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Polling polling everywhere

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The latest poll on federal voting intentions probably has the Liberal Party of Canada enjoying this Monday a bit more than the Conservatives or the NDP.

The EKOS Politics poll has the Liberals narrowing in on majority territory if an election were held today, with 38.7 per cent support, compared to 25.6 per cent for the Conservatives and 23.4 per cent for the NDP. EKOS president Frank Graves said if these results were what happened on the next election day the current Conservative government would find itself not just out of government, but down in third place.

That’s thanks to the fact that the NDP vote is a bit more efficient in seat-rich Quebec, and the Conservative numbers are bolstered somewhat by its dominance in Alberta, where there are fewer seats to be had.

He also said it is worth noting governments tend to do better in the polls when they are not currently sitting, since it gives them less time under fire in Question Period and more time out making vote-influencing announcements.

Of course pollsters have taken a pummeling of late with poor predictions of provincial election results. Although EKOS it should probably be noted did well recently accurately predicting the Liberal majority government in Ontario, and the popular vote result of the opposition Tories.

There is also more than a year until the next election and lots of room for something big to happen. The federal Conservatives may be down but with the most experienced leader (okay the only experienced leader), the biggest bank account and an enviable understanding of the electorate with its voter database, it would be foolish to write the party off.

So what should Manitobans take away from this latest poll?

Even Graves acknowledges the answer is probably not a whole heck of a lot.

This particular poll has the Liberals topping the Manitoba field with 34 per cent, followed by the NDP at 28 per cent and the Conservatives at 26 per cent.

Wait, you might be asking. The Conservatives, the party that currently holds 11 of Manitoba’s 14 seats, they are down in third place?

Well yes, the poll would respond, they are.

But nobody need offer up an oxygen mask to Prime Minister Stephen Harper just yet because the sample size in Manitoba is just not big enough to know whether these numbers are accurate in any way. This poll is based on responses from fewer than 100 people in Manitoba, and the margin of error is almost 10 percentage points.

That means the Conservatives could be as high as 36 per cent and the Liberals as low as 24 per cent. EKOS has shown Manitoba numbers to be all over the place of late – in May the Conservatives were ahead of the Liberals by 13 points. Last January the Liberals had nearly a 23 point lead.

This is the same problem you will have looking at almost any national poll. The Manitoba numbers are just not reliable because of a huge margin of error.

So while it’s definitely fair to believe that the upswing in Liberal fortunes taking place elsewhere (in Ontario, Quebec, and the Atlantic particularly) is at least a little bit present in Manitoba, it is far too premature to be writing the exit stories for most of the Conservative MPs in Manitoba.

As the one-year countdown to the next federal election nears you are going to likely see a ton of polls reported on who is leading the horse race. Take all with a grain of salt when they tell you what’s happening in Manitoba unless the sample size is significantly bigger than 98 people.

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About Mia Rabson

Mia Rabson is a born and bred Winnipegger whose interest in politics seemed clear when she dressed up as Prime Minister Brian Mulroney for Halloween in the 7th grade.

Her interest in writing was no surprise to her parents, who learned early in Mia’s life that no piece of blank paper — or wall, for that matter — was safe in her hands.

She holds an honours BA in English from Queen’s University, a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario, and has completed a political journalism fellowship in Washington, D.C. with the Washington Centre for Politics and Journalism.

Prior to working for the Winnipeg Free Press, Mia briefly worked for the Detroit News in the paper’s Washington bureau.

Mia joined the Free Press team in February 2001, and in April 2001 was appointed to the Manitoba legislature bureau. In December 2004, she was appointed bureau chief at the legislature. She became the newspaper’s parliamentary bureau chief/national reporter in Ottawa in January 2008.

In 2008 she was nominated for a Michener Award with a team of reporters from the Free Press for its coverage of the province’s child welfare system.

She counts reliving the invasion at Dieppe, France, with veterans of the failed Second World War expedition and overcoming her fear of heights to touch the Golden Boy statue atop the Legislative Building among her favourite experiences as a reporter.

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