I used to do polling for a living. A lot of people hate polling and pollsters, especially on the left. I think they are fools.
Polling is one of our metrics. A good poll will tell you whether you’re successful or not, and why.
But the same thing applies to a bad poll. A bad poll misleads you. It can tell you everything is okay when it’s not, like taking a sleeping pill to cover up cancer symptoms. Been there, not good.
There was a story based on a poll like that spread across the front page of the Sun’s business section on Friday.
“Carbon tax finds plenty of green supporters in B.C. We’re happy to pay a little more to help the planet, poll suggests” was the headline.
The whole story was a great big lie, a piece of ridiculous propoganda.
The headline was based on a question that didn’t even ask residents whether they support the carbon tax or whether they think it’s good for them or the environment.
Here’s what it did ask: “Based on what you have seen, read, or heard do you feel the carbon tax and accompanying tax cuts have had positive or negative consequences for British Columbia”.
Only 33% answered “positive”.
How anyone could conclude what the Sun and the sponsor of the poll – the Pembina Institute – concluded is beyond reason.
There are three things wrong with the question: the wording, its location and the response categories provided. Add that up and you have the makings of a push poll that gives the pollster the answer they want.
First the question doesn’t ask whether respondents support the carbon tax or believe its been good for the environment. So the story’s headline is false.
It asks whether the tax has had positive or negative effects on BC. You can say it’s had positive effects and still oppose the tax and vice versa. The question as it’s asked is almost meaningless.
The question also lumps in “accompanying tax cuts”, which is guaranteed to drive up the numbers. It’s called salting the question.
Sun readers weren’t told this. They also weren’t told that the question is asked after several questions about climate change, pumping up the positive numbers. We call that a push poll.
Finally the pollster didn’t give people a chance to say “don’t know”. The response categories were “positive, neutral or negative.” And Pembina spun that lumping the neutral answers in with the positive to get over 70% of respondents supporting the tax. That’s just not supportable.
What I read from the result is this: Only 33% of British Columbians think the Carbon Tax has been positive for BC, 27% believe it’s been negative and the rest, for one reason or the other can’t say.
Not the overwhelming endorsement the poll sponsors and the Sun portray.
To find out whether BCers support the Carbon tax the question should have been something like this: “BC has a carbon tax on the sale of all fossil fuels. Do you support or oppose the tax?”
But they didn’t. And here’s why I believe they didn’t. Because they wouldn’t have got the result they wanted. The tax, supporters admit, hasn’t reduced emissions a whit and it hits average people hard in the pocketbook.
On top of that the Carbon Tax pays for nothing practical to improve our environment. It goes into general revenue, which this government would rather spend on a new roof on BC Place than a new transit line to the eastern burbs.
Why publish this rotten poll now? To do the government’s dirty work for them – to pretend there’s support for the Carbon Tax on the day it’s due to increase.
Two decades ago BC’s environmental movement was a force to be reckoned with. Now it’s ideologically splintered and tactically divided with significant elements supporting one of BC’s worst governments on the environment. All because of a tax that doesn’t do a thing to reduce emissions because it’s set too low and has no practical application.
No wonder people are asking what happened.