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Pair in poll deadlock

In Barrie
Oct 18th, 2010

Two candidates for Barrie’s next mayor are ahead of the pack, says a recent — but already controversial — election poll.
Commissioned by Jeff Lehman, the survey says Lehman and Joe Tascona each have the support of roughly a quarter of polled voters — followed by Rob Hamilton and Mike Ramsay.
Dave Aspden, the current mayor, is a distant fifth. Candidates Harry Ahmed, Carl Hauck and Darren Roskam were not specifically part of the survey, which was done by Pollstra Research.
The question was ‘If an election were (sic) held today, how would you vote for the position of mayor?’
Election day is Oct. 25.
Quitto Maggi, Lehman’s campaign manager, said the results show a deadlock at the top.
“It’s a statistical tie,” he said of support for Tascona and Lehman.
But Barry Woods, political science professor at Georgian College’s Barrie campus, says these poll results should be taken with a sizeable grain of salt.
“I’d be leery about all that stuff,” he said of the survey numbers. “It’s not done by a third-party organization. Lehman has paid for this.
“If it was your newspaper or another media (which had paid for the poll). But if it’s not done that way, it’s always suspect.”
Josh Justice, of Pollstra, was not made available to The Barrie Examiner to answer questions about the poll.
Hamilton’s campaign team calls such surveys ‘unscientific robo-polls’, because they are done by asking respondents to make choices on a telephone key pad. These polls can be used in an unethical manner to sway public opinion, say Hamilton’s camp.
But Maggi says other candidates for Barrie mayor are also polling the public — Lehman is just the only one releasing results.
“Here’s our data. Show us your data,” he said to the poll’s detractors. “If you doubt it (the poll results), show me better numbers. Don’t doubt the methodology.
“I recognize the relative merits and shortcomings of the automated polls, yet I believe they are the most scientific that are publicly available. Although I am aware of numerous other polls that have been conducted, we have been the only ones to release any information in an open and transparent manner. I would welcome any other polls,” Maggi said.
This poll was done Oct. 13 from approximately 6 to 9 p.m., by randomly calling people on Barrie’s 2010 voters list of 84,145 electors. Pollstra and Maggi were not able to supply information on how many people were contacted for the poll, just how many responded. Because of this, the survey can be considered to be not based on recognized statistical methods.
There were 2,140 responses, who were offered seven choices on their telephone keypad.
The choices were in alphabetical order — for Aspden press #1, for Hamilton press #2, for Lehman press #3, for Ramsay press #4, for Tascona press #5, for other (candidates — Ahmed, Hauck or Roskam) press #6 or for undecided press #7.
Pollstra says the poll has a margin for error of 2.9 percentage points, 19 out of 20 times.
But Woods said even reporting the results of a poll done this way “is a bit of a mine field” and it’s worth noting that people don’t like telephone surveys at home.
It’s who is footing the bill, however, that looms largest in his mind.
“When someone is paying for it, you get scared — especially if it’s the second time,” Woods said.
An Oct. 3 survey, again by Pollstra Research and paid for by Lehman, asked 1,128 potential Barrie voters who they prefer as the next mayor.
Tascona led the pack with a 34% approval rating, followed by Lehman at 23.9%, Ramsay at 18.1%, Hamilton at 16.6% and Aspden at 7.4%. And 27.4% of those asked were undecided.
Ahmed, Hauck and Roskam were specifically not part of this survey either.
Ramsay questioned the Oct. 3 poll, saying he had constituents tell him he was not a choice in the telephone survey. Both Justice and Lehman’s campaign team denied Ramsay’s statements and said he was included.
Pollstra bills itself as a small, grassroots polling and research firm which rarely releases polls publicly, and is modelled after American polling companies.


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