Method Thoughts: Another Look at Federal Vote Intentions

On Monday, we released our latest federal political update that included vote intentions, evaluations of federal party leaders, and the job approval of the Harper government.

In the release, I noted that we were no longer going to report “decided voters” as a result of what happened during the BC election and the polling industry.  You can read my thoughts on what the election meant for our own polling.

My proposals for change in the way we report the vote intention have sparked a lot of necessary discussion.  Many people appreciated our new approach by including all respondents and focusing a little more on undecided voters.  Others, including some journalists were unsure what to make of it as they were used to seeing the standard “decided voters” number we have used in the past.

Significant change to the usual industry traditions will in all cases covet discussion and often opposition. Change takes time and a willingness for trial and error.

Since Abacus Data was founded in 2010, we have always asked whether we could do things different and challenge convention.  At the same time, I value the utility derived from consensus on industry standards.

It is a matter of balance.

Reporters, pundits, and the public are used to seeing vote intention numbers look like this: Liberal 29%, Conservative 27%, NDP 26% as opposed to this: Liberal 23%, Conservative 21%, NDP 21%.

To continue contributing to a public discussion on political polling numbers, we will  report both for the sake of transparency. Additionally, I will continue to work with our media partners to make sure that we don’t forget to focus on those undecided voters as we try to make sense of public opinion and where Canadians are in terms of their vote preference.

That being said, in the table below we have included five sets of data from our latest survey in relation to vote intention.


Column 1 = All respondents, main vote intention question (as reported yesterday)
Column 2 = Remove undecided voters
Column 3 = Results of follow up question to undecided voters
Column 4 = Vote intention with “leaners” added to “decided voters”
Column 5 = Traditional vote intention with “decided voters and leaners” only