As Canada’s media remembered the tragic shooting at Dawson College that occurred 10 years ago, much of the rhetoric surrounding the media coverage hinged on the argument of gun control, and the supposed lack of additional controls brought to bear since the shooting.
An obviously contentious issue, CTV News Montreal opted to ask the public’s opinion alongside their Dawson College coverage, with their daily poll asking “Does Canada Need Tougher Gun Control Laws?” Almost immediately, the results were in favour of the no respondents, with the early vote marginally in favour with 51% voting no. As the day progressed that figure would eventually swell to 78% no, probably more… at least we think it did.
We can’t tell for sure because CTV News removed the poll from their website. We sent CTV News Montreal an email, asking why. This is the response from CTV’s News Director in Quebec:
“While Talkback is not a scientific poll by any measure, the aim is to have a result that is a fair gauge of public opinion, rather than reflecting the ability of an organized campaign to mobilize voters on one side of the question or the other.
For that reason, we reserve the right not to publish the result when we detect an organized effort to influence the outcome.
This was the case last night. After reviewing the results and voting patterns, we were not satisfied the Talkback results were an accurate reflection of our general audience’s views and may have been influenced by an external effort to sway the outcome.
For that reason, we were unable to rely on the results. From a journalistic perspective, we concluded it would be inappropriate to publish them.”
However, in April of this year, CTV ran this article with the headline “Two-thirds of Quebecers want long gun registry.” The article recounted the results of a poll of some 1,004 Quebecers (to put that in perspective, the CTV poll had over 1700 respondents by 5 pm) and their opinions on Quebec’s proposed long gun registry. The survey in question was conducted by polling firm Leger, for the anti-gun group PolySeSouvient, and commented on by PolySeSouvient spokeswoman Heidi Rathjen.
Somehow, a poll on gun control, sponsored by an anti-gun organization carries enough inherent journalistic integrity to warrant headline coverage and an article devoid of any criticism of the potentially biased results. Conversely, an online and impartial poll publicly available online that elicits a strong response from the nation’s subject matter experts and those most effected by additional gun control… well, “from a journalistic perspective, we concluded it would be inappropriate to publish them.”