Saturday, July 31, 2010

Guest Blogger John Santos on the Global Poll

Nation, it's funny how small a world this is when you think about it...

I received a Facebook "friend request" a few months ago, from a young man named John Santos. It turns out that his brother had attended a music school at which I had been a teacher. The message that John sent along with his "friend request" indicated that he had long been a reader of The Enlightened Savage, and now that he realized there was a personal connection, he'd be sure to read even more often.

Well, it turns out that John is quite the political animal, and when the Global/NRG poll came out this Thursday night, John made sure to point out on Twitter that, "Not that the overall picture would change, but there are methodological issues with the Global poll."

Now, many would disagree with me on this point, but I firmly believe that methodology MATTERS in these things... a badly-constructed poll, whether by circumstance or by purposeful design, leads one to believe that certain things are true, when in fact they're not - and donors, volunteers, and supporters pay attention to the numbers that these polls trumpet as STONE. COLD. FACT. A poll that's constructed badly can cost a candidate donations. Heck - it can cost them the ELECTION.

So, I asked John to email me about those problems. His response is below.


******

Some methodological commentary on the Global Calgary municipal election poll

With the first poll out by a polling company, I thought I would provide some commentary on how the numbers were reported. NRG is a reputable firm and would have taken proper steps to safeguard the more “scientific” aspects of polling (such as proper sample selection). However, that does not mean that there are not other methodological issues with this poll. With as wide of a gulf as what is observed, I must emphasize that the overall picture is probably accurate (i.e. that Higgins and McIver are the frontrunners), though I am doubtful if the gap is actually as wide as reported.

The numbers as reported by Global and NRG:


Name of mayoral candidate that comes to mind first

Barb Higgins 27%
Ric McIver 20%
Bob Hawkesworth 2%
All other candidates 1%
Unsure/none 39%

N=500; +/-4.4%, 19 times out of 20


Candidate committed to or leaning towards

Barb Higgins 44%
Ric McIver 40%
Bob Hawkesworth 3%
All other candidates 2% (each, or less)

N=500; +/-6.2%, 19 times out of 20


Which mayoral candidate do you intend to vote for?

Barb Higgins 16%
Ric McIver 15%
All other candidates 1% (each, or less)
Undecided 51%

N=500; +/-4.4%, 19 times out of 20


Timing

Higgins announces on Wednesday. A poll is done asking the “name of the mayoral candidate that comes to mind FIRST”. This one should be a no-brainer. There will be a tendency for committed voters to mention their candidate first, though those less committed could be inclined to mention whoever dominated the news in the last little while. I wonder who that person was.Moreover, polls in the summertime are somewhat dubious to begin with. Many people are on vacation, and many of those left in town are more worried about next weekend’s barbecue party than politics. Nenshi has been quite active over the summer, but his base is more interested in policy to begin with. McIver, I’ve heard little from, which is expected because his target group is made up of Average Joes. Unless someone really loves or really hates the other candidates, it is unlikely they would be mentioned. Higgins, because we see her on the news every night, would be a no-brainer to mention.


The shotgun marriage

Does anyone else find it strange that a plurality of Calgarians have already “committed” or are “leaning towards” Higgins despite only being in the race for less than 24 hours? Obviously “committed” and “leaning towards” are separate categories that have been combined, but the devil is in the details. A breakdown of 10%/34% committed/leaning is different from 40%/4% committed/leaning, but we don’t know how the numbers are added up.

Then, there’s the question of the validity of a person’s opinion. No, I’m not saying that some people’s opinions don’t matter; I’m saying that what some people think is an opinion is not actually a real opinion. By most accounts, Higgins’ announcement was less-than-stellar. It was also sparse on details other than she is both socially conscious and financially conservative. In other words, she is like every single politician. I don’t see Liberals running on “I’m gonna rob you through taxes and piss it away” or Conservatives running on “screw poor people; we have money.” Some people take longer to buy a lamp than the time it took 44% of respondents to decide they were leaning towards a candidate.

Finally, we don’t know the question or questions asked. Was it one question: “which candidate are you committed to or leaning towards?” Was it two questions: “is there a candidate you have committed to?” (if no, then) “is there a candidate you’re leaning towards?” Were response categories provided or was it open-ended? That last one is especially important because this question would have come after the knowledge question. It isn’t a quantum leap to say you think you’re leaning towards someone because you thought of them first, especially when the alternatives are not currently on the top of your head. This holds as much validity as Phoebe’s (from Friends) game of “answer these questions as quickly as possible.”


Two birds of a feather

I’m at a loss why a “committed/leaning” question was asked AS WELL AS a specific vote intention question. The only question that is worth reporting coincidentally also happens to be the least exciting. The vote intention question is the most important because it links an idea to an action—“if an election were held today, who would you vote for?” It’s very possible to lean towards someone, but to stay home or even change your mind.

As with the previous question, we don’t know if respondents were prompted with candidate names or if the question was open-ended. Ivrnet’s poll published in Metro prompted a more evenly distributed range of responses.

Still, even if we did accept the vote decision numbers prima facie, what does it show? Take out the undecideds and Higgins pretty much consolidated the “not-McIver” vote.


Technical notes

Of the two action questions, the gap between Higgins and McIver is a statistical tie. (based on the margin of error of each question)

The table doesn’t mention the percentage of the voters supporting another candidate. The known percentages add up to 82%, which leaves 18% decided voters that are split up between the remaining 8 candidates. Since each candidate has, at most 1%, that adds another 10%, which brings the total up to 90%. Where’s the other 10% of voters to make the total an even 100%?


So what’s the real story?

The real story is the 39% of respondents could not name a mayoral candidate and 51% would not know who to vote for if the election were held today. This is despite a recent announcement of a high-profile candidate.

Don’t get me wrong—Higgins has been a great newscaster, but everyone’s waiting to see if she’s has the political chops and the right policies. McIver has some room to grow by knocking down other conservative candidates like Connelly, Lord and Burrows, but his potential is far more limited than Higgins, who will likely be to the left of McIver and will have better access to the progressive vote IF she has the right policies.

Still, the fact remains that this poll comes at a bad time and is poorly reported. I’m sure NRG made good on their end of the deal, so I place blame squarely on the shoulders of Global for releasing a bad poll to get ratings. They even released a teaser on their website and Twitter feed that morning saying “early results are surprising—tune into the news at six for the full story.” I’m sure the odd political hack must have cancelled a date or something similarly important to make sure they were in front of the TV to see the news.

Effectively, what this poll does is set the narrative of the race, and it does so by chopping down the support levels for every other candidate below what is actually true in order to get a more exciting, two-horse race. Thus, while some of the candidates have a lot of potential to grow once the mass public starts to pay attention in late August, it's questionable if they'll get to that point because no donor in their right frame of mind would give substantial sums of money to a candidate at 2%. In fact, given the lack of policy announcements on Higgins' part, it becomes quite easy for her to knock off candidates early on and appropriate the policies she likes. (which is a perfectly valid strategy) What saddens me is that we might not hear what some of those other candidates are trying to campaign for, which is a real loss for democracy, which is already at a low point in municipal politics.



(This has been cross-posted to CalgaryPolitics.com)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Don't Fire Until You See The Whites Of Their Eyes...

Nation, the silly season is upon us in full force, as we have (at last count) 12 candidates for mayor, 44 confirmed aldermanic candidates, and 11 candidates for trustee spread out over 2 school boards - all vying for public attention, donor dollars, media coverage, and the all-important momentum, going into the October 18th vote.

The crazy train arrived a little earlier than normal this election cycle, with word earlier this year that mayor Dave Bronconnier would not be seeking re-election. From the day that announcement was made, it was only a matter of time before all heck broke loose - and break loose, it did.

3 sitting aldermen are seeking the mayor's chair: Ric McIver, Bob Hawkesworth and Joe Connelly. As well, Alderman Joe Ceci has announced he won't be seeking re-election. So, right there, you have 4 wards that will seat new alderman at the first council meeting this fall. That's assuming no incumbents taste defeat - an unlikely situation, as the acrimonious and controversial nature of this past council hasn't been seen in these parts since Danielle Smith was a CBE Trustee. People are hungry for change - and it's not overstating the matter to suggest that we COULD see as much as 50% of council's membership shown the door this October, based on the relative strength of some of the challengers in wards in which the incumbents are thought to be standing for re-election.

SO... we've got a situation where potential candidates have been smelling blood in the water, and 4 wards have no incumbent alderman running in October. School board trustees are notorious for not announcing their intentions ahead of time, and the school trustee job is a pretty good gig if you can get it - even better, if you can be acclaimed.


As of the typing of this blog post, we've got 67 candidates, in 29 races (the final tally in 2007 was 77 candidates)

The question that begs to be asked of these candidates, then, is obvious: What are your policies? What will you DO if elected?

Well, a political campaign is a marathon, not a sprint. Just like a marathon, the object is to cross the finish line first - everyone agrees on that - but popular opinion diverges when you talk strategy. Do you go hard at the start, hope to pull to an early lead and demoralize your opponents? Do you save your legs, stick with the pack and then kick it into overdrive on the last lap, when the front-runners have run themselves out of steam? Or do you run your own race, wire to wire, keeping a consistent pace through the whole race and trust that those who blew their energy at the start will run out of wind, and those who waited for the last lap will be too far behind to catch up?

We've seen examples of all of these in this election - even just in the race for mayor.

There's Ric McIver, who some could say has been laying out his platform since about 2005 - hoping that the people who decided to vote for him over a year ago won't even consider another candidate. On the other hand, you've got Barb Higgins, who yesterday declared that she's hoping to fundraise for the next 6 weeks without any articulated policies, which are to be released after Labour Day - saving her best stuff for the final lap, with the hope that when people actually start paying real attention to this race, she's going to have a full platform to give them, and opponents who haven't had time to review and attack her ideas. And then you've got candidates like Wayne Stewart and Naheed Nenshi, who are releasing policies the whole summer long, hoping to get enough momentum going that they can capture, a few dozen votes at a time, enough ballots to win the day when they all get counted.

Which strategy will ultimately prove successful? It's hard to say - if any one of the 3 was consistently more successful than the others, it would be the standard, and everyone would use it. What is NOT in dispute, though, it that each strategy has its potential risks - peak too soon, and people will be tired of you when they go to vote. Peak too LATE, and people may already have made up their minds. Run a consistent race, and you may get lost in the hullabaloo over the candidates who go hard at the start, and the ones who save their best ammo for the last few weeks.

What is ALSO not in dispute? These races are going to be FUN to watch... and I'm glad that I've got my comrades-in-arms at calgarypolitics.com to help me cover them this time around (spending 2-to-3 hours per night, for 6 weeks, researching and writing about the races in 2007 was, admittedly, a bit much).

Game on.

I LOVE the smell of politics in the morning.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

calgarypolitics.com is taking over the airwaves!

Nation, it has been a big week for The Best Political Team in the Blogosphere (TM), with interviews galore over the past week.

DJ Kelly has been all over the radio waves (July 22nd - 6 pm - and July 28th, 3 pm), Shane Byciuk from calgaryrants.com was interviewed last Friday on Global TV Calgary and on radio (CHQR AM770 at 9 pm tonight, also available at the audio vault after the fact, as well as a 5 pm interview on the 22nd), Jeremy Zhao from politicalgary has done radio and was admitted as media to the Barb Higgins press availability this morning, and your humble scribe has been on the radio twice - once on CJSW and again this morning on CBC Radio One (with Jeremy).

The CJSW interview:

video

And the CBC interview, with Jeremy:

video


It's clear that the more interesting this election season gets, the more you're going to be hearing from the folks at calgarypolitics.com. Now would be a good time to bookmark the site, and add us on twitter.

Radio and television programming directors - the bidding for the entire calgarypolitics.com team to spend the evening of October 18th in your studio as the results come in starts at an iPad each. Let the bidding begin! :)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Lethbridge Mayoral Race Gets Interesting...

Nation, while this blog tends to focus on issues relating to politics on the provincial level or Calgary municipal level, once in awhile we get information about issues and races in other parts of the country and province.

This video showed up in my inbox last night, and suggests that the race for the open Mayor's seat in Lethbridge is getting some fresh blood.

Kay Adeniyi, in his mid-twenties, will be the fifth person to declare their intention to run for mayor in a town that swells by thousands of residents when the post-secondary calendar begins for Lethbridge Community College and the University of Lethbridge (Go Pronghorns!) each September. The other four declared candidates are:

  • Patrick Berthelot, Maintenance Manager
  • James Frey, Communication Consultant
  • Cheryl Meheden, University Professor
  • Rajko Dodic, 2-term Alderman

Adeniyi's announcement will be open to the press and public, and will be held at the Galt Gardens on Monday, July 19th at 7 pm.

Anyone down in the Windy City want to be the Senior Lethbridge-ologist for The Enlightened Savage's coverage of Election 2010?

- E.S.

(This has been cross-posted to CalgaryPolitics.com)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

CalgaryLiberal.com Interviews Ward 4 Aldermanic Candidate Leslie Bedard

Nation, the bleeding heart, socialist, anti-business, elitist, oilsands-hating threats-to-traditional-family-values (just kidding - love your work, Vince - disagree with a lot of it, but it's well written & researched) over at CalgaryLiberal.com have posted a great interview with Ward 4 aldermanic candidate Leslie Bedard.

The interview runs nearly 25 minutes, and is audio only.

Go check it out!

- E.S.

(This has been cross-posted to CalgaryPolitics.com)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Re-Post: A Blogging Code of Ethics

E.S.'s NOTE: This is being re-posted in full, with an edit at the bottom as the good people at CyberJournalist.net were kind enough to grant me permission to post the text of their Bloggers' Code of Ethics. That text is now included in this blog post. I look forward to your thoughts and feedback!


Nation, I was recently having a conversation via Twitter with Brittney LeBlanc, web editor for iNews880, about the role that us "amateur" bloggers play in the blogosphere now that the mainstream media have jumped on the bandwagon, and filled the internet with blog posts written by actual, trained journalists.

This has resulted in a bit of a disconnect, in that when someone applies for accreditation to an event to cover it as a "blogger", the organizers either have to determine if they're an actual trained journalist, a "citizen blogger", or just someone who posts a lot of notes on Facebook who wants to get into an event for free.

Now, first and foremost, I agree with Brittney that the term "citizen blogger" is unwieldy. If we're going to use a separate term for those who write as a hobby (like myself) rather than for a living, I prefer "citizen journalist". I'm not 100% certain, though, that we need to differentiate - ultimately, the issue as far as organizations trying to decide whether or not to accredit blogs boils down to a few simple questions:



  1. Can we trust this writer to be bound by what is factual?
  2. Do we have a recourse if this writer makes something up or misrepresents us in some way?
  3. Do we have something to gain by giving this writer access to our event?

The third question is the easiest to answer: YES. Media accreditation exists because organizations decided that they wanted their events to be reported on, to the masses - but they wanted attendees to know that the person they were talking with was a member of the media. Whether a blog gets 20 hits a day or 20 hits per minute, blogs are an opportunity to get a message out to the masses - and, as just about anyone can possibly HAVE a blog, having the bloggers identify themselves is a good way to ensure that your attendees are, at the very least, aware that what they're saying to an individual wearing the "Blogger" button could end up in "print".

The second question is stickier, because ultimately the answer is "not really". Self-publishing means, by its definition, that you don't have an editor, or a boss. People who pull a paycheque doing this "blogging" thing are VERY few and far between. So, when a blogger chooses to step outside the lines, you don't really a lot of recourse available to you as an organization. If you accredit a "hobby" blogger who steps outside the bounds of the agreed-to rules and, say, posts an unflattering video taken with their iPhone of an attendee, without permission, you can't take it to the blogger's boss. The best you can hope for, short of legal action, is to issue a press release calling on the blogger in question to stop giving their blogging brethren a bad name, and urging them in future to follow the rules before they "ruin it for everyone" (bloggers are notoriously good at policing their own).

Which brings us to the first question... and the answer is a resounding YES! You can read a blogger's work to determine if s/he is a News blog, an Opinion blog, or both - but ultimately, the way to keep a blogger in-line is to threaten the thing that bloggers value most: Their reputation.

Believe me when I say, I don't write for money. If I did... I would have stopped at post 3 or 4. This is number five-hundred-and-twenty-seven. I write to inform, to entertain, to cover issues that matter to me that I feel are underserved by the mainstream media... and because it feels good to know that there are people who give a flying fig what I have to say. It feels good to have people come up to me and say "I really like what you write, you had some good points"... heck, it even feels good to have people come up to me and say "I think you were way off base with that last post you wrote..." - because at least I know they're READING.

The way to keep me in line - the way to keep MOST bloggers in line, I'd wager - is to get us to agree to a universal Bloggers' Code of Ethics. "This is what I said I'd abide by - and if I don't, you can tell the world I'm full of crap".

So, I scoured the web for such proposed Codes... and, after sorting through several that dealt mainly with how to manage comments and discussion on my blog posts, I finally found one that I think can work for bloggers like me, and for organizations wrestling with whether or not to accredit bloggers. They can print it, leave spaces at the bottom to sign, and hold bloggers granted accreditation to the points contained within.

The Code of Ethics that caught my eye was featured on CyberJournalist.net - and I'm posting it below, with their permission.


A BLOGGERS' CODE OF ETHICS

Be Honest and Fair
Bloggers should be honest and fair in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.
Bloggers should:
• Never plagiarize.
• Identify and link to sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources' reliability.
• Make certain that Weblog entries, quotations, headlines, photos and all other content do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context.
• Never distort the content of photos without disclosing what has been changed. Image enhancement is only acceptable for for technical clarity. Label montages and photo illustrations.
• Never publish information they know is inaccurate -- and if publishing questionable information, make it clear it's in doubt.
• Distinguish between advocacy, commentary and factual information. Even advocacy writing and commentary should not misrepresent fact or context.
• Distinguish factual information and commentary from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two.

Minimize Harm
Ethical bloggers treat sources and subjects as human beings deserving of respect.
Bloggers should:
• Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by Weblog content. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects.
• Be sensitive when seeking or using interviews or photographs of those affected by tragedy or grief.
• Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of information is not a license for arrogance.
• Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone's privacy.
• Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.
Be cautious about identifying juvenile suspects, victims of sex crimes and criminal suspects before the formal filing of charges.

Be Accountable
Bloggers should:
• Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.
• Explain each Weblog's mission and invite dialogue with the public over its content and the bloggers' conduct.
• Disclose conflicts of interest, affiliations, activities and personal agendas.
• Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence content. When exceptions are made, disclose them fully to readers.
• Be wary of sources offering information for favors. When accepting such information, disclose the favors.
• Expose unethical practices of other bloggers.
• Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.


There you have it, Nation. Those are the rules I'm willing to conduct this blog under. What other bloggers among you are willing to post this, and commit the same?

Knowing the quality of my fellow bloggers who read this blog... I suspect ALL of you probably will. :)

Prove me right - and then let's get to work on getting blogs accredited. :)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Filed under “Things You Probably Don’t Want To Get Wrong”…

"There’s been a misconception that I have already made an announcement regarding our Muncipal Election, and that is incorrect…"

Well. Except for that time on February 27th.



(credit to Kirk Schmidt for the find)

Note to candidates: Twitter counts. People read it.

In fairness, here’s the speech Alnoor gave at his SECOND announcement (but his first “official announcement”, I guess) of his candidacy for Mayor, on June 28th:

*****

Welcome

Good morning and welcome. I’m glad you were all able to attend this morning. And I hope you enjoyed the Alnoor cakes that were sent to you Friday morning! (I believe Chris already guessed…)

I’ll take a few minutes with prepared comments and then answer your questions. We will be done in about a half hour.

First and foremost, I’d like to announce that after much consideration I have decided to run for Mayor of Calgary.

There’s been a misconception that I have already made an announcement regarding our Muncipal Election, and that is incorrect, I have been seriously considering it for the past 3 months, but today I am officially announcing my decision.

Why am I running?

I’ve been talking to Calgarians a lot over the past few months and they have told me they want:

■• a City Hall that we can trust,
■• a City Hall that listens to us,
■• a City hall that understands us,
■• and a City Hall that gets things done.

Recently we fired our city auditor because we didn’t want to hear what she had to say. I am a Chartered Accountant by profession, and I know that there’s something wrong at city hall.

We can’t have contracts for $250 million ending up costing us $1.25 billion! We have to clear it up. And that’s not the only issue – it follows the controversy about the Peace Bridge. Where we spent over $25 million and still do not know what the final cost will be!

We Calgarians can sense when people are just being political and misleading us; we can tell when someone is not telling us the truth, we just know there’s something wrong.

It’s time for City Hall to be completely transparent.

About me

Like many of you I’ve come to Calgary by choice and have made it my home. I love the people and I’m passionate about this city. Calgary is the most important city in Canada. Many of you share the same sentiments – we are here on this Monday morning because we all care about this city and its future. It’s time we Calgarians take our Proper place on the National stage.

Our Calgary is a world-class city, where it’s easy to do business and where communities matter.

Over the past few years, many things have changed in Calgary:

■• taxes have increased every year
■• crime has increased
■• and there is no fresh thinking
■• in every area we are falling behind

We need to turn over a new leaf – let’s get rid of the deadwood

What Calgarians are telling me

City Hall should serve every Calgarian.

Calgary is a dynamic city!

I’m running to Serve and represent all Calgarians.

Calgarians have told me we need a leader who:

■Has Entrepreneurial skills and an entrepreneurial spirit,
■Understands how to work with unionized employees
■And who understands the issues of downtown as well as the NE, SE, SW, and NW. All the quadrants of our city are important.

What Calgarians are asking for

Calgarians are telling me we need a leader who has world experience.

Calgarians want a leader who knows how to balance the books, just like a household. We can’t spend more than we earn.

No one has got a pay raise because we’re in a recession, but the city has asked more from us. We have been asked to pay 7% more next year.

We Calgarians had enough, let’s take back our city.

Closing Remarks

Thank you very much for attending our conference this morning. (I appreciate all the work you do and the coverage you offer our city. I look forward to speaking with you over then next 4 months!)

*****

I haven’t had the time to “fact-check” the whole thing… but in the 4th paragraph, he makes a statement that is not correct. As for the rest? You be the judge.

But Twitter DOES count, candidates. It’s a 140-character flyer that goes out to millions of people, and stays around forever.

You’ve been warned.

(cross-posted to CalgaryPolitics.com)