Quebec’s media — off or fair?

Yesterday was election night in the Province of Quebec. The Liberals won a majority as expected. But the Parti Québecois did better than expected according to polls and, more so, by the media. The ADQ did worse than the media share would have suggested, but slightly better than opinion polls.

The table below presents the shares of vote, media (based on news search engines) and opinion (according to the latest polls conducted by Leger Marketing and CROP). Results are scaled such that the sum is always 100% (i.e. ignoring non response and other parties). The Sum of Absolute Deviations (SAD) shows how various indicators deviated from the actual vote. For those unfamiliar with Quebec's political landscape, Charest is leader of the Liberals, Marois of the Parti Québécois and Dumont of the Alliance Démocratique du Québec.

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In this electoral race, media shares have been relatively poor indicators of public opinion and voting behavior. This result contrasts with what we saw in the recent Canadian and American races, where the media turned out to be surprisingly accurate indicators of voting behavior.

Some might say that the Quebec media were more fair, giving relatively equal shares to the three leaders. Others might say that the media were biased, devoting too much attention to a leader who turned out to be unpopular. Or maybe it is a sign that the media were simply out of touch with reality.

As far as I am concerned, I would simply wish to add the following two comments. First, the media share as reported here (i.e. proportion of mentions on December the 7th) were not an aberration. In fact, Dumont's share was generally higher than Marois' in November. Second, these results may be interpreted in many ways. We could conclude that web-based visibility indicators, including media, are no substitute for opinion polls. On the other hand, we could note that media shares turned out to be the best predictor of the vote share of the leader and that time series were able to capture an important shift in momentum.

It is certainly unreasonable to expect media share to be accurate reflections of social trends. It is, however, probably wise to study such indicators to gain insight in their evolution.

A radar chart for December 7th (results gathered on the 8th between 03:00 and 04:15) is available here