Why the BC Election Polls were so wrong!

Written by Harold McNeill on May 18th, 2013. Posted in Tim Hortons Morning Posts


But then again, one man got it right…

Leading up to the recent BC election I was reading a book by Nate Silver, “The Signal and the Noise Why so many predictions fail – but some don’t. The book provides an excellent outline on a variety of prediction issues.  After reading a good portion of the book and then seeing how badly the mainstream pollsters failed, it made wonder if they had obtained their results using outmoded methods. CEOs of the polling companies, when interviewed on TV, dodged and weaved as they tried to explain the inexplicable results. It seems their margin of error was something in the order of (+) or (-) 100%, 20 times out of 20.

Dimitri PantazopoulosFollowing the election I continued the book, then happened upon an article posted on the CBC BC News  web site about one pollster, Dimitri Pantazopoulos, who got it (the BC election) almost bang on. Working behind the scenes for the Liberal Party, he confidently projected a Liberal win of at least 48 seats. An outline of his work was covered in a number of other media reports.

Mr.Pantazopoulos had been hired early on in the election to give the Liberals a realistic assessment of their chances as they were not thrilled (an understatement) with the mainstream polls whose results (predicting an NDP landslide) seemed to fly in the face of what they were hearing on the ground. Pantazopoulos’s information, which provided a much different story, was shared only among party insiders and candidates involved in close contests (where most of the polling took place).

Two weeks out from election day, the party machine kicked into overdrive and drove hard to the finish line. This included several hard hitting ads targeting Dix and the NDP party platform. 

Within the Liberal party, Clarke and her candidates were told to focus upon key issues that Pantazopoulos said were of greatest interest to mainstream voters, particularly right leaning, but on the fence Liberal voters. Meanwhile, two weeks out the NDP seemed to be coasting along, perhaps confident in the correctness of the mainstram polls.  The outcome, as they say, is history. 

From my reading of the Silver’s book (not yet finished), it appears Mr. Pantazopoulos has simply shed himself of many erroneous assumptions used in making predictions (e.g. poor sample choice, method, etc.). On the other hand, the mainstream pollsters, based on recent results, seemed to have clung to methods of collecting and analyzing data that are entirely out of date. It seems they will need to change their methods or go our of business.

While the mistakes made by the pollsters in the BC and Alberta elections did not cause anyone to be hurt (other than the feelings of NDP and Wild Rose supporters), there are many instances where making inaccurate predictions could be life threatening,

Examples in the book revolve around health care (e.g. flu epidemics, mammograms, etc.), weather weather forecasting (tornadoes, hurricanes, etc.) among other life threatening matters. The author also covers a variety of general interests including gambling, chess, sport, stock markets, etc., that do not hold the same life threatening outcomes if the predictions go sideways. 

I reccomend reading the book if you have a chance as you may gain some insights that will cause you to take a second look at how you make important (even unimportant) decisions in your life. I bet the NDP in BC and Wild Rose in Alberta, learned some important lessons about managing their campaigns.  For my part I will encourage my NDP associates to pay heed, but as for the Wild Rose, I prefer they be kept in the dark (ages) where they may feel somewhat more comfortable and for the rest of us, safetly out of power.

Harold

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Comments

  • Harold McNeill

    February 28, 2022 |

    Hi Robert, I do remember some of those folks from my early years in Cold Lake (Hazel was my aunt and our family spent many fond times with Uncle Melvin, Aunt Hazel and Family. I knew Lawrence and Adrian. Having read a half dozen accounts it is clear their were many false narratives and, perhaps, a few truths along the way. I tried my best to provide an even account from what I read. Cheers, Harold. (email: Harold@mcneillifestories.com)

  • Robert Martineau

    February 25, 2022 |

    Its been a long time since any post here, but its worth a shot. My Grandfather was Hazel Wheelers brother Lawrence, and son to Maggie and Adrien. Maggie Martineau (nee Delaney) is my great grandmother. The books and articles to date are based on the white mans viewpoint and the real story as passed down by the Elders in my family is much more nefarious. Some of the white men were providing food for the Indians in exchange for sexual favors performed by the Squaws. Maggie was the product of one of those encounters. Although I am extremely proud of my family and family name, I am ashamed about this part of it.

  • Julue

    January 28, 2022 |

    Good morning Harold!
    Gosh darn it, you are such a good writer. I hope you have been writing a book about your life. It could be turned into a movie.
    Thanks for this edition to your blog.
    I pray that Canadians will keep their cool this weekend and next week in Ottawa. How do you see our PM handling it? He has to do something and quick!
    Xo Julie

  • Herb Craig

    December 14, 2021 |

    As always awesome job Harold. It seems whatever you do in life the end result is always the same professional, accurate, inclusive and entertaining. You have always been a class act and a great fellow policeman to work with. We had some awesome times together my friend. I will always hold you close as a true friend. Keep up the good work. Hope to see you this summer.
    Warm regards
    Herb Craig

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Hi Dorthy, So glad you found those stories and, yes, they hold many fond memories. Thanks to social media and the blog, I’ve been able to get in touch with many friends from back in the day. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Well, well. Pleased to see your name pop up. I’m in regular contact via FB with many ‘kids’ from back in our HS days (Guy, Dawna, Shirley and others). Also, a lot of Cold Lake friends through FB. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Oh, that is many years back and glad you found the story. I don’t have any recall of others in my class other than the Murphy sisters on whose farm my Dad and Mom worked.

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Pleased to hear from you Howie and trust all is going well. As with you, I have a couple of sad stories of times in my police career when I crossed paths with Ross Barrington Elworthy. Just haven’t had the time to write those stories.

  • Howie Siegel

    November 25, 2021 |

    My only fight at Pagliacci’s was a late Sunday night in 1980 (?) He ripped the towel machine off the bathroom wall which brought me running. He came after me, I grabbed a chair and cracked him on the head which split his skull and dropped him. I worried about the police finding him on the floor. I had just arrived from Lasqueti Island and wasn’t convinced the police were my friends. I dragged him out to Broad and Fort and left him on the sidewalk, called the cops. They picked him up and he never saw freedom again (as far as I know). I found out it was Ross Elworthy.

  • Herbert Plain

    November 24, 2021 |

    Just read you article on Pibroch excellent. My Dad was Searle Grain company agent we move there in 1942/3 live in town by the hall for 5 years than moved one mile east to the farm on the corner where the Pibroch road meets Hwy 44. Brother Don still lives there. I went to school with you and Louise.