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B.C. pollsters find new tools to read our minds

May 3rd, 2010 · 6 Comments

When you cover politics in this province, you inevitably end up covering polling.

(Current interesting issue is Mayor Gregor Robertson’s numbers. I’ve been told consistently for the past year that his approval rating is at 70 per cent, which is very respectable in the politician world, but don’t know if that’s taken a hit in recent months.)

But the little-known fact about polling is how much its world is changing, just as the worlds of many other forms of communications with the public are changing. Like the mass media and music industries, polling companies also have to deal with the tendency for everyone to want free information. (Hence, many of the polls you see reported are polls they’ve done for free, mainly as marketing devices.)

They’re also making strides in the worlds of psychology (is this person really telling me the truth? how can I find out?) and social media to try to delve into what we really think. It’s a tricky world. As anyone who’s ever had to deal with a marriage, kids, employees, employers, or people on the bus will tell you, what people say they want/believe/have done or often at odds with what they really want/believe/have done.

I got to explore this world in a little more depth in BCBusiness this month, where pollster Angus Reid is exploring the online frontier, Evi Mustel is refining the ways to get people to give honest responses, and Greg Lyle is looking at the role that emotion and long-term values play in in how we think about the world (and what we say to pollsters as a result).

In spite of all that, as Bob Penner of Strategic Communications notes, they’re still not political analysts — even though they like to pretend they are.

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