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A poll showing that the Conservative Party extended their lead to double digits over the plummeting Liberals was deliberately withheld from the Canadian public as the pollster expanded the sample, the Ottawa Citizen reports this morning. The Toronto Star and Montreal's La Presse pulled publication of the poll in order to keep it from being public knowledge before the English-language debate last night:
Two major newspapers and a pollster decided to sit on the results of a weekend poll that showed a double-digit breakthrough by the Conservatives over the Liberals because they felt it would be irresponsible to release the "stunning" numbers on the day of the English debate.
Calling it a "difficult decision," Frank Graves, the president of Ekos Research Associates, said he and his media clients, the Toronto Star and Montreal's La Presse, agreed to do further polling yesterday to increase the sample size to 1,200 respondents. He confirmed the weekend findings -- from a sample of 500 calls -- indicated Stephen Harper and the Conservatives were on their way to forming a majority government similar to the ones enjoyed by Brian Mulroney in 1984 and Jean Chretien in 1993.
"In a normal setting we would have released it, but in the context of a 500-case poll with the results we had in last night, we didn't think it would be responsible on the day of the debate," Mr. Graves said.
By waiting an extra day and polling an additional 700 respondents, the margin of error falls to 2.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, from plus or minus 4.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
The newspapers did not release the results from the smaller sample yesterday because they planned to publish the results from the larger sample today.
That poll, now published by the Star today, shows that the Tories may well capture a majority of seats in the next Parliament and rule alone. It shows that Stephen Harper has led his party to a 39.1% - 26.8% lead over the currently governing Liberals, led by a badly faltering Paul Martin. Anything over 40% usually indicates an impending majority for the triumphal party, thanks to the unusual dynamics of four-party politics.
This news should have come out yesterday. The act of withholding it from the public to recast the sample to something different than they normally use shows at least a possibility of bias from the newspapers involved. What about those numbers frightened the newspapers? The editors should answer the critics and hold themselves accountable for a strange decision indeed. (Thanks to CQ reader Tom B)Sphere It View blog reactions
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