Ontario Politics Backgrounder: Talking Horse-race numbers

Who is winning in Ontario and by how much?

Pollsters generally have three ways of answering that question:

  • RRD telephone surveys calling a mix of landline and cell phones using live callers.
  • RRD telephone surveys calling a mix of landline and cell phones using interactive voice response calling (IVR).
  • Online surveys that use representative samples of participants who voluntarily joined online panels.

In most elections, all of these approaches report similar findings, but there are differences in reliability.

In order to provide an estimate of sampling error, pollsters must use a sampling process that gives every voter a known probability of being selected.  It is not possible to do that in an online survey for two reasons.  First, we are still in a world in which not everyone is online, although this is becoming a smaller and smaller concern.  Second, there is no standard system for selecting email or social media addresses which remains a fundamental problem.  Pollsters manage this by establishing quotas of different demographic groups and/or weighting the results to ensure the sample looks like the broader public.  But it is against opinion research ethical standards to apply margins of error to that data.

Since almost every voter has some type of phone, both types of RDD telephone surveys allow every voter to have a known probability of being selected.  This means both types of phone polls allow reporting that generalizes to the broader population using margins of error.

At INNOVATIVE, we rely on live callers over IVR because live callers normally achieve significantly higher response rates than IVR and reducing the potential for non-response bias is something we value highly.

Since Doug Ford became the leader of the PC Party, we have conducted two online surveys and one telephone survey.  All of these surveys used quotas to ensure the sample was generally representative and were then weighted to ensure the final sample reflects Ontario in terms of age and gender.

  • A Live-caller, mixed cell/landline RDD telephone survey of 600 Ontarians conducted from March 13th to March 20th
  • An online panel survey of 600 Ontarians conducted from April 2nd to April 9th, 2018
  • An online panel survey of 600 Ontarians conducted from March 15th to March 20th, 2018

There is no question the PCs are in lead.  In all three surveys, we found roughly 36 out of 100 people supporting the PC party with support varying from 34 to 37%.

There is some question about the relative strength of the NDP and Liberals.

  • While in all three surveys the Liberals were second, Liberal support varied from 21% to 28%.
  • While the NDP is third in all three polls, the telephone poll shows them much closer to the Liberals than either of the online surveys. In fact, they are within the margin of error of the Liberals in the phone poll.

As we track this election, we will continue to rely primarily on phone polling for the horserace and online polling to probe specific events and issues or to profile particular groups.


Backgrounder Report: Click here to download

For further information on these analyses or to explore how our segmentation analysis can help you tackle your pressing public or market issues please call us at 416.642.6340 or send us an email.