Frank Graves has sifted through the entrails of the last election, trying to figure out why he and all the other pollsters didn't see Stephen Harper's majority coming. His conclusions merit careful attention:
In a nutshell, what went wrong is that Mr. Graves created state-of-the-art methodology to effectively random survey the entire voting-age population. In doing so, he drew in a big segment of potential voters who use cellphones only – 15 per cent of the total, double the percentage in 2008. This segment of the voting-age population has been either excluded or underrepresented in conventional polling methodology. They tend to be younger and to belong to the more than 50 per cent of the electorate under the age of 45 who don't vote.
While Graves clearly identified two voting significant cohorts, the data on non voters is highly volatile. But when he revisited the data, Graves discovered that:
if under-45 Canadians had voted in the same proportion as over-45 Canadians, there would have been no Conservative majority but more likely an NDP-led coalition.
Those non voters swung the election to the Conservatives. It is in the party's interest to keep non voters disengaged. And appealing to the young does not appear to be part of the game plan. By micro-targeting voters and programs to the over 45 crowd, the Conservatives have discovered how to win a majority with 24% of eligible voters.
Graves analysis does, however, show where opportunity lies. The party that can reach the young is the party of the future. The present government is devoted -- in the words of the American economist Paul Krugman -- to "eating the future."