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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Causation or correlation: Dan Brown


Dan Brown, the former online editor and Internet guru at The London Free Press, wonders who else, other than Dan Brown himself, has noticed that since Bob Rae left the NDP to join the Liberals the NDP has trended higher and higher in the polls. Meanwhile, the Liberals, in Brown's words, "have been sucking canal water."

I, for one, hadn't noticed the trend and therefore had not thought of old Bob as the cause.

A quick check on the Internet indicated to me that a lot of others hadn't noticed the Bob Rae-inspired trends either. This was not surprising as the trends didn't seem to be there to be noticed. In fact, some of the polling organizations I consulted saw the NDP as recently breaking out of a rut. None seemed to see the NDP's present surge as the culmination of a long, steady climb going back years.

Frank Graves, the founder of EKOS Research Associates Inc., recently said: "Ontario has been a pitched see saw battle between the Conservatives and the Liberals. The Conservatives have tended to hold the edge." It was only "recently a dramatic rise in the NDP suggests those ridings may be in doubt." Note the word recently. No long term trend going back to Bob Rae departure from the party.

In fact, The Globe and Mail suggested: 
"Some question whether Bob Rae’s tumultuous five years as an NDP premier [in Ontario] could be what’s holding Jack [Layton] back." 

That's right, the Globe and Mail thinks old Bob's distant actions as the premier of Ontario may be an albatross around the neck of the NDP in the province.
 
I found a really neat site PollingReport.ca and contacted Kelly John Rose to discover if it was possible to create a graph showing federal polling results from around the time Bob Rae left the NDP for the Liberals till today. He e-mailed me: "If you change the numbers in the URL, it will adjust accordingly."

I did and the following is the result.

Chart from PollingReport.ca.

So, what do you think? If you want to see the actual graph, try this custom link to PollingReport.

In what I think of as the good old days, questions like Dan Brown's were kicked around at editorial meetings. It was "brain storming." The questions from the session were handed to a reporter to research and write a story filled with the interesting information. Today the question is just tossed out with no one at the paper doing a thing. The question is dropped straight into the lap of the reader.

I have to thank Kelly John Rose for putting a lot of work into his polling info on the Net and for his quick reply to my query. His is a fine site and a great resource.

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