Archives for posts with tag: polling

Part of Porter’s ad blitz

Intuition isn’t much to rely on when it comes to complex decisions, especially if those decisions are up to other people.  However, I have been hearing the same intuitive responses to Porter’s expansion plans in the weeks since they caught most of Toronto City Council off-guard. Many people I’ve asked think Porter will get their longer runways, amended noise limits, new planes and new routes — even if city council is not on board.

Porter, no doubt, is lobbying behind the scenes, and it is still attracting “supporters” of its plan through social media, although they are yet to reach 7,500 people (still a small number when you consider the potential number of Torontonians who would love to bypass Pearson and fly to Vancouver, LA or Miami from the Island). They are also continuing the ad buy that started soon after the announcement.

If you check the language at porterplans.com, it gives the impression that the proposal is going to happen (“… as we’re adding new routes,” “…our take off and approach flight paths will be over water…”), and that the debate and consideration are simply parts of the process that need to be endured.

There is something almost passive about Porter’s messaging and strategy since the announcement; something that suggests they know something we don’t – or least it appears that way. Maybe Porter is heartened by a new poll they commissioned  that suggests a majority of Toronto citizens support the expansion plans.

So, I stop and ask myself: for or against?

I’m pro-expansion, with conditions. I’m guessing that Porter’s confidence comes from the knowledge that convenience and accessibility are very, very appealing. So in thinking that this is a done deal, am I simply giving in to my own biases?

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A Toronto Star story on a recent poll shows a slim majority of GTA residents reject the various taxes, fees and levies proposed to pay for the Big Move, the plan for long-term transit expansion.

No doubt there is value in a pollster asking the question, and absolutely it deserves to be covered as a story, but I honestly can’t completely trust a poll that isn’t more transparent. As a reader, I’m given the sample size, the geographic spread of the respondents and the date of the poll, but not the questions (A similar poll in late March by the same pollster generated similar results). The details of the poll are not available to the public.

Why do I consider this important?

This was an “interactive voice response telephone poll”, or IVR, which means respondents aren’t talking to a human, but a pre-recorded voice that asks them to push a button to indicate their response to specific prompts. Without knowing what exactly was asked and how the issues are defined to the respondent, it’s easy to imagine that respondents can be guided into a certain kind of response or perception.

Image: Megasat.de

IVR polls favour simple questions; it’s not the ideal method to capture opinions on complex public policy issues – such as various types of taxes and fees on everything from road use to property development to payrolls.

This is where the journalist’s job comes in. Without having the poll script dropped into the story, it is the journalist’s job to ensure the poll is not misrepresenting public opinion or not skewing opinion by presenting subjective or leading information to the respondents.

I’m not saying I don’t believe the results of the poll. And I have absolutely no reason to doubt the professionalism of Forum Research, the company that conducted the poll. But consider this: we’ve been bombarded for years with messages that tell us that taxes are bad, so it’s not hard to imagine that a robocall from a pollster asking if you want to pay more taxes for transit generates an automatic negative response.

A poll can be a quick and easy story to do, with results that make for tasty headlines. Consumers of news media should be confident that they are getting fully transparent and objective coverage of opinion polls.