Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Tale of Three Cities

EKOS is unique among pollsters in that they provide complete demographic and regional breakdowns on a weekly basis. They provide polling data on five cities: Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal.

As Calgary is a foregone conclusion, and Ottawa doesn't have a lot of seats, I've instead focused on Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. Each of these cities contain many seats and are battlegrounds.

EKOS uses the metropolitan regions of these cities for their polling, so that means the outskirts as well as downtown. The following charts show EKOS's polling results in these three cities so far in 2010.

As Canada's biggest city, Toronto also has the most seats. Much of the downtown core is solidly Liberal, with a few NDP enclaves won by Jack Layton and Olivia Chow. The Tories are strong on the outskirts of the city, making Toronto's electoral map very simple. But polls in Toronto can answer some questions: can the NDP maintain their bridgehead, will the Liberals re-gain some ground around the city, or will the Conservatives breakthrough downtown?This chart shows that Toronto is a Liberal domain, but it isn't a slam dunk. The Liberals have led in the city without trouble throughout January, February, and the beginning of March, but have since been in a tooth-and-nail battle with the Conservatives. However, it must be pointed out that only on a few rare occasions have the Tories out-polled the Liberals in Toronto. It also appears that the Liberals have re-gained the lead in the city in June.

The NDP is stuck in third, and has been pretty stable in that position, with a slight uptick over the last few months.

Montreal is also easily divided. The Liberals do well on the West Island and in downtown Montreal, while the Bloc dominates in eastern Montreal and around the island. The NDP, however, finally won a seat in Outremont, making the race in Quebec's biggest city a little more interesting. The Conservatives are not a factor in Montreal.Clearly, the Bloc Québécois has been comfortably ahead of the Liberals over the past six months. But from January to April, the race was much closer. In April, however, the Liberals started to fall away and the Bloc took off, and now the gap between the two parties is approaching 20 points.

The NDP and Conservatives, along with the Greens, have battled it out for third place in and around the city. However, as the NDP's support is more concentrated, they have the advantage.

Vancouver is an interesting city for elections, as all three parties are competitive and all three parties win seats. The Conservatives are mostly relegated to the suburbs, while downtown is the battleground for the Liberals and the NDP.This chart shows how confused Vancouver politics are. The Conservatives have had the lead for most of the past six months, with a huge bump in mid-May, but they have had their lead momentarily stolen from them by the Liberals (in early March, early April, and in the last poll) and the NDP (in late April and mid-June). Those two parties have swapped second place more or less every week. The Greens are not too far back, but are still out of the race.

These charts show that EKOS's city results aren't as unreliable as you might think. Their sample sizes are still relatively large (often larger than those in the Prairies or Atlantic Canada) and trends are pretty clear.

The next election will be fought, primarily, in the cities. The Conservatives have a lock on the rural vote, so the final result will come down to whether the Conservatives can start winning urban votes or if the Liberals and NDP can beat their back into the suburbs.


  1. Hopefully I'm not too misinformed, but I'd be surprised to see Harper make any gains in Toronto after the G20 disaster he inflicted on us.

  2. I think the CPC knows that if they're going to have an urban breakthrough it will be in Vancouver.

  3. Éric, great analysis.

    Choosing only the three larger cities selected the cleanest data, but the Ottawa chart would still be interesting. That city was predominantly blue in the last election. How has it trended since then?

    These charts show that EKOS's city results aren't as unreliable as you might think.

    Taken individually, the polls still hide the signal in the noise. When plotted over time, however, the information begins to emerge from the data.


  4. Eric:

    The NDP, however, finally one a seat

    I think that should be "won" a seat ??

  5. I'm not sure we should draw any conclusions from Éric's choice not to post charts for the two cities that vote predominantly Conservative.

    The interesting cities (of the five) are Vancouver and Montreal. They show real movement, and they're closely contested. Ottawa arguably also fits there.

    Toronto and Calgary are pretty static electorally. I don't foresee either changing much in the near future.

  6. If you'd like to put the charts together, Ira, I'd be more than happy to post them.

  7. Leonsp weren't the G20 protests in downtown Toronto? Around ridings like Olivia Chows' ?

    I don't think Conservative expect to win those ridings in a million years.

    So I honestly don't think they'd care what the negative reaction is.

    The following Ontario ridings were within 5% of a CPC win last election and they're hardly downtown Toronto:

    Brampton West, Welland, Brampton—Springdale, Sault Ste. Marie, Guelph, Mississauga South, Eglinton—Lawrence.

    Joe Volpe's riding looks like the only one close enough to the disruptions to potentially cause a headache for the CPC candidate in the next election.

  8. If the Tories are going to take a few seats in Vancouver or Toronto, it's not going to be a big breakthrough downtown, but more suburban seats and a continuing creep toward the city like they've done the last few elections. Olivia and Jack are safe, at least from the Tories

  9. Brad its important to point out that Vancouver is unlike Toronto in the sense that every seat could, under the right circumstances, be won by the CPC.

    With the exception of Vancouver East, which the CPC will never win.

    Toronto has at least 6 seats that i'd classify as "never win" for the CPC, even under the best of conditions.

    But you're right about the general pattern of taking the suburbs.

    After the new seats are added in 2014 things will get really interesting. Some seats in Alberta might actually be competitive!

  10. One thing I find odd - Calgary and Edmonton are almost the same size and therefore Ekos ought to have about the same number of respondents in each - so why do you track vote intention in Calgary where there is an almost North Korean mono-culture politically - as opposed to Edmonton where the NDP holds a seats a few others are potentially competitive.

  11. in the sense that every seat could, under the right circumstances, be won by the CPC.

    Yes but that equally applies to the NDP or the Liberals.

    right circumstances make all the difference

  12. Peter by right circumstance I mean the normal possibilities during an election (well run campaign, turnout, funding, candidate strength, etc).

    In most BC ridings the NDP and the CPC could nominate a sack of potatoes and the Liberals still wouldn't win.

    Heck, they could even NOT nominate anyone and the Green candidate would probably win before the Liberals.

    Of all the parties in the country i'd say that at the moment the CPC has the greatest reach and the least amount of "never win" seats.

  13. CPC has the greatest reach and the least amount of "never win" seats.

    Then we shall agree to disagree. IMO the CPC is rapidly approaching Dead Meat !

  14. Dead meat Peter ?

    Even Eric's projections generally show the CPC retaining a plurality of seats after the next election.

    That would seem to suggest they will remain the party with the greatest reach even if their prospects fade simply because of the balkanization/weaknesss of the other parties.

    Regardless I shall not agree to disagree because this isn't a matter of opinion.

    Its a quantitative matter for which I cannot see any factual support for any positions other than my own.

    Eric establishes "caps" on the level of seats a party can reasonable get within a province. I bet if you asked him he'd tell you that Liberal seats are "capped" at a lower level than Conservative seats.

  15. Dead meat Peter ?

    On the National level yes Shadow. They are essentially toast in Quebec. Ont. will go against them when the other parties start pushing back against the Harper Sales Tax.

    As will BC. Erics latest projections indicate a minority position with the Lib-NDP capable of taking power. We're still awaiting the results of the G8/G20 fiasco.

    CPC are toast !!

  16. Peter while it may be possible for the CPC to get a majority next election or perhaps, as you say, fall short and be replaced with a coalition that's not quite the same thing as "toast" or "dead meat".

    Being the largest party in the HOC is quite an accomplishment actually. And its a sign of a vibrant national party.

    The next election may mark the end of a CPC government but it will not be the end of the CPC itself.

    Its likely that after the usual ineffectual leadership and infighting we've seen under the Liberals lately that a short stint in opposition is what's needed for the CPC to roar back into a majority government next election !

  17. that a short stint in opposition is

    Nice wishful thinking. Wait till you see the knives in the back if they lose govt !!

    The odds of a real comeback before several years pass are very slight. You might also see a Reform-PC split !


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