News / Vancouver

Nail-biter B.C. election night ‘a very good night’ for pollsters

It seems this time, the polls got it right in B.C. But 176,104 ballots yet to be counted.

A B.C. NDP supporter watches results at the party's election night headquarters in Vancouver, B.C., on Tuesday May 9, 2017.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

A B.C. NDP supporter watches results at the party's election night headquarters in Vancouver, B.C., on Tuesday May 9, 2017.

Wednesday was a good day for the pollsters.

“It’s really, really good,” said Forum Research president Lorne Bozinoff. “B.C. was kind of a monkey on the back of pollsters. That’s all gone now.”

That’s because, since British Columbia’s 2013 election, his industry’s been tarred with a brush of disrepute and hand-wringing over why surveys missed the B.C. Liberals’ comeback victory.

It’s allowed political candidates to dismiss measurable trends no matter how many polls suggest they’re real — “I’m not a great believer in polls,” Christy Clark told a reporter on Day One of her campaign, “so I’m not going to comment on poll results.”

Although 176,104 absentee ballots remain to be counted by Elections B.C., and at least one riding will face a judicial recount, Bozinoff wasn’t just happy his own firm’s predictions were close to the mark.

“It was a good night for the whole industry,” he explained. “I think all the polls were pretty accurate.”

Forum worked with Metro throughout the election campaign to provide exclusive surveys and insight for our readers on issues from housing to pipelines, fentanyl and political donations.

The firm’s final predictions: 41 per cent for B.C. NDP, 39 for B.C. Liberals, and 17 for Greens.

The actual results: B.C. Liberals got 40.9 per cent (1.9 points off), B.C. NDP 39.9 (1.1 points off), and Greens 16.7 (0.3 points off).

In 2013, Forum Research was overall the most accurate predictor of the final popular vote results. The most accurate pollster in 2017: Insights West, which predicted a 41 per cent tie (0.1 points off for B.C. Liberals, 1.1 for NDP), and Greens at 17 per cent (0.3 points off).

“We proved again that our methodology and our polls do work,” Insights West posted to its Facebook page shortly before 2 a.m. Wednesday morning. And Mario Canseco, its public affairs vice president tweeted his “respect and kudos” to his rival pollsters.

Forum Research was in the field literally to the 11th hour Monday night, providing Metro results just before the midnight restrictions on publishing new polls kicked in.

That’s one key lesson he says most pollsters learned from the 2013 debacle, when the presumed winners in the B.C. NDP suddenly plummeted amongst voters in the final days of the campaign.

“Previously people might have been a little lax in some things — they would stop polling a week before election day,” he said. “This time, our own came out just before midnight, which pays off because you catch any last-minute swing.

“To be honest, the polling business has been getting better in Canada at doing elections.”

So is there some sort of prize for the polling winner, or just bragging rights?

The only prize, Bozinoff said, is a real-world test of one’s polling methodology. And those are bragging rights a market researcher can take to the bank.

Correction (May 10): An earlier version of this story misstated Mario Canseco's title. He is Insights West's Vice President of Public Affairs.

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