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Inside Politics - The Politics of Polls

The Politics of PollsOver the past week several people approached me seeking my comments on the recently published polls conducted by the team at Richards and Associates, producers of the Mind of the Nation surveys.

Needless to say, there were universal disagreements with the findings, with many even questioning the professionalism of the producers of the poll. One quite outspoken gentleman did not hide his disdain for the polls when he said to me:

“It’s one of two things. It’s either that the producers wanted something from the government, or the government is using the poll results to achieve something,” he said unapologetically.



The poll results came out at a time when I believed I had an overdose of polls coming out of the elections in the United States. I came to the realization that polling in the United States is BIG MONEY, and depending on which side of the fence you sit, people were manipulating poll numbers to suit their political causes.

I therefore took a decision to wean myself off the constant barrage of poll results that have replaced traditional electoral coverage in the United States. I didn’t mind the discussions, but there were simply too many references to polls, as the polls themselves became ‘news’ instead of discussions on the differences in policies of the candidates. For me, enough is enough. I will await the outcome of the elections like everyone else on Tuesday night.

Now back to the Mind of the Nation poll results. I have always been suspicious of the findings of the Mind of the Nation polls, a point I made clear back in 2004, when I hosted Big Issues on Observer Radio. I pointed out to Dr David Dorsett at the time that I felt the reliance solely on telephone landlines must skew the results. That was over eight years ago.

The cell phone density in Antigua & Barbuda has dramatically increased over that time. It is fair to say that this country has arguably one of the highest cell phone densities of any Caribbean territory. At the same time, there has been a less dramatic but steady decline in the number of landlines, particularly for private use. (APUA Telephones will confirm this fact.)

It therefore means that any survey to gauge the opinion of citizens/residents in the country, but which ignores the large percentage of people who communicate only with cell phones, cannot give a true reflection of how people in the country feel on a particular issue.

If we are to go beyond the numbers, it showed that support for the United Progressive Party stands at just over 34 percent, while that for the Antigua Labour Party is a little more than 24 percent. Now looking at the results of the last general elections, the UPP amassed about 52 percent of the votes cast with the ALP about 48 percent.

Using those numbers as the benchmark and taking into account a statement made by Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer earlier this year that his party has lost ‘some’ support the question is: has the UPP lost roughly 20 percent of its support in the past three and a half years? Correspondingly, has the ALP lost close to 25 percent of its support? Nobody can convince me that any of the two scenarios is true.

Yes, the UPP has lost support, but in this deeply divided country, I am of the view that its base is still rock solid. In the politics of Antigua & Barbuda many people vote party, not issues or even candidates. Any opposition politician who harbours the view that the UPP has lost 20 percent of its support and therefore the party will be an easy walkover at the next general elections is banking on ‘fool’s gold’. Besides, the anticipated gerrymandering of the electoral boundaries will make the UPP a formidable foe in the next general elections.

On the other hand, with the House of Labour preoccupied with whether to select a new leader or retain its aging leader, some may view this diversion as signifying a weakened ALP. Truth be told, what is happening today is child’s play when compared with what the party endured in the 1980’s when Lester Bird led his Gang of Eight in that infamous clash with his father, the late V.C. Bird Sr.

The ALP is a robust and resilient organization. It endured the Gang of Eight and thrived. It will overcome this latest tussle over the leadership. Anyone who believes that the ALP would not quickly unite to contest even a snap election only has to ask Lester Bird or the spirit of the late Reuben Harris just how quickly they were able to ‘bury the hatchet’ in the interest of the party.

What’s happening in the ALP today is no different from what happened in the UPP back in 2002 when Harold Lovell challenged Baldwin Spencer for party leader. People would remember Lovell famously referred to Spencer as a ‘tissue paper’ leader. Yet the UPP is the government today.



The point is that both parties have had their share of struggles over the issue of leadership. My view is that political organisations are no different from other institutions in society. There will always be men and women with ambition and there’s nothing wrong if members of political parties put true democracy within the party to a test by having regular competitions for leader within the framework of the rules and regulations of the party.

Having said that, a survey that combines both telephone calls (landlines and cell) with face to face interviews is perhaps the most reliable in this society where people are still suspicious about people calling and asking where they stand politically. Sometimes respondents give the answers they believe the interviewer is seeking. A word to the wise is sufficient!

Before I end this piece, I wish to return to the discussions on polls in the United States and invite readers to a site:

www.fivethirtyeight.com, where Nate Silver has created much stir with his predictions of the U.S Presidential Elections based on his polling of the polls. He has appeared on several television programmes over the past week, and I have found his conclusions to be most interesting.

I am sure that readers such as Skyewill and Tenman (two of my favourite bloggers) would enjoy the read.

Selah!

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14 Comments In This Article   

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@ Skyewill & Antigua Bill

#14 Morris » 2012-11-05 22:43

As a veteran, after 25 years of service, I can tell you that this is definitely the best I've ever seen regarding benefits and opportunities for veterans. Increased GI Bill benefits that is transferable to dependents, free education for vets and their families in many states, debt restructuring, easy access to micro loans for entrepreneurs, a more efficient health care system with retroactive benefits for Vietnam era vets and their families, and vocational rehab/retraining through partnerships with many Fortune 500 companies for vets as they reintegrate into society are just a few of the many benefits we all enjoy as veterans. I think I will stop there for now. However, I am confident that many of those would disappear under a Romney administration.
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Skyewill

#13 Antigua Bill » 2012-11-05 21:00

The first thing Reagan did when he took office was to cut Veteran benefits. He is the one who instituted the copay system. He even stopped reinbursement of carfare. Today you have to be 50% or more service connected to get it. Mc Cain in the past wanted to privatize the VA. The Republicans want to make it into a voucher system. What Obama and Shinseki has done for veterans will not be duplicated in our life. Veterans knows well who their friends are. There was a VASH program back in the 70s for Viet Nam Vets but it took a President who never served to recognize the needs of veteran in the millinium.
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Antigua Bill

@ ALP

#12 The Prophet » 2012-11-05 20:00

Lester leads Baldwin wins! Simple math! Robin and Maulwyn both know that , that's why they challenged him to remove him!

Lester will go and lose on the 25th of November! Neither Sean, Vere 3rd, Jimmy, Marshall or Muff can change that fact!
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The Prophet

@ tenman

#11 skyewill » 2012-11-05 19:39

Colin Powell, Morris and me what other top b** you want? Tp b** has always been Republican. They get paid so much that the Non coms that it's a joke. Us veterans who use and need the VA services know how much the system have improved with Obama. Romney is a liar. That is not what America want is it?
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@ tenman

#10 Morris » 2012-11-05 18:20

Don't be misguided because those generals endorse Romney. The military tends to benefit more under republican administrations. That's all.
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RE: Inside Politics - The Politics of Polls

#9 HC » 2012-11-05 16:01

This is not about Lester& Gaston,this is about ALP& UPP.What the people dont want is the Upp,not another 5yrs of this bull,Social security till na get pay all now so,Na even try this diversion tactic,not about Lester man,about the upp that thief the last elections and karn win another.only a real A----- would vote for this waste of precious time again.
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HC

It comes down to money-and-influence!

#8 Dig It » 2012-11-05 13:37

In my humble opinion, I don't think a lot of people in this country "pay attention" to the polls, in determine where they put their "voting-finger" because "money-and-influence " can change the "hearts-and-minds" of many "electorates," as we get closer to the general elections! What was said "yesterday" or even "months-ago" tend to be different "today" or even on election-day. And, the "psycopants" will make sure that their candidates or party put their "interests" over the country. They can never be any "change" in the system, if many of us are settled-in-our- ways! For those of us that "truly" want to see "change" whether in our "political parties" or in "good governance," it is an "uphill-battle."
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Dig It

skyewill- top military b**

#7 tenman » 2012-11-05 12:54

skyewill I hear ya. However where VETS are concerned, how would you explain the nearly 500 generals and admirals throwing their support behind Romney?


Quote:
Five hundred retired generals and admirals are running an ad in Monday's editions of The Washington Times calling on the country to elect Republican Mitt Romney on Tuesday.
In plain terms the officers, who paid for the ad themselves, said they support Mr. Romney: "We, the undersigned, proudly support Governor Mitt Romney as our nation's next president and commander-in-chief.".. The retired admirals and generals said they decided to take this public stand to try to head off "having to live through four more years of what has been experienced since January 20th, 2009. www.washingtontimes.com/blog/inside-politics/2012/nov/4/retired-top-military-b**-push-romney/
..
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tenman

Up in da VIP

#6 skyewill » 2012-11-05 11:19

I don't need a poll to tell me who is going to win in the US's race for President. I shook the hand of the president yesterday. Then I felt a big hand on my shoulder and a voice of a Secret Service Agent saying, 'back up" I have been to concerts and football and NBA games and the only thing I can remember being bigger was the Million Man March. To get Obama upfront and personal, you know he is real and the PEOPLE are all he is about. Come Wednesday morning, America is going to become the UNITED STATES and set in motion the resolve of a people who never quit. I believe we are headed for some really good times. Lots of Antiguans and other Caribbean people work as staff and volunteers for Organizing for America. Imagining loving the president of your country? One girl next to me after he shook her hand started screaming hysterically. People telling stories of how his presidency affected their lives. As a veteran from the Regan error, I can’t remember the VA being better for us veterans any other time before Obama. I don’t need a poll.
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skyewill

Everton on the ball

#5 tenman » 2012-11-05 11:16

I share the writers notions about the mind of the nation poll. Perhaps because we are such small places, the polls tend to be skewed. Persons simply say what they feel the interviewer wants to hear. We also need to remember that the MOF poll is not really about who will win the election. Its tries to gauge what all persons (voters and non voters who have a land line and are home in the evening) feel.

Where the Us elections are concerned, I just can't help but remember Ohio in Bush V Kerry. Some of the major pollsters CNN/USAT/Gallup | 10/28-31 had Kerry up by 4 pts. Survey USA| 10/23-10/25 had Kerry up by 3, ARG | 10/23-10/25 had Kerry up by 2 and the LA times had Kerry up by 6 (clearly above a margin of error --not stated-- of 4%). Bush won by 2.1%. The lesson I have observed when it comes to states like Ohio is they are hard to poll. I suspect Romney will win when you make adjustments for the Romney bias in the polls

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tenman

@ E. Barnes

#4 2 Cent » 2012-11-05 10:50

Barnes, the changing of constitutency boundaries will not yeild much. Why? Because of the shifting persasion of voters over time. What was once a UPP stronghold in 2004/09 could become up for grabs especially if national mood shifts. Always remember that no party can win on diehards alone. Swing voters vote their bread and pocket book interests. According to the sample polled the results maybe correct. But your point that the sample is not a good representative piece of the national pie is quite correct. If the ALP change leader, the UPP will be defeated. If Lester remains its too close to call. I predict that the UPP's chances of losing is far greater than the ALP chances of winning.
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2 Cent

RE: Inside Politics - The Politics of Polls

#3 Ian Best » 2012-11-05 09:06

This poll was taken in July when there was no contest. This was after the famous no confidence vote but before the OECS Assembly. The people don't want Lester.
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Ian Best

Forest for the trees

#2 PLM » 2012-11-05 08:08

There is absolutely no comparison between the UPP and ALP. Unlike Lovell, does anyone in Antigua really see Lester “nuff an’ edge up” Bird falling in line behind Gaston or retiring quietly into the sunset after he loses the leadership contest? Nuttin tal go so!!!
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PLM

Polling! Probabilities At A Specific Point Of Time & Space!

#1 John French II » 2012-11-05 06:20

Notes from A Native Son Of The Rock! In Benchmarking Best Practices over Time & Space, a Priority Question is likey to present itself. What are the Trendlines? Friends, as this comment's Subject Title states Probabilities which Trendlines may provide Possible Outcome. So you will be dealing with Proabilities Trending to Possibilities.
In Response to Sir Ron's: Making The Judgement On Obama; This mere voice in the wilderness provided comments in Five Thirty Eight Forecast urging the US bretheren/sisteren who will exercise their political franchise to Stay current daily, weekly or monthly with Nate Silver's Political Forecast: Five Thirty Eight - Nate Silver's Political Calculus 2012-07-25 01:52 fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/
To those who enjoy a good noisy political debate on forecasting driven by Huge Private Money, you are being encouraged to Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is by Visiting Intrade which is where the Titans of Business go: www.intrade.com/v4/misc/scoreboard/
fnpsr, thanks for your response especially your being able to get rid of the emotions from the discussions.
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John French II

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