A Modest Proposal to Ban Summer Polls

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I’ve come up with a modest proposal to make our wonderful Canadian summers a bit more wonderful.

My idea is this: why don’t we put a total moratorium on the publication of any and all political opinion polls during the entire months of July and August?

In other words, during the whole summer, there’d no political polls published in any newspaper or broadcast on any TV news program or plastered on any website.

To my mind, such a ban would allow Canadians, from coast to coast, the opportunity to have a more restful and peaceful summer, free from the distraction of annoying polling pontificating, that inevitably comes in the wake of published polls.

Imagine it if you can – a summer without all the boring and pointless media speculation as to which political party was ahead, which political party was behind and which political party had momentum.

Sounds nice, right?

And it’s not as if we’d miss anything.

I mean, during the hazy, crazy, lazy days of summer, does anybody really want to know if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s “net favorables” are up or down; or does anybody really care if public attitudes on the national debt are shifting or is anybody really curious as to whether Canadians “agree”, or “strongly agree”, or “disagree” or “strongly disagree” with Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer’s take on Canada’s Food Guide?

I think not.

And yes, I know my proposal for a summer-time polling ban will meet with stiff resistance, especially from members of the political media, who just love to analyse, dissect and otherwise interpret the latest polling numbers.

Indeed, I strongly suspect that, if denied a weekly fix of Ipsos-Reid, or Ekos or Nanos, your typical political journalist or commentator would suffer from an extreme case of withdrawal.

By the way, I’ve always found the media’s obsession with polling numbers to be a bit odd, since, even at the best of times, public domain political polls don’t necessarily reflect actual voter attitudes.

And in the summer time public-domain polling accuracy is even more suspect.

For one thing, Canadians, who are never that much focussed on politics, are even less focussed on politics in the summer; who wants to think about politics when they’re at the cottage, or frolicking on the beach, or flipping burgers on the barbecue?

Plus, people are harder for pollsters to reach during the summer months, which can sometimes skew results.

This might explain, for instance, why in the summer of 2016 many polls showed then Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton crushing her Republican opponent, Donald Trump.

As matter of fact, one poll published in July 2016, showed Clinton had a whopping 13 per cent lead.

It was only during the autumn months that polls started showing a tightening of the race.

Or consider that here in Canada, polls came out in the summer of 2015 indicating that NDP leader Thomas Mulcair was the frontrunner and that Liberal leader Justin Trudeau was trailing the pack in third place.

Of course, once the election got called and people became more focussed on politics, those numbers changed quickly.

So my point is, public polls commissioned in the dog days of summer, should be take with a massive grain of salt.

Yet that won’t stop the media from using them to spin their narratives.

Mind you, Canada’s political parties also make use of public polls in the summer months preceding a federal election.

If a party is ahead in the polls, it can whip up its base by saying, “Hey, we’re close to winning this thing, send us money so we can seal the deal,” or if it’s behind in the polls it can say, “Hey, the other side is winning, stop being complacent, send us money so we can catch up.”

This is why my plan to ban polls in the summer won’t materialize, which is too bad, because I bet the people would support it.

Maybe I should commission a poll this month to find out?

Photo Credit: CBC News

More from Gerry Nicholls.     @GerryNic

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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