.33%); {Undecided- (11%)} *numbers statistically adjusted for population and gender, but not for voter turnout.

    Question #5- Do you agree or disagree with this statement: The prospect of Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party winning a minority government on January 23, 2005 frightens me greatly? Agree- (34%); Disagree- (66%); {Undecided- (14%)}

    Question #6- Over the holidays do you intend to pay for purchases with debit/cash or charge cards? Debit/Cash- (63%); Charge Cards- (27%); Won’t Answer- (10%)

    Age Demographic/(Undecided %)

    · 18-30-(20%) / (09%)
    · 31-40-(21%) / (06%)
    · 41-50-(24%) / (16%)
    · Over 50-(35%) / (15%)

    18-30 31-40 41-50 Over 50
    Liberals 22 27 31 37
    Conservatives 23 32 33 34
    NDP 26 19 15 15
    Bloc 19 15 13 12

    Poll Support by Province/margin of error in brackets:

    BC Alta Sask Man Ont Que NB NS Atl
    Lib 29 21 28 33 39 21 38 36 41
    Cons 36 61 42 38 35 09 35 35 37
    NDP 30 17 29 27 21 09 24 29 21
    Bloc - - - - - 60 - - -

    Ridings with over 40% support:

    Liberal Conservative NDP Bloc
    BC 1 11 3 -
    Alberta 0 27 0 -
    Manitoba 1 4 1 -
    Saskatchewan 1 8 1 -
    Ontario 53 38 5 -
    Quebec 8 0 0 63
    New Brunswick 2 1 0 -
    Nova Scotia 2 2 1 -
    Prince Edward Island 3 1 0 -
    Newfoundland and Labrador 3 1 0 -

    Voter turnout according to ROBBINS poll:

    q Liberals-55.5%
    q Conservatives-60.5%
    q NDP-55%
    q Bloc-62%

    Margins of error (%) on regional basis:

    q BC 1,200 respondents (2.12%)
    q Alta 250 respondents (3.55%)
    q Sask- 125 respondents (4.25%)
    q Man- 100 respondents (4.55%)
    q Ont- 1,700 respondents (1.40%)
    q Quebec- 240 respondents (6.25%)
    q Atlantic- 200 respondents (5.55%)
    q TOTAL: 3,815 interviews of Canadians.

    Commentary- In our previous Mega Poll of Canadians we began a composite profile of their impressions of who they would like to lead them in 2006. We identified that although one third of Canadians would support a Paul Martin Liberal Majority, two-thirds would accept a Stephen Harper Conservative minority government. The outcome of this ROBBINS Mega Poll reveals a similar philosophical ‘electoral desire’ among Canadians. Less than one-third has “absolute confidence” in government. Whether this is directed at the Liberal government, or government generally, it is clear that respondents ‘are not happy with the present situation’ in Canada’s Parliament.

    On the other hand, a stunning 73% of respondents have ‘confidence’ in Canada’s political future. Even if you subtract those respondents who support the governing Liberal party AND who are confident in Canada’s political future, AND those Bloc supporters who are ‘confident’ as well, there remains over 40% of Canadians who are ‘confident’ in Canada’s political future.

    Lastly, two thirds of Canadians disagree with the question posed that the prospect of a Stephen Harper Conservative minority government “frightens them greatly”. If you subtract the Bloc supporters from this outcome, and you subtract the Bloc supporters from the question in the ROBBINS Mega Poll #1 we find that at least one in two Canadians are able to accept either a Stephen Harper minority government or are not ‘frightened greatly’ by Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party.

    Crudely put, at least 45-50% of English Canadians will accept a Stephen Harper minority government outcome from the January 23, 2006 general federal election.
    This contrasts with less than one third of English Canadians who still love Paul Martin’s Liberal Party. The wind of political change from this ‘political meteorologist’ between two MEGA polls suggests that although Liberal support is relatively unchanged the trend downward for that party has. Previously we acknowledged the trend downward from 35% public support was apparent. We now believe the trend downward from 33.5% is apparent. The Conservative Party support remains a trend upward from 31% in public support.

    Recent reports from other pollsters suggesting a 15-20% difference in Ontario between the Liberals and Conservatives are in our opinion examples of ‘artifact polling’ not designed so much to reflect accurate and true public opinion, but to provide a type of ‘political accounting rationale’ to influence advertising dollars for media. For instance to take recent polling numbers by MSM in Ontario at 47% and our own polling numbers in Ontario (which have been 40% or less for over two months now), would impact on national trends by about 3% points which provides the Liberals with 36% rather than 33% a number which ROBBINS finds somewhat more acceptable as a fair and true depiction.

    ROBBINS is reasonably certain of two outcomes after January 23, 2006. The first is that the Liberals will have < 115 seats. The other is that the Conservatives will have at least 110.

    Insight (the ‘Art’ of the Poll) Through this polling period the Liberals confronted American rebukes for American bashing during the federal election and a significant mistake by a senior advisor. Their numbers reflect this. The Liberals have few avenues of communications to gain back these voters. However there are Liberal supporters in the over 50-age category who ‘recognize the fact’ that most of Canada’s population resides on the United States border, yet still believe we should tell them to “go to hell.” The difference between Canada and the U.S. within this category is that young Canadian men did not go to war in the sixties and seventies (Viet Nam), or in the nineties and early 21st Century. The Americans have created a different baby boomer (56-62) than Canada. Baby boomers dominate leadership categories in both countries, however this Canadian federal election features an interesting dynamic, where baby boomers (the establishment) risk losing power to a younger group of leaders.

    (28%) of Canada’s population will support the federal Liberals no matter what. It is unlikely that the party’s worst-case scenario looks anything like Kim Campbell circa 1993. However, respondents are virtually all certain (except more intransigent baby boomers) that something’s broken with our system. Canadians want to take the system in for repair. Conservative leader Stephen Harper addressed this best with his pledge for democratic reforms. Canada’s broken system is characterized through respondent’s comments as “the system”. We don’t know if respondents mean the voting system, the electoral system, the health system, but Canadians think some or all of it is currently broken. The sense from this poll particularly in Alberta and Saskatchewan however is that we can fix it.

    More than two-thirds of ‘statistical net’ respondents are confident in “Canada’s political future”. These respondents are Conservatives, Liberals, NDP and Bloc.

    (94%) of respondents who intend to vote Conservatives have “confidence in Canada’s political future”, while (85%) of respondents who intend to vote Liberal have a similar confidence. In a race that is even nationally, but where the Conservatives have a noticeable lead in English Canada only, coupled with more eager and confident supporters, this ROBBINS poll reservedly has nominal Conservative minority written on it. The number of respondents who are not afraid of Stephen Harper underscores this assertion. The Liberal inclination to attempt to exploit the fear factor again suggests that party’s own internal polling reflects sinking fortunes.

    Many New Democrats are not as”confident” because they wish their leader Jack Layton were the next Prime Minister while others aren’t crazy about either Paul Martin or Stephen Harper forming the next government. The Bloc supporters are somewhat split on the subject of Canada’s future because they are getting set to send the Liberal government a very strong message on January 23, 2006 and they are “feeling it” as the kids say, but similar to the NDP the thought of dealing with Paul Martin or Stephen Harper is not too appetizing to them, or in the alternative the Bloc respondents simply don’t want Canada as they know it to have a political future.

    Conservative leader Stephen Harper is running an impressive campaign. It is steady, well organized and like the famous walls at Winston Churchill’s home through the 1930’s, it is being built brick by brick. One builds a good house on an excellent foundation. Against significant rhetoric on the part of the Liberals, Canadians in this poll are finding the Conservative ‘simple is better’ message the better Christmas pudding.

    Gilles Duceppe and Jack Layton are also doing well. While the media and much coffee shop talk is about scandal, corruption, and Liberal ‘beer and popcorn’ faux pas there is an underlying sense of confidence even among those respondents who profess to have little or none, that change is coming. If all parties other than the federal Liberals are gathering confidence that change is coming than this sense of change relates at least to their own mutual electoral successes. If this confidence in themselves in true, than this means the Conservatives are more likely to win government than the Liberals because the former party is the only main party that can signify change in terms of the ultimate change which is government itself.

    Oddly, (strangely), we believe Stephen Harper is gathering his own sense of ‘mania’. It isn’t anything like Trudeau (how do you top that act), but there is something to it. Frankly, we think Stephen Harper is the new image of what some women would like in a husband. He is Canadian GQ. He is good looking, kind, steady and most important of all reliable. Canadians want reliable.

    Prime Minister Paul Martin is engaging in battle with the U.S., which is not helpful as far as some respondents are concerned. Others, (referenced earlier), like this type of rhetoric but it is unknown if ‘the ether’ of American bashing will sustain the PM through the long winter campaign. The Prime Minister should not have used the Americans as his bully pulpit during a Canadian election. Voters want him to confront the opposition parties who brought him to this point. By confronting the Americans it appears more like Paul Martin is a trouble maker, and accusations surrounding other trouble such evidenced by Gomery seem tailored to Paul Martin’s general demeanor. These respondents know that there is no point in getting into deeper trouble with the United States when there are so many more concerns here at home. For the Prime Minister to keep up this rhetoric afterward makes him appears unable to move on and deal with matters. (Note: Peter Gabriel’s Salisbury Hill). What is a sign of toughness to some Canadians is a sign of weakness to others. Stephen Harper mitigated any gains to the Liberals through these political tactics by commenting on the inappropriateness of the U.S. Ambassador’s involvement.

    It is important to remember that although Canada need not defer to the United States at the latter’s whim, we must forge a realistic relationship with our powerful neighbour and long time ally. This does not necessarily abstract to the vagaries of war which Canadians abhor, but in a world that is changing fast, even those other countries that do not support the Americans per se will at the end of the day listen to them first over Canada. This is the essence of power in real politik and our better role is through engagement of our friends through extensive negotiation. If it were I, I would go down to President Bush’s ranch and put in a 10-hour day with him working hard, and than go throw a football around for a while. At the same time, I would make sure we worked hard to engage the Chinese at every turn. Virtually every meeting in BC relating to mining and other business involves discussion of Chinese markets and the potential therein. The Second World War and the emergence of regimes like Breton Woods told us that we negotiate and influence through our economic diplomacy. Arguing with the U.S. like it is a ‘road hockey game amongst children’ will bear no fruit, and only exacerbate existing problems.

    The trend towards change in the ‘political topography’ in Canada does not move through all age demographics. Younger and middle age respondents are going to vote for change. Those respondents in their mid fifties to early sixties don’t want change to the same extent or at least they remain somewhat resistant to it. Many still like the Liberal Party (at least for now) and they want a tax cut (perhaps to pay off their charge cards). Liberal respondents are not necessarily proud of their party. However Liberal supporters are in no hurry to relinquish control of the federal cheque book to the younger crowd. Older voters prefer Stephen Harper however.

    It is interesting how English Canadians now feel about Quebec. There is no derision, no antagonism, almost a strange surge in kinship with our cousins of ‘distinction’. People speak of what great “party people” French Canadians are. Montreal women are “beautiful”. Quebec is becoming ‘in vogue’ ‘cool’. It has probably always been this way, but attitudes towards Quebec are changing very quickly, as English Canadians look to Ontario as the new source of “blame” for our problems. There is a sense amongst Canadians outside Ontario (and even inside Ontario who blame Ottawa) that we have been used and manipulated into negative and hostile sentiment about Quebec. This ‘political chicanery’ perceived by many Bloc supporters shall end on January 23, 2006 according to the distinctive trends in this definitive poll by ROBBINS.

    Some respondents asked callers “have you ever been to Quebec?” This sentiment is not necessarily over concern that Quebec might want to leave, it is more about how much we don’t want them to, but with a new realization particularly among younger Canadians that we can’t keep denying that Quebec is in fact a ‘distinct society’. (This is a little like trying to force a gay person to be straight). There are a number of reasons for this but my favourite Canadian journalist Chantelle Hebert might better explain this. (No one better articulates an understanding of Quebec culture than she in our opinion (Ms. Hebert is often on CBC)). At a minimum though, English Canadians like Gilles Duceppe. ROBBINS identified this emerging trend in the 2004 election. Younger Canadians are becoming more and more curious about Quebec. Federalism, at least the Liberal way is, is no longer acceptable to Canadians because it has shown itself to be dishonest and disingenuous. English Canadians who have lived in Quebec or gone to school there will tell you “Quebec is an amazing place”. We should celebrate Quebec before we lose her entirely.

    Canadians may not all like Paul Martin, but most of the negative feeling is really about his party. In younger demographic segments I believe age is playing a factor. Although energic and durable, the Prime Minister is clearly older than his colleagues who challenge for leadership. The fact that all three opposition parties collaborated to vote down the government and force this election spoke volumes at the time of the first ROBBINS (King Kong size) Poll. The image of the older Prime Minister against his more youthful competitors is stark and is slowly infiltrating the consciousness of respondents, particularly younger respondents who see the vision of the future of their country in the faces of younger political leaders. This dynamic is underscored well in the Province of Quebec where the provincial PQ has chosen a young gay leader to forge the future of that country. That is some interesting politics.

    Although there is some difficulty in ‘letting Paul Martin go’, despite some of his ‘less than’ political qualities, there is a sense of grittiness and toughness about him that reminds us of what we like about ourselves. When PM Martin first came on the scene in his quest for Prime Minister it was looking like the emergence of a new political prince, but instead every step of the way has been a battle for him, and he has accepted the challenge like a true warrior. Canadians admire him for this. Should he not be re-elected as Prime Minister, and be assured this remains and may feature a close outcome, it will not be because of him specifically, but as a consequence of his party being in office for 12 years, the Gomery scandal, and the egregious treatment of Quebec, which has placed our country in peril, which is completely and unequivocally unacceptable to any reasonable and right-thinking Canadians.

    Canadian people like Americans very much. Not everyone is fond of George W. Bush, but not every Canadian is fond of U.S. foreign policy either. There are a couple of things to consider from Canadians however. Every time we experience the absolute shock and horror of people being kidnapped, or decapitated, or the threat of the same, our attitudes become very similar to American attitudes, and one of the first people we look to, like him or not is someone like George W. Bush.

    Canadians might seem passive and polite but our record in battle has never been questioned. We are tough hombres. However we have become somewhat unrealistic. The Canadian hockey team in 1972 broke the Soviet Unions spirit, long before U.S. President Ronald Reagan knocked down the wall. Whenever our way of life, our comfortable way of life seems threatened, Canadians will ‘quietly’ go with a tough President even if they say the don’t like him. George W. Bush is a tough guy President. Stephen Harper is not a tough guy Prime Minister in waiting. He is a very bright albeit resolute personality. It is most Canadians impression that if he ever were too right wing, he certainly is not portraying any of that now, and the explanation seems to be more that Mr. Harper has matured than he is being disingenuous. Stephen Harper would not make the cut in the Republican Party. He is a conservative democrat. If you aren’t willing to take my word for this, please ask expert Alexander Moens, Simon Fraser PhD Political Scientist and foremost expert on the United States.

    I say this because it is important that if we are going to compare ourselves to the United States, we should understand why we are doing it. If the answer is simply to be different or for political benefit than we are making a mistake in our approach. Canada’s culture is as different to the United States as Quebec culture is to English Canada. This is a good thing, and our friends south of the border recognize this and accept it. We Canadians seem to be having a more difficult time understanding and accepting this.

    There is something under all of this petty hostility and particularly amongst (at least English) Canadians in terms of our relationship with the U.S. Canadians can be very stubborn people. (Much more so than they will let on). However we are not stupid people. We are patient, we let things go on that we should perhaps deal with sooner, but when we have finally had it, that is it, the hammer comes down. Canadians between the ages of 30-50 (particularly women) understand that you cannot continue to fight with your best friend and ally or otherwise have bad relations with him.

    We have bad relations with the U.S. right now, and in this poll Canadians aren’t willing to commit to blaming U.S. President George W. Bush any longer. Iraq has elections during this week of polling, and when any type of democratic event takes place even in the midst of such danger and hostility, it will invariably produce higher popularity with the President, (notwithstanding the liberal press in the U.S. pushing against The Patriot Act and President Bush’s leadership) as the U.S moves toward elections in 2006. Iraq is not a pretty site, (no people want foreigners on their soil). But the prospect of democratic institutions taking hold in all parts of the world has got to be exciting for Iraqi Canadians and for the entire world. Be rest assured at the fast evolving pace of world events, if Canada does not clean up its act quickly, I will wager that Iraq will have a superior democracy to ours within 15 years time. You heard it here first.

    George W. Bush has taken about all of the blame Canadians could muster. The U.S. President is an intelligent man, and according to those who know him, nothing like the lampooned images of him. He is an American Republican and Republicans have a history of emphasizing foreign policy. However it is America’s domestic situation, which should concern us significantly. Their economy impacts on ours dramatically. Canada’s economic engine is on full throttle. We cannot afford to have any lingering differences between us over the next 5-10 years.

    Younger Canadians understand this deeply. All Canadians understand this general federal election is about us, not about George W. Bush. There is no deep-seated anger about softwood lumber or MadCow amongst respondents although there are fundamental and deep misgivings about the Free Trade Agreement. This latter consideration is a priority for our election discussion on the U.S. file. Possession is nine-tenths of the law and right now the Americans have our money. The fact that this 5 billion dollars is our money is supported by NAFTA rulings, a body which the United States fully supported, but now fully ignores, instead depending on World Trade Organization Rulings at a time when these International bodies have dubious credibility in the midst of shifting power paradigms throughout the world. If anyone can get our billions back it is George W. Bush but this isn’t going to happen with a Liberal government in Canada. This isn’t to suggest that the Americans are controlling our election. Events in our country are dictating whatever outcome occurs. There is simply no political will on the part of the Americans to deal with us on this file. I can assure you of one thing, and that is, if a Conservative government is elected in Canada, the softwood deal may be successfully negotiated within 6-9 months.

    Paul Martin may not care about the softwood lumber money, because most of that loss was endured by British Columbian and Quebec, and not in Ontario, the only province in the country where the Liberals still have any threat of strength (other than Atlantic Canada).

    There is a strong sense from respondents that maybe some of these problems have more to do with our politicians lack of respect for our American friends and neighbours (not ours) and if we mend our fences, bluer skies will follow. The Americans despite our reliance on them through import/export have never truly threatened our sovereignty, and have pretty much left us alone. Yes, their corporations have been a little ambitious on our turf, but per capita we own more of their stuff than they do of ours. BC and Alberta’s economies are doing very well, based almost wholly on commodity prices, but Ontario is not doing so well, and there is a sense that if Bay Street is willing to give the Conservative from Calgary the house at Sussex Drive for a while than maybe relationships between the monied west and Ontario can be repaired. Another Liberal government will not make this viable.

    To be better people Canadians need to become less petty. We must become emotionally more significant. The first notion amongst most (at least English) Canadians in this poll is for Canadians to clean up their own backyard, and the second is fix your relationship with the U.S. Ethnic voters like those from Iraq struggle desperately for the type of democracy we enjoy. This isn’t a prompt or message for getting out the vote, but rather a reminder that Canadians are as aware as anyone what is at stake, and a good democracy can be ruined quickly if we are not vigilant.

    This is why this poll suggests to ROBBINS that there is a faint likelihood Canadians will have a new government in Ottawa after January 23, 2006. Canadians aren’t afraid of Stephen Harper. Like a ‘prospective new car buyer’ Canadians are looking Mr. Harper up and down, they are sizing him up, they are kicking his tires, they are asking many questions. The car salesman is working hard to be patient; this is a very trying sale. But like this prospective car buyer, Canadians in this poll have brought their chequebook.

    They are serious about buying!

    Methodology- This is a random telephone survey that according to ROBBINS Sce Research (1998) is a fair and legal depiction of the opinions of 43,873 Canadians from coast to coast. This survey was conducted from the United States and Canada between December 10-16, 2005. This survey has a margin of error of 1.58%, @99% competency. This survey was sponsored by a United States company doing business in Canada, and by NewTrend Optical of Port Coquitlam, BC, and Glen P. Robbins and Associates.

    Approximate time per interview 1.5 minutes. Percentage of potential respondents initially contacted who agree to answer questions promised not to take “more than two minutes” is 72%. Compare with mainstream pollsters declared success of between 10% and 30%. Number of phone numbers dialed to produce (1) contact ‘solicitation’: 3.5. Average number of interviews by caller per hour = “9”. 450 “man hours” to produce data. Aggregation of data, determination of data allocation and commentary to reflect Canadian public opinion=20 hours. Raw cost of data collection $6,762.50. Market Value of Polling Data all inclusive-$50,548.75.

    Glen P. Robbins

    (604) 942-3757

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:42 PM  

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