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What the Free Press is going on with the polls?

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I can't get through a morning until I have tracked down every last poll result available that morning. It's not that I think we can predict yet what will happen October 14. I just love to see the fluctuations and the contrast between polls.Last week, I was shocked to see Nanos report Tories at 35 per cent and (here's the shocking part) Liberals at 30 per cent. Nanos was certainly the only poll to report Liberal fortunes at that level. Most other polls had the Libs in the mid to low 20s, with the NDP close on their heels. But that wasn't the oddest thing about the Nanos poll. The oddest thing was that hardly anybody acknowledged the poll.I couldn't find much reporting on this poll result. It was like it never happened. Instead, polls from other pollsters continued to show the Liberals lagging and the Tories with an 11 to 15-point lead.The next two Nanos polls didn't stray too much from their theory that this is a much tighter race. Over the weekend, Nanos reported Tories 35, Libs 28. And then today, we get big-time media coverage of the latest Nanos sampling, its Tories 34, Liberals 30, the smallest gap reported by any polling company. (Check out the entire Nanos archive here.)Nanos is certainly THE pollster to watch if you listen to political strategists. But how can we resolve the difference between Nanos and all the other polling companies, which consistently report a double-digit spread between the Conservatives and Tories?One thing is that there is much more variance between the pollsters than they probably want to acknowledge. These bar graphs produced by the seat-projectionists at Wilfred Laurier show in graphic terms (no doubt) the difference in the results from the differing polling companies in 2008 right up to the dropping of the writ. The pollsters are consistently inconsistent.There are always differences in questions and methodology. And then there is the analysis and weighting that goes on by the pollsters themselves. The responses are just raw data; it takes a creative hand to forge a picture of public opinion out of the raw data.Watch closely this week to see if Nanos drops back on its bold picture of a neck-and-neck race, or the other polling companies shift more to the Nanos view of the world.-30-

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About Dan Lett

Dan Lett came to Winnipeg in 1986, less than a year out of journalism school.

Despite the fact that he’s originally from Toronto and has a fatal attraction to the Maple Leafs, Winnipeggers let him stay.

In the following years, he has worked at bureaus covering every level of government – from city hall to the national bureau in Ottawa.

He has had bricks thrown at him in riots following the 1995 Quebec referendum, wrote stories that helped in part to free three wrongly convicted men, met Fidel Castro, interviewed three Philippine presidents, crossed several borders in Africa illegally, chased Somali pirates in a Canadian warship and had several guns pointed at him.

In other words, he’s had every experience a journalist could even hope for. He has also been fortunate enough to be a two-time nominee for a National Newspaper Award, winning in 2003 for investigations.

Other awards include the B’Nai Brith National Human Rights Media Award and nominee for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism.

Now firmly rooted in Winnipeg, Dan visits Toronto often but no longer pines to live there.

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