• Toronto
  • November 5, 2008 - 15:00

The Power of the Polls: Do They Lead or Follow Events?
November 6, 2008, Toronto

Photos from top: Moderator John Honderich with panelists Darrell Bricker, Barry Kay and Geoff Stevens; Full house at the MaRS Centre; Guest Bob Cohen asks how journalists can be more responsible in reporting polling info; Geoff defends the journalists' position; Darrell fields another question; Our moderator, panelists and guests continue the discussion at a reception sponsored by Waste Management. Photos by Andrew Hind

(Event description below)

The Power of the Polls panel

Full House at MaRS

Bob Cohen

Geoff Stevens

Darrell Bricker and Barry Kay


Reception Continued

With federal elections in both countries, Canadians and Americans have been exposed to more political polling this fall than ever before in our history. The proliferating polls – daily, nightly and rolling; by phone and by internet – dominated a great deal of the media coverage of the two elections. Poll results provided such an inexhaustible supply of news stories and fodder for commentaries, candidates and their platforms seemed to disappear at times in the blizzard (or fog) of polling coverage.

Polls play an important role in our democratic elections. They help political parties by focusing their attention on issues the public deems important. They also help journalists by providing a reliable source of data that can serve as the basis for accurate, informative news stories. However, some would argue that polls which solely report on the parties' standings – and the media outlets that promote such polls – do nothing to assist voters to make informed decisions about issues and candidates.

Many polls prove to be quite accurate within their margins of error, but others do not. It can be argued that bad polling drives out good reporting.

Do "horse race" polls unduly influence voters' decisions? What responsibility do the media have in broadcasting poll results? In the wake of both the Canadian and U.S. elections, our expert panel discusses the effect opinion polls may or may not have had on the outcomes, and the role of the media in elections and democracy.


  • Panelists:
    • Darrell Bricker, Chief Executive Officer for Ipsos Global Public Affairs
    • Barry Kay, associate professor in the political science department at Wilfrid Laurier University
    • Geoff Stevens, journalist and political columnist for the Record in Kitchener-Waterloo and the Mercury in Guelph
  • Moderator:
    • John Honderich, former Toronto Star editor and publisher
      (See below for panelist bios)

WHERE: The MaRS Centre, Collaboration Room 3
101 College St. (map and directions)

WHEN: Thursday, November 6, 2008. Presentation 6:30-8:00, Reception 8:00-9:00

Sponsored by:



Darrell Bricker
Darrell Bricker is Chief Executive Officer for Ipsos Global Public Affairs, responsible for directing the company’s research assignments for public, private and not-for-profit sector clients around the world. His research specialties include analysis of social and political trends, issues management, strategic communications and corporate reputation. Darrell has a long history in politics, analysis and research; prior to joining Ipsos-Reid Corporation (formerly the Angus Reid Group) in 1990, he was Director of Public Opinion Research in the Office of the Prime Minister. He also worked as a research consultant with firms in Ottawa and Toronto.

Barry Kay
Dr. Barry Kay is an associate professor in the political science department at Wilfrid Laurier University, and an election analyst for Global Television. His teachings and research focus on public opinion and elections, the politics of policy making, Canadian and American politics, and research methodology. His recent writings have been on the topics of electoral systems, public opinion polls and single-issue interest groups. He has also developed a model for projecting parliamentary seat distributions, from popular vote or opinion polls, accessible through the Laurier Institute for the Study of Popular Opinion and Policy website: http://www.wlu.ca/lispop/.

Geoff Stevens
Geoff Stevens is journalist, author and teacher. He has been the Ottawa columnist and managing editor of the Globe and Mail and managing editor of Maclean's magazine. He also writes a column on politics every Monday in the Record in Kitchener-Waterloo and the Mercury in Guelph. Geoff is the author or co-author of four books on political subjects, the most recent of which, The Player: The Life and Times of Dalton Camp, won the Writers Trust of Canada's Drainie-Taylor prize for the best biography of 2003. He is currently working with the Honourable Flora MacDonald on her memoirs, and teaches a course on politics and the media at Wilfrid Laurier University.



John Honderich
John Honderich was the editor of the Toronto Star from 1988 to 1994, and publisher from 1994 to 2004. John was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 2003 and the Order of Ontario in 2006. In 2004, he was appointed as the Mayor of Toronto’s Special Ambassador on the cities agenda. Following this position, Honderich was appointed in 2006 as Special Advisor on the future of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and creative cities by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty. He currently sits on the board of the Torstar Corp.