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Municipal Election Predictions Evaluated

In the final post reflecting on the 2018 municipal elections, how the different surveys performed at predicting the elections will be explored. Between August and November 2018, 20 races were polled examining municipal races in Winnipeg, Toronto, Brampton, Hamilton, Waterloo Region and Vancouver. Forum Research, Mainstreet Research, and the Conestoga College Public Service Program each used Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology to conduct their surveys. While Research Co conducted an online survey and Probe Research Inc., conducted a CATI to web survey.

To evaluate the accuracy of each firm the poll conducted closest to the election for each race was compared it to the final results. Two questions were then asked:

  1. Did the poll accurately predict the winner of the election?
  2. How many candidates vote totals fell within the poll margin of error?

Some polls allowed for an ‘Other Candidate’ option, rather than listing all the candidates running. When this occurred the candidates not listed were collapsed into a single category for comparison purposes.  When examining question 1, the surveys did quite well with 15 of 17 elections using IVR successfully predicting the election winner. On question 2, results were not great. Only 50 of 103 individual candidates predicted vote totals fell within the margin of error at the 95% level.   

As mentioned the polls did well at predicting the winners. However, when examining the top two vote finisher in each race of the 17 races, 7 of the results were outside of the margin of error for both candidates. Conestoga’s poll for Kitchener Mayor, Forum’s poll for Toronto Mayor and the Mainstreet poll for Brampton Mayor all had the top two candidates fall within the margin of error at the 95% level. Most of the results outside of the margin of error were very close missing by only a few percentage points. Missing this closely could easily be the result of undecided voters breaking differently than those who had made up their mind or a result of people changing their mind.

When examining the results in greater detail only two polls incorrectly predicted the winner. Summarizing the results of each of the polls closest to the election are analyzed by the individual survey firm’s accuracy and average tracking error in the table below.  

Research Co conducted five polls related to Vancouver and Surrey British Columbia municipal election races. However, the Surrey poll did not explore the race for mayor, instead the poll gaged support for each candidate individually. It was therefore not possible to include the Surrey poll in our results. With respect to the five polls conducted for the municipal Vancouver race, when examining Research Co.’s final poll they identified the winner but only one of the top two candidates results fell within the margin of error.

Probe Research Inc. conducted two CATI to web polls for the Winnipeg Mayoral race that both identified the winner. Examining the final Probe poll they predicted the correct winner but were outside the margin of error for three of the eight candidates polled. Two additional candidates cited in the poll did not appear on the ballot on Election Day. It is worth noting that Probe’s poll was in the field a month before election day, which stands in contrasts to the Forum, Mainstreet, and Conestoga College polls which were conducted within a week of election day.

Overall the results of the surveys were a decent predictor of the actual election winners. We reviewed 17 IVR polls, a Cati to Web poll and an online poll.  In total 17 out of the 19 polls successfully predicted the winner. This is a good result, however, when examining the individual margins of error the results were not as strong. It is important to recognize that there are lots of reasons the results can be off by a little bit. These polls are snap shots in time taken before the election, meaning people can change their minds. The polls try and capture voters’ perceptions but it is possible the people who respond to the poll are not reflective of the people who will actually vote on Election Day. Overall, these polls provided a relatively accurate perception of the state of the races polled.

*This article has been update to correct the type of poll conducted by Probe and to note the date Probe’s polls were in the field

The Long Term Impact of Hamilton Amalgamation

It has been almost eighteen years since the City of Hamilton was amalgamated with the former municipalities of Ancaster, Stony Creek, Flamborough, Glanbrook and Dundas, yet, the community remains divided on a number of very important issues. The most recent Mayoral race provided a stark example: the campaign focused (almost exclusively) on the Council-approved plan to build a Light Rail Transit (LRT) line in the downtown core.

This election is only the tip of the iceberg. A detailed survey conducted by on behalf of the Beasley Neighbourhood Association shows the true extent of the community divide. For more details about the extent of the divide please visit the Hamilton Spectator. If you are interested in seeing a summary of the results of the survey visit this early post on or visit for a more condensed summary.  If you want to work with the Beasley survey raw data visit If you want some ideas on how Hamilton City Council can bring the city together visit the

Finally, a thank you to the Beasley Neighbourhood Association for funding the Interactive Voice Response survey, which formed the basis of these articles. If you are interested in working with to do some survey work please use the contact form or Twitter to get in touch.

Reducing Harm from Recreational Casino Bus Trips for Older Adults

Many older adult recreational centres run casino bus trips for their members. Most participants on these trips lose money. However, they still have a fun experience socializing with their peers, in a safe environment where casino staff treat all patrons with dignity and respect. While no one likes to lose money, the gambling losses for the majority of older adults who visit casinos are within their means. Indeed, studies find problem gambling amongst older adults is lower than rates for the general population.

Some older adults who participate in recreational bus trips do experience harm. Older adults who personally face gambling problems experience this harm, as do their families and peers. Financial issues are the most obvious example of this harm. These range from a reduced ability to spend money on necessities to the more serious extreme of bankruptcy. The consequences of this harm extend beyond monetary issues. It also includes health issues, such as reduced sleep due to worry, depression, and in serious cases death by suicide. Relationship harms can also occur, such as relationship neglect, increased arguments, and divorce. So while problem gambling amongst older adults is not widespread, the consequences for those impacted by it are significant.

There are a number of steps older adult centres can take to mitigate the harm from problem gambling. At the extreme, it is possible to cancel all recreational casino bus trips. However, this deprives those who enjoy these trips of the socialization benefits. It is also possible to reduce the number of trips, and this may be a viable option if a centre is running a weekly trip but for most centres that are running monthly trips this approach may just cause people to gamble more when a trip does occur. Some recreational centres include chaperones on casino trips, but this approach has flaws as well. A chaperone is unlikely to know if someone is gambling within their means or losing more than they can afford. If a chaperone does suspect someone has a gambling problem it is also unlikely they will have the appropriate training to intervene.

Some less intrusive interventions may be more effective approaches. The general idea of these other approaches is to provide information to older adults to assist them in making choices. A simple solution is to provide older adults with maps of the casino floor itself on the front and of nearby amenities on the back. The maps of the casino can assist older adults in finding their way around once inside. The layout of casinos is disorienting by design, in hopes that people do not leave. Providing a map can help visitors find the exits, so when they are ready to leave they can.

Many casinos will subsidize bus trips, but in return require a minimum length of visit. Placing directions to nearby amenities on the back of the casino map provides ideas for alternative activities once someone is finished gambling. This decreases the likelihood that someone will gamble more than they can afford simply because it is not the time to leave yet. If many visitors find the length of the trips is too long it may also be worth shortening the trip and charging a fee for the bus instead of accepting the casino subsidy.

When people register for the bus trip the centres may want to remind everyone to bring a watch.  Casinos do not contain clocks in hopes that people will lose track of time and gamble longer. Wearing a wristwatch or having a watch in a pocket can help protect against this disorientation. It also has the added benefit of making it more likely everyone will be back on the bus in time for departure.

Finally, it may be worthwhile to provide an orientation session for older adults either before they board the bus or on the bus trip itself. Very few people are likely to attend a training session on problem gambling. An orientation session that provides information about the casino, the surrounding attractions, how to play different casino games, strategies to protect oneself from theft, and methods to recognize problem gambling is likely to be attractive to most who are joining the bus trip.

In the orientation session, when turning to the issue of problem gambling, it may be more helpful to explain this as an opportunity to share some ideas on how people can avoid losing too much money. Research on older adults has found strategies fall into two categories: cognitive strategies and behavioural strategies. Cognitive strategies include recognizing that the odds are against casino visitors and not thinking of oneself as lucky. Behavioural strategies include ideas like bringing a pre-set amount to gamble, quitting when ahead, and placing small bets so the money will last longer. Rather than directly sharing these ideas, it may be helpful to encourage orientation session participants to share their own ideas on how they prevent themselves from losing too much money. The orientation leader can then add some more ideas to round out what is missing. Older adults are more likely to adopt the strategies if they have come from their peers.

Recreational casino bus trips can be an enjoyable social outing for older adults. Adopting some simple preventative approaches can help ensure the benefits of these trips outweigh any harms.