Wednesday, May 25, 2005

"Jury duty? I'll see that Quimby kid hang for this!"

It's not often I find fault with the guy at the top of the Mandatory Reading section of the blogroll--in fact I give him plenty of gloss--so I ought to take this opportunity to say that maybe Bruce Rolston was right, and Colby Cosh's bullshit detector needs new batteries.

He comments here on the question of "whether the Conservatives [won] by losing last week's non-confidence vote in the House of Commons". I don't have an opinion on the broader question, but I find his interpretation of this Decima poll as a data point to be pretty nonsensical. Here's the results in discussion:
Respondents were asked which of three reasons (a list was read to respondents) was most likely to dissuade them from voting either Liberal or Conservative. The results show:
  • There are two leading reasons cited for not voting Liberal, [the] feeling that it is time for a change (29%) and disagreement with Liberal policy (27%). Discomfort with Paul Martin as PM trails these considerations, at 17%
  • The leading point of resistance to voting Conservative is the desire not to have an election right now (31%), followed by disagreement with Conservative policies (25%), and close behind, discomfort with the idea of Stephen Harper as PM (23%).

The glaring problem here (i.e. why I find this poll meaningless) is that saying you won't vote Conservative because you don't want an election right now is a flat-out non-sequitur. Say you're on a long-haul bus trip, and the driver stops late at night for food in a small town where Subway is the only place open. You may be pissed at having to eat a sub or nothing, but that's not a reason (good, bad, or otherwise) to say that you're not going to get it toasted.

The only flaw in this analogy is if you believe the notion that the 31% of non-CPC voters above would actually vote for someone else entirely because it was the CPC's "fault" that they're going to the polls at all. I guess this is where the BS detector comes in; I don't find this plausible at all.

But on top of that, there's no need to stand purely on political instincts here, since we have had minority governments before. In both 1974 and 1980, the party that "caused" an election (the Liberals in both cases, roughly two and one years after the previous election, respectively) went on to win a majority.

If that's not enough, imagine if Paul Martin stood up today and said he was calling an election. According to the results above, that 31% would ostensibly vote against the Liberals, and the CPC would win a massive majority. What-everrrrr.

Lastly, Cosh's remark here...
..the Liberals' main problem ("time for a change") is only going to get worse.. a bad assumption; of course there are voters who may decide next month, or next year, that the Liberals aren't doing such a bad job after all, and choose to stay the course. There are a few people who hold the non-partisan, non-policy belief that "change for the sake of change" is important for the vitality and honesty of government. Is that principle fundamentally underlying the intentions of fully 29% of voters who wouldn't vote Liberal today? I don't believe that for a second.

As a fan of House MD should know well, "Everybody lies."


At 9:01 a.m., Anonymous Ron said...

The results of the poll, that many voters do not want an election now, bring these thoughts to mind.
The pollster does not take into account that something like 40% of eligible voters don't vote, so 40% of respondents to the poll will have no effect on the election.
Once the election is in full swing, people resign themselves to the fact there is an election on and base their votes the party they want to see win, not on who called the election.
And finally, and this is my cynical side, many who do not want an election now are Liberal voters. They yearn to vote Liberal but it would be difficult to admit that now. Difficult to admit it to themselves. But, once the election is called and they are convinced just how scary the Tories really are, they will return to the fold.


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