Friday, July 29, 2011

Wildrose plummets, Tories surge in Alberta

With Premier Ed Stelmach out of the way and a leadership contest stealing the spotlight, the Alberta Tories are dominating the polls once again.

And that means the Wildrose Party has been pushed aside in a dramatic change of fortunes for a party that had been challenging the PC stranglehold on the province since the end of 2009. 

In a new poll by Environics Research, the Progressive Conservatives stand at 54 per cent support in Alberta, enough to give them another huge majority government and extend the uninterrupted lifespan of their time in power, which began 40 years ago.

Wildrose placed second with 16 per cent support, down 10 points since Environics’s last poll conducted in January. The Tories, meanwhile, are up 16 points since then.

You can read the rest of the article on The Huffington Post website here.

Prior to this poll, I would have thought that the next leader of the Progressive Conservatives would take his or her time to solidify support before taking on the Wildrose Party. Now I'm wondering if we're going to have a sixth election in the fall. The next Tory leader might want a mandate of his or her own.

From a personal standpoint, I'd prefer if Alberta waited until 2012. As the schedule is shaping up right now, only Quebec is likely to have an election next year so there's plenty of room to squeeze in a second.

The monthly provincial poll chart in the right-hand column has been updated to include this Environics poll.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

NDP wins fourth mandate in first Manitoba projection

The Manitoba projection model is now completed, and projects a New Democratic majority government in the province, with the Progressive Conservatives forming the Official Opposition.
However, the NDP wins this fourth mandate with fewer votes than the PCs.

The Progressive Conservatives are projected to have the support of 44.3% of Manitobans, compared to 39.9% for the NDP.

The Liberals stand at a projected 11.5% support, while the Greens are at 4.0%.

But because of greater vote efficiency, the New Democrats manage to elect 33 MLAs to Winnipeg, compared to 22 for the Progressive Conservatives and two for the Liberals.

This represents a loss of three seats for the NDP, a gain of three seats for the PCs, and a gain of one seat for the Liberals compared to their current standing in the Legislative Assembly.

Outside of Winnipeg, the Progressive Conservatives take the majority of the seats with 16 to the NDP's 10.

The PCs take 10 seats in the southeast, six in the southwest, and none in the north, while the NDP takes four seats apiece in northern and southeastern Manitoba and two in the southwestern part of the province.

In Winnipeg itself, the New Democrats still dominate with 23 seats to the PCs' six and the Liberals' two.

Understandably, as the NDP is down by 4.4 points several of the seats they hold in the projection are marginal.

The NDP has a five-point or less lead in five seats, while the PCs are leading by such a margin in two seats and the Liberals one.

The PCs are trailing by five points or less in five seats, while the NDP is behind by five points or less in three.

This puts the NDP range at between 28 and 36 seats. At the lower end of the scale, the NDP is in danger of being defeated by the PCs while at the higher end it puts them on par with their current caucus. For the PCs, they could win as few as 20 seats or as many as 27, indicating that at this point they stand a very good chance of improving upon 2007's results.

The Liberals range at between one and two seats. This is the difference between the party holding on to the successor to the riding of Inkster after Kevin Lamoureux's departure or not.

Now, Manitoba's ridings have been re-drawn. Some of the ridings have changed completely while others have changed only a little bit. Many thanks go to Kirk Vilks, who calculated the transposition of votes using the poll-by-poll breakdowns. In the chart to the left, incumbents are determined either by the sitting MLA who is running for re-election in a given riding, or by the winning party in each riding after the transposition of votes.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Rae goes looking for missing Liberal voters

Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae is on a cross-country tour in a quest to rebuild the party.

Considering the disastrous results of the last election, it could be a long trip.

Since the 2004 federal election under Paul Martin, the Liberal Party has lost about 2.2 million votes - despite the fact that nearly 1.2 million more Canadians cast a ballot this past May than they did seven years ago.

You can read the rest of the article on The Huffington Post Canada website here.

The piece had been written before yesterday's momentous news, otherwise I might have chosen a different topic. It was a very sad thing when Jack Layton first emerged for his press conference, as the transformation from the last time we saw him has been extreme. There were rumours concerning what the announcement was about, but it became obvious as soon as he appeared.

He seems confident that he will be back for the September return to Parliament, and let's all hope that this is not just the confidence of someone putting on a brave face. Best wishes to Mr. Layton and his family - if he is as dogged in fighting the cancer as he has been a politician, then he has every chance of recovery.

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I will be presenting the new Manitoba projection model tomorrow.

Monday, July 25, 2011

In Sask. and PEI re-election campaigns, there are no guarantees

Canada’s two youngest premiers will be asking voters in their respective provinces for a second mandate this fall, and unless a major shift in support occurs on the campaign trail both should easily win another four years in office.

Both Robert Ghiz of Prince Edward Island and Brad Wall of Saskatchewan enjoy high approval ratings and their respective parties are leading their rivals by wide margins in the polls. And while the re-election of these incumbent governments might be the safest electoral bet to make this fall, both races could still have some surprises.

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

I have not begun work on the models for Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan, but will do so soon. Manitoba is all but done and I will tackle Newfoundland and Labrador next, before moving on to PEI and Saskatchewan.

Things to watch for in these two elections:

- Can the Liberals sweep all 27 seats in Prince Edward Island? The potential is there, and it would not be a great departure from PEI's recent electoral history.

- Will Brad Wall capitalize on his high approval ratings to win an even bigger majority than he did in 2007? There were not a lot of marginal NDP seats in the last election, so the Saskatchewan Party would need a big boost to win a lot of new seats.

- Can the PEI New Democrats return to the legislature? Will the Progressive Conservatives survive? This could be an opportunity for the NDP to form the Official Opposition with a single MLA.

- How has the federal NDP's success transfered over to the provinces? In PEI it might help elect an MLA, but in Saskatchewan it could throw a wrench in Wall's works.

- And can the Liberals hold on to third spot in Saskatchewan?

It seems highly improbable that Ghiz or Wall could be defeated, but these elections still will have some interesting storylines. The Manitoba election could have a big influence on Saskatchewan as well, as the re-election of the NDP in that province would certainly boost Dwain Lingenfelter's chances - perhaps not for winning the election, but improving upon 2007's results.

My column in The Hill Times would normally appear today, but it is on hiatus for the summer and will return in September.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Jason Kenney and the new Conservative base

Jason Kenney lands in Montreal today to discuss Canada’s immigration levels and how best to integrate new arrivals — a top-of-mind issue for one of the Conservative Party’s newest and most important constituencies.

The stop, part of a series of consultations, comes as Kenney redefines his relationship with this new segment of the Conservative base after three years of targeted outreach in his role as minister of citizenship and immigration.

In the 2008 election, new Canadians made up the majority of the population in only three of the Conservatives’ 143 ridings. The Liberals, despite winning almost half as many seats as the Tories nationally, took the lion’s share of seats with immigrant majorities.

On the eve of the 2011 federal election campaign the situation did not look much better for the Conservatives. 

An Abacus Data poll conducted at the end of March, just as the campaign was being launched, found that 38 per cent of immigrants intended to vote for the Liberals, 32 per cent for the Tories and 21 per cent for the New Democrats.

But when Canadians cast their ballots, the Conservatives increased their crop of ridings with immigrant majorities to 12. Almost half of the seats gained by the Tories throughout Canada had immigrant majorities. The NDP won only four seats with immigrant majority populations while the Liberals won five. 

You can read the rest of the article on The Huffington Post Canada website.

It's too hot to add anything else.

I cracked yesterday and posted the individual riding projections for Ontario. You can find them in the right-hand column by clicking on the "Riding Projections" image.

I'll do the same for the other provinces as the models are completed, which should be within the next few weeks.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ontario seat ranges and margins

Prompted by reader comments, I've taken a deeper look at the Ontario projection. By looking at close races, the projection can give some plausible seat ranges. I've also looked at what kind of margins are needed to prevent the Progressive Conservatives from forming a majority government and what's needed to install the New Democrats as the Official Opposition.

I will update the seat ranges with each new projection. They are established by identifying ridings in which the margin of victory is less than 5%. This will be a good guide for what is possible, as the projection is subject to the margins of error of the polls used as well as the unpredictable nature of local politics.

The following seat chart shows the number of seats in which each party is leading or trailing by less than 5%.

A lot of the races, even with a 10-point Tory lead, are toss-ups.

The Progressive Conservatives are leading by less than 5% in 13 races, while the Liberals are leading by less than 5% in 10 ridings. In other words, 23 of the 107 seats in the province are being decided by less than 5% in the projection. The 18 seats in which the NDP leads are all relatively safe.

The PCs are trailing by 5% in nine ridings, the Liberals in 13 ridings, and the New Democrats in two ridings.

For the Progressive Conservatives, that means that they could win as few as 48 seats if all of the ridings in which they lead by less than 5% went the other way. That is still likely to give them a plurality, however, and with the nine ridings in which they trail by less than 5% going to the Tories they could win as many as 70 seats.

For the Liberals, it is boom or bust. If they win all of the races in which they trail by less than 5%, they could win 41 seats. This would still put them behind the Tories but probably allow them to govern with the help of the NDP. But if things go badly for the Liberals, they could be reduced to only 18 seats and probably place third in the province.

There is less opportunity for growth for the NDP, with their high seat range being 20. That is still double what they currently have, however.

With a lead of 10 points, the Tories are comfortably in majority territory. But what kind of lead do they need to win 54 of the province's 107 seats?

Assuming the New Democrats are at 19.9% support, a gap as low as eight points between the PCs and the Liberals would still deliver 57 seats to the Tories. But if the margin is reduced to seven points, the PCs win only 54 seats - the bare minimum for a majority. At a gap of six points, the Tories win 53 seats and a minority government.

But what of the NDP's chances to supplant the Liberals as the Official Opposition, as they have done at the federal level?

That would require quite a bit more movement. Assuming the Progressive Conservatives remain at 41.3% support, the Liberals would still win 27 seats to the NDP's 18 with a gap of 10 points separating the two parties. The Liberals are still in a comfortable position if that lead drops to six points - this would deliver 23 seats to the Liberals and 19 to the NDP, with the PCs at 65.

However, if the gap between the Liberals and the NDP drops to five points, the Liberals win only 21 seats in the projection to 20 for the NDP. And at a gap of four points, the New Democrats win 21 seats, the Liberals 17, and the PCs 69.

We're a long way from either of these two scenarios playing out. But the seat ranges and these margin tests show how much is still up for grabs in Ontario.

UPDATE: After receiving so many requests for individual riding projections, I decided in the end to include the riding projections on the site. I invite you to read the disclaimer with the riding projections. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

PCs form majority in first Ontario projection

The Ontario projection model is now fully up and running, and is projecting both the popular vote and seat wins for the 2011 provincial election. The first Ontario projection for ThreeHundredEight is a Progressive Conservative majority - by a wide margin.
With the aggregation of all available polls, ThreeHundredEight projects that the Progressive Conservatives hold the support of 41.3% of Ontarians, leading the governing Liberals by 10.1 points. Dalton McGuinty's party has the projected support of 31.2% of the province.

The New Democrats stand in third with 19.9%, while the Ontario Greens are at 6.3% support.

This delivers Tim Hudak a majority government of 61 seats in the 107-seat legislature. The Liberals win 28 seats and form the Official Opposition, while the New Democrats win 18 seats.

This projection envisions the Liberals losing 42 of the 70 seats they currently hold, with the PCs gaining 36 and the New Democrats eight.
Regionally, the Progressive Conservatives would win the majority of seats in every part of the province except in Toronto and northern Ontario.

In Ottawa and eastern Ontario, the PCs win nine seats, the Liberals four, and the NDP one.

In central Ontario, the PCs win 10 seats and the Liberals one.

The Greater Toronto area delivers 13 seats to the PCs and five to the Liberals, while Toronto itself elects nine Liberal MPPs, seven PCs, and six New Democrats.

In the Hamilton and Niagara regions the Progressive Conservatives win six seats and the NDP four, while in southwestern Ontario the PCs double up on the Liberals with 14 seats to seven.

Finally, in northern Ontario the New Democrats win seven seats, the PCs two, and the Liberals one.

Until the final list of candidates is made public by Elections Ontario, which should take place mid-way through the campaign, ThreeHundredEight will not be presenting individual riding projections. However, I am more than happy to answer any specific riding questions in the comments section below, and will give more information on which seats have swapped hands in future projection updates. Updates to the projection will be made whenever new polls are available. Until the campaign begins, polls are aged on a monthly basis. The links to the right explain the projection methodology in detail.

Update: After so many requests for individual riding projections, I have decided to include them after all. They can now be found in the right-hand column.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Can Greens breakthrough in the provinces?

On May 2nd, the Green Party of Canada made a historic breakthrough by electing its first MP, Leader Elizabeth May, to the House of Commons. Could a similar surprise occur this fall in the provinces?

Of the five provincial elections being held in October and November, the Ontario Greens stand the best chance of pulling off an upset, though they still have a long way to go.

You can read the rest of the article on The Huffington Post Canada website here.

The buzz around a possible victory made Elizabeth May's breakthrough in Saanich - Gulf Islands a surprise, but an expected surprise (if such a thing exists). There does not seem to be that same kind of buzz in any of the provinces, and in truth only the Ontario Greens are a real factor in the five provincial elections this fall.

I have often wondered, though, why Green support in Ontario is so regional. Both at the provincial and federal levels, the Greens do best in the area stretching from Guelph to the Bruce Peninsula. Never having been to the area, I can't speak to its character. What is it about this part of the province (and country) that makes it more favourable to the Greens than elsewhere?

I imagine that the best shot of a provincial Green being elected is in British Columbia, thanks to Ms. May's breakthrough. The party ended up with 8.2% in the 2009 election, so there is a base of support in the province. However, when that next election will take place seems to be up in the air. It is supposed to take place in 2013, but when Christy Clark became leader of the BC Liberals this past spring talk was of a fall election. Depending on the media report, whether or not British Columbians will be going to the polls sooner rather than later changes each day.

I am presently working on the Manitoba projection model, and have run into the problem of the province's electoral re-districting. Unlike Elections Canada, Elections Manitoba does not breakdown the new ridings by their percentages of residents who lived in the old ridings. I am still puzzling over how to model for the new districts when so little information seems to be available.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The political honeymoon and the NDP in Quebec

To some a honeymoon means the excitement of something new and the knowledge a great and long-lasting relationship is just beginning. To the Prime Minister, it is something to be regretted and forgotten as soon as the formerly happy couple realizes what a horrible mistake they have made – at least when that honeymoon is with the NDP. 

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

I read somewhere that the New Democrats should beware, as Quebecers have proven before how fickle they can be when it comes to federal politics. The Progressive Conservatives dominated the province in two elections before being reduced to virtually nothing, while the Bloc's experience in the province ended with an unmitigated disaster.

However, both of these scenarios should be just fine for the NDP. On the one hand, if Jack Layton's honeymoon with Quebec lasts as long as Brian Mulroney's, meaning the NDP will still win the majority of seats in the province in 2015 but could be turfed in 2019, that still gives the NDP one more election to form a government. If the New Democrats can retain 55+ seats in Quebec, the gains they need to make in the rest of the country become manageable. And once the NDP forms government, anything goes.

On the other hand, a "honeymoon" that lasts as long as it did with the Bloc would please any federal leader. Though it would end in catastrophe, the NDP would still be the master of the province for the better part of two decades, until about 2029. I'm pretty sure the NDP would gladly take such a "honeymoon".

On an unrelated note, the vote and seat projection model for Ontario is completed. I'll be updating the site with running projections of both the popular vote and the seats later this week.

Friday, July 15, 2011

PCs open double-digit lead over Liberals in Ipsos poll

With less than three months to go before the Ontario vote, Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives hold a double-digit lead over the governing Liberals, with solid support among older voters living outside of Toronto and a competitive race between the two parties in and around the city.

The latest poll from Ipsos-Reid pegs PC support at 42 per cent, well ahead of the Liberals’ 31 per cent. The New Democrats, with 22 per cent, trail in third.

You can read the rest of the article on The Huffington Post Canada website.

The standing Ontario projection has been updated with the results of this Ipsos-Reid poll only. As you can see, the Progressive Conservatives are still on track for a majority but the Liberals are no longer relegated to third spot. But with a margin of only six seats separating the Liberals from the New Democrats, the Official Opposition spot is still up for grabs.

The poll tracker at the bottom of the page has also been updated, as has the polling trends chart in the right-hand column

The Ontario model is coming along nicely, I just have to input the 'factors' into it and it will be ready to go. Shortly after that, ThreeHundredEight will be maintaining a running projection using an aggregate of all available polls.

I'm not sure what to do about individual riding projections, however. I was not very pleased that they were reported as news during the federal election campaign. I could just present which party is projected to win each riding or give only regional breakdowns. Or, are the individual riding projections useful and interesting to you readers and worth presenting in full?

I'm also trying to settle on how best to report the regional breakdown of Ontario's seats. Currently, I'm working with four regions: Ottawa and eastern Ontario (14 seats), northern Ontario (11 seats), southwestern and central Ontario (42 seats), and the GTA (40 seats). There doesn't seem to be any consensus on how seats should be broken down, especially since the "regions" of Ontario aren't very well defined, unlike Quebec. This, too, I open up to my readers for comment.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Provincial poll reliability

In the last federal election, the pollsters did relatively well in nailing down the support for all five major parties. The average result was within the standard margin of error, but the biggest problem with the polls was that they all under-estimated Conservative support. This brings up the question of whether a correction needs to be made to polls in order to dial-in more accurately on the eventual election result.

In seat projecting, getting the popular vote correct is as important as having a well-calibrated model. The federal election demonstrated that in spades, as the projection model would have done very well if the polls had been right on the money.

With the provincial elections in the fall, it is necessary to take a look at whether something needs to be done to adjust the polls. Unfortunately, polling data for the provinces before the 2003 elections are very difficult to find, and I invite anyone who knows of a source to forward it to me.

But the 2007 elections do give us an indication of whether this "ballot box effect" is something to worry about. We'll start with Saskatchewan, the only province for which I was able to find polling data for the last three elections.
In Saskatchewan, at least, there is no discernable trend. The Saskatchewan Party was over-estimated in 2007, correctly gauged in 2003, and under-estimated in 1999. It is the opposite for the New Democrats, while the Liberals have been generally well-polled over the last three elections.

UPDATE: Probe Research sent along a poll they had done during the 2007 campaign. In it, they found the Saskatchewan Party to be at 50% support, the New Democrats at 35%, and the Liberals at 10%. A very close call by the polling firm. Combined with Sigma's findings, that gives an average polling of 52.1% for the Saskatchewan Party, 34.4% for the NDP, and 9% for the Liberals. 

What this tells us is that there is no correction that can be made for Saskatchewan. It appears just as likely that the polls will over-estimate as they will under-estimate a given party. So, we're left to trust what the polls tell us - and in the case of Probe Research that isn't such a bad thing.

But only if they tell us anything. There hasn't been a poll out of Saskatchewan since November, and no polling firms other than ones that are based in Saskatchewan seem to report. Hopefully that will no longer be the case this fall.
Without more data to look at, we have to trust the polls as well in Manitoba. In the last election, Probe accurately pegged PC support, but was off by four points for the NDP and the Liberals. This could be an important factor on election day if something similar happens again. Hopefully other pollsters will weigh-in. Angus-Reid has been active in the past in the province.
There is a lot less reason to worry in Ontario. The average of the six polls conducted in the final week of the campaign were remarkably close to the election's results. Being within 0.4 points for the Liberals and 0.6 points for the Progressive Conservatives is excellent. Over-estimating NDP support could be an issue, however, if the Liberals and NDP start to run neck-and-neck for second in the polls. But with a good performance from the pollsters in 2007, we can hope for another good performance in Ontario this fall.
Prince Edward Island, too, was well-served by polling. Corporate Research Associates was off by less than a point for both the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives, and was correct for the NDP. With PEI unlikely to get a lot of polls in this upcoming campaign, it is imperative that CRA's numbers are on the money again.
Newfoundland & Labrador could be more of a problem. CRA's last poll before the campaign was off by about six points for the PCs and the Liberals, though at this margin of victory for the Progressive Conservatives it did not matter much. Hopefully Telelink will be active during the campaign as well as CRA so that there are a few samples with which to work.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

How the factors performed in the last campaign

Though the projection for the 2011 federal election was off primarily due to all the polls having the same inaccuracies and my own improper weighting of the age of polls, there are other lessons to be drawn from the recent campaign.

ThreeHundredEight uses a proportional swing model as its base, and that model is then tweaked and adjusted according to several factors: incumbency, place in cabinet, and the quality of a candidate. By-elections and riding polls are also included, as is the influence of prominent independent candidates and any particularly unique characteristic of a riding (i.e., the presence of Elizabeth May in Saanich - Gulf Islands in the last election).

After the campaign was over, I went back and checked on how the application of these "factors" worked out, and whether they needed to be changed. The factors were determined by using the results of the previous three elections, so the 2011 election provided another opportunity to add to the sample.

Factors are applied to the swing model. To use the cabinet minister factor as an example, it was found that being named a new cabinet minister improved a candidates performance in an election by a factor of 1.05 over and above what the provincial/regional swing would usually give. For example, if the Conservatives increased their performance in a province by a factor of 10% (i.e., they go from 40% to 44%) a newly named cabinet minister in that province would have his or her support increased by 15% (i.e., they go from 40% to 46%).

So, let's go through the factors and how they did. We'll start with new cabinet ministers, and I will explain in detail what the chart is showing.
In this case, a new cabinet minister is someone who was named to cabinet for the first time since their last election.

The chart shows that the factor applied to new cabinet ministers for the 2011 election (based on the calculations for previous elections) was 1.05. It then shows that the factor in the 2011 election was actually 1.03. In other words, new cabinet ministers did 3% better than a proportion swing would have given them.

Averaging out the pre-2011 sample with the 2011 sample by size gives us a new factor of 1.04 for new cabinet ministers.

This was not a particularly successful factor in the 2011 election, as it only increased the projection model's accuracy in 43% of cases. However, there does seem to be a cabinet minister factor at work as being named a cabinet minister had a positive effect on a candidate's performance in 57% of cases (i.e., they did better than the proportional swing alone).

The "star candidate" factor was applied to any candidate deemed to be a particularly good candidate, either through renown or previous experience. Often, the parties themselves deemed their candidates to be "star" candidates. Granted, this is a subjective factor to apply but in many cases it is a necessary one.
The star candidate factor in the 2011 election was 1.23, or 23% above the proportional swing. That is an improvement on the factor calculated to exist prior to the 2011 election, which was 1.14. The new factor applied will be 1.19.

The star candidate factor increased the accuracy of the projection in 82% of cases, and had a positive effect on a candidate's performance in 91% of cases.

Some star candidates did hugely better than the proportional swing would have had them. Roméo Saganash in Abitibi - Baie-James - Nunavik - Eeyou did 56% better than proportional swing, while Larry Smith in Lac-Saint-Louis did 59% better.

Now to incumbency. This was handled in several ways. First, if there was no incumbent a negative penalty was assigned to the candidate representing the incumbent party. Secondly, the incumbency factor was based on whether a party was losing or gaining in a particular province compared to the last election. This is because an incumbent was found to be able to do better than other candidates when a party is sinking, but at the same time would usually do worse than other candidates when a party was gaining. It would appear that an incumbent retains his or her vote when a party is doing badly, but usually doesn't soar very much when the party is doing well. In other words, they do a better job of holding on to their vote from one election to the next, no matter how the party is doing in the rest of the province.
In cases examined before 2011, having no incumbent meant a reduction in vote to the tune of 88% of what it would be with the proportional swing. In 2011, the effect was lessened: 96%. The factor increased accuracy of the projection in only 52% of cases, but in all having no incumbent had a negative effect on the party in 81% of cases.
Where there was an incumbent but the party lost support in the province or region, a factor of 1.08 was applied. In 2011, the actual factor was 1.07 so this was a very close one. It improved accuracy in 59% of cases, while this incumbency factor had a positive effect on a candidate in 66% of cases.
When a party gained, sophomore incumbents (those fighting their first elections as the incumbent) averaged the same performance as the proportional swing. The factor of 1.03 had been applied, but with the sample of 2011 the factor has been reduced to 1.02. In this case, it wasn't a very good predictor as it improved accuracy in only 40% of cases, and had a positive effect in only 48% of cases.
On the other hand, the veteran incumbent factor in a situation where a party was gaining performed well. It increased accuracy in 59% of cases and had a negative effect in 65% of cases

The effect of by-elections was difficult to gauge. The practice of using both the proportional swing from the previous general election and the results of the by-election by a proportion of 50/50 was effective in 50% of cases. Not using the by-election at all would have had about the same level of accuracy. But some ridings were simply unpredictable no matter what was used, so until something better is discovered I will be continuing with the 50/50 split.

The 2011 election had a lot of riding polls for Quebec, much fewer elsewhere. I applied the riding polls to the tune of 25% in each case, with the remaining 75% being the adjusted proportional swing. Of the riding polls (and by my count 34 ridings had publicly released poll results), the last one in each riding called the winner in 59% of cases.

In 62% of cases, including the riding poll increased the accuracy of the projection for the parties projected to place 1st and 2nd in 62% of cases, and it helped project the winner in 65% of cases. On the other hand, the projection without the riding polls would have projected the winner in 68% of cases where riding polls were available. The riding polls made the model call the winner when it otherwise would have been wrong in three cases - but they overturned correct projections in four cases.

For that reason, I will be very careful in the application of riding polls in the future. I will include them when a riding has a very unique characteristic (a prominent independent, for example). But they don't seem to add much that the adjusted proportional swing model can't already do, and it is difficult to keep track of them in terms of their date (which in some cases wasn't even reported). But it wasn't the age of a poll which determined its accuracy, of the riding polls which incorrectly called the winner, at least half of them were conducted during the last week of the campaign.

In terms of who did the best (not counting riding polls that were superseded by other riding polls taken later in the campaign), Oracle was most accurate, calling the winner in 80% of the polls in which they were the last to weigh-in on a particular riding.

Telelink, in Newfoundland & Labrador, scored 66% accuracy while CROP clocked in at 58%. Segma scored 50% while Léger Marketing was shutout in the three ridings in which they were the last to report.

Finally, on to independents. During the campaign, I specially dealt with three prominent independents: James Ford in Edmonton - Sherwood Park, Helena Guergis in Simcoe - Grey, and André Arthur in Portneuf - Jacques-Cartier. Hec Clouthier in Pembroke-Nipissing-Renfrew would have been worthy of attention, but there was no way to predict his vote haul without guessing.

For Ford and Arthur, I had applied a reduction in their vote from the previous election by 87.9%. In the few cases where prominent independents ran in subsequent elections, this is the amount of vote reduction I had found.

This performed well. Using the provincial vote totals to get the proportional swing for the other parties, with this factor I would have pegged Ford's vote at 29.1%. He actually got 29.5%.

The model calculated Arthur's vote to be at 27.9% with this factor. He actually got 27.8%.

Guergis was another situation altogether, as she left a party to sit as an independent and then ran as an independent. Looking back on past cases, I had found that the circumstances of an MP's departure played a big role in their ability to retain their vote. Candidates who left for positive principles kept roughly half their vote, those who left for negative reasons kept about a quarter of it. Those who left in disgrace kept about 6% of their vote. Unsure how to classify Guergis, I gave her the average reduction of about 1/3.

With the actual provincial results, the model gave her 22.2% of the vote. She actually got 13.5%. Applying the negative factor, which all-in-all is probably the best way to describe her situation, would have given her about 17% of the vote.

All of these calculations have led to the model being tweaked for the upcoming provincial campaigns. I will use the results of those campaigns as well to do the same post-mortem on the factors for subsequent elections.

Using these federal numbers does work for provincial campaigns. I tested the new Quebec projection model on the 2008 provincial election. The model is the same one used for the 2011 campaign but with these new factors. It had an accuracy level of 94% and an error of 2.5 seats per party.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Conservatives aim to replace NDP in Quebec

Quebec’s flirtation with the NDP will soon turn sour, leaving the Tories to fill the vacuum as the province’s federal party of choice.

So declared Conservative Leader Stephen Harper during a campaign-style speech in Calgary over the weekend.

“Quebec’s honeymoon with the NDP will pass,” the Prime Minister told party supporters. “As many provinces know well, no honeymoon passes as quickly and as completely as one with the NDP.”

Of course, Harper knows better than most the fickle nature of political love affairs in Quebec, where his party was reduced to five seats from 11 in the May 2 federal vote.

At only 16.5 per cent support, the Tories fell far behind the New Democrats and even the Bloc Québécois. Conservative MPs were pushed out of eastern Quebec, the Saguenay region, and Quebec City. Only a few MPs south of the provincial capital and one near Lac-St-Jean survived the pasting.

It was the second consecutive campaign in which the Tory vote fell in the province.

You can read the rest of the article on The Huffington Post Canada website here.

The updated projection model indicates how far the Conservatives need to go before they are a real factor in Quebec. With the June averages, the model updated with the 2011 election results projections 63 New Democratic MPs, seven Conservatives, four Liberals, and only one Bloc Québécois member.

What do the Conservatives manage to hold - and win?

Obviously, their strongholds south of Quebec City (Beauce, Lotbinière - Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, Mégantic - L'Érable, Lévis - Bellechasse) remain Tory, while Denis Lebel is re-elected in Roberval - Lac-Saint-Jean.

One of the gains is not surprising: Montmagny - L'Islet - Kamouraska - Rivière-du-Loup. It was an extremely close race on election night, and the June averages would overturn the result with the Conservatives at 40% in the riding and the NDP at 38%.

The other gain is surprising: Mount Royal, on the island of Montreal. This was an actually close race between the Tories and the Liberals, with the Liberals winning on May 2nd with 41% to the Tories' 36% of the vote in the riding. With 18%, the NDP was not a factor here. But with the Liberals tanking in Quebec, the Conservatives pull ahead in Mount Royal and win 40% to 36%. One part of the province in which the Conservatives might have the inside track on the NDP is in western Montreal, at least in a handful of ridings. There is far more long-term potential for the Conservatives in this region than there is for the NDP.

The Liberals hold on to Bourassa, Papineau, Saint-Laurent - Cartierville, and Saint-Léonard - Saint-Michel, all Montreal ridings. It means the survival of three of their most recognized faces: Denis Coderre, Justin Trudeau, and Stéphane Dion, but not that of Marc Garneau.

The Bloc Québécois holds on to Haute-Gaspésie - La Mitis - Matane - Matapédia, the only riding of the four they held on election night that was not won by the skin of their teeth.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Summertime and government living is easy? Not necessarily

The summer recess is an opportunity for a government to escape the opposition heckles and questions from the parliamentary press gallery. It is a time for the governing party to lick its wounds and improve its polling numbers in anticipation of the return to the House of Commons in the fall. But while conventional wisdom has it that summers are good for governments, the last three decades of polling indicates otherwise.

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

On an unrelated note, I have finished the Quebec projection model and have updated it to incorporate the latest tweaking from the lessons of the 2011 federal campaign. When the next Léger Marketing or CROP poll is released I'll go into greater detail, as it does have a few neat little things added to it. Can anyone say François Legault?

Using it on the last Léger poll which had a 30-30 tie between the Liberals and the Parti Québécois, the result is a large Liberal minority. The incumbency advantage and the split of the PQ vote due to the démissionaires is the culprit. The efficiency of the PQ vote - efficient enough to give Lucien Bouchard a majority government in 1998 with fewer votes than Charest - cannot be taken for granted.

I've also updated the federal model with the results of the May election. Though I haven't input the factors, the model is ready to make projections at the federal level on a simple swing basis. Once I complete the five provincial models for this fall, I'll get to work on that. But having the new model means being able to make calls in individual ridings. For instance, with the June polling averages the Bloc Québécois would be able to retain only one seat: Haute-Gaspésie - La Mitis - Matane - Matapédia. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Why Dalton McGuinty is worse off now than four years ago

Ontario and Manitoba are setting up for some closely contested elections in October.

But the last elections in the two provinces in 2007 were also supposed to go down to the wire, and in the end the incumbent governments beat their rivals by 10 points. Will the same thing happen in the fall?

Four months prior to the October 2007 election in Ontario, two polls by Ipsos-Reid and Environics indicated a neck-and-neck race between the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives, with about 40 per cent of Ontarians intending to vote for the governing Liberals and about 38 per cent expecting to vote for John Tory’s PCs.

But on election night, the Liberals bumped up their support to 42 per cent while that of the Progressive Conservatives tanked to only 32 per cent. Part of that swing was attributed to Tory’s disastrous campaign pledge to extend public funding to faith-based schools, a promise he had to back away from amid widespread opposition.

This election may be different. In order for Dalton McGuinty to win his third election, he will need an even more dramatic shift in support during the campaign.

You can read the rest of the article on The Huffington Post Canada website.

The four elections in Manitoba, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland & Labrador are only three months away. The campaigns will start in two. So, while we are in dog days of summer in terms of polling and politics, things will rachet up very soon. I'm still working on getting the new models up and running for the provinces, and then once those four elections are completed the Saskatchewan campaign will be starting up. It should be an interesting two months.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

June 2011 Federal Polling Averages

Two national polls by Nanos Research and Abacus Data and two Quebec polls by Léger Marketing and CROP were conducted during the month of June. There was little change in the voting intentions of Canadians since May, but the Conservatives are experiencing a slight uptick in this past month's weighted polling average.

Nationally, the Conservatives were up 1.4 points to 41.3% in June, extending their lead over the New Democrats to 11.6 points.

The NDP is down 1.8 points to 29.7%, while the Liberals are up 0.9 points since May to 19.5%.

The Bloc Québécois stands at 4.7% nationally, while the Greens are down 0.7 points to 4.2%.

The polls are weighted by their relative margin of error.

The Conservatives have dropped a bare 0.8 points in Ontario, and lead in the province with 43.7%. The Liberals have re-taken second spot in Ontario with a 5.3-point gain. They now have the support of 28.3% of Ontarians, compared to 23.7% for the NDP (down 4.1 points).

In Quebec, the New Democrats have gained 5.5 points and now lead with an incredible 46.7%, well ahead of the Bloc Québécois. They have gained 2.3 points and stood at 19.1% in June. The Conservatives, down 1.5 points to 18.8%, stand third while the Liberals have dropped 3.8 points to only 12.6% in Quebec.

The Conservatives lead in British Columbia with 48.3%, a gain of 5.4 points since May. The New Democrats are down 3.1 points to 30.7% in the province.

In Alberta, the Conservatives have decreased 3.7 points but still lead with 61.3%. The New Democrats are second with 21%.

The Conservatives also lead in the Prairies with 50.1%, while the NDP stands at 31.2%. The Liberals are up 4.3 points to 15.3% in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

And in Atlantic Canada, the Conservatives lead with 35.6%, followed closely by the NDP at 32.7%. That is a four point gain for the New Democrats on the east coast.

With these June averages, the Conservatives win 162 seats: 26 in British Columbia, 27 in Alberta, 21 in the Prairies, 62 in Ontario, eight in Quebec, and 16 in Atlantic Canada.

The New Democrats win 102 seats: seven in British Columbia, one in Alberta, five in the Prairies, 19 in Ontario, 62 in Quebec, and seven in Atlantic Canada.

The Liberals win two seats in British Columbia, two in the Prairies, 25 in Ontario, three in Quebec, and nine in Atlantic Canada.

The Bloc Québécois is reduced to two seats in Quebec, while the Greens retain their toehold in British Columbia.

The tracking chart, stretching back to January 2009, shows a continued improvement in NDP performance in Quebec, Alberta, the Prairies, and Atlantic Canada. It also shows how the Liberals and Bloc continue to slide in Quebec, while the Conservatives are holding relatively steady throughout the country.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Conservatives lead by nine in new Abacus poll

Two months in and Canadians have no regrets about how they voted in the last federal election.

According to the latest polling results from Abacus Data, the voting intentions of Canadians have changed very little since the vote was last held on May 2nd. 

The poll, conducted between June 23 and 24, found that the Conservatives stand at 41 per cent support, virtually unchanged from the election and Abacus’s last poll held in mid-May.

The New Democrats are also holding steady at 32 per cent support.

You can read the rest of the article on The Huffington Post Canada website.

My article for The Huffington Post is the first reporting on this poll conducted by Abacus Data. It doesn't show much change, but what is interesting is some of the demographic breakdowns that were provided to me. Check out the article to see what I'm talking about.

In the meantime, how about a seat projection for this poll? Update: A typo, giving the Liberals 17.3% in British Columbia rather than 7.3%, that was input into the seat projection model has been fixed.

With this poll, ThreeHundredEight projects a Conservative majority of 171 seats, with the Official Opposition being formed by the New Democrats at 103 seats.

The Liberals win 28 seats and the Bloc Québécois wins six seats.

The Conservatives win 29 seats in British Columbia, 26 in Alberta, 21 in the Prairies, 67 in Ontario, 11 in Quebec, and 15 in Atlantic Canada.

The New Democrats win seven seats in British Columbia, two in Alberta, five in the Prairies, 22 in Ontario, 58 in Quebec, and eight in Atlantic Canada.

The Liberals win two seats in the Prairies, 17 in Ontario, and nine in Atlantic Canada.

This poll completely shoves the Liberals out of Quebec (along with BC). It's a door the Bloc uses to win a couple more seats. But it is a much better poll for the Tories in the province, as though they are still in third behind the Bloc they nevertheless take 22.4% of the vote.

Note that the projection model being used is a mix of the new model for 2015 and the old model for 2011. I'm still working on updating the projection model with all of the results from the last election.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Assessing MP experience inside and outside the political bubble

Experience on a town council, in a legislature or at the cabinet table can certainly come in handy when entrusted with the governance of the country. It is also useful when trying to convince Canadians to hand you and your party the keys to 24 Sussex Drive. But there is something to be said about experience in the private sector, outside of the bubble of municipal, provincial and federal politics. That real-life experience can mean the kind of outside-the-box thinking that may escape a career politician.  

You can read the rest of the article on The Globe and Mail website here. A condensed version with infographic is also in today's print edition of the newspaper.

After last week's piece raised a few hackles, I take a different angle on the experience of Canada's federal politicians. Depending on your perspective, experience outside of the political bubble could be considered a positive thing. Having fewer "career politicians" might mean a less experienced caucus, but it also might mean a more representative caucus.

In the end, hindsight can only tell us whether a particular set of parliamentarians lacking in political experience gave them an advantage or a disadvantage. Rookies can shake things up, and political history has plenty of those kinds of examples. They can also flame out, and history has plenty of examples of that as well.