The Unteachable: Polls don’t reveal the truth about reality, but it doesn’t stop the press from using them.

This National Post column is funny. The headline is quite telling:

With Doug Ford, Ontario’s Tories take a big risk

Polls showed Christine Elliott would attract a lot of potential PC supporters, and that Ford would drive them away. Nevertheless, here we are

Polls also suggested Elliott would take the leadership mantle. She didn’t.

The news media makes the same two perpetual assumptions: (1) That the majority of citizens are Left-leaning, and (2) polls mean something.

And neither is the case.

In Canada, you do not need a majority of the vote to get a governmental majority, You can get it by capturing a little over a third of the vote. That PC voter turn out broke records, should be some indicator that something is happening. That the unknown fourth leadership candidate did far better in the race than anyone anticipated should also say something.

Elections are not popularity contests. They are a form of bloodless war. It is strategy and cunning, not merely getting votes that bring a contender a victory.

What separated Ford from Elliott, Mulroney, and even Patrick Brown is simple: he is not a Red Tory. Elliott and Mulroney, in a way, cancelled each other out — and in an election where you have three left-of-centre candidates, you are fighting for the same votes.

Bring in Ford, and you bring in people who wouldn’t vote for someone left-of-centre.

And it can be enough to bring a crushing Blue Wave to Queen’s Park.

He doesn’t need 51% of the popular vote. He needs a little more than what the other two parties can muster.

And because he is different enough from the Liberals and NDP, he can capture new voters and organize enough voters to get into power.

But the press in Ontario are making the same mistake as they did in thinking Rob Ford was never going to be mayor of Toronto, Brexit was going to be rejected, and the Donald Trump was never going to become president.

Polls mean nothing for many reasons. You think you will vote one way until you actually see the names of the ballot. Sometimes people lie because they don’t think their vote is anyone’s business — including their family members, let alone a pollster. And sometimes pollsters aren’t asking the right people, getting a skewed result because of their own inherent biases or flawed techniques.

Elections aren’t about reaching everyone and being inclusive — it is about getting just enough. That’s all. You do not overwork it. You hit strategically. Hillary Clinton never learned that lesson: that she overdid it and wasted too many resources as she lost focus to the actual goal of getting just enough, and not too much. 

In politics, it is about just enough. You win when you do not have the majority vote for you, particularly in Canada where you have three parties. Both Trump and George W. Bush won without getting the popular vote — just winning enough electoral votes to snag the brass ring. There is a very good reason for this rig: it shows a candidate is smart enough and shrewd enough to eke out a victory, even when everything seems against them.

But for whatever reason, journalists are absolutely blind to this fact: they think you must be all things to all people, and that’s a recipe for failure.

Polls tell you nothing because they do not measure strategy. They cannot, for instance, detect which of those people they polled will be strategic votes. On the surface, everyone’s vote is equal, but it never is — it all depends on how those votes are covertly bundled by a certain campaign.

Polls are there to tell middle class people what to say at the water cooler or at dinner parties without looking too stupid and weird. They are not actually useful to determining the stealth cunning of a particular politician.

Journalists are not teachable. After decades of having polls fool them, they still rely on them as if the mean something.

And yet they continue to use them as filler for articles at the expense of their own credibility.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s