Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Rating the BC Liberal leadership contenders

Ipsos-Reid conducted a poll recently for Global Television in British Columbia. It was reported on in the Vancouver Sun here.

In general, it shows that Christy Clark and George Abbott appear to be emerging as the front runners, at least in the opinion of British Columbians. But parties, as the last contested federal Liberal leadership convention demonstrated, can make odd choices.

When asking all British Columbians, only Christy Clark and George Abbott come out with a net positive rating, with the other contenders all getting negative marks. BC Liberal voters are far more enthusiastic about their candidates, and give the best score to Ms. Clark with 60% having a positive impression of her compared to 15% who don't.

Abbott also gets a decent score, with a 38% to 11% split. Kevin Falcon is more divisive, as 33% of BC Liberal voters have a positive opinion of him compared to 24% who don't.

In terms of generating interest in voting for the BC Liberals, 26% of all voters said that Clark would get them most interested in voting for her party. That is boosted to 36% among people who voted Liberal in 2009, but is reduced to 16% among those who voted NDP. Abbott received scores of 12%, 18%, and 10%, respectively, while Falcon got 7%, 14%, and 4%.

But how can we take all of these numbers and rank the leadership contenders? I combined all of the rankings of the candidates for each of the questions in this poll, giving six points to the contender with the best score and one point to the contender with the worst score for each question, portioning out points in descending order in between. As one of the questions included whether a particular leadership candidate would decrease interest in voting for the BC Liberals, and since I included the response of BC New Democratic voters, this ranking should be looked at in terms of each contender's ability to draw votes from all sides of the political spectrum. A leader who does that is best suited to win an election campaign.

The following chart is NOT the result of the Ipsos-Reid poll, but my own ranking based on the results of the poll.It's clear that Abbott and Clark are the two main contenders. While Clark gets good numbers from BC Liberal voters, she tends to do worse among NDP voters. They seem to prefer candidates like Abbott or Mike de Jong. Kevin Falcon, who does well enough among Liberals, does extremely badly among other voters. Unlike Clark or Abbott, he appears to be disliked outside of his own party. Clark is also divisive, but seems better able to draw non-Liberal voters into her tent.

Mike de Jong and Moira Stilwell also seem to benefit from a "none of the above" effect.

Comparing this to Ipsos-Reid's last leadership poll in December shows how much voter negativity Falcon brings to the table. That poll did not include whether a leader would decrease interest in voting for the BC Liberals, and that is primarily why Kevin Falcon has fallen from third to last in terms of suitability.

Now, this is not an indication of who will win the BC Liberal leadership race. Falcon has the support of influential people. But this seems to argue that the BC Liberals will have a better chance of winning the next provincial election with George Abbott or Christy Clark as leader, rather than Kevin Falcon.


  1. This is a poll of the entire electorate. The BC Liberals will pick a leader based on the vote by card-carrying members who make up less than 1% of the population of the province. party members typically vote very differently from the broader population if we look at how unknowns like Stephane Dion or (in 1996) Dalton McGuinty could be elected leaders of their parties despite having virtually no support from the general public.

  2. Did you catch this reference to Liberal polling in the globe today? Apparently this was a $500,000 "megapoll" with a huge sample size.

    "Mr. Marzolini revealed his horserace numbers, showing the Tories at 35 per cent support compared to 28 per cent for the Liberals, 19 per cent for the NDP, 10 per cent for the Bloc Québécois and 8 per cent for the Green Party."

  3. Yeah, I saw that. But I doubt he'd be willing to give me all of the details.

    Aside from the NDP's number, that is generally my own projection.

  4. Hey Eric,

    Where's Ed Mayne. I realize he would be last - Maybe a "Zero", but leaving him out is only a reflection on the validity of your poll.

    And it's very likely that he will carry many of the Islands delegates. People on the Island sick and tired of that same our liberal back room politics. And yes Ms. Clark too has a questionable past of back-room politics.

    If you're going to have a poll, then do it right, Eric.

  5. Huh? Ed Mayne is there. He isn't in the second half of the chart because Ipsos-Reid didn't poll for him in December.

    And I didn't order this poll or anything, so I'm not sure why you're directing your frustration at me.

  6. Sorry Eric. You are right! I apologize!

  7. As DL mentioned, this is a poll of the entire electorate. But one of the variables that many BC Liberal members will consider is the appeal of their candidate to the general electorate since the new leader will have to eventually win an election.

  8. You are correct that Kevin Falcon has the support of some influential people. I wonder to what extent those people are trying to get him to be Premier so he can get things done in the little time he has before the next election, rather than worrying about electability.

    Regardless, I dislike Kevin Falcon, as he was behind the idiotic Parking Tax imposed a few years ago. Here's a lesson, candidates: If you ever raise taxes, you will never get my vote.

  9. So you won't be voting for Harper's party then, Ira? After all, his government has raised payroll taxes, and if you're going to oppose everything irrationally, you may as well be irrational towards everyone.

  10. "But one of the variables that many BC Liberal members will consider is the appeal of their candidate to the general electorate since the new leader will have to eventually win an election."

    I guess that explains why the federal Liberals picked Stephane Dion?

  11. I didn't vote for Harper's party last time. I was annoyed at that stupid gay marriage vote they had.

  12. Volkov please don't insult people's intelligence by dropping one liners about raising pay roll taxes.

    Public policy actually matters. Don't debase it for political gain.

    The EI situation is more complex than that. By law its meant to be self sustaining and the rates right now (Flaherty didn't allow it to rise all that much) are simply where it would be if it wasn't frozen during the downturn.

    So your one liner should be:

    Harper gave you a temporary two year tax cut and then took it away like he said he would !!

    (Then again, the way the Liberals have abandoned evidence based decision making regarding the corporate tax cuts is stunning.

    There is near universal agreement that they create billions of additional investment and around 100,000 new jobs.

    Liberals = not a serious governing party.)

  13. These are the important findings in terms of net positive approval figures:

    BC Electorate:

    Clark: +11
    Abbott: +5
    Falcon: -22

    2009 Liberal Voters:

    Clark: +45
    Abbott: +27
    Falcon: +9

    BC's major political pundits also seem to rank the foregoing the same in terms of the Liberal membership (which has reportedly gone from ~35,000 to ~70,000).

    Abbott seems to have had the only movement since December in terms of upward net approval.

    Two points to note. The 2nd choice is very important and it appears that Abbott will likely gain most of the 2nd choices of both Clark and Falcon supporters.

    OTOH, it appears that Abbott's and Deyong's supporters 2nd choices will go to Clark.

    And then each constituency will have the same weight in the leadership vote - whether one constituency has 1,000 members or 100 members.

    At the day, it looks like it will be either Clark or Abbott, both of whom are small "l" liberals, with Abbott considered the most moderate, middle-of-the road candidate of both major political parties.

  14. Eric,

    I gotta disagree with you on saying that a candidate's appeal to the opposing party is particularly relevant. Being the strong second choice of an NDP supporter won't help a Liberal get elected one bit (at least not under First Past the Post), and in terms of overall electability I think the perception of the general public at large is a far better measure than the subset of the electorate that subscribes to a particular party.

  15. Sure, but I think it is something to take into account, considering that an NDP voter in 2009 is not necessarily an NDP voter forever.

  16. It seems that there is something of an "anyone but Clarke" movement in some BC Liberal circles. I think its partly driven by all those federal Tory types in that party who don't want the party to be taken over by a federal Liberal. Also, I think that a lot of people see Christy Clarke as a bit of a loose cannon with a lot of skeletons in her closet who may not be "ready for prime time"

  17. DL federal Tories are split on that one.

    A lot of us now support the BC Conservative party.

    Falcon is to the right, if he wins he eats into our vote.

    Clark, on the other hand, will steal NDP votes and create space on the ideological spectrum for a true right wing alternative.

  18. I don't see Clark "stealing" any NDP votes. She's a very shrill partisan rightwinger who is a bit of a Michele Bachmann type. I'm not sure why she is even a federal Liberal in the first place I would have thought she was much too rightwintg for them.

  19. Im Surprised to see Falcon doing so poorly because he seems to be getting the most attention in national media as well as a lot of endorsements.

    One reason some NDP voters may not like Clark is because they're afraid that if she become leader she will be able to win some of the NDP vote because she's a centrist.

  20. DL,

    There's a lot of people in BC who vote NDP provincially and Conservative federally too, so I don't think BC politics are as neatly defined by left vs right as they are federally. It's more labour vs business or populism vs intellectualism IMHO. Christy's campaign seems to have more Tories than Liberals working on it too, so I dunno if the ABC movement is that strong.


    The trouble is that aside from the NDP, you can also grow your support from Conservatives, Greens, and non-aligned voters. Given the record low turnout in the last election, there's a lot in that last category.

    What you should be looking at for electability is the overall support amongst voters, because if you do well in that and still have low support from the NDP, that just means that you must have higher support from those other groups to compensate. Considering the NDP alone is quite interesting, but in terms of an accurate measure of someone's support, it's a smaller, more biased sample than the overall voters.

  21. Starting the pink shirt anti-bullying campaign, advocating the province pay for smoking cessation treatment...doesn't sound like a shrill right-winger to me, DL.

    I guess from an NDP perspective, everyone to the right of Carole James is a rabid neo-con.

    Shadow, I would agree with you that SOME federal tories are supporting the BC Conservatives. They are still polling in the single digits. I don't think that counts as A LOT of federal tories supporting them though.

    I am involved with the BC Liberals and there doesn't seem to be much of an anyone-but-Clark campaign, except maybe amongst Falcon people. Most of the other candidates have Clark as their second choice from people I've talked to. If anything, I see more of an anyone but Falcon campaign happening. He is considered far too unelectable.

  22. According to Ipsos, 25% of 2009 NDP voters have a positive impression of Clark (~10% of the 42%) while another 31% are neutral.

    A good chunk of that 2005/2009 NDP vote was anti-Gordon Campbell.

    On the other side of the ledger, Ipsos also has another poll out today showing that Farnworth has the highest net approval ratings for the NDP. He's also the most right-wing NDP candidate.

    The NDP membership, however, is quite left of the average voter and the membership numbers have also increased from ~13,000 to ~25,000.

    The problem is that Adrian Dix, the most left-wing NDP candidate, filed ~6,000 new memberships on the last sign-up day alone.

    Most of those were from the Indo- Canadian and Filipino communities. Along with Dix's other endorsements, and according to Global News, senior NDP officials have conceded that the NDP race is almost a foregone conclusion in favour of Dix.

    If that's the case, the NDP vote could potentially move downward to 33% (where they were at during the 1950's and 1960's), with soft NDP support moving over to a more moderate Abbott or Clark led Liberal government.

    And some 2009 Liberal voters could move over to a socially conservative, old-Reform style Conservative Party.

  23. Of course since there is a two month lag between when the BC Libs choose a leader and when the BC NDP does so - the NDP has the luxury of seeing who the Liberals pick first and tailor their choice accordingly. I think the NDP race is totally wide open at this stage. Even if Dix signed up 5,000 people at the last minute - past experience shows that people who join at the last minute in these mass sign-ups tend have a much lower rate of participation in the actual vote than the long time party stalwarts. Also, there are three months during which all the members will be deluged with info from the campaigns and there is no guarantee whatsoever that people originally signed up by Dix or farnworth or whoever will actually vote for that person in the end.

  24. BC's politics is not neatly divisible along right/left lines. Any attempt to do so will invariably fail to capture reality.

    I've been in BC for 10 years, and I have no idea how it works yet, but I know it doesn't work the way I thought it did (the way the rest of the country works) when I arrived.

  25. Eric wrote:
    " NDP voter in 2009 is not necessarily an NDP voter forever."

    Can the same be said about the BC Socred/Liberal voter?

    There are many angry voters who voted for the coalition last election and anyone who appears close to the former leader will not get their vote. They will either not vote or may just cast a vote for their NDP candidate.

    Farnworth seems to have a very good approval rating amongst coalition voters.


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