"We can't allow things that are inaccurate to stand." — The Word of Our Dan, February 19, 2008.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Difficult to control

A very, very, interesting exchange yesterday at the Cameron Inquiry:

COFFEY, Q.C.: If we could, please, look at Exhibit P - 0228? And this is an e - mail from Ms. Cheeseman, June 3rd, 2007, 11 : 29 a.m. Subject is "On line poll question". It's to Ms. Nolan, Ms. Turpin, yourself and Ms. Mundon and it's actually the results of a poll, apparently a Telegram on-line poll question dealing with the issue of "do you agree with the Liberal Party calling for the resignation of Health Minister, Ross Wiseman and Eastern's Health's CEO, George Tilley, over their handling of the faulty hormone receptor testing controversy." And that's why I asked you the question about whether or not there was any discussion about whether or not Mr. Tilley should continue, to your knowledge.


COFFEY: What, if any, sort of usage is made of this sort of material? I mean, why would Ms. Cheeseman be sending you this?

MS. MATTHEWS: She would send it as an item of interest. For me, personally, on-line polls are frankly rather meaningless, they are very difficult to control and I wouldn't have taken it as anything more than a point of interest. I don't monitor on-line polls personally.
Ah – the perils of the Clintonian present tense.

Ms. Matthews doesn’t monitory on-line polls personally. Present tense.

Did she in the past?

Or, if she didn’t, and doesn’t, do so personally, do or did any of her colleagues or subordinates?

“On-line polls are difficult to control,” she says. Does that mean she, or anyone she knows, has made the effort to control them? How else would you be able to make that judgment?

And what about other kinds of polls? Having stated that one kind of poll is “difficult to control”, how does that compare to the ease of controlling other kinds of polls?

For she, personally, on-line polls are frankly rather meaningless.

However, it is abundantly clear that someone, and someone with a particular interest in the Premier’s public standing, doesn’t agree with Ms. Matthews’ opinion, as stated at the inquiry, regarding on-line polls.

This chart shows the number of votes in VOCM’s difficult-to-control on-line polls over the past three years. [Clickificate to enlargimafy.]

The peaks marked with letters are for the following questions:
A 6/3/2005 Do you think the Liberals will be able to hold onto Exploits district in the June 23rd byelection?
B 8/5/2005 Do you think government is being upfront with the public on its' negotiations with Abitibi Consolidated?
C 12/13/2005 What party do you plan to vote for in the federal election?
D 5/1/2006 Do you think Jim Bennett should step aside as leader of the Provincial Liberal Party?
E 5/24/2006 Do you think the fisheries summit should be open to the public and broadcast around the province?
F 6/8/2006 If a provincial election was held today what party would you vote for?
G 6/13/2006 Do you think the provincial Liberal Party will be able to successfully rebuild itself before the next election?
H 7/7/2006 Do you support Danny Williams' cabinet changes?
I 7/11/2006 Do you think the provincial government should improve its offer to the Nurses' Union?
J 10/12/2006 The provincial election is set for next October, but if it was held today what party would you vote for?
K 11/23/2006 Do you think there should be an independant inquiry into the Fibre Optic Deal approved by government?
L 11/27/2006 Do you think the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by the province to host Canada's premiers last summer, was money well spent?
M 11/29/2006 Should the official opposition drop the fibre optic issue?
N 12/11/2006 Should Natural Resources Minister Kathy Dunderdale resign over the Bull Arm contract controversy?
O 1/9/2007 Do you think the premier should call an early election because of the ongoing spending scandal in the House of Assembly?
P 2/9/2007 Do you support Loyola Hearn's statement that the annual rate hike for Marine Atlantic will result in improved quality service?
Q 3/30/2007 Do you support the province's ad campaign aimed at Stephen Harper?
R 4/13/2007 Do you support the Labrador Metis Nation's ad campaign aimed at Premier Danny Williams?
S 4/23/2007 Do you support plans for a massive rally on Confederation Hill to support the premier in the equalization fight?
T 4/26/2007 Do you like what you heard in the Speech from the Throne?
U 9/17/2007 The provincial election is less than one month away. If it was held today, what party would you vote for?
V 9/27/2007 Who do you think won last night's leaders debate?
W 10/18/2007 Do you like the Harper government's Speech From the Throne?
X 1/11/2008 Do you think the premier should shelve the feud with Ottawa and focus on social issues during this week's First Ministers meeting?
Y 1/15/2008 Are you satisfied with Tom Rideout's action on his controversial expense claims?
Z 2/5/2008 Should the premier ask Andy Wells to step down as mayor to focus on his new job as chair and CEO of the PUB?

All but three are on purely provincial political issues. Seven of those mention the Premier by title or name.

The last two massive-peaking questions, “Do you think radio call-in shows like VOCM Open Line influenced Government's handling of the breast cancer testing scandal?” and “Do you think Danny Williams owes an apology to breast cancer patients and their families for his recent comments on the Cameron Inquiry?” aren’t lettered, as they were the subjects of Geoff Meeker’s clever experiment last month.

By way of comparison, the average daily number of poll-clicks on the VOCM Question of the Day over the past three years is about 2650.

Ms. Matthews professes, in the present tense, not to care about on-line polls.

But someone very clearly did, and did so for a very long time, up to and including the very recent past.

It would be most interesting to know who.

Too bad that point wasn’t pressed yesterday.


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