Ask almost any politician about their polling numbers and they'll say the only poll they'll listen to is the one on election day.
It's a cliché for a reason — but these days it might also be sage advice because public polling firms in Ontario aren't all telling the same story. Just look at the chaotic graph above — that's all of the publicly available polling of the Ontario horserace since the last general election.
As of early 2018, Forum Research has been showing the Progressive Conservatives with a consistently strong lead, with the NDP and Grits fighting it out for second place, while Campaign Research shows a toss-up between the PCs and Liberals for the lead and the NDP in a distant third.
Both companies say the difference is likely due to their choice of methodology. Forum uses Interactive Voice Response (IVR) — or "robocalls" — while Campaign Research switched from IVR to online panels after a single poll in January of 2017.
Richard Ciano, a principal at Campaign Research, tells QP Briefing his company made the switch because it was having increasing trouble reaching younger voters, which meant it had to increasingly weight their responses. After conducting the IVR poll in January, the company switched to online panels in April and has been holding them monthly since, and will continue to do so.
"We had had some misgivings coming into January, with IVR, and decided to make the switch," Ciano said.
Of note, the IVR poll showed a huge margin for the PCs that's absent from their online panel polling results.
"There was a marked difference," Ciano said, adding that it's not possible to tell whether a change in results was due to the polling method switch or changing support for the parties in the intervening time.
Difficulty reaching younger voters was one of the major problems identified by Mainstreet Research's review of its polling of the Calgary mayoral election this year. Mainstreet used IVR in Calgary and its last pre-election poll was ultimately an almost 25 percent deviation from the vote results, and as a result the company predicted the wrong winner. The company conducted a review of its results and said it "cast a harsh light on some of the shortcomings of IVR." It rejoined the field in 2018 with newer IVR technology.
Forum Research president and CEO Lorne Bozinoff stands by the IVR technology his firm employs and tells QP Briefing his Forum's accurate polling record — particularly in the British Columbia and Nova Scotia elections this year — shows that it works in the right hands.
"We've just shown twice this year already the accuracy of IVR," Bozinoff said. "I don't know why someone would make a comment about the accuracy of IVR."
Check out the charts below for Ontario horse-race results of the companies that have been in the field most often since the 2014 election and released their results publicly. We'll keep these charts updated as the election nears.
(Click on the purple lines along the horizontal axis to see the methodology and sample size for each poll. If you're on mobile, this page works best if you turn your phone to landscape mode and then refresh the page.)