Tuesday, November 30, 2010

By-Election Aftermath

UPDATE: Fixed Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette comparison, as I was comparing it to my early November projection.

It was quite an exciting night, far more exciting than most by-elections are expected to be. There was one provincial and three federal by-elections last night, two of them being incredibly close races and a third being a huge surprise.

We'll start with the provincial by-election in Kamouraska-Témiscouata, a riding in eastern Quebec. It was billed as a test of the Parti Québécois, as an inability for them to win against Jean Charest at an all-time low in his popularity would be a huge mark against PQ leader Pauline Marois.

It was a close race, the lead going back and forth throughout the night. But in the end, the PQ's André Simard edged out the Liberal candidate France Dionne by 196 votes.That it was a close race should not be a knock against the PQ. The party had not been a factor in the riding for years, and managed to increase its vote share by more than 15 points. They also increased their raw vote total by almost 3,000 votes - quite a feat in a by-election. The Liberals dropped almost 18 points, with the ADQ picking up a few percentage points but losing 73 votes. That is actually a remarkable performance for the ADQ, considering that they have virtually fallen off the face of the earth.

While the Crop poll of the riding did not choose the winner, with its margin of error it actually turned out to be pretty accurate. They had the PLQ at 34% to the PQ's 32% and the ADQ's 25%. They under-estimated PQ support by about five points, but was within two for the PLQ and ADQ.

Turnout was a very impressive 57.7%, high for a by-election.

Now on to the federal by-elections. I had a stake in the results considering my projections at the end of November and the ones posted yesterday. I knew I was going to take a drubbing in Winnipeg North, but I had no idea how to reflect the effect that Kevin Lamoureux would have on the race. And even then he out-performed my worst fears.

We'll start with Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette, which was the easiest one to call. The Conservatives did well enough in the race, dropping less than five points in Robert Sopuck's successful campaign. The New Democrats performed very well, increasing their vote share by almost 10 points while only losing about 1,100 votes to lower turnout. The Liberals sank a little, losing four points and 2,600 votes.While my projection was off by about six to eight points between the Conservatives and New Democrats, I think the model performed pretty well. The order of the parties was correct, and the Liberal and Green totals were off by only five and two points, respectively. The strong NDP performance was unexpected. As the region has a few NDP representatives at the provincial level, I think that provincial electoral results need to be looked at next time, especially in provinces where provincial politics take centre stage.

Turnout was a pitiful 26.9%.

Next, Vaughan. This was the race to watch, or at least that is what it was supposed to be. The narrative was that Julian Fantino's victory for the Conservatives would be a serious blow against Michael Ignatieff's leadership. But, it is hard to blame the Liberal leader for the loss here. Fantino was a star candidate and a good pick-up, and Tony Genco did far better than anyone expected.

In the end, the Conservatives gained almost 15 points and managed to retain all but 130 of their votes from the 2008 election. The Liberals lost about 9,500 votes, but less than 3 points on their vote share. The surprise, to me, was the collapse of the NDP. They went from 9.6% to only 1.7%, losing almost 5,000 voters. The Greens also performed very badly.In this case, again my projection was right for the order of the parties. Picking Fantino to win by a small margin was the right call to make. The margin of error was 8 points, but that was the fault of the NDP. It was only six points for the two front-runners, so I am pretty pleased with how my projection model performed for Vaughan. The lesson to draw from this race is that a much-publicized personality contest can push second-tier parties out.

Turnout was 32.4%.

Winnipeg North (turnout 30.8%) was always going to be the problematic race for me. Liberal performances in the riding had been weak for a long time, and it was impossible to predict exactly how much of an effect Kevin Lamoureux would have on the race. As my post on star candidates pointed out, there can be some anomalies in the influence a notable local can have on an election. While my average factor was an increase of 14% of the vote share, the case of Jean-Pierre Blackburn, who increased his party's vote share by more than three times, is one that would have applied here. Had I used that as my modifier, I would have been much closer on the projection.

Nevertheless, the race was talked about as one for the NDP to lose. They should've had it in the bag, but when the votes were counted they had lost more than 21 points and almost 8,000 votes. The Liberals picked up a whopping 35 points and lured more than 5,000 new voters. One of the surprises was the weakness of the Conservative candidate, who lost 12 points and about 3,500 votes.Obviously, the projection here was a complete and utter failure. The NDP's Kevin Chief and the Conservatives' Julie Javier under-performed, while Lamoureux surpassed all expectations. Even had I taken into account the provincial numbers here, I still wouldn't have had Lamoureux over 25%. His drawing power was completely unpredictable, and all I can really say about it is that any projection which would have given this result would not have been based on anything but a gut feeling.

All in all, I called 2 out of 3 correctly, with the margins of error in the two correctly-called races being a little outside of my comfort zone. The Winnipeg North projection was a failure and could not have been more wrong. But, there are lessons to be learned from these results, one of them being that projection by-elections may not be a very good idea.

As for the implications, I don't think there is anything earth-shattering in these results.

The PQ victory in Kamouraska-Témiscouata is good for the party and Marois' leadership, but it wasn't as disastrous for the Liberals as it could have been. Even the ADQ can take something away from the result.

Federally, the Conservatives can be pleased. They won Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette easily, and stole away a long-time Liberal riding in the GTA. But this isn't the beginning of the Liberal End Times - the Conservatives hold some neighbouring ridings. They also did not perform well in Winnipeg North, which is a blot on an otherwise successful night.

For Jack Layton, it was a very bad night. A better performance in Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette is little consolation for losing an NDP fortress and performing so abysmally in Vaughan.

The Liberals had some mixed results. Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette was no good, but it wasn't expected to be anything but no good. Losing Vaughan hurts the party, but they nevertheless performed very well with a relatively unknown candidate against a Conservative star, so I don't think they should lose too much sleep over it. Winning in Winnipeg North, though, is huge. This is an NDP riding, and they came from nowhere to win it. The results in Vaughan and Winnipeg North indicate that the Liberals are in a good position, as they are able to compete against the Conservatives when they shouldn't be able to, and are able to beat the NDP if they put an effort into it. They could be in a better position, but these results have them poised to give the Conservatives battle in Ontario and steal a few seats from the NDP.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Updated by-election projections, and their likelihood

UPDATE: I'm following the by-election results live on Twitter.

Regular readers of this blog will remember my by-election projections which appeared in The Globe and Mail at the beginning of the month. What was intended as a small exercise and an attempt at projecting today's by-elections with numbers alone became an article which raised the ire of a few commentators and was referenced as a "poll" for much of the campaign. Some have gone so far as to allege that I fudged the numbers for effect, something that is both quite insulting as well as being completely wrong.

As today is voting day for the three by-elections in Manitoba and Ontario, it seems like a good day to update the projections that I made in early November, using the same methodology. I will, however, add the "star candidate" factor I identified in a recent post.

First, I will explain the methodology that will be used this time and was used last time. To start, I've taken the election result from 2008 and adjusted it according to the proportional change that has occurred in the province (or region for Manitoba) since that election.

For example, the Liberal received 33.8% in 2008 in Ontario and are now projected to be at 36.6% in my model (including the latest EKOS poll, which the projection at the top of this page does not include). So, 36.6/33.8 = 1.0828402. The Liberals received 49.2% in the 2008 election in Vaughan, and 49.2 x 1.0828402 = 53.3.

I then take these results and adjust them by the "by-election factor". This was determined by taking the average difference in the 2009 by-election results from what was expected using the same formula as the one described above. As I have my projection data from November 2009 I was able to replicate what I am doing for the 2010 by-elections.

On average, the Conservatives increased their vote share by 23% (vote share x 1.23), while the New Democrats increased theirs by 22%. The Liberals only retained about 77% of their vote share, while the Greens retained about 48%.

Applying these factors to the expected result gives me my by-election projection. I then adjust the numbers proportionately to total 100%. When doing this calculation in early November, I ended up with the Liberals and Conservatives tied at 42% in Vaughan. Before the adjustment to total 100%, they were even tied at 39.4%. No fudging, it was really that close.

I then took these numbers and compared them to the historical election results in the three ridings. After looking into each of the ridings in-depth, I felt comfortable that they were plausible and went ahead with writing my article for The Globe and Mail.

But for this update, I am adding the "star candidate" factor to Kevin Lamoureux in Winnipeg North and Julian Fantino in Vaughan.

The results are that the New Democrats and Conservatives would hold on to their Manitoba seats, while the Conservatives gain Vaughan.In Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette, Robert Sopuck of the Conservatives would win with 63%, down three points from the earlier by-election projection. The NDP would finish second with 18% (up one), the Liberals third with 15% (up two), and the Greens fourth with 4% (up one). I consider this projection to be likely.

In Vaughan, the projection gives Julian Fantino of the Conservatives 45% (up three), and the win. The Liberals finish a close second with 41%, down one, while the NDP and Greens finish with 10% and 4%, respectively. This seems like a very plausible result to me, though personally I would not be surprised to also see the Liberals win by as much as 10 points. It really is a toss-up.

In Winnipeg North, these calculations would give Kevin Chief of the NDP the win with 64%, down one from the earlier projection. The Conservatives would finish second with 22% (down two) and the Liberals third with 11% (up two). The Greens would place fourth with 3%, down one.

Winnipeg North shows the limitations of projecting by-elections. Unlike a federal election, where these sorts of calculations would have a better chance of proving accurate because of the over-riding influence of a national campaign, by-elections are subject to local issues and fluctuations that I cannot project. I am unable to give Lamoureux more of the vote without adjusting the numbers by my own judgment. I think Lamoureux will probably finish second to Chief, but even applying the "star candidate" factor cannot get his numbers close to the Conservative candidate.

We shall see tonight what the results will be. I think that these three winners are the most likely trio. As to the implications, I think people are blowing it way out of proportion. The results in Manitoba won't have any leadership or national implications unless there is an upset. If the Liberals win in Vaughan, it will be because of a strong Genco campaign and a weak Fantino campaign, and because Vaughan has been Liberal for so very long. If the Conservatives win, it will be because Fantino was a good catch for the Conservatives, and because Vaughan was more of a Bevilacqua riding than a Liberal one. People aren't voting for Stephen Harper or Michael Ignatieff in the Vaughan by-election. While losing it would be bad news for the Liberal leader, it wouldn't be his fault anymore than an upset in Winnipeg North would be Jack Layton's.

I won't be doing any live-blogging of the by-election results, but will probably be commenting on Twitter.

What would an elected Senate look like?

While Prime Minister Stephen Harper has struggled to govern in the face of an opposition majority in the House of Commons for almost five years, he’s recently been enjoying a majority in the unelected Senate. But if senators were elected and limited to eight-year terms, as the Conservative Party claims to prefer, the Red Chamber could be just as tumultuous as its democratic counterpart.

The rest of the article can be read on The Globe and Mail website.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Pollster House Effects Update

Time for an update on the house effects chart. This month, I'm updating Harris-Decima and Nanos Research. See below for a full explanation of what these house effects measure.

For Harris-Decima, they did not show any huge disparity at the national level, though their largest was in polling 1.6 points lower than average for the Conservatives. In Quebec, they polled the Conservatives 1.9 points lower than average, while polling the Bloc Québécois and Greens 1.9 points higher than average.

Adding these findings to the chart, Harris-Decima is the worst pollster for the Conservatives at the national level and the New Democrats in Quebec. They are the second worst for the Liberals nationally and the Conservatives in Quebec. They are second best for the Greens nationally, and best for the Bloc in Quebec.

On to Nanos. They did have some large disparities in October. They polled the Liberals 4.3 points higher than the average and the Conservatives 3.3 points higher. This was at the expense of the Greens, who they polled 5.2 points lower than average. Undoubtedly this is due to their method of not prompting party names in their questions.

In Quebec, they polled the Conservatives 6.0 points higher and the Liberals 4.9 points higher, while they polled the Greens 6.3 points lower.

This makes them the worst pollster, both nationally and in Quebec, for the Green Party. They are tied for being the best pollster for the Conservatives in Quebec, and are the second best pollster for the Liberals both nationally and in Quebec. They are the second worst pollster for the Bloc.

So, just for giggles, let's apply these house effects to Harris-Decima's and Nanos' most recent national polls. The first number is the actual poll result, the second is what it becomes with the house effects.

HARRIS-DECIMA (NATIONAL)

Conservatives - 33.0% = 35.3%
Liberals - 28.0% = 28.7%
New Democrats - 17.0% = 17.2%
Bloc Québécois - 9.0% = 9.0%
Greens - 10.0% = 8.2%

NANOS RESEARCH (NATIONAL)

Conservatives - 37.1% = 37.8%
Liberals - 31.6% = 28.6%
New Democrats - 15.4% = 15.0%
Bloc Québécois - 10.8% = 10.8%
Greens - 5.2% = 7.6%

Interestingly, the Liberals and Greens end up at similar results, with the disparity seeming to come between the Conservative and New Democratic results.

Now Quebec:

HARRIS-DECIMA (QUEBEC)

Bloc Québécois - 39.0% = 36.3%
Liberals - 21.0% = 21.6%
Conservatives - 13.0% = 14.8%
New Democrats - 11.0% = 12.9%
Greens - 11.0% = 11.1%

NANOS RESEARCH (QUEBEC)

Bloc Québécois - 42.8% = 46.4%
Liberals - 26.2% = 21.8%
Conservatives - 19.3% = 17.1%
New Democrats - 10.5% = 10.7%
Greens - 1.3% = 4.9%

Much more of a variation here, though again the Liberal numbers are very similar.

The chart below tracks how each pollster tends to lean when calculating support levels for the various parties, as compared to the average polling results from other pollsters each month. This does not necessarily equate to a deliberate bias, but instead is more reflective of the polling methods used - the "house effects". This is also not a scientific calculation of any kind. Methodological differences, field dates, margins of error, and polls released vs. polls unreleased all play a role in these calculations. But it does give a little bit of an indication of how each pollster tends to compare to others - and only to each other.

The following chart shows each pollster's average variation from other polling firms. The numbers are the amount of percentage points a particular pollster favours or disfavours that particular party compared to other pollsters over a similar period of time.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Conservatives gain in new EKOS poll

The Conservatives have made a gain of almost four points since EKOS's last publicly released poll two weeks ago, putting the gap between themselves and the Liberals back to a little over six points.Compared to two weeks ago, the Conservatives have gained 3.9 points and now lead with 33.3% of the vote. Polling over the last two weeks have shown some progression for the Tories, as they were at 32.4% support last week.

The Liberals are down 1.5 points from two weeks ago, and are now at 27.1%. They were holding relatively steady at 28.7% last week.

The New Democrats have sunk from their high in EKOS's last poll, and are down 2.7 points to 16.6%. About four-fifths of this loss, however, is due to the results in Atlantic Canada resetting themselves to something more plausible than the 46% the party had in the region two weeks ago.

The Greens are at 9.5%, down 1.2 points, while the Bloc Québécois is also at 9.5%, down 0.2 points.

The proportion of undecideds in this automated telephone poll was 14%, up one from two weeks ago.

The Liberals and Conservatives are tied in Ontario with 35.5% apiece, representing a gain of one point for the Liberals (from two weeks ago, which will be the comparison point for the remainder of this post) and a gain of three points for the Conservatives. The NDP is down four points to 15.6%, while the Greens are down one to 9.4%. Note the high "Other" result here: 4%.

On that note, let me take this opportunity to say that the projection model has been tweaked to do away with these high and virtually impossible "Other" results. This will be shown in the next update.

The Liberals still lead in Toronto with 39.6% to the Conservatives' 36.1%, but the narrow margin does not bode well for Tony Genco and the Liberals in the Vaughan by-election. The Tories have taken the lead in Ottawa after trailing for several months, with 45.3% to the Liberals' 28.2%.

The Bloc is steady in Quebec with 37.4%, followed by the Liberals at 23.5% (up one). The Conservatives are down two to 14.1% while the NDP is up two to 12.8%. The Bloc narrowly leads in Montreal with 32.9% to 30% for the Liberals.

Big movement in British Columbia, as the Conservatives jump eight points to 35.7%. The NDP has also made a large gain, up nine points to 29.2%. The Liberals have dropped 15 to 15.4%, while the Greens are down three to 14.4%. One wonders whether the Campbell resignation has played a role in these wide variations. The Tories lead in Vancouver with 36.5%, followed by the Liberals at 20.7%.

As noted, things have swung the other way in Atlantic Canada. But it appears the swing might have been too violent, as the Conservatives have gained 22 points and now lead with 38.9%, followed by the Liberals at 35.2% (up four). The NDP is down 32 (!) points to 12.5%. Clearly, these changes are due to the small sample size, but having the Liberals and Conservatives in the 30s and the NDP in the teens is more likely than the odd result two weeks ago.

In Alberta, the Conservatives have gained 10 points and lead with 66.4%, followed by the Liberals at 13.5% (down seven) and the NDP at 10.7% (steady). While the Conservatives lead in Calgary (51.7% to 26.8% for the Liberals), the interesting thing to watch here will be whether the government's refusal to fund Edmonton's 2017 World Expo bid will hurt the Conservatives in the province. The Edmonton Journal published a scathing editorial against the Conservatives earlier this week.

Finally, in the Prairies the Conservatives are down four but still lead with 35.1%. The NDP is down three to 25.9% while the Liberals are up six to 25.3%.

The poll also asked whether Canadians see themselves as "small 'c' conservatives" or "small 'l' liberals". About 28% said they saw themselves as conservatives while 32% said they saw themselves as liberals. The rest saw themselves as neither, an opinion most heavily concentrated among New Democratic and Bloc voters. Interestingly, 60% of Conservative voters consider themselves conservative, compared to 67% of Liberal voters who consider themselves liberals.

With this poll, the Conservatives would win 19 seats in British Columbia (+1 from the projection result of EKOS's last poll), 28 in Alberta (+1), 19 in the Prairies (-1), 46 in Ontario (+8), five in Quebec (-1), 12 in Atlantic Canada (+7) and one in the North for a total of 130 seats. That is 15 more than two weeks ago, due almost entirely to gains in Ontario and Atlantic Canada.

The Liberals would win four in British Columbia (-8), none in Alberta (-1), five in the Prairies (+2), 47 in Ontario (-2), 16 in Quebec (=), 18 in Atlantic Canada (-2), and two in the North for a total of 92. That is 11 fewer than two weeks ago, with British Columbia being the culprit.

The Bloc Québécois would win 53 seats in Quebec, up one from the last poll.

The New Democrats would win 13 seats in British Columbia (+7), none in Alberta (=), four in the Prairies (-1), 13 in Ontario (-6), one in Quebec (=), and two in Atlantic Canada (-5) for a total of 33. That is five fewer than the last projection.

There's not much to say about this poll. As I pointed out in my Hill Times column this week, this size of a Conservative lead has been the standard since April 2010. It is narrow enough to entail a good deal of risk for both the Liberals and Conservatives. Both parties could do much worse than 2008, much better, or about the same in a new election - there are no guarantees or even a strong likelihood of any result at this point.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Why it’s tough for Michael Ignatieff to straddle the centre

Keeping in tune with a party’s supporters can be a difficult balancing act, particularly when a leader tries to position him or herself at the centre of the Canadian political spectrum. No one knows this better than Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, as indicated by a recent Harris-Decima poll.

The rest of the article can be read on the Globe and Mail website.

October Best and Worst Case Scenarios

A little late, but it's time to check in on October's best and worst case scenarios for each of the three national parties. Here's the standard explanation:

These best and worst case scenarios calculate each party's best and worst projection results last month in each region.

For example, if the Conservatives had their best result in the western provinces in an Angus-Reid poll, their best result in Ontario in a Nanos poll, their best result in Quebec in a Léger poll, and their best result in Atlantic Canada in an EKOS poll, I would take each of these bests and combine them.

In other words, these projections are the best and worst possible results each party could've gotten had an election taken place last month, based on the available polling data.

These best and worst case scenarios are in terms of total seats.

As usual, we shall start with the New Democrats. Their best case scenario is an improvement of one seat from September, and would result in 43 NDP MPs being elected, compared to 55 Bloc members, 82 Liberals, and 130 Conservatives. This would be achieved with 20.9% national support, while the Liberals would have 27.2% and the Conservatives 33.5%. The NDP would win 16 seats in British Columbia, one in Alberta, four in the Prairies, 15 in Ontario, one in Quebec, and six in Atlantic Canada.Their worst case scenario is much better than it was in September. The party's floor in October was 21 seats, seven more than last month. The Conservatives would, again, win 130 seats in this scenario, with the Liberals taking 102 and the Bloc 55. NDP support would drop to 13.6%, while the Liberals would take 29.7% of the vote and the Conservatives 33.9%.

In this scenario, the NDP would win 10 seats in British Columbia (still not bad), none in Alberta, two in the Prairies, seven in Ontario, one in Quebec, and one in Atlantic Canada.

That puts the NDP's October range at between 21 and 43 seats, and at between 13.6% and 20.9% support. That compares favourably to September's range of 14-42 seats and 12.5% to 20.2% support.

Now, the Liberals. Their best case scenario would actually put them at a greater disadvantage than the Conservative worst case scenario, as you will see below, but gives them more seats.

With 31.1% of the vote, the Liberals would win 108 seats. That is 21 fewer than September's best case scenario. The Conservatives would win 126 seats and 33.3%, while the NDP would win 25 seats and 14.4%. The Liberals would win 11 seats in British Columbia, one in Alberta, six in the Prairies, 49 in Ontario, 17 in Quebec, and 22 in Atlantic Canada. It would keep them on the opposition benches, however, or force them into a coaltion with the NDP.With 24.5% of the vote, their worst case scenario would be 75 seats, two fewer than September. The Conservatives would win 139 seats and 37.2% while the NDP would take 18.1% and 38 seats. The Liberals would win six seats in British Columbia, none in Alberta, one in the Prairies, 34 in Ontario, 15 in Quebec, and 17 in Atlantic Canada.

This puts the Liberal range at between 75 and 108 seats, and between 24.5% and 31.1% of the vote. That is much worse than September's range of 77 to 129 seats and 25.5% to 34.2% support.

Finally, the Conservatives. Their best case scenario puts them out of the majority territory they were in a month ago. With 37.6% of the vote, they would win 147 seats, 11 fewer than September. The Liberals would win 80 seats and 26.9% of the vote, while the NDP would take 32 seats and 16.8%. The Conservatives would win 17 seats in British Columbia, 28 in Alberta, 24 in the Prairies, 57 in Ontario, eight in Quebec, and 12 in Atlantic Canada.Their worst case scenario would still see them with the most seats in the house: 113, with 29.6% of the vote. That is 13 more seats than in September. The Liberals would win 103 seats and 28.6%, while the NDP would take 38 seats and 18.3% of the vote. The Conservatives would win 14 seats in British Columbia, 26 in Alberta, 19 in the Prairies, 43 in Ontario, three in Quebec, and seven in Atlantic Canada.

That puts the Conservative range at between 113 and 147 seats and between 29.6% and 37.6% of the vote. September's range was between 100 and 158 seats and 29% to 40.2% of the vote.

From this exercise, we can say that the Liberals did not have a very good month in October. While they were capable of winning a minority in September, they've moved away from that now. The NDP has reduced its risk for a calamitous electoral result, while the Conservatives have increased their chances of winning the next election. However, they have also put themselves out of contention for a majority government.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Kamouraska-Témiscouata a close race in new CROP poll

A rare by-election poll was conducted by CROP for the riding of Kamouraska-Témiscouata, whose voters will be heading to the polls in less than a week. It shows a very close race, with the provincial Liberals, the Parti Québécois, and the ADQ within seven points of one another.With 34%, France Dionne of the Liberals (PLQ) has a narrow two-point lead over André Simard of the PQ. With the 4.9% margin of error in this telephone poll, that puts them at a statistical tie.

With 25%, Gérald Beaulieu of the ADQ is not very far behind.

Serge Proulx of Québec Solidaire and Frédéric Brophy-Nolan of the provincial Greens bring up the rear with 6% and 3%, respectively. About 13% were undecided.

CROP also broke down the numbers by likelihood of voting, which more pollsters should do. Of those who will "probably" vote, the PQ leads with 31% to the Liberals' 27%. Of those who are "certain" to vote, the Liberals lead with 37% to the PQ's 31%.

In other words, the PQ needs to up their "get out the vote" campaign if they want to win this riding, which they appear to be capable of doing.

Of course, it is a by-election and anything can happen. What's more, the margin of error is large in this poll and riding polls are notoriously unreliable, especially when you consider that 59% of people said they would vote. By-election turnout is usually about half of that.

This is a riding the PLQ should not lose, even in this political climate. The by-election was called after the death of Claude Béchard, who succumbed to the cancer he had been fighting for several years. He won the riding with 46% of the vote in 2003, dropped to 40% in 2007, and took 54% in 2008. That is a solid base of support for the Liberals.

The wild card in this race will be whether the voting angst against the Charest government will coalesce around one party. Over the last three elections the ADQ has been the alternative, with as much as 37% support in 2007. But the party still had 26% and 22% in 2003 and 2008, when the party did less well provincially as a whole. The PQ's share of the vote has been relatively steady, going from 26% in 2003 to 19% in 2007 and 21% in 2008.

Neither the Greens nor Québec Solidaire have ever had much traction here.Using Léger Marketing's last provincial poll, and applying uniform swing to the 2008 electoral results (2007 for the Greens) according to how the vote has shifted, we still get a large Liberal lead: 48% to 24% for the PQ and 18% for the ADQ.

This seems unlikely, based on Quebecers' dissatisfaction with the Charest government at the moment, and how more unknown Dionne is as compared with Béchard.

We will have to wait and see. The election will be taking place on November 29, the same day as the three federal by-elections in Manitoba and Ontario.

Progressive Conservatives take the lead in Ontario

Ipsos-Reid's latest poll on the provincial political situation in Ontario shows that Tim Hudak's Progressive Conservatives have taken a decisive lead and are set to form a majority government in the province's next election.Compared to Ipsos-Reid's last provincial poll taken in August, the Progressive Conservatives have gained five points and now lead with 41%. The Ontario Liberals are down three points to 32%, while the New Democrats are up two to 20%.

The Ontario Greens have dropped four points and now stand at 7%.

The Progressive Conservative gain and Liberal loss is not far outside the margin of error, but it has turned a one-point gap into a nine-point gap between the two parties.

Note that this telephone poll was conducted between November 2 and November 18, but was actually only in the field between November 2 and 4 and November 16 and 18.

Before getting into the regional results, it is worth noting the huge disparity between the voting intentions of men and women. The Progressive Conservatives have a massive lead among men, with 50% support compared to the Liberals' 30% (and the NDP's 16%). But among women, the Liberals actually lead: 34% to the PC's 32% and the NDP's 25%. We've seen this kind of unbalance at the federal level, but never anything so pronounced.

Surprisingly, the biggest gain for the Progressive Conservatives has come in the Greater Toronto region. They've jumped 11 points to 40% in the provincial capital, while the Liberals are down nine points to 33%. The NDP is relatively steady, gaining two points to reach 20%.

The PCs also lead in central and southwestern Ontario, with 44% and 48%, respectively. They've been holding steady there, as have the Liberals at 27% and 21%, respectively. The New Democrats have made a move in these regions, however. They've gained four points in central Ontario (22%) and have moved into second place in southwestern Ontario with a six point gain (24%).

It is a much closer race in the eastern part of the province, where the PCs and Liberals are neck-and-neck at 41%. That is a six point drop for the Progressive Conservatives and a nine-point gain for the Liberals. The NDP is not a factor here, with 10% support.

The one region in which Dalton McGuinty's party leads is in the north. The Liberals have jumped seven points there and lead with 41%. The NDP and Progressive Conservatives are holding steady with 29% and 23%, respectively.

With relatively small regional sample sizes, these results are surprisingly consistent.

With this poll, the Progressive Conservatives would win 59 seats and form a majority government. The Liberals would form the Official Opposition with 32 seats, while the New Democrats would win 16.

That represents a loss of 40 seats from the Liberals' current standing in the Legislative Assembly. It's a gain of 34 for the Progressive Conservatives and six for the NDP. It's also a gain of eight seats for the PCs compared to the projection for Ipsos-Reid's last poll, a gain of one seat for the NDP, and a loss of nine for the Liberals.

Less than a year remains before the next provincial election in Ontario. There is not much time for Mr. McGuinty to dig himself out of the hole he is currently in. With the Ontario Liberals seeming to be piling problem onto problem, all Mr. Hudak has to do is hold steady and appear to be a competent alternative and he should coast to the premiership.

Monday, November 22, 2010

BC Liberals gain after Campbell resignation

The BC Liberals have rebounded in the first British Columbia provincial poll to be released after the announcement of Premier Gordon Campbell's eventual resignation. The Mustel Group, however, still shows that the BC New Democrats have the advantage.Compared to Mustel's last poll taken in late August and early September, the BC New Democrats have remained steady at 42%. That is, however, down from the high of 46% the party registered in Mustel's August 2009 poll.

The BC Liberals are up four points from September to 37%, their highest result since that August 2009 poll.

Meanwhile, the BC Greens are down two points to 10%, their lowest total since the 2009 election. The BC Conservatives are also down two points, to 9%, though they are still riding high compared to earlier polling results and the last election.

Undecideds represented 16% of this telephone poll.

The ability of the BC Liberals to recover is interesting, but the approval/disapproval rating of the NDP's leader, Carole James, is the most fascinating result of this poll.

While Campbell's approval rating is only 32% (much higher than the 9% in a recent Angus-Reid poll), Ms. James' is at 33%. That she is tied with such an unpopular premier is not a good sign for the party. But her disapproval rating is at 45%, better than Campbell's 60%. However, her approval rating is the lowest on Mustel's tracking chart, which stretches back to June 2008.

Nevertheless, with these polling results I project that the BC New Democrats would win a majority government of 52 seats, while the BC Liberals would form the Official Opposition with 31 seats.

That is closer than the 58 to 27 split I projected in Mustel's last poll.

I also project that one independent and one BC Conservative would be elected. That BC Conservative would be elected in Boundary-Similkameen, where the party had 20.2% support in 2009 (compared to 37.5% for the BC Liberals and 32.9% for the BC New Democrats). I realize it is going out on a limb to say that the BC Conservatives are now electable, but with the general anger against the Liberal government and the staggering improvement of the BC Conservatives' numbers since the election, they have to be considered to be a factor. Recall that during that election the BC Conservatives did not poll anywhere near their current levels.

Regionally, the NDP would win 25 seats in Vancouver, 14 on Vancouver Island, nine in the Interior, and four in the North. The Liberals would win 15 in Vancouver, 12 in the Interior, and four in the North.

While it is far, far too early to say that the worst is behind the BC Liberals, a poll like this will perhaps make leadership of the party a more attractive prospect.

Does the Tim Hortons crowd really vote Tory?

The Tim Hortons crowd is a blue collar bunch. They like their taxes low, the government out of their face and their leaders the kind you could have over for a beer. And, of course, they vote Conservative. Right?

After arguing last week that the image of the effete, Starbucks-drinking Liberal voter is more rhetoric than reality, a similar analysis of the more than 3,000 Tim Hortons locations from coast to coast to coast indicates a voter’s preference for a double-double does not make them a Tory or a Liberal, but rather just an average Canadian.


The rest of my article can be read on The Globe and Mail website. Clearly it's just a bit of political fun, so read it over a maple dip and then move on to the news of the day.

Death, taxes, and a five-point Conservative lead

While Canadian politics can be unpredictable, there is one thing that has lately been certain to remain the same: polls.


I also have an article in this week's edition of The Hill Times. It requires a subscription to read online. Check it out if you can!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Quebec Liberals narrow gap in newest Léger poll

The provincial poll released by Léger Marketing at the beginning of the week shows that the provincial Liberals have recovered, and are now within four points of the Parti Québécois.While normally I would compare these results to Léger's last poll, taken in mid-October, I'm not going to do that this time. That poll had a huge and improbable result for "Other", due to all the talk surrounding the hypothetical Force Québec party. So, rather than talk about the PQ and PLQ gaining in this poll (which they both do as a result of the reduction of the "Other" vote by seven points), I will compare this poll to Léger's September poll.

Compared to two months ago, the Parti Québécois has dropped three points to 37%, but has retained the lead. The Liberals are up one to 33%, while the Action Démocratique du Québec is at 11%, down one. Québec Solidaire is down three points to 8%, while the Greens (PVQ) are steady at 6%.

The PQ's losses came primarily among francophones and in Montreal, while the PLQ gain is due to an increase in support in and around Quebec City.

In the provincial capital, the PQ leads with 32%, down two points. The Liberals are up three to 28%, while the ADQ is down a disastrous nine points to 19%. The Quebec City region is the bread and butter of the ADQ, and for them to be dropping so much is a very dangerous thing for the party.

In Montreal, the Liberals hold steady with 36% but have gained the lead as a result of the six point decline for the PQ. They are at 31%, followed by the ADQ at 11% (up five) and the PVQ at 9% (up two). QS has dropped five points to 7%.

In the rest of Quebec, the PQ is in the lead with 44%, unchanged from two months ago. The PLQ is up one to 29% while the ADQ is down two points to 9%, tied with Québec Solidaire.

Among francophones, who make up 80% of the province's population, the PQ leads with 44%, down four points. The Liberals are second with 25%, up one, while the ADQ is also up one to 12%.

Léger also asked how people would vote if the PQ promises to hold a referendum on independence in their first mandate. The result was hardly different, but was slightly worse for the PQ: 36% to the Liberals' 35%.

These results would give the Parti Québécois a majority government with 69 seats, compared to 49 for the Liberals. The ADQ would win five seats while Québec Solidaire would win two, electing Françoise David in Gouin in addition to Amir Khadir in Mercier.

This is hardly changed from the September projection of 70 seats for the PQ, 48 for the Liberals, five for the ADQ, and two for Québec Solidaire.

Speaking of party leaders, Pauline Marois is the first choice of Quebecers to be the next Premier, with 22% (or 39% of decideds). Jean Charest gets the nod from 16% of Quebecers (or 28%), while Khadir gets 9% (16%) and Gérard Deltell of the ADQ gets 8% (or 14%). Remarkably, Khadir is preferred by twice as many Quebecers as those who would vote for his party. This indicates that Québec Solidaire has the best chance for growth.

But with only 18% satisfied with his government, Jean Charest does have the potential to flatline.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Liberals gain in new projection

Though the top line numbers show only a little movement, there actually has been some large shifts in support at the regional and provincial levels. For the most part, the Liberal Party has been the beneficiary.Nationally, the Conservatives still hold the lead with 33.8%, a drop of 0.2 points from the November 2 projection. The Liberals have gained 0.2 points and now trail with 29.2%, followed by the New Democrats at 16.1% (up 0.5).

The Bloc Québécois is at 9.7% support nationally, while the Greens have dropped 0.2 points to 8.6%.

The Conservatives are now projected to win 127 seats, down two from the last projection and 15 from their current standing in the House of Commons. The Liberals have picked up three seats and are now projected to win 98, 22 more than they currently hold. The NDP has dropped one seat to 30, six fewer than they now have, while the Bloc remains steady at 53 seats.

In Ontario, the Conservatives have gained 0.3 points and lead with 37%, but the Liberals have gained 0.7 points and now trail with 36%. This has caused one seat to shift from the Conservatives over to the Liberals, who are now projected to 46 seats to the Tories' 47. The NDP would win 13, and are up 0.1 points to 16.3%. The Greens are down 1.1 points to 9%.

The Bloc has dropped 1.3 points in Quebec but has maintained the lead with 38%. The Liberals are up 0.1 points to 23.5%, while the Conservatives are up 0.5 points to 16.7%. The NDP has gained 1.3 points and is now at 13.2%, one of their high watermarks of late, while the Greens are down 1.3 points to 6.1%. This would result in 53 seats for the Bloc, 15 for the Liberals, six for the Conservatives, and one for the New Democrats.

The Conservatives have lost 1.3 points and a seat in British Columbia, and are now at 33.9%. The NDP is also down a seat and 1.4 points, and now stands at 25.5%. The Liberals have gained 1.8 points and two seats, and is now projected to have 25.2% support in the province. The Greens are down 0.2 points to 12%. The Conservatives would win 17 seats, the Liberals 10, and the New Democrats nine.

There are no seat changes in Atlantic Canada, but the Liberals have dropped 0.7 points to 38.4%. The Conservatives have gained 0.2 points and trail with 31.2%, while the NDP is up 0.6 to 22.2%. The Greens are up slightly by 0.1 points to 6.5%.

In Alberta, the Conservatives have dropped 0.1 points to 59.5%, while the Liberals are up 1.7 points to 19.4%. The NDP is down 0.9 to 9.9%, while the Greens are down 0.5 to 8.5%. The Conservatives would win 27 seats and the Liberals would win one, unchanged from November 2.

Finally, in the Prairies there have been no seat changes. The Conservatives have dropped 1.3 points to 46% there, while the Liberals are up 0.8 to 22.8%. The NDP is down 0.2 to 21.8% while the Greens are down 0.3 points to 7%.

In terms of net gains and losses in the six regions, the Greens did worst with a net loss of 3.3 points. Their drop of only 0.2 points in British Columbia is the best piece of news, while the drop of 1.1 points in Ontario is the worst.

Next would be the Conservatives, with a net loss of 1.7 points. They dropped in Alberta and the Prairies, which does not matter much, but also in British Columbia, which does. A small gain in Quebec, however, is not bad at all.

Middle-of-the-pack would be the Bloc Québécois, which lost 1.3 points in Quebec. However, they remain at 53 seats.

The New Democrats had a net loss of 0.5 points, but with gains in Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada this isn't a bad projection for the NDP. But a loss of 1.4 points in British Columbia is troublesome. The party is on the verge of losing second place to the Liberals.

And it is they who come out on top in this projection, with a net gain of 4.4 points and three seats. The best performance for the party was in British Columbia, and a good showing in Ontario is also a positive sign for Michael Ignatieff.

With a combined total of 128 seats, the Liberals and New Democrats outnumber the Conservatives. That is the most significant change in this projection update. However, as the two parties are at odds on several issues, most notably Afghanistan, one wonders whether their combined totals mean anything.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tories would be outnumbered by Liberals and NDP in snap poll

Though the Conservatives and Liberals have seen their numbers remain virtually unchanged over the last two weeks, enough support has shifted to the Grits and New Democrats to give these two parties a plurality of seats in the House of Commons, were an election held today.

According to ThreeHundredEight.com’s updated seat and vote projections for The Globe and Mail, the Conservatives have the support of 33.8 per cent of Canadians, down slightly from the 34 per cent support Stephen Harper’s government enjoyed two weeks ago.


As always, you can read the rest of the article on The Globe and Mail website.

A detailed projection update will be posted here on the site either later today or tomorrow.

By the way, I've noticed that once in awhile I am personally addressed with a question in the comments section at the G&M. I'm not going to wade into that, so if you would like to ask me a question it would be better to post it here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The value of star candidates

I was once told by a politician that the local race represents about 5% of the vote - everything else is influenced by the on-going campaign and historical voting patterns.

I thought over how I could test this hypothesis, but there is no way to conclusively look into this matter with the resources at hand. But one way to get a hint of it is by looking at the influence a star candidate has in a local election campaign, so several weeks ago, I asked my readers for some help on identifying some star candidates who ran for election in a given riding for the first time in 2006 or 2008.

Aside from other local issues and the on-going national or regional campaign, a star candidate can play a large role in making voters shift from one party to another. It can be easier to identify with an individual, particularly one you know from your neighbourhood or one that you've regularly seen on television or in the news, than a national party. It also makes it easier to vote for someone, rather than voting for a party's local candidate that you've never heard of or seen before.

I embarked on this little analysis wanting to compile a list of "star candidates" that first stood for election in a riding in 2006 or 2008. We can really only use the last three elections to tell us anything about what might happen in the next election, due to the merging of the Progressive Conservatives and Canadian Alliance. And since using the 2004 election would force us to look back into the 2000 campaign, I could only use the last two elections.

I would take these star candidates and see how they did compared to the previous election. If a star candidate increased his party's vote by 1,000 people, that may act as an indicator of the star candidate's pull. But in order for this analysis not to be too tainted by the on-going campaign, I also compared the change in vote from one election to the next election in each riding to the wider changes in each province. So, if a star candidate increased his party's vote share from 20% to 40%, but the party also doubled its vote provincially, I would assess the star candidate's pulling power as a factor of 1. In other words, no drawing power.

However, if the party only increased its vote share provincially by half while the star candidate doubled it in his or her riding, I would assess the star candidate's drawing power as a factor of 1.33 (actual vote (40%) divided by expected vote (30%) = drawing power (1.33)).

My method of choosing a star candidate was based on my own personal judgment, and I assembled a sample of 38 candidates. Star candidates included former provincial party leaders, provincial cabinet ministers, former federal politicians or ministers, actors, mayors, journalists, and well-known local notables and professionals.

My choice of star candidates is, obviously, the least objective part of this analysis. But, of course, my results are to be viewed not as gospel but as an indication of what a star candidate's drawing power can be, based on the parameters I've outlined.

Before getting into the results, here are a few selected "star candidates", and how they performed.

First, Maxime Bernier, who ran as a Conservative for the first time in 2006 in the riding of Beauce. I remember not knowing who he was, but that everyone in the Beauce knew who he was because of his father. Bernier took the party from 8,091 votes and 17.1% in 2004 to 36,915 votes and 67%. He increased the party's share of eligible voters from 9.9% to 45%, a huge accomplishment. But, the party did well in Quebec in general in 2006, and based on that provincial increase we would have expected the Conservatives to get 47.9% of the vote in Beauce. As Bernier received 67%, he gets a drawing power factor of 1.4.

But not every son-of-a-well-known-person does well. Justin Trudeau, in the Montreal riding of Papineau, did see his party's vote go from 16,785 in 2006 to 17,724 in 2008. That was 38.5% of the vote compared to 41.5% in 2008. But based on the Liberal Party's growth in Quebec as a whole in the 2008 election, Trudeau should have gotten 43.9% of the vote. So, his drawing power is rated at 0.95 for a negative drawing power.

The experience of Marc Garneau, however, demonstrates how an individual's "drawing power" can be inconsistent. In 2006, Garneau dropped his party's support in Vaudreuil-Soulanges from 38.8% to 28.4%. But he should've seen his support go down to 23.7%, giving him a drawing factor of 1.2. On the other hand, in Westmount-Ville Marie in 2008, he only increased his party's share of the vote from 45.7% to 46.5% (though that was a loss of about 800 voters), instead of the expected 52.1%, giving him a drawing factor of 0.89.

Here are the drawing factors of a few selected individuals:

Michael Fortier (CPC) - Vaudreuil-Soulanges - 1.42
Lawrence Cannon (CPC) - Pontiac - 0.54
Jim Flaherty (CPC) - Whitby-Oshawa - 1.09
Michael Ignatieff (LPC) - Etobicoke-Lakeshore - 0.98
Tony Clement (CPC) - Parry Sound-Muskoka - 1.00
Paul Summerville (NDP) - St. Paul's - 1.14
John Baird (CPC) - Ottawa West-Nepean - 0.99
Jean-Pierre Blackburn (CPC) - Jonquiere-Alma - 3.89

Now, to the overall results.

On average, star candidates for New Democrats averaged a drawing factor of 1.27. The result was 1.26 for the Conservatives and 1.27 for the Greens. The Liberals, unfortunately, broke the consistency with their 1.06.

If we dropped the best and worst results for each party, we got 1.27 for the Greens, 1.26 for the New Democrats, 1.14 for the Conservatives, and 1.04 for the Liberals.

Former politicians alone averaged a factor of 1.26.

So, there appears to be some degree of consistency. On average, a star candidate will actually help a party's standing.

In 2006, the average factor was 1.25, or 1.11 if we take out Blackburn's anomalous result. In 2006, it was 1.16.

Overall, that gives us an average factor of 1.21 with Blackburn, and 1.14 without.

The chart on the left gives an indication of the consistency and inconsistency of these results (blue are NDP, green are Conservative, red are Liberal). Each dash represents one candidate. As you can see, there are a few outliers at both ends of the scale, but most results are clustered between 0.9 and 1.3. If we were looking at all candidates from all parties, we'd expect a cluster centred around 1 rather than 1.2.

So what does this analysis tell us? Certainly, that there is no hard-and-fast rule for the drawing power of a star candidate. Some do better, and some do worse. But most do better, increasing their party's support by about 14% over and above what we would expect them to get. In general, they're worth about three to six percentage points, indicating that the "5% is the local race" rule might not be so inaccurate.

The next thing I need to mull over is whether to include this factor in the projection, and how. Should I use the 1.21 or the 1.14 that excludes Blackburn's result? Should I use a lesser portion of this factor to act as an indicator for probable outcomes but leaving a good deal up to the wider campaign? As I expand the projection into all 308 ridings and include a great deal of many different factors, each of which I will try to analyze in posts like this, I will have to ask myself these questions more and more.

Monday, November 15, 2010

NDP growth in Quebec in new Léger poll, but it's mostly useless

A new poll by Léger Marketing on the federal voting intentions of Quebecers bodes well for the New Democrats on first glance, but in actuality their growth in support will do them few favours in seat wins.Compared to Léger's last poll taken between October 12 and October 14, the Bloc Québécois has lost only two points, and still holds the lead with 36%.

The three main federalist parties, however, are all gummed up around 20%, with the Liberals edging out the other two with 22% to the NDP's 21% and the Conservatives' 18%. That represents a two point gain for the Liberals, a two point loss for the Tories, and a four point gain for the New Democrats.

At 21%, the NDP is flying high. But what's the cause of it?

The NDP has made big gains amongst non-francophones, which has also boosted them in and around Montreal. The party now has the support of 22% of non-francophones, up 14 points, and 25% of Montrealers, up eight points.

But since that big gain seems to be primarily from anglophones and allophones, there is little hope for New Democratic seat gains. If the party runs at 22% on the West Island, it will not allow them to steal any seats away from the Liberals.

The Bloc still leads among francophones with 43%, down one point. The NDP is running second with 20%, a gain of one point, while the Liberals are steady at 18% and the Conservatives are up one to 15%.

Among non-francophones, the Liberals still retain the lead with 38%, but that is a drop of 11 points. The Conservatives are running second with 30%, up six, but like the NDP it will do them little good.

The races are tight in the two main cities of the province, with the Bloc tied at 27% with the Liberals in Montreal and with the Conservatives in Quebec City. The Bloc has dropped nine points in Montreal, while the NDP is up eight. The Conservatives and Liberals have each picked up two.

In Quebec City, both the Bloc and Tories have dropped two points. The Liberals have taken advantage, and are up four points to 20%.

Finally, in the rest of Quebec the Bloc is dominant, with 51% (up 10). While the results in Montreal and Quebec City might make a few Bloc MPs nervous, those outside of the two cities seem to be very safe. The Liberals are at 23% in this region (down one), while the Conservatives are down five to 10%. This can't help but make us wonder whether those Tories in the Saguenay and Bas-St-Laurent aren't at risk.

With these results, and with the federalist parties cannibalizing each other at such an alarming rate, the Bloc would win 51 seats. That is one more than Léger's last poll, and four more than the party's current standing in the House.

The Liberals would win 15 seats, up one from October, while the Tories would win seven (down two). The NDP would win two seats.

One thing that sets Léger's polls apart from the others is that the NDP does so well. The larger samples in Léger's polls would seem to argue that the NDP is closer to 20% than they are to the 10% or so other pollsters give them. But that is a huge disparity between the two. We should not discount Léger's findings, however, as during the 2008 election campaign they had the NDP at between 9% and 12%, exactly where the party ended up on voting day.

Does easy access to Starbucks latte really make you vote Liberal?

Latte-sipping elites, ensconced in comfy chairs and typing away at laptops in their local Starbucks, are a fixture of Canadian politics today. The stereotype is used – often scornfully – to describe Liberal voters, probably from downtown Toronto.

The reality, however, is that this person is no more likely to vote Liberal than he or she is to vote New Democratic or even Conservative. An analysis of the locations of more than 1,000 stores, booths, counters and kiosks reveals that the availability of Starbucks coffee shops in a riding is in no way indicative of likely voting habits by its inhabitants.


You can read the rest of this article on The Globe & Mail website.

I came to this article almost expecting to confirm the stereotype. The Liberals hold a good deal of the downtown urban ridings, so I assumed they would come out on top. I was even more sure of it when I saw that Vancouver Centre has 58 locations. But the amount of Starbucks locations in Alberta surprised me - the province ranks third after British Columbia and Ontario. There are even more locations in Manitoba than there are in Quebec or anywhere in Atlantic Canada. There are a lot in Toronto and Vancouver, sure, but there are quite a few in Edmonton and Calgary as well.

It was a long process putting together this article, despite the fact that it is geared towards the "lighter side" of political analysis. I had to locate and plot the locations of all 1,070 Starbucks outlets using the Elections Canada site.

I looked at the numbers a dozen ways but couldn't find any pattern that said anything other than the fact that there was no pattern. At first I was a little disappointed, but in the end the lack of a conclusive result is a result in and of itself, and I suppose dispelling a myth is more fun than confirming one. But it would have been a riot if Conservative ridings were far more likely to have a high density of Starbucks locations.

And in light of the by-elections taking place at the end of the month, here is how those three ridings breakdown:

Vaughan - 7 locations
Winnipeg North - 2 locations
Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette - 0 locations

Sunday, November 14, 2010

October Polling Averages

Time to look at October's polling. Eight national polls were released during this month (two fewer as last month), totaling about 13,230 interviews. Here are the results we get at the national level, with the difference from last month's average in brackets (margin of error +/- 0.9).

Conservatives - 33.7 (+0.3)
Liberals - 28.6 (-1.0)
New Democrats - 16.0 (+0.8)
Bloc Québécois - 9.8% (-0.2)
Greens - 9.5% (-0.7)
Others - 2.4% (+0.8)

At first glance, it seems that the Liberals have taken a step bakwards to the benefit of the NDP. But the Greens are also down and the Conservatives have made a modest gain, so it looks like a little bit of oscillation between the parties. As none of these movements are part of a trend, we're likely just shifting within the margin of error.

The seat projection for these results is as follows, with the difference from last month in brackets:

Conservatives - 130 (+1)
Liberals - 95 (-6)
Bloc Québécois - 54 (+2)
New Democrats - 29 (+3)
Greens - 0 (unchanged)

The Conservatives gain a seat, but that makes a gain of five seats over the last two months. The Bloc and NDP make a few gains, while the Liberals lose six seats. The regional results, with difference from last month in brackets:

BRITISH COLUMBIA (8 polls - about 1,460 people - MOE +/- 2.6)

Conservatives - 31.4% (-2.0)
New Democrats - 27.7% (+3.2)
Liberals - 23.1% (-2.8)
Greens - 15.1% (+0.7)
Others - 2.7%

The Conservatives have lost five points over the last two months, but are still holding the lead in the province. The NDP has made a big gain, while the Liberals lost some ground. And for the Greens, this marks a gain of 1.5 points over the last two months. The Conservatives would win 16 seats (-2 from last month) with these numbers, with the NDP taking 11 (+3) and the Liberals nine (-1).

ALBERTA (7 polls - about 1,190 people - MOE +/- 2.8)

Conservatives - 57.8 (-0.9)
Liberals - 18.8 (-1.5)
New Democrats - 11.2% (+1.7)
Greens - 9.2% (-0.5)
Others - 3.0%

Just a little movement back and forth, with the NDP making gains at the expense of the Liberals. The Greens, however, have now lost 2.1 points over the last two months. The Conservatives would win 27 seats (unchanged), while the Liberals would win one (unchanged).

PRAIRIES (7 polls - about 790 people - MOE +/- 3.5)

Conservatives - 46.6% (+0.1)
Liberals - 22.8% (+1.0)
New Democrats - 18.9% (-2.3)
Greens - 8.5% (-0.4)
Others - 3.2%

The Conservatives have held steady while the Liberals have made a good gain. The NDP dropped big in October, but that makes it a loss of 3.1 points since September. Unchanged from last month, the Conservatives would win 21 seats to the Liberals' four and the NDP's three.

ONTARIO (8 polls - about 4,860 people - MOE +/- 1.4)

Conservatives - 38.3 % (+1.8)
Liberals - 35.6% (-1.1)
New Democrats - 15.6% (+1.3)
Greens - 9.2% (-1.9)
Others - 1.3%

The Conservatives and Liberals swapped positions in Ontario, with the Tories now on a roll. They've gain 3.1 points in the last two months. The NDP is also up, with the Greens and Liberal both dropping over a point. The Conservatives would win 51 seats (+5), while the Liberals would win 44 (-4) and the New Democrats 11 (-1).

QUEBEC (9 polls - about 4,190 people - MOE +/- 1.5)

Bloc Québécois - 39.5% (+1.2)
Liberals - 23.4% (-0.7)
Conservatives - 14.5% (-2.3)
New Democrats - 11.5% (-0.6)
Greens - 8.5% (+1.0)
Others - 2.6%

After seeing a drop in support in both August and September, the Bloc is back with a gain. The Liberals are down a little, while the Conservatives are down even more. The Bloc would win 54 seats (+2), while the Liberals would win 15 (unchanged), the Conservatives five (+2), and the New Democrats one (unchanged).

ATLANTIC CANADA (8 polls - about 910 people - MOE +/- 3.3)

Liberals - 38.9% (-0.7)
Conservatives - 33.4% (+1.4)
New Democrats - 19.7% (+0.9)
Greens - 6.4% (-1.7)
Others - 1.6%

The Liberals slipped in October here (and have dropped three points in two months), but still lead. The Conservatives, on the other hand, have gained 6.1 points since September. The New Democrats are regaining some of the support they've lost over the last few months. The Liberals would win 20 (-1) seats. The Conservatives would win nine (unchanged) and the New Democrats three (+1).The worst performer this month, determined by net gain or loss in the six regions, is the Liberal Party. They suffered a net loss of 5.8 points, with important dips in support in Ontario, Alberta, and particularly British Columbia. The gain in the Prairies hardly makes up for it.

Next worst was the Green Party, with a net loss of 2.8 points. The party is heading in the right direction in British Columbia, but is dropping in Ontario.

Middle-of-the-pack is the Conservative Party, with a net loss of 1.9 points. They made good gains in Atlantic Canada and Ontario, but suffered bad losses in Quebec and British Columbia.

Runner-up is the Bloc Québécois, with a gain of 1.2 points in Quebec. The gap between them and the Liberals is now 16.1 points, widened by 1.9 points this past month.

And, finally, this month's winners are the New Democrats, with a net gain of 4.2 points. Gains in Alberta, Ontario, and British Columbia were of a good size, while modest growth in Atlantic Canada is a piece of good news. The only problem area this month for the NDP seems to have been in the Prairies, while a step backwards in Quebec is a negative sign.

Friday, November 12, 2010

NDP held massive lead on eve of Campbell departure

Taken shortly before Gordon Campbell's announcement that he would resign as BC Premier as soon as a replacement was found, an Angus-Reid poll placed the opposition BC New Democrats well ahead of Campbell's government.With 47%, the BC New Democrats had lost two points from Angus-Reid's last BC poll taken in mid-October, but still held a very comfortable lead. Campbell's BC Liberals were at 26%, a gain of two points but still well below the party's 2009 election result.

The Greens and BC Conservatives were tied at 10%, representing a three point loss for the Greens and a two point gain for the BC Conservatives.

The BC NDP led in all parts of the province, with 44% in Vancouver, 45% in the Interior, 51% on Vancouver Island, and 57% in the North.

Liberal support ranged between 20% and 31%, while the Greens did better in Vancouver (13%) but worse in the North (2%).

The BC Conservatives are running a strong third in the Interior, with 18%.

This poll would give the BC New Democrats a majority government with 70 seats. The party would sweep all 14 seats on Vancouver Island, and win 22 in the Interior, seven in the North, and 27 in and around Vancouver.

The Liberals would be reduced to 12 seats, all won in Vancouver.

Independents would win two seats, one in the North and one in Vancouver, while the Greens would win one seat in Vancouver.

UPDATE: I did not incorporate the "ballot box factor" in this projection. This is the difference between what pollsters report and what actually happens on voting day. I have added this factor to the projection model for British Columbia and will use it in the future. Had I used it for this projection, I would not have awarded a seat to the BC Greens. It would have gone to the BC Liberals instead.

If there is one bit of silver lining in this poll for the BC Liberals as they head into a leadership convention, it is that 28% of British Columbians prefer that the next electoral outcome be a BC Liberal government with someone other than Gordon Campbell as leader. But the NDP still holds the edge, with 32% preferring that they form the next government. Only 6% preferred a re-elected Campbell government.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Conservatives and Liberal below 30% in new EKOS poll

The latest poll from EKOS is a little more interesting than it usually has been, showing the Conservatives losing to the benefit of the New Democrats. But the poll has some odd regionals, as all polls seem to nowadays.The Conservatives have dropped 4.5 points since EKOS's last poll two weeks ago, and have dropped below 30% again. The Liberals haven't really taken advantage, as they are up only 0.8 points to 28.6%.

The New Democrats, however, are up 4.2 points to 19.3%, thanks to big, and perhaps improbable, gains in the Prairies, Atlantic Canada, and Ontario.

The Bloc Québécois is steady at 9.3% while the Greens are at 10.7% (down 0.9 points).

Interestingly, the Conservatives lead among men with 34% to the Liberals' 29%. But Michael Ignatieff's party has the advantage among women, with 28% to the Conservatives' 25%.

The number of undecideds in this automated telephone poll (calling both landlines and cell phones) was 13%.

The Liberals now lead in Ontario with 34.8%, down one point from two weeks ago. The Conservatives have dropped eight to 32.9%, while the NDP is up six to 19.6%. None of these numbers are particularly suspect, though the variations are a little too large. Meanwhile, the Greens are up one to 10.3%. The Liberals lead in Toronto with 35.9% and in Ottawa with 42.3%, followed by the Conservatives with 34% and 31.2%, respectively.

The Bloc leads in Quebec with 37.2% and is holding steady. The Liberals are up one to 23%, while the Conservatives are up four to 15.7%. The NDP is down one to 11%. The Bloc leads comfortably in Montreal with 41.6% to 22.6% for the Liberals.

In British Columbia, the Liberals have soared ahead and lead with 30.3%, up 11 points from two weeks ago. While that looks odd, we have seen a few other polls with the Liberals leading or performing very well. So, at the very least, we can say that there is some real potential for Liberal growth on the West Coast.

The Conservatives have dropped three points in BC to 28.2%, and are followed by the NDP at 20.6% (down six) and the Greens at 16.5% (down three). The Conservatives lead in Vancouver with 33.7% to the Liberals' 33%.

After single-handedly saving Atlantic Canada from a flood, Jack Layton now leads there with 44.5%, up 29 points. The Liberals are down six to 30.6% while the Conservatives, who caused the flood in the first place, are down 17 points to 17%.

Or, rather, probably not. This East Coast result is yet another example of why people need to look at polls with a critical eye. It's also a demonstration of why rolling averages and projection models like the one here at ThreeHundredEight.com are a better indication of what is actually going on. I get annoyed sometimes when individual polls are treated like gospel, when they are really just another dart on the board. For example, in Atlantic Canada and with the latest polls incorporated, the Liberals are projected to take 38.4% of the vote, compared to 31.2% for the Conservatives and 22.2% for the NDP. Which seems more likely?

In Alberta, the Conservatives lead with 55.7% to the Liberals' 21% (and in Calgary with 61.6% to 26.1%), while in the Prairies the Tories are ahead with 39.4%. The NDP has jumped 17 points here and is now second with 29.3%, while the Liberals are down seven points to 19.1%.

With this poll, the Conservatives would win 38 seats in Ontario (down 17 from the last EKOS projection), 27 in Alberta, 20 in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, 18 in British Columbia (+1), six in Quebec (+3), and five in Atlantic Canada (-4) for a total of 115. That is a drop of 17 seats from the projection based on the last EKOS poll.

The Liberals would win 49 seats in Ontario (+8), 20 in Atlantic Canada, 16 in Quebec (-1), 12 in British Columbia (+5), three in the Prairies (-3), and one in Alberta for a total of 103. That is a gain of nine seats from the last projection.

The Bloc would win 52 seats in Quebec, a drop of two from last time.

The NDP smack up hard against the ceiling in Atlantic Canada, but would win 19 seats in Ontario (+9), seven in Atlantic Canada (+4), six in British Columbia (-5), five in the Prairies (+3), and one in Quebec for a total of 38. That is a gain of 11 seats.

The Greens lose the seat they were projected to win in British Columbia two weeks ago.

Also in this poll was a question about the F-35 purchase. Opinion is split, but 54% oppose the purchase of these new aircraft. Opposition is highest among Bloc Québécois (77%) and Liberal (64%) supporters, while support is highest among Conservative (70%) and New Democratic (47%) supporters.

But back to the voting intention numbers. Are the Conservatives and Liberals really both below 30%? I highly doubt it. Has the NDP surged forward in the Prairies, Ontario, and Atlantic Canada? Not likely. But what this poll does tell us is what every other poll has told us recently - Ontario and British Columbia are tight races, and a significant Tory advantage is far from in the cards.

Saskatchewan voters flock to Brad Wall during Potash battle

Prime Minister Stephen Harper had good reason not to cross Premier Brad Wall over the proposed takeover of Potash Corp. by BHP Billiton. Mr. Wall’s party enjoys the support of a majority of Saskatchewan voters and he is seen as the best man to lead the province by almost three-quarters of those surveyed, according to a new poll conducted by Sigma Analytics.

You can read the rest of the article on The Globe & Mail website.

Though it's possible people are Saskatchewaned out, I hope we see a new provincial poll in the next month or so to see how the Saskatchewan Party's position changes in the wake of the potash decision.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Stability in new Nanos poll

A new poll released today by Nanos Research shows very little movement for any party since early October, though the New Democrats have made some seat gains at the expense of the Liberals.Compared to that early October poll, the Conservatives have gained 0.5 points and lead with 37.1%. The Liberals follow with 31.6%, down 0.8 points.

The New Democrats are down 0.9 points to 15.4%, while the Bloc Québécois is up a point to 10.8% and the Greens are up 0.3 points to 5.2%.

The number of undecided in this unprompted telephone poll were 19.2%.

Stephen Harper is the best option for Prime Minister for 28.4% of respondents, compared to 16.4% for Jack Layton and 15.5% for Michael Ignatieff. That represents little change from Nanos' last poll.

Harper does best in the Prairies (Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba) with 45.9%, while he does worst in Quebec with 14.1%. He has a much bigger spread than either Layton or Ignatieff, indicating how his support is regionally based.

Layton's best was in Quebec (24.2%) and his worst was in British Columbia (11.1%). Ignatieff's best result was in Atlantic Canada (18.7%), while his worst was in the Prairies (12.6%).

The Conservatives lead in Ontario with 40.9%, down one point from Nanos' last poll. The Liberals are down a mere 0.2 points to 35.5%, while the NDP is down 1.9 points to 16.2%. The Greens bring up the rear with 7.3%, up 2.9 points. This would give the Conservatives 54 seats, the Liberals 41, and the NDP 11. That is unchanged from Nanos' last poll.

In Quebec, the Bloc has gained 4.5 points and leads with 42.8%. The Liberals follow with 26.2% (down 1.5), while the Conservatives are down 0.5 points to 19.3%. The NDP is down 0.7 to 10.5%, but would still win one seat. The Bloc would win 51, two more than in early October, while the Liberals would win 16 and the Conservatives seven. That is one lost seat for each of these parties compared to the last poll.

In British Columbia, the Liberals are up 1.4 points to 33.1% and lead. The Conservatives are up one point to 31.7%, while the NDP is up 1.9 points to 26.1%. The Greens have dropped 4.3 points, and now stand at only 9.1%. The Conservatives would elect 15 MPs with this result, while the Liberals would elected 12 and the NDP nine.

The Conservatives lead in Atlantic Canada, but that is undoubtedly due to the small sample size. How else to explain the 8.3 drop for the Liberals, who trail the Conservatives 42.4% to 32.7%. Nevertheless, the Liberals would win 16 seats to the Conservatives' 12 and the NDP's four. That is a five-seat drop for the Liberals compared to the last poll, while the Tories pick up two and the NDP three.

Nanos persists in grouping Alberta with the other two Prairie provinces. The Conservatives lead there with 55.2%, followed by the Liberals at 30.4%.

In total, the Conservatives would win 137 seats, unchanged from Nanos' last poll. The Liberals would win 92, a loss of six seats, while the NDP would win 28 for a gain of four. The Bloc picks up two.

Of course, that is still a net gain for the Liberals, who currently hold 76 seats in the House of Commons. But a loss of only five seats for the Tories and a maintenance of the 2008 level of popular support would likely mean another two or three years of Conservative governance.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Movement around the edges, but not much change in new Ipsos-Reid poll

It's been over a month since we've heard from Ipsos-Reid, as they were very busy during the municipal races in Ontario and elsewhere. Despite this, Ipsos-Reid has found very few changes among the top two parties, though there has been some movement for the New Democrats and the Bloc Québécois.Compared to that last poll, the Conservatives and Liberals remain steady at 35% and 29%, respectively. It is the NDP that has moved, with a gain of four points. They now stand at 16%.

The Greens are down one to 11%, while the Bloc is down three to 8%.

The Conservatives hold the lead among men, with 41% to the Liberals' 31%. It is a much closer race among women, with the Conservatives leading the Liberals 29% to 27%.

About 10% of the respondents to this prompted telephone poll were undecided.

In Ontario, the Conservatives have gained one point and lead with 38%. The Liberals are down three to 34%, while the NDP is up six to 17%. The Greens are down five to 10%. This would result in the Conservatives winning 52 seats, four more than in Ipsos-Reid's last poll. The Liberals would win 40 seats, eight fewer, while the NDP would win 14 (up five).

The Bloc has dropped nine points in Quebec but leads with 35%. The Liberals are up two to 24%, the Conservatives have gained three and now stand at 19%, and the NDP is up four to 11%. The Bloc would be projected to win 49 seats, compared to 16 Liberals, nine Conservatives, and one New Democrat. That is a loss of six seats for the Bloc from Ipsos-Reid's last poll, while the Conservatives gain three, the Liberals two, and the NDP one.

In British Columbia, the Conservatives lead with 34% (up one). The NDP is down two to 24% and the Liberals are down three to 23%. The Greens are up two to 17%. This would give 20 Conservative seats, nine Liberal seats, and seven NDP MPs.

In Atlantic Canada, the Liberals lead with 42%, followed by the Conservatives at 28% (down six). The Liberals would win 22 seats (up one), the Conservatives seven (down two), and the NDP three (up one).

In Alberta, the Conservatives have gained six points and lead with 63%, while the Liberals follow with 22%. The NDP has dropped five points to 4%. This would result in 26 Conservatives being elected and two Liberals.

Finally, in the Prairies the Conservatives are down 24 points (yes, 24 points) to 39%. The Liberals are up 15 to 29% and the NDP is up 11 to 26%, resulting in 19 Conservatives, six Liberals, and three New Democrats.

In total, the Conservatives would win 134 seats. That is a drop of two seats from Ipsos-Reid's last poll, and a drop of eight seats from the party's current standing in the House of Commons.

The Liberals would win 97 seats, down one, while the New Democrats would win 28 (up six).

This is another poll where we've seen the NDP make some gains - but this is more of a result of the severe drubbing the New Democrats were taking in September. The gap between the Liberals and Conservatives has widened a little compared to where it was a month or two ago, with the race in Ontario and British Columbia remaining close. But the Tories still appear unable to get back to their 2008 levels of support.

Monday, November 8, 2010

What Parliament would look like if only women voted

The voting intentions of Canadian women are equally divided between the governing Conservatives and the opposition Liberals but would result in the slimmest of Liberal minority governments, according to an analysis of federal polls conducted by EKOS and Ipsos-Reid over the last two months.

With both parties receiving 29 per cent national support, the Conservatives and Liberals are neck-and-neck in the affections of Canadian women. This contrasts sharply with the eight-point lead the Tories hold among Canadian men, with 36 per cent support to the Liberals’ 28 per cent.


You can read the rest of the article on The Globe & Mail website. There's also a chart in today's edition of the newspaper.