Tuesday, September 28, 2010

2010 New Brunswick Election Results vs. Projection

Last night, New Brunswickers elected a Progressive Conservative majority government, defeating the Liberals and making them the first one-term government in the province's history.

When the ballots were all counted, the Progressive Conservatives won 48.9% of the vote and 42 seats, doubling the size of their caucus from when the writ was dropped. The Liberals held on to only 34.4% of the vote and 13 seats, being reduced to a small rump of an opposition.

No other parties elected an MLA. The New Democrats took 10.4% of the vote, with the Greens taking 4.5% and the People's Alliance 1.2%. Independents took the remaining 0.6%.

In the last week of the campaign, it appears that people turned hard against the Liberal government, with many of the undecideds casting their ballot for David Alward's party, in what was a decent turnout (72.8%, the highest since 1999 and the last PC landslide).

I'm generally pleased with my projection, though not completely content. I did project a solid Progressive Conservative majority, and I was within a whisker of getting all of the second tier party votes absolutely correct. However, I was incorrect in calling an NDP seat win and I over-estimated the strength of the Liberal vote. IBut the polls never had the Liberals as low as 34% and in the last set of polling it appeared that the gap between the two main parties was closing.

As you can see on the chart below, the PC vote actually rebounded very strongly, compared to the polls. I had their daily average at about 44% on the last day of polling, and they picked up five points from there.The Liberals were at about 37%, and they lost three points, though in the end their trend line looks relatively consistent. Remarkably, the NDP, Greens, and People's Alliance held on to their vote very well. They hardly lost any of the support that they had in the polls.

But my call on the seats was off. Instead of 31 seats, the Progressive Conservatives won 42. Instead of 23 seats, the Liberals only won 13. And instead of one seat, the NDP was shut-out. That was a bit of a surprise, as the NDP had run a good campaign and Roger Duguay looked like he had a lot of promise in Tracadie-Sheila. He put up a good fight and finished in second in the riding, but was still about 17 points behind.

However, I did choose the winner and the type of government, which I am happy about. Other projectors had the race much closer than I did, and with the Liberals bucking a trend of re-elected first-term governments, it was a bit of gamble to choose the PCs when it appeared that their support was slipping. Of course, it would have taken a lot of chutzpah to call a landslide of this magnitude.

I am very pleased at how the popular vote turned out - at least for the smaller parties.I was off by about five points for both the Progressive Conservatives and the Liberals, but it appears that this is how the undecideds split in the last week of the campaign.

I had the Progressive Conservatives at 43.6%, and they ended up with 48.9%, for a disparity of 5.3 points. I had the Liberals at 40.1% and they ended up with 34.4%, a disparity of 5.7 points. I am not happy with those results, but it would have been going out on a limb to have the Liberals at lower than they ever got during the campaign. I under-estimated the PC vote, but I think everyone was surprised at how it turned out.

I nailed the small parties, though. I had the NDP at 10.4%, and they got 10.4%. I had the Greens at 4.3%, and they ended up with 4.5%. And I had the People's Alliance and independents at 1.5%, and they ended up with 1.8%. I am extremely happy with these results, as it is actually a bit more difficult to gauge the support of these smaller parties properly. The model correctly estimated the ability of these parties to keep their vote.

So, what went wrong? Clearly, my estimation of the popular support of the PCs and Liberals was off. I can lay some of the blame on the pollsters, as no one had this result, but a lot of it also has to go on me. I believe I put a bit too much importance on older polls - but it was difficult to base the projection on new ones when so few new ones were available. The last bit of polling from the Corporate Research Associates, the poll that was done for the Telegraph-Journal ending on September 19, was actually not too far off: 46% for the PCs, 36% for the Liberals, 11% for the NDP, 6% for the Greens, and 1% for the People's Alliance. But their larger sample which was given to me personally, and which also ended on September 19, turned out to be far more inaccurate and, in the end, it was a mistake for me to include it.

The seat projection, though, was not the problem.Had my popular vote projection been dead-on, I would have projected 44 seats for the Progressive Conservatives, 10 for the Liberals, and one for the NDP. People would have called me mad, but in the end that would have been remarkably close to the 42/13 split that was the result between the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives. I would've gotten the NDP seat wrong, but it was a very tough call considering I had to estimate the NDP's chances of winning one individual riding based on nothing but province-wide numbers.

Now that the results are in, I have to say that I am generally happy with how the projection model operated. The seat projection model was good, but the popular vote model was not. Part of the problem was the lack of polls and the lack of polling in the last week, but for next time I will have to work on a method to estimate support when there are no polls available. But I got the vote right for the small parties, and called a sizable PC majority, so all in all I think my projecting of the 2010 New Brunswick campaign was a qualified success.


  1. Eric, you did a great job. I think you're right about the irrelevence of pre election polls.Maybe looking @ the margins in the ridings vs trends would be more accurate?

  2. One thing for sure is that there seems to be a major "throw the bums out" mood in the land. In the last year we saw the Tories wiped out by the NDP in Nova Scotia, now we see the NB Liberals annhilated and according to polls the Liberal governments of Quebec, BC and Ontario are all hated and way behind their competition and the Tories in Alberta seem to be in trouble as well and it looks like the Manitoba NDP may be running out of steam as well after 11 years. Only Danny Williams remains popular.

    This is not good news for Harper either. Once a "throw the bums out" narrative takes hold - it becomes very indiscriminate and the alternative does not have to be all that compelling. David Alward was widely seen as a joke in NB - but it didn't matter, people were mad at Graham and all the leader of the opposition had to do was register 98.6 on a rectal thermometer.

  3. I wouldn't be so quick to write off pre-election polls as "irrelevant". The pre-election polls told us that Shawn Graham was the most hated premier in Canada and they told us that he was trailing the Tories for most of the past year - ever since the NB Hydro controversy erupted. There were clearly a lot of generic anti-government votes parked with the NDP before the campaign that ended up going Conservative...but I think that in general, the polls for the past year told us clearly that this was a government that was very vulnerable to defeat - and that is what happened!

  4. It's probably worth noting, in defense of your projection, that Tracadie-Sheila wasn't actually the NDP's best shot at a seat. They were very, very close to winning St-John-Harbour in a 31-30-28 three way split. 133 more votes for the NDP there, and you would've been bang on with your projection of a seat for them.

  5. The projection model isn't bad. I think the projected result was only marginally accurate, but that really was because there were so few available data points.

    Getting it right in the abscense of any data that reflected the eventual result would have required some local information beyond polling data... or just more data.

  6. DL,

    Danny Williams, Robert Ghiz, Brad Wall - all popular premiers. Not nice to leave them out.

    Anyways, I think your model did well, Eric, just that the lack of polling in the last week meant it was running blind. As you said, if your model had reflected the results, you would have been off 3 seats - a 95% prediction success rate. That's pretty damn accurate.

  7. This was great election coverage.

    Saskatchewan's next general election is about a year away. Hoping you do some analysis for that one!

  8. Volkov, I did mention Danny Williams as being the one popular premier. I haven't seen any polling in PEI or Saskatchewan in a very long time and in any case PEI is so ridiculously small that its hard to extrapolate anything there. We might as well speculate on whether or not people in Nunavut want to through out their Premier.

    We do know that that McGuinty, Charest, Campbell and Stelmach are HATED and they are the premiers of the four largest provinces. I think that is quite significant.

  9. I echo the congratulations, Éric. Good job on your prediction, and good luck on the next one.

    That aside, I'm horribly disappointed in New Brunswick voters.

  10. Eric-

    there are a few things that may lead to more accurate predictions:

    1) Over the last couple of decades the polls have underestimated the right of centre vote. Maybe it is turnout or silent majority that turn down polls but it has to be entering the realm of becoming a fact.

    2) The overall disconnect between the parties polling results and the Party leaders popularity comes need to be weighted into the election out come predication.

    The polls ask a theoretical question of which party you would vote for. However with the actual power of the PM/Prime minister many people say that they will vote Liberal just can't vote for Ignatieff.

    A 1/3 to 1/2 weighting needs to be given to a normalized best PM poll to be combined with the party poll results to give the "true" voters intention.

    You do not have the best PM poll answers currently posted but from memory they would be Harper 50% Layton 20% Ignatieff 15% Duccepe 10% and May 5%

    working a 1/3 weighting on the last AR poll (CPC -35 Lib -29 NDP -12 Green 12 and Bloc - 11) the poll with leadership considered becomes

    CPC 35*2/3 + 50*1/3 = 40%
    Liberal 29*2/3 + 15*1/3 = 24.3 %
    NDP 12*2/3 + 20*1/3= 14.7 %
    Green 12 *2/3 + 5*1/3 = 9.7%
    Bloc 11*2/3 + 10*1/3 = 10.7 %

    These numbers would be closer to what the political parties believe is true and would the reason the Liberal will do anything to avoid an election and HAVE to work so hard to get Ignatieff from the most distrusted leader status.

  11. "Over the last couple of decades the polls have underestimated the right of centre vote."

    Oh really?? Then why is that in the Nova Scotia election last year, the Tories did just as badly if not worse than the final polls suggested? Why is that the ultra rightwing "Liberal in name only" BC Liberals were supposed to win by about 10 points according to all the final polls and instead they won by 3? How come in the 2004 and 2006 federal elections, it was the Liberals who were underestimated in the final polls - not the Tories.

    As for New Brunswick - by all accounts the Liberals are more rightwing in NB than are the Tories so in NB it was the more centrist that was underestimated.

  12. OT:

    New AR Ontario poll out:

    "Among decided voters, 41 per cent back Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak with 29 per cent for McGuinty’s Liberals, 22 per cent for NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, and 8 per cent for Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner."


  13. I'm trying to figure out this Ontario poll. Did they ask people which party they would vote for or which leader would make the best premier. The write up in the Star is very confusing.

  14. BC Voice of Reason,

    Where did you get this 50% approval rating for Harper? I certainly haven't seen this poll.

  15. Great result for the Tories but I have to ask why does a province with 750000 people need 55 MLAs?

  16. DL we can all handpick results.

    Until someone does a rigorous and robust analysis of all the polling data and all the results of elections in the past two decades or so i'd say both you and BCVOR are offside here.

    Red Tory Liberal here's the latest leadership from Nanos.


    Its more like:

    Harper - 28%
    Layton - 15%
    Ignatieff - 13%

    (Note these aren't true approval ratings because they're mutually exclusive, you're only allowed to support one leader as a response.)

    BCVOR could be on to something here though. I wonder if leadership poll could somehow influence elections ?

    In America apparently presidential approval ratings can influence their midterms.

  17. Actually, you did predict 49% for the PCs and no seats for the NDP except the Liberals performed even weaker than everybody expected. So, instead of 36:19, it came to 42:13.

  18. How can pollsters and the media be so far off of what the people of NB were saying? Our inside polling was showing at least 36 seats for the PC's. But the media continued to say-"close race". Come on. The end result did not happen on the
    27th-it was there before the writ was dropped. I guess it keeps pollsters going and the media selling papers. Since our papers including our weekly locals are owned by Irving-they had a stake in trying to keep it close in the minds of NB'ers.

  19. Ira-don't be disappointed-you should be happy that so many actually saw Graham for the liar he is.

  20. Red Tory Liberal said...
    BC Voice of Reason,

    Where did you get this 50% approval rating for Harper? I certainly haven't seen this poll

    the 50% does not represent approval rating. It is who would be the best prime minister.

    harper has been historically considered twice as capable as Layton and 3 times as capable as Ignatieff. The normalization (making it out of 100) comes up with Harper at 50%.

    I know that the pollsters have been studiously avoiding asking (or publishing) the who would make the best PM question.

    I postulate that this question, combined with the actual polling by party would end up with much better results.

    Eric's seat projection in the NB election was a total and complete failure.

    He can blame it on the polls being wrong... or stale dated or incorrectly weighted. I am saying his seat projection model is not using all the data available.

    In Canada with the centralized power of the PM/Premiers why would a seat projection ignore the #1 voting intention indicator.... ie who do you want to lead the country.


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