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'Too many damn polls,' says new election eve poll

Half of voters are sick of hearing about new poll results, the results of a new poll suggest.

A national survey by Strategic Communications found almost half of respondents, 49 per cent, said there was "too much polling reported in the media." Only 6.1 per cent said there was not enough.

"People are pretty tired of all the polling during the federal election," Stratcom CEO Bob Penner concluded.

The pollster and political strategist criticized coverage of daily tracking polls in particular, in which minute overnight changes are reported as substantial shifts in voting intentions. "What we always tell our clients is, don't pay attention to the minor changes on a daily basis," said Penner, whose clients have included NGOs, labour unions and the federal and provincial NDP."You've got to look at the longer term trends of these things. It's not like somebody watches the news at night and changes their voting decision based on one ad they've seen."

Percentage-point changes from day to day often fall within a poll's margin of error.

"So most days, nothing is really changing except we're looking at sampling error," said Penner, who contends many of the polling firms who engage in daily tracking are just looking for free advertising for their main businesses: commercial market research.

"A lot of the big pollsters are doing it because it's just good promotion for them," he said. "Political polling gets them in the news."

But pollster Nik Nanos says his daily tracking polls are more valuable than larger surveys conducted over lengthier periods.

He cites recent polls taken in Quebec as an example. The trend in daily results from Nanos Research, he said, reflected shifting opinions as Prime Minister Stephen Harper got in hot water over controversies over culture and crime policies. Those changes weren't reflected in larger, lengthier polls.

"You need a daily thermometer reading to understand the trends," he said. The problem, said Nanos, is in how media report the day-to-day changes. A news outlet, for example, may see a percentage-point shift over one day and report it as a sudden spike in popularity.

"The reality is, they should be focusing on the trend - is it changing or not?" Nanos said. "The greatest value in these nightly tracking polls is in the trend line, not the day to day change."

In completely unrelated news, the latest daily Harris/Decima national poll shows the Conservatives have increased their lead over the Liberals in just one day, stretching what was a four-percentage point gap into a mammoth five-point crater.

The Strategic Communications poll asked:

How do you feel about daily polls conducted during the current federal election period that are reported in the media? Do you feel that there is too much polling reported in the media, just the right amount of polling reported in the media, or not enough polling?

1. Too much polling 2. Just right amount of polling 3. Not enough media polling 4. Don't Know

According to Stratcom: "These results are drawn from a Strategic Communications National Online Survey, which interviewed a nationally representative sample of 1,202 adult Canadians over the period of October 2nd to 6th, 2008." Stratcom didn't offer a margin of error, saying the traditional formula for calculating it is not applicable to online polling.

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