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So, how bad might it be for the Grits?

If you are a Liberal and you’re watching the results roll in on the night of May 2, it might be very, very bad.

Or not.

Or just a little bad.

But if you are a non-partisan progressive, it may be good.

Or very, very good.

Or just OK.

Much of how this game of thrones plays out hinges on turnout – especially in Ontario, where the Liberal vote has more or less done a deep six, but the Dippers have yet to pick up the slack. Québec is also a wildcard. Are the former Bloc supporters really giving up on Duceppe? Québec voters have proven to be volatile in the past – and they may once more prove themselves so.

I’m not at all going to get into WHY this happened; that can wait until later. But the polls are consistently showing that there has been a steady shift to the Blue team and the Orange side. And if the Dipper support in Ontario, which is currently stagnant, takes an upswing like elsewhere in Canada, the Grits had better stock up on some good scotch on May 2 and for the next 4 years… cuz there be bad times comin’ .

It will be interesting to see the Nanos poll tomorrow morning.



Blog of the Week –

First, before getting to the regularly scheduled Blog of the Week post, can someone please tell me that this is indeed an early April Fool’s prank!??? This cannot be serious, can it? Who the hell could conceive of spending $100 million to commemorate a 200 year old war???

OK.  BP dropping. All is good. Serenity now…


You might have noticed by now that these BotW posts focus on blogs that are more or less aligned along a “theme”. Food and wine are two of my fave things, but both pale in comparison to my obsession (yup, if its not one, it’s close) with politics and more specifically with political data.

So it stands to reason that one of these BotW scribbles would sooner or later look at a political blog. And one that is not simply a series of partisan rants.

ThreeHundredEight is such a beast. The authors do a bang-up job in providing the reader with a balanced analysis of the latest polling numbers – not by focusing on one poll alone, but my looking at trends in the data over time and using a weighted average of all of the major polls. As a data geek, I can, from a professional perspective, appreciate the focus on trends and on the need to examine a weighted aggregate of the polling results.

Interpreting poll results is nasty business most of the time, but ThreeHundredEight ably navigates the briny waters admirably and uses methodologically robust tools.

Check out this text from the site’s Friday posts which talks about two polls that were released the day prior.

Yesterday, we were treated to two new polls, one from Angus-Reid and the other from EKOS Research. They told somewhat different stories, as Angus-Reid pegs the gap between the Conservatives and Liberals at 16 points, while EKOS has it at around seven.

How do we reconcile these two polls? We don’t! (emphasis mine)

I’m not going to compare the two polls as they aren’t comparable. Angus-Reid uses an online panel, while EKOS uses a telephone system. Angus-Reid polled on two days (March 8 and 9), while EKOS polled on nine days (February 24 to March 8, excluding weekends). Finally, Angus-Reid polled 1,021 people, while EKOS polled 2,892 people. The two polls aren’t at all the same.

But what the two polls do have in common is that neither shows a significant shift in support for any of the parties since the last time these pollsters were in the field.

Don’t compare the two! Not. Ever. THIS is why I like this site – no dancing around similarities in modes, MoEs or sample sizes. Just cut to the quick and say that only an utter fool would look at these two polls side by side!

YES! A victory for robust statistics! Woo-hoo!

OK, Trashy – chillllll…..

Another thing that I like about the blog is the effective use of charts as explanatory tools. I am a visual learner and can grasp a message presented visually much faster and clearer than when written down.  ThreeHundredEight takes the polling numbers – in this example, from the EKOS poll – and presents them like this to show the regional breakouts:

Clear and easy to understand.

Then, the results of recent polls are aggregated to show regional breakouts based on the aggregated and weighted results of the most recent numbers, thusly:

Then they go one step further and extrapolates these results to come up with estimates of how these polling numbers translate into seats on a regional basis.

Cool, eh?

Well, for me it is!

Anyhow, be you a data geek, a political geek or just like pretty charts with lots of colours, ThreeHundredEight should be a site that you plug into your RSS feed!



Death penalty poll – is this for real?

The Sun media group is all over a poll released today by Abacus Data that 2/3 of we meek and mild Canucks are in favour of killing people to show that killing people is wrong. It is is also noted, however, that less than half (41%) want it formally reinstated.

Putting aside the clear statement of ambivalence expressed by the respondents to the poll – 66% of Canadians support the death penalty “in certain circumstances,” but only 41% want it brought back it back a punishment for murder – I have a few other issues with these numbers.

First, it was a poll of randomly selected adults from an online panel of over 400,000. Web-based polls have an inherent bias that should be acknowledge in any analyses of the results.

I looked at a similar question that was asked by EKOS in March 2010 (sample size of 2,302, phone survey), and the results were more closely aligned with those 40-odd percent who indicated in the Abacus poll that they would want it brought back in legislation.

Forty-six per cent do not support the reintroduction of capital punishment while 40 per cent do. Another 14 per cent said they had no opinion.

Data from 2000 suggests that opinions on this issue have remained relatively unchanged in 10 years. In June of 2000, 43 per cent disagreed with capital punishment while 44 per cent agreed with it.

Those who support the reintroduction of capital punishment tend to be Conservative supporters (53 per cent), residents of Alberta (48 per cent), men (43 per cent), seniors (45 per cent), high school grads (48 per cent) and college grads (46 per cent).

Which begs another question…

Second, where is the regional breakdown in the Abacus poll? There isn’t one. And why is that? Because the sample size is not large enough. A sample of 1,100 will yield you good results at the national level but won’t get you anything provincially. And THAT is where the interesting results would be seen.

For example, will anyone dispute that the likelihood of someone in Alberta supporting the death penalty is greater than someone in, say, Ontario. No, of course not. And where is the CPC base?

Now, I’m not throwing the Abacus polling results out the window. All I am saying is that with polls such as these, one should be very careful about drawing conclusions. The CPC would love everyone to believe that indeed most Canadians are behind Harper after he muses on being “personally” in favour of the death penalty. While in fact, these numbers may be more a case of strong regional bias coupled with the bias inherent in a web-based panel.

Just sayin’…

Of course, a Harperite who reads this will accuse me of liberal bias or some such nonsense… go ahead… throw it at me…

And in case you haven’t noticed, I am. for the record, not in favour of the death penalty.


The trend toward pro-Harpo comments is worrying this little lefty…

Lately, I have noticed a troubling trend in the comments on stories that cover political issues on the CBC website.

Take today’s article, for instance on how the ReformCons have built a nearly 10 point lead over the Grits according to the latest (and evil – according to the Cons) EKOS poll.

Rightly or wrongly, there has always been a perception that CBC readers were a little or a lot to the left on the political spectrum. Indeed, this is exactly what the DeceptiCons propaganda machine has been churning out in the wake of that whole Frank Graves (non) controversy.

So, I have gotten used to seeing commentators leaning to the left – condemning Harpy for this or that… and these types of anti-government comments have been given the “thumbs-up” by those who bother to register their agreement or dislike of that particular comment…but this is changing.

More and more I have been noticing that the pro-Con thumbs up are outnumbering the thumbs-down.

Take this for instance:

The widening gap between Conservative and Liberal support shown in this graph is a direct result of Canadians realizing one party actually has a direction and a plan, and the other is a complete mess.

So whether you agree with the Conservatives or not, I’d rather vote for a right wing Conservative, or a left wing NDP / Green party that actually has a purpose of one sort or another, than a flip-flopping middleman joke party that borrows ideas from the left and right and calls them their own.

Sitting on the fence and being useless – the Liberal Party of Canada

Or this:
I see many disgruntled Liberals on this board who rather than face the fact that they made a mistake will try everything in their power to discredit others who have a realistic vision for Canada.

The party in power has done a very good job in pulling the country out of the recent slump much to the displeasure of the Liberals who would sooner see the country sink under their leadership than to support a government that has done very well on the world wide economic level.

193 agree and 121 disagree.
The same is happening over at the G&M, for instance, take this anti-robot comment:
Time for Canadians to awaken to the Theo-Con INCOMPETENTS at our door…TIME TO SINK OR SWIM!!…the sooner we can go to the polls to rid ourselves of our present SAY ANYTHING DO NOTHING CON GOVERNMENT the better…ELECTION NOW!!…Canada and Canadians can no longer afford their INCOMPETENCE on every file,every issue…their(CON)attack on rights and agencies built up over the 50 years…


This is at 358 against and 223 for…
The Grits better start looking at what is going wrong here. The Harperites have been flopping around from mini-scandal to mini-scandal. Abortion rights are back in the news. There are questions about the Cons’ connections to right-wingnut evangelicals.. and STILL Iggy cannot make any hay?
Scary news for we on the left… Why won’t the Libs and Dippers face reality and see that we are in for many, many years of right-wing, dogmatic rule if they don’t put their differences aside and unite under one banner???!!!


Frank Graves spoke as he should – honestly!

The latest EKOS poll results are out and surprise, surprise, the ReformCons are hovering around the 32% range…

Sigh. Watching the movement in the latest polls is becoming about as predictable as a Mike Weir Saturday melt-down…

But wait! There is something interesting coming out of EKOS! Franks Graves – President of EKOS research – is apologising for some remarks he made to G&M columnist Lawrence Martin on what advice he would have for the Grits in their ongoing (and hopelessly slow) attempt to overtake the Harperites.

In case you missed it, this is what he said:

In his advice, Mr. Graves could hardly have been more blunt. “I told them that they should invoke a culture war. Cosmopolitanism versus parochialism, secularism versus moralism, Obama versus Palin, tolerance versus racism and homophobia, democracy versus autocracy. If the cranky old men in Alberta don’t like it, too bad. Go south and vote for Palin.”

He apologized (though somewhat lamely) by saying :

[Ottawa – April 23, 2010] – In the course of an interview with the Globe and Mail columnist, Lawrence Martin, this week, I made some suggestions for a strategic course that presented itself to the federal Liberal Party.
My intention was to foment debate. However, I used incendiary language that had not been carefully enough considered. I recognize now that my stark language was understandably offensive to some Canadians.
In that light, I wish to retract my remarks and unreservedly apologize for making them.

True. In his position it is extremely important to appear unbiased – bias can cast aspersions about the neutrality and validity of the data that his firm collects. But general advice from a pollster is hardly new or rare. One often sees folks like Nick Nanos, Allan Gregg or Michael Adams on line or on TV or radio opining on what the Grits/CPC/NDP should do to better their fortunes. Lawrence Martin notes this as well.

No, it wasn’t the fact that advice was given, rather:

  1. The words used in Graves’ opinion were stark and honest.
  2. By being the CBC pollster, Mr. Graves has let himself vulnerable to screams of liberal media-bias.

On the first point, well, duh! Of course the best way to build support for the centre-leftward side of the spectrum is to further widen the nasty schism that exists between the right and the left in this country. And I agree with that. If the sole goal is to gain political ground then exposing the difference – be they cosmopolitanism versus parochialism, secularism versus moralism, Obama versus Palin, tolerance versus racism and homophobia, democracy versus autocracy will do the trick. These are real differences between rural and urban and east and west and taking a stand on one side of the line is a way to cement what you stand for. The Harperites sure havn’t had a problem doing so and who cares if you alienate a few yahoos in tar sand land, right?

While I agree this is an approach that may be used to pump up the numbers, I am worried that the bitterness and anger that would result in such an active pursuit of a culture “war” would forever harm the unity of this country.

But that does seem to be the direction in which we are headed.

The other issue is that of perceived media bias. Here, I think the Cons are blowing out their air holes! Of COURSE there is bias! The Star is biased toward the Grits, the Post toward the Cons, CanWest is a Harperite trumpet.. etc. And as Simpson said:

The subject of media bias is a complex one in Canada because of the political culture. Normally a journalist is considered neutral or objective if he or she is somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, reflecting neither the left- nor right-wing point of view.

But in Canada, the big mushy middle is the home of the Liberal Party, which has sought to locate itself in the mainstream and has profited over time from doing so. Therein lies the conundrum. If you’re a centrist, you can well be accused of having a Liberal bias.

In other words, it’s inescapable. You’re biased if you’re on the left, right or middle. In other words, everyone is biased; you, me, CBC, CTV; you, me and Mr. Graves and Stompin’ Tom Connors and the polar bears of Frobisher Bay.

So gimme a break Harperites and go back to your power breakfasts…


Now for a community moment…

A colleague of mine who is an avid cyclist, asked me to pass along the following request. While I am not a cyclist, it pains me to think that Ottawa dentists might be profiting because of poorly maintained bike paths!

Hi folks, Can folks send a quick note to the NCC requesting they begin work rehabilitating the bicycle path between Andrew Hayden Park and Britannia Beach? This section of path is so bad it will knock your fillings loose! Maybe then the time frame for fixing the path will be less than “several years” as I was told. Email address: Pass this on to others who you think would like to help out! Thanks!