Macleans’ Potter protecting his VoteCompass buddy

Andrew Potter is the 2nd journo from a competing media organization to go out of their way to defend Peter Loewen from VoteCompass and attack Brian Lilley of the Sun. Potter even links the Globe’s piece in his diatribe.

Potter’s rant is laughable in that with all the bias we see aimed at the Conservatives from Macleans’ own (hi Wherry and Feschuk), he has the audacity to go after someone else especially with Lowen being a buddy of his.

“For the record: Peter is a friend of mine. I’ve known him for about six years, we met when I was a postdoc and he was doing his PhD at the University of Montreal. I’ve had drinks with him in bars and been to parties at his house. I have also gone to him, on a number of occasions, for his thoughts on a number of issues relating to Canadian politics, especially voter behaviour – turnout, national and regional patterns, shifting party support, that sort of thing.  He has always been extremely helpful – Peter’s a really, really smart guy.”

Potter might want to pull back from calling others “prostitutes and chickenshits” (see here) when he is defending someone who he has a personal relationship with and doesn’t hold others in the media to these same standards.

Peter Lowen had contacted me the other day and since I don’t have a big enough ego to think he would single little-ol’-me out for personal attention, I started looking for a pattern in blogs (see here) and media articles defending him.

Here’s my back-and-forth with Loewen. You’ll notice the similar points regurgitated by Potter and Sandy Crux:

Hi Dean,

I’ve caught your two blog posts and thought I’d write a quick message in the interest of clarification. Lilley’s story is correct as far as it goes, but it omits a few key things (which I told him). First, I principally worked for Ignatieff so that a colleague and I could run a field experiment during his campaign. You can find the resulting academic paper on my website, under ‘Work.’ It’s recently been published in Party Politics. Second, Lilley omits that I did a similar type of volunteering for Harper in his 2004 leadership race, as Tom Flanagan gave me their internal polling in exchange for me developing a game theoretic model of how the campaign should distribute its resources. In both cases, I did the work because I like politics and I like trying to learn something academic from practical politics. That was the same year I made my only two political contribution: one to attend a Harper dinner in Montreal, organized by a friend, and another donation to Pierre Poilievre’s nomination campaign, Pierre being an old housemate from my university summer days.
Most importantly, Lilley omits that the only job I’ve ever had in active politics was working full time on a campaign for Bill Black for the leadership of the PC Tories, in 2005-6.
I should hope you’ll find this at least a bit concerting. If you have any questions about Vote Compass, I am all ears.



I’m glad you emailed me.
My issue with the VoteCompass “story” has actually very little do with any Ignatieff connections you may have but more about the CBC: 

1) using it during an election period
2) not disclosing any and all potential conflicts to the participants
3) failing to admit skewed results
I would be happy to post any reply that you may have and would not edit (for length only) without your final approval.

Thanks. No need to post a reply, but I’d like to just address your points, and would love to hear your responses:
1.) It’s an election tool, so I think it’s reasonable to use it during an election. I trust you’d agree, if you thought that we had all of the issue positions correct, that it’s a decent tool for voters to learn quickly about the rough positions of the parties. The average voter is not a political animal, and they won’t have the same indepth level of knowledge as you or me. And we really shouldn’t expect them to, necessarily. Voters live busy lives, and people have different interests. So, we’re trying to make it easier for voters to learn something about the issue positions of the parties. I should also note that issue positions are not, I think, the only thing voters should act on. They can also act on their feelings about leaders, long term allegiances, assessments of integrity, etc. We’re just trying to help those who want to be more informed on the issues. Would you agree this is important, especially given the decreasing level of political engagement in our country and the tendency of parties to obfuscate their positions on all issues but those which are helpful to them?
2.) Fair enough. I am genuinely not a partisan. I work as a professional political scientist, and am credentialed as such. What is changed when one finds out that I’ve worked for both of our country’s two largest parties?
3.) How are our results skewed? I can anticipate two objections. First, you can disagree with the positions we’ve assigned to the parties on each issue. You can see these positions at the backend of the survey, and you can also see the sources we’ve used to draw those conclusions. I’d be happy to hear your objections on any of these placements. Second, you could claim that no matter what one chooses, they end up Liberal. But, of course, this isn’t true in any meaningful sense. If one chooses the same response category every time or chooses randomly, then one will most likely be closest to the Liberal party. But this is the real response set of about .00001% of people (that is not an exaggeration). It reflects the fact that we’ve constructed the questions such that agreeing on one question will be the left wing response, while on the next question is will be the conservative response. It’s the equivalent of choosing 1 then 5 over and over again and ending up on 3.
I hope this helps. I’d be happy to hear back from you.
1) I would have no issue with its use during an election period if it wasn’t being done by the CBC not to mention how they have marketed it 

2) You would have to ask the NDP about your work with both the Liberals and Conservatives
3) I have issues with the questions posed as they are not reflective of conservative principles or policies ie religious questions Elizabeth May is an ordained minister and I as a Conservative am agnostic


Hi Dean, 

1) OK. The project needed a media partner and we got the CBC. By the way, I haven’t been paid a cent for this.
2) Fair enough. They’ve seen and approved all of our positions of them on the dimensions.
3) Which questions in particular? Remember, we’re not saying that there are responses which are ‘correct’ for Conservative supporters (or for any other supporters). Certainly, many conservatively-minded people are in favour of gay marriage, etc. What we are capturing is the proximity of voters to the documented positions of the parties. That there is often space between a party’s position and that of its supporters is just a fact, especially in a system where there is a small number of parties. I appreciate that a lot of people, for example, feel that they are fiscally conservative and socially libertarian, and get upset that they are perhaps not as close to the Cons on the issue space as they might like. But this is a result of the actual position of the Conservative party (or the NDP, or the Liberals, etc), not our codings.
Thanks for writing back.

8 Responses to “Macleans’ Potter protecting his VoteCompass buddy”

  1. Oh oh…Macleans’ Potter caught telling fibs about VoteCompass buddy « BC Blue: One BC Conservative's view on it all… Says:

    […] it didn’t take Ezra Levant long to shred Andrew Potter’s defence (see here) of his VoteCompass friend. Potter should know better than to make up stuff like he did when […]

  2. Frances Says:

    One query – when was Elizabeth May ordained? I know she was studying to become an Anglican minister, but haven’t heard of her ordination to the diaconate, let alone the priesthood.

    • BC Blue Says:

      I may have jumped the gun on her being ordained already as opposed to working towards becoming ordained. You did get what point I was trying to make to him though right?

  3. Another slap-down of Maclean’s Potter « BC Blue: One BC Conservative's view on it all… Says:

    […] You really have to wonder what Potter was thinking when he went off half-cocked and bared himself as either a liar or completely blindly biased for all to see here. […]

  4. Acacia Says:

    Peter writes: “What we are capturing is the proximity of voters to the documented positions of the parties”

    The CPC has no position on abortion as I understand it. There is an absence of law on abortion in canada. So, to include it as a function of the set of questions is suspicious.

    But then, the setting of this and the hype around it with CBC makes everything about it suspicious. Call me concerned about the tie-in at this time, until the creators come forward with more detail.

    If we see the CBC using the material long after this election, and tied to future ones, we know that our antennae were tingling for a reason.

  5. Andrew Says:

    “capturing the proximity of voters to the documented positions of the parties”

    So essentially, what this is saying is that the Liberals are the Party of the middle, even if they reside decidedly on the left-socialist side of the middle now. You would have to stray pretty far to the right both socially and fiscally in order to land closer to the Conservatives than the Liberals, which I don’t think is the case in Canada anymore.

  6. gimbol Says:

    What he sems to be saying and what he fails to grasp the irony of, is that where the CBC vote compass lines up what they believe is where the parties are situated. Inside their well insulated bubble, from their subjective point of view, big government nanny state is the normal, centrist position. If someone is undecided, in the CBC’s view, that person is just conflicted and doesn’t realize that they should vote liberal.
    The problem is that they can’t concieve how anyone could have a different philosophy than liberal left.
    They really do need to get out more often.

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