Thursday, February 11, 2010

EKOS Polling President Funded Conservatives

In the 2006 federal election Frank Graves, the President of EKOS a much cited political polling company, contributed over 400 dollars to the Conservative Party of Canada. Though it is certainly within Mr. Graves rights to donate to a political candidate, because of both the influence of polling on voting trends and the susceptibility of polling to bias of various forms, one must consider whether pollsters should be political.

As the graphic in the top right of this post illustrates Mr. Graves donated $449 to Conservative candidate Paul Benoit for the riding of Ottawa--Vanier on Jan.14 2006. Throughout the election Mr. Graves provided polling data and gave commentary on polls.

I am not suggesting Frank Graves had or has let his political affiliation affect his job, but because of the vulnerability of statistics to bias, conscious or not, I would personally prefer polling data collected and analyzed by someone who does not hold strong political beliefs, especially when commentary on those polls has become a greater portion of their job.

I will emphasize that I would hold this opinion of all pollsters, whether they be Conservative, Liberal, NDP, or other.


Top Can Inc. said...

The only way to know is to see the polls that EKOS under Mr. Graves had released in the 2006 campaign. If they were biased towards the Conservatives then it would support your argument.

Ottawa Vanier is traditionally Liberal, so the chances of a Tory win were minimal. Perhaps Mr. Graves was making the donation based on a personal relationship with Mr. Benoit. said...

I am not really presenting an argument, but rather an opinion.

Though I should note I am curious as to what other people think about pollsters holding strong political beliefs.

It is true Mr.Benoit could have been a friend of Mr. Graves, but it is equally true that Graves saw the tide turning and wanted to contribute to the winning Party. This however is all speculation and all that is known is Mr.Graves contributed to this Conservative candidate.

Doyen said...

Yeah, it's not like people who work in the polling biz have ever shown any partisan leanings.

You do realize that Peter Donolo (yeah *that* Peter Donolo) was executive vice president and partner at The Strategic Counsel right? said...

Doyen: I can't recall any news articles citing the Strategic Councel or relying on Peter Donolo for perceived non-partisan analysis.

The thing that most interests me is the reliance on Graves by the media to explain polls and forecast into the future. How can he forecast into the future with such partisan leaning?

This is just my personal question of course.

Doyen said...

Donolo was quoted in the press all the time for his views on the polls. Try this if you want the Globe, or this if you want CTV video. He was called upon for 'non-partisan analysis' even though he was director of communications for Jean Chretien before becoming a partner at the Strategic Counsel.

The same reliance on Graves used to be a reliance on Donolo. They also rely on Nanos as well. The big players are the ones the press will go to.

What's funny is that some Tory bloggers think Graves is biased towards the Liberals.

Just goes to show that if people from both sides think you are biased, then you must be non-partisan. :-> said...

Doyen, you realize the article you cite clearly points out Donolo's bias right?

Do you think there's a difference between an article referencing someone and pointing out their partisanship as opposed to using someone's analysis and presenting it as neutral?

I never said Graves was too hard on Liberals or too soft on Conservatives, all I did was present that he donated money to Conservatives and then gave my opinion that he shouldn't be political.

Doyen said...

You said "I would personally prefer polling data collected and analyzed by someone who does not hold strong political beliefs, especially when commentary on those polls has become a greater portion of their job."

That describes Donolo to a tee back before he left the Strategic Counsel. While that one article did reference his Liberal background, that was the exception. He was often just quoted as being a partner at the Strategic Counsel. As someone who follows polling very closely, I can tell you that Donolo has been all over the news when he was at SC doing polling.

Did you watch the CTV video? They never once mentioned his Liberal heritage, yet they asked for an opinion on the poll from a non-partisan perspective.

Regardless, your remark that "I would personally prefer polling data collected and analyzed by someone who does not hold strong political beliefs" would suggest that you don't think anyone with a partisan background should be involved in polling - which by extension means you should object to Donolo having been involved in polling with the Strategic Counsel. You can't have it both ways here.

Donolo is as big a partisan as you can get, but I would like to think he is professional enough not to let his personal bias cloud his professional opinion. That's what good pollsters do.

There is no such thing as a non-biased pollster. Everyone has a bias of some sort. The key (in the job of pollster) is to not let that get in the way of delivering reliable results. Donolo, like Graves, knows that if they deliver biased results they won't be in business very long. Sooner or later there will be an election and the results will bear that out.

In any case, if you want to examine this further then you need to include Donolo as well.

Doyen said...

As an aside, Peter Donolo made plenty of donations to Liberal party members while he was working for the Strategic Counsel.

Note that I am not suggesting that it in any way affected the outcome of the polls he was involved in during that time, but should you not be examining him as well?

Bias is a tricky thing. It's easy to toss out claims about a person's bias without considering that there may be others closer to home in the same situation. said...

Doyen: When I say "I would personally prefer polling data collected and analyzed by someone who does not hold strong political beliefs," that does not mean I beleive political pollsters should not exist. If I said I prefer apples over oranges does that mean I think oranges shouldn't exist? No it does not, preference does not negate those things you don't prefer. Preference is a value ranking.

The CTV video does clearly show that Donolo's bias was not clearly mentioned, however despite Donolo's more popular reputation of a political participant at least his bias wasn't completely unknown.