Globe & Mail public editor Sylvia Stead offered seven tips for readers in reporting on political polls. Her advice comes in advance of the upcoming Canadian federal elections in October 2019.
While Stead’s seven tips were directed to journalists reporting on polls, it is helpful to reverse her tips to apply to the general public in assessing news media polls.
Stead called for reporting on “trustworthy” polls and transparency in reporting by noting who paid for a poll, the questions, the sample size and the margin of error. Stead also recommended journalists “show the trend and explain why,” avoid highlighting “sub-groups” that are of a small sample size, and including if credible any “newsworthy outlier poll.” Further, she recommended journalists “spend more time explaining the policies, the leader’s view and temperament and their qualifications.”
The public can look at news stories and seek this information when assessing polls. For example, readers can look at news stories on polls to see if poll sample size and funding is disclosed.
As for the Globe and Mail, Stead reported that the Canadian paper “will rely on Nik Nanos, chief data scientist and founder of Nanos Research,” who uses a “rolling poll” instead of individual polls to find trends.
Check out Stead’s guidance.