It seems fairly logical that when you have a question on what a poll says you ask someone who knows about statistics; and when you have a question about politics, you ask someone who knows about political science. However the press in Canada is increasingly saving time by combining sources; and in a recent example the habit is becoming ridiculous.
Jane Taber in her recent post combines statistics and political science by relying on Frank Graves, president of the polling company EKOS, to offer an opinion of the budget. Jane Taber gives the following quote by Mr.Graves concerning the budget:
“The impact was overwhelmingly neutral. For the [Conservative Party] this is probably a good thing as this was a risky budget. No great dollops of cash/goodies for voters but the public seemed fine with the message of fairly painless restraint.”The interest is of course the suggestion by Frank Graves that this budget was "risky" for the Conservatives; the reason why this is ridiculous is because this budget clearly wasn't. No commentator, no economist even came close to calling this budget risky, instead it was the opposite, everyone saw this as a "status quo", "stay-the-course", mediocre, safe budget.
The budget was clearly not risky, and though Mr. Graves' suggestion that it was is absurd, the larger abuse of rationality is being increasingly committed by the media. Where the results of polling surveys are not enough to incite a readers' interest, the supposed objective journalist jots down the commentary of polling executives to report the current state of political affairs in Canada. This, however, is erroneous because statisticians aren't political scientists, they aren't political experts of any kind.
And as I have written in a previous post, asking polling experts for political commentary can be dangerous because when they stop calculating statistics, just like anyone, they have a potential for bias.