Why were the polls so wrong?

Here’s my regular chart updated with the election results (I’ve omitted the July 15th polls because it makes it hard to view because of the extreme jump between July 15th and the election results)

How did the PLP storm to victory and take the majority of the popular vote when the OBA were leading in the polls?  Certainly polls aren’t 100% accurate.  They’re completely reliant on getting enough random people to answer to get a good approximation of the overall electorate.  If you only focus on a certain segment, it can skew the results.  However, I still think the polls were reasonably valid and what we witnessed was a significant shift in support and a solidifying of the undecideds rather than a case of the polls being wildly inaccurate.  It is clear from the chart above that the OBA lost support and the undecided swing vote ultimately rallied behind the PLP.

I think the significant lead in the polls was a disadvantage for the OBA because it led to:

  • A decrease in turnout of supporters to vote because they think a win will occur
  • A shifting of votes of reluctant potential supporters who didn’t want them to win with a large majority to send a message that they are not happy and the party didn’t do enough
  • An energizing force for the opposition to turn out strong

In my personal opinion, many reluctantly supported the OBA in the lead up to the election for economic reasons but wanted to send a message to the OBA that they hadn’t delivered on most everything else. When the polls were showing a strong victory for the OBA people began to fear that it would give the OBA too much confidence.  They were already too overconfident in government despite having barely won the 2012 election.  They forgot that fact and governed from an ivory tower as if they’d won with a significant majority rather than a shoestring.  Eg:

“This Government was elected with a mandate to solve Bermuda’s very serious challenges”.  – Attorney-General Trevor Moniz

I doubt many wanted to see the OBA win with a significant majority so it wasn’t surprising to see a shift to the PLP to reduce margins.  The OBA didn’t help themselves with their governance or their campaign so seeing a landslide shift in support from undecideds wasn’t terribly surprising either.

It can’t however be said the PLP stumbled into victory.  The swing vote clearly rallied behind the PLP likely because the the PLP ran a strong campaign.  They telegraphed their vision long before the election and filled in many details with their platform. Their platform was frankly impressive and had quite a few good ideas. As to whether or not it will be feasible is a whole other discussion, but they certainly get credit for effort, ideas and clearly listening to the people.

The OBA’s platform, by contrast, was weak, lacked ideas and showed evidence that they might listen but haven’t heard what the people have been saying.  Based upon an analysis of platforms alone the PLP was a much stronger contender.  The PLP was also on the ground and rallying support in a way that the OBA haven’t managed.  Did the PLP take the “high road”?  Absolutely not, however I frankly doubt anyone expected them to. It is concerning that there was such overwhelming endorsement of such a divisive campaign for, as noted by the Cayman Compass in their concerning post election editorial, the PLP’s campaign and actions as opposition are concerning evidence of how the PLP could ultimately govern.

Did voters believe (or care if) the PLP’s modus operandi has changed since the party last was in power – indebtedness, divisiveness and short-sighted “us vs. them” political rhetoric? Even as an opposition party, the PLP attempted to obstruct progress at every turn by flexing their union muscle. They certainly shouldn’t be expected to govern any differently.

The thing is, the OBA went in with a lead and blew it with a terrible campaign.  The OBA might complain that they were held to a higher standard than the PLP but really that’s what they campaigned to be in 2012, something new and different, a new kind of politics for Bermuda.  They set their own benchmark and yet resorted to cheap tactics that I’m certain turned people off. They showed the people they didn’t believe enough in their own record and plans for the future.  Instead they didn’t focus on that and took the low road.

Having the Premier of our country post things like this are embarrassing.

Let’s be clear, converting this

 into this  is not “taking the high road”.  It was cheap and petty.  I can’t imagine who thought this was a good idea and would actually win them support.  There were a whole raft of posts like this, not from random ads or mysterious facebook pages and groups but from the Premier himself.  Further a whole debate could be had with regards to the sensationalizing of various PLP proposals.  Certainly one could have questioned the feasibility of some of the ideas but in many cases it came across as intentionally misleading rather than an honest and frank discussion of the merits of the proposals.

The OBA focused too much on highlighting and distorting the PLP’s proposals and not enough on their own.  All that did is highlight how empty their platform was of real solutions and ideas.  The OBA’s section on the economy, their supposed greatest strength in governance, was minimal and contained no real proposals for reigniting growth.  They attacked the PLP’s proposals for tax reform and yet sidestepped their own previous proposals for tax reform which were conspicuously absent.  How were they going to balance the budget?  Their platform lacked answers much like it lacked ideas and vision. There was nothing to get people excited about another 5 years of an OBA government.  So why would people support them?  As government, campaigning as “not the PLP” wasn’t good enough.

So, were the polls wrong or did the OBA bungle things so badly the swing vote rebelled against them?  In my personal opinion it was more of the latter than the former.  It couldn’t be said that the OBA wholly handed the PLP a victory given the effort the PLP put into the campaign.  However, as I noted in my interview with the paper, the divisiveness of the election has likely damaged our island and voters are the real losers.  The tone and path of our local politics have been a tremendous disappointment leaving me questioning what kind of future we have as an island so divided.  As in the numerous other cases over the last 10+ years I’m left wondering the point of it all and if it is perhaps time to take a permanent break from blogging.

None the less, congratulations are in order to Premier Burt and the PLP for winning the election. Hopefully they will succeed in delivering a great future for Bermuda and manage to repair some of the divide that paralyzes us.

In case you’re wondering, I didn’t vote this election.  For personal reasons I was off island from before the election was called and was unable to return in time for the election.