Monday, October 31, 2011

Duceppe vs. Legault

A poll by Léger Marketing over the weekend demonstrated how volatile the electorate is in Quebec. With François Legault's CAQ on the scene, the new party would easily win a majority government and the Liberals and PQ would fight for the scraps.

But take Pauline Marois out of the picture and replace her with Gilles Duceppe, and the result is very different.
With Marois as leader of the PQ, the party would manage only 20% support, compared to 22% for the Liberals and 35% for the CAQ.

The ADQ and Québec Solidaire would be tied at 8%, while the provincial Greens would take 5% of the vote.

But with Gilles Duceppe as leader of the PQ, the party would win 37% of the vote. The CAQ would drop to 25% and the Liberals to 21%.

The ADQ, Québec Solidaire, and the Greens would share the rest, all of them losing some of their support.

This does not appear to be a specifically anti-Marois phenomenon, as with Pierre Curzi or Bernard Drainville heading the Parti Québécois there is very little difference. In fact, Marois would do as well or better than these two figures often cited as eyeing the job.

Legault should hope that Marois stays on, as he would win about 94 seats with this kind of support, pushing the Liberals to 17 and the Parti Québécois to 10. It is difficult to peg how the CAQ would perform with this kind of gap, but we're certainly looking at a big majority.

But Gilles Duceppe would also win a big majority if he entered provincial politics. With him at the helm, the PQ would win 80 seats, with 23 going to the Liberals and 20 to the CAQ. That is a huge difference.

There are still so many unknowns, however. Both Legault and Duceppe would need to go through the gauntlet of actually leading a party, and both could suffer as a result. Jean Charest cannot be under-estimated, and if Legault disappoints when he throws himself into the ring we could see support leaking back to both the Liberals and the Marois-led PQ.

One thing to watch will be the by-election in Bonaventure, a riding on the Gaspé Peninsula. The Liberals have chosen a local mayor as their candidate, and they probably have a good shot of holding on to the riding after the resignation of Nathalie Normandeau. But she was relatively popular, so this could turn out to be more of a Normandeau riding than a Liberal riding. The big question, though, will be whether the CAQ will enter the race. I don't think Bonaventure fits the CAQ profile very well, so it would be risky to start the party off with a defeat.

But it might also be risky for François Legault to back down from a challenge.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Wall still on track for huge majority in Saskatchewan

After weeks and weeks of silence, two polls were released in the last 24 hours for the provincial campaign in Saskatchewan, hot on the heels of Tuesday's leaders' debate.

The online poll by Saskatchewan-based Insightrix Research found that Brad Wall's Saskatchewan Party is still well in the lead with 60% support of decided voters. The New Democrats trail well behind with 33.3%, while the Greens are in third with 3%. The Liberals, who are only running nine candidates in Saskatchewan's 58 ridings, ended up with 2.8% of the vote. In order to get that vote share, the Liberals would have to average between 15% and 20% in their nine ridings, which is highly unlikely.

Only about 29% of Saskatchewanians watched part or all of the debate, but of those fully 53.7% said Brad Wall did a better job. Only 13.9% said the NDP's Dwain Lingenfelter did better.

Forum Research also weighed in with a similar result. It found Saskatchewan Party support at 66%, with the New Democrats at 30%. The Greens came in at 3% while 1% of respondents said they would vote Liberal.

The Saskatchewan Party led in all regions, with the closest races being in Regina (61% to 35% for the NDP) and Saskatoon (65% to 30% for the NDP). The edge that the SP has in the other rural parts of Saskatchewan is roughly 40 points.

On who would make the best premier, Brad Wall took 69% to Lingenfelter's 24%.
Adding these two polls to the projection, the Saskatchewan Party is now projected to take 65.0% of the vote, with the New Democrats taking 31.4%. The Greens are projected to be at 3% support.

Since the last projection of September 9, this is a gain of 3.3 points for the SP and a gain of 2.9 points for the New Democrats. The Greens are down one point, while the Liberals lose most of the 5.4% of the vote they were projected to have with a full slate of candidates.

The New Democrats have picked up one seat since the last projection in southern Saskatchewan.

For the Saskatchewan election, I've pegged the ranges at including ridings with a projected margin of 7% or less. This 7% is twice the average margin of error at the riding level from the PEI and Manitoba elections, the two I've worked through all the numbers for so far.

With this margin in mind, the Saskatchewan Party is comfortably leading in all of its 43 projected seat wins. It is trailing the New Democrats by 7% or less in eight ridings, however, meaning the Saskatchewan Party's range is between 43 and 51 seats. The NDP's range is between seven and 15 seats.

In other words, very little has changed since the campaign began. Indeed, very little has changed in the last 12 months in Saskatchewan. That Brad Wall will win the election is a foregone conclusion. The only question at this point is how big or small the NDP opposition will be.

It is quite striking that the provincial Liberals are only running nine candidates. The SP, NDP, and Greens are all running full slates. The Liberals ran a full slate in 2007 and ran full slates in elections prior. Nine candidates puts it in league with the Saskatchewan Progressive Conservatives (five candidates) and the Western Independence Party (two candidates). It makes the Saskatchewan Liberals a fringe party.

I imagine that we will have some other polls out before the election on November 7, as Sigma and Praxis have yet to report. But it doesn't seem like there will be much divergence in the results heading into next Monday's vote.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Premier Dix?

Earlier this month, the Vancouver Sun reported on a new poll by Ipsos-Reid on the political situation in British Columbia. We don't often hear from Canada's third largest province when it comes to voting intentions, so despite the poll now being more than three weeks old, let's take a look at it.
Ipsos-Reid normally does its voting intentions polls by telephone, but does also have an online panel. This poll was conducted using their online panel.

The BC New Democrats led at the end of September and the beginning of October with 45%. The BC Liberals trailed with 38%, the first time in well over a year that the gap between the two parties has been greater than five points.

The BC Conservatives finished third with 12%, while the BC Greens brought up the rear with 6%.

The NDP led in Metro Vancouver with 45% and on Vancouver Island with 54%, while the Liberals were ahead in the Interior and the North with 46%. The gap there was only seven points, while in Metro Vancouver the gap was 10 points and on the island it was 23 points.

But though Adrian Dix's party is leading in the polls, personally he is still behind Premier Christy Clark. She topped the "Best Premier" numbers with 34% support, well ahead of Dix's 23%. That is a personal gap that could be very detrimental to the NDP once an election rolls around - if Dix doesn't narrow it, that is.

The Conservatives are likely to be competitive in a few individual ridings, but at 12% it does not seem very likely that they will elect an MLA. Perhaps their leader, John Cummins, could pull it off, but his hopes were swatted down by Preston Manning recently, who thought that conservatives in British Columiba were better off working through the "coalition" represented by the BC Liberals.

The seat projection model for British Columbia is still in a rudimentary stage, but with these numbers it gives the BC New Democrats 47 seats and a majority government. The BC Liberals win 37 seats, while one independent is elected.

Clark has said she will hold off until 2013 before calling the next election, so there is still plenty of time for things to change in the province. But it still looks like it is going to be a very close race, just like it has been in the two previous elections in British Columbia. One can't help but wonder, however, whether the BC Liberals would be comfortably ahead if the BC Conservatives were not on the scene. Clark will have to fight a two-front battle if the Conservatives continue to poll in the double-digits.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

PQ and BQ drifting away in Quebec

Over the weekend, La Presse released the latest poll numbers from CROP. And they are pretty disastrous for the two main sovereigntist parties in the province. Let's take a look at the provincial numbers before moving on to the federal situation.
Jean Charest's Liberals are leading in the province with 28%, if such a low level of support can really be called leading. The Parti Québécois follows with 25%, while the ADQ is staging a come-back at 20% support.

This is unchanged from CROP's last poll in mid-September for the Liberals, but represents a three point drop for the PQ and a two point gain for the ADQ.

Québec Solidaire is up two points to 13%, while the Greens are down two to 5%.

None of these shifts are very significant, but we've seen the PQ dropping and the ADQ gaining elsewhere, so that does seem to be a trend.

"Other" support, otherwise known as pesky CAQ supporters who aren't answering the question correctly, stands at 9%. If we remove all but 1% of that and distribute it proportionately, we get the Liberals bumped up to 30%, the PQ up to 27%, the ADQ up to 22%, and QS up to 14%.

Taking out the Legault effect completely, in other words, creates a very odd situation in the province. So, this isn't just the by-product of Legault's CAQ muddying the waters - no existing party is capturing the support of one in three Quebecers.

The Liberals are leading in Montreal and among non-francophones, having picked up four points apiece in those demographics since mid-September. The Parti Québécois leads among francophones and in the regions of Quebec, while the ADQ is ahead in Quebec City. Generally par for the course.

What is interesting is that support for sovereignty still stands at 37%, or generally where it usually is at the low-end of the scale. That lines up nicely with the 38% of Quebecers who opted for the PQ and QS in this poll.

But the numbers on who would make the best premier are simply a sign of how Quebecers have completely rejected what the province's politicians have to offer. Only 14% said Jean Charest was the best person for the job, and it was enough to put him ahead of Pauline Marois (10%) and Amir Khadir (8%). Fully 34% said none-of-the-above.

With these numbers, the Liberals would win a minority govermment with 58 seats, with the Parti Québécois forming the Official Opposition with 46 seats. Charest would be able to turn to Québec Solidaire (five seats) or the ADQ (16 seats) to get legislation passed, if they can't agree with the PQ on individual issues.

But in addition to the emergence of the CAQ and potentially another sovereigntist party, the National Assembly is full of independents formally from the PQ, the ADQ, and even the PLQ. If they all run again - as independents - this would result in 59 seats for the Liberals, 41 for the Parti Québécois, 18 for the ADQ, six for QS, and one independent.

If the CAQ is added to the mix, it demolishes the other parties with 39% support to 22% for the Liberals, 17% for the PQ, and 11% for the ADQ. That could be enough to give them 102 seats, with the Liberals taking 15 and the remaining eight seats being divvied up between the PQ, ADQ, and QS. But, as I've said before, the Quebec model that includes the CAQ needs a little more tweaking.

Federally, the Bloc Québécois is also struggling. It has dropped two points to 15% and stands in third place, well behind the Conservatives at 22% (up three) and way behind the New Democrats, who still lead with a massive 46% support.

The Liberals stand at 13% while the Greens are at 4%.

The New Democrats lead among francophones, in Montreal, and in the regions of Quebec.

The Conservatives lead in Quebec City and - perhaps very importantly - among non-francophones as well. It's a three-way race for Montreal's anglophones and allophones, with the Tories having the edge. If this kind of support held in an election, we'd see a hodge-podge of red, orange, and royal blue in the centre and west end of the island of Montreal.

The Bloc's numbers in this poll are simply dismal. In Montreal and Quebec City they are fourth and in the regions of Quebec they are third, and are not even ahead of the Tories among francophones. They desperately need something to move their numbers, and it doesn't look like any of the three relatively little-known candidates for the party's leadership are going to suddenly change the game in Quebec.

And that is significant, because with these levels of support the Bloc's four surviving MPs would be defeated. The New Democrats would take 60 seats in the province, with 10 going to the Conservatives and five to the Liberals.

The New Democrats do seem to be safely ensconced in the province. On the leadership question, Stephen Harper (the only actual full-time leader) tops the list with 20% saying he is the best person to be Prime Minister. But Nycole Turmel, the NDP's interim leader, is only at 12% despite the NDP leading in the province and the interim leader being the only one that is a francophone Quebecer. Quebecers seem pretty pleased with the NDP itself. It will be fascinating to see how these numbers move, if at all, when the next leader is chosen.

Quebec is the province to watch for the next couple of years. Provincially, the coming of the CAQ is throwing everything out of whack, while the PQ could go through some leadership issues and QS is looking to make a splash in the province. Federally, the NDP's dominance continues but the next leader of the NDP could change things in Quebec, which is increasingly looking like an NDP-CPC race. But will the Bloc manage to somehow become a factor again? Could the next leader of the Liberals be from the province, and if so, what will that mean?

It's a very interesting time to be watching politics in Quebec, and it could very well capture our attention all the way to 2015.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Redford leading the way in Alberta

With Alison Redford at the helm, the Progressive Conservatives are back in their comfort zone, holding a huge lead over their rivals in Alberta.

As the MLAs begin what will be a short fall session in Alberta's legislature this week, many are already thinking about the next provincial election, rumoured to be called before June 2012.

The Wildrose Party, currently the third party in the legislature, does have a strong lock on second place in Alberta, and is likely to form the province's next Official Opposition. But this is a far cry from the double-digit lead Danielle Smith's party enjoyed for a brief period last year.

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

The article gives an overview of the three polls that have come out of Alberta in the past two months: one of them before the PC leadership race ended (ThinkHQ Public Affairs), one of them during the final round of voting (Lethbridge College), and one of them after Alison Redford was chosen as leader of the Tories.

That last poll is recent, as it was released on Saturday. Here are the details of the Angus-Reid poll.
It really is a race between the Progressive Conservatives and the Wildrose Party in Calgary and outside of the two main cities.

In Edmonton, the Tories have the edge but all the parties are competitive.

The Lethbridge College poll had similar regional results, except with Wildrose at somewhat lower levels of support everywhere.

No one can deny that Redford is, for now at least, popular. On the question of who would make the best premier, Redford topped the list at 32%, followed by Wildrose leader Danielle Smith at 15% and Raj Sherman of the Liberals at 8%.

Redford also has a 55% approval rating, compared to 35% for Smith. These numbers could hold, or they could change dramatically as her premiership gets going. But it appears that Albertans are going to give her a chance.

They might also give her another majority government. With these Angus-Reid numbers, the Progressive Conservatives win 72 seats. Wildrose takes eight and forms the Official Opposition, while the NDP wins four and the Liberals three.

The projection model for Alberta is in an early stage, and it will be tweaked and prodded to make it a regional model before the election comes around in 2012, if it does. Luckily, there is generally agreement on how to break down Alberta's results among the pollsters active in the province.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Will redrawing Commons map resolve under-representation?

New legislation changing the way the seats in the House of Commons are allocated could be introduced this week. The reported result of the changes would be more seats for Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec in order to correct the under-representation these provinces currently have in the House of Commons – or would have without the new legislation. 

However, voters in Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia will continue to be worth less than their counterparts on the Prairies and in Atlantic Canada.

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

Our system is based on the principle of representation by population - but really it is only partly based on that principle. MPs represent communities, and the first-past-the-post system is really about communities electing representatives. Representation by population is supposed to give each community its due representation based on how large it is, but Canada being a federation and our system being what it is, I think there is some argument for maintaining some community representation, as the Supreme Court has argued.

For example, representation by population would strip the territories of two seats as the combined population of the three territories is less than many ridings in Ontario. But do the issues of the residents of Whitehorse have much in common with those of Resolute? Is there good reason to clump rural regions with urban regions when the two have very different needs? I'd say the answers are quite obvious.

And as Canada is a federation of provinces and not a centralized state, maintaining some over-representation for smaller provinces like those in Atlantic Canada and on the Prairies makes some sense as well. Think about the American system - its Senate gives two seats to every state, whether it be gigantic California or tiny Rhode Island. And Canadian provinces play a greater role in the lives of individuals than state governments do in the USA. Maintaining provincial harmony is an important consideration.

But no one wants to be under-represented or valued less than others, so it is a complicated issue. I wonder if some middle-road could be found that could incorporate a little proportional representation as well. Imagine a 300-seat House of Commons, with 200 of its members elected by the FPTP system. The remaining 100 would be elected via proportional representation, with each province receiving the number of seats elected in this fashion that its population warrants. And to avoid "party lists", those 100 seats could be filled by the top performing defeated candidates in each province.

It is a complicated issue and not as cut-and-dry as it might seem. If you could reform the system, what would you propose?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Will inquiry change the game in Quebec?

n the face of enormous public pressure, Jean Charest has finally called a commission of inquiry into Quebec’s construction industry.
Calling the inquiry was as much of a political risk for the wily premier as it would have been to close his eyes and ears to overwhelming demand. 

But the inquiry's limited scope and power will undoubtedly leave many Quebecers disappointed. And with François Legault's Coalition pour l'avenir du Québec (CAQ) set to become a party on Nov. 14, the inquiry is unlikely to turn the tide that is running against the governing Liberals, if it doesn't sink them entirely.

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

It appears we can already say that Charest's inquiry is not going to help. A poll by Léger Marketing indicates that only 23% of people are satisfied with the parametres of the Charbonneau commission. That is not good news for the Quebec Liberals, especially in light of this week's voting intentions poll.
That 23% seems to be the Liberal floor. Without the CAQ in the mix, which it will almost certainly be starting November 14, the Liberals narrowly hold an edge over the Parti Québécois, though the 14% for the "Others" is a little disingenuous.

But with CAQ in the mix, the Liberals fall to 22%, 14 points behind the CAQ. That is a huge margin. For the Parti Québécois, it is near extinction.

Otherwise, it isn't horrible news for Jean Charest. Though usually this kind of tie benefits the PQ, with the PQ so low and the ADQ and Québec Solidaire so high, the Liberals would win a minority government with the non-CAQ numbers: 55 seats for the PLQ, 50 seats for the PQ, 16 for the ADQ, and four for QS.

However, the National Assembly is a hodge-podge of parties and independents. If we have all of those independents on the ballots as independents in the next election, the result would be instead 57 seats for the Liberals, 45 for the PQ, 16 for the ADQ, four for QS, and three for the independents.

The seat projection model for the CAQ scenario is still in a rough draft. It will be improved after the CAQ becomes a full-fledged party. But the rough numbers show that with this kind of 14-point lead over the moribund Liberals, François Legault's party would win 106 seats, leaving only 13 to the Liberals and three apiece to the PQ and Québec Solidaire. This kind of vote split is murder for the other parties.

Quebec's political scene is in turmoil, to say the least. The Liberals are holding an inquiry that many expect could be a Gomery-lite, the PQ is tearing itself apart, Québec Solidaire is hoping to benefit from the NDP's breakthrough, the ADQ is on the verge of being swallowed, another sovereigntist party is in the works, and the CAQ is about to storm onto the scene. Hold on to your hats.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

September federal polling averages

With the provincial elections having taken up so much time, I'm a little late with the federal polling averages from September. But here they are.

Three national polls were released during the month of September, with another being released for Ontario only and another for Quebec only. In all, 7,337 people were surveyed in the September polls.
The Conservatives averaged 39.1% nationally last month, with the New Democrats second at 31.5% and the Liberals third with 19.5%.

The Greens averaged 4.6% while the Bloc Québécois averaged 4.4%.

This is a 3.2 point gain for the Conservatives since August. The New Democrats have picked up 0.5 points while the Liberals are down 2.1 points. The Greens are also down 1.1 points.

This is a very similar result to the May 2 election, but there are some variations at the regional level.

In British Columbia, the Conservatives are up 3.9 points and led in September with 39%. The New Democrats dropped 2.9 points and trailed with 33.8%, while the Liberals stood at 18.9% and the Greens at 7.3%. The race in B.C. remains relatively close between the Tories and the NDP.

The Conservatives held a solid lead in Alberta with 63.8% and the Prairies with 56.5%. In both cases the New Democrats were running second, at 17.6% and 26.5%, respectively.

In Ontario, the Conservatives are up 1.4 points and led with 39.3%. The New Democrats are up only 0.3 points, and stood at 28.4% in September. The Liberals slipped 2.5 points to 25.6%.

The New Democrats gained 5.5 points in Quebec and led with 44.7%, above their election tally. The Conservatives are now second, though they dropped one point to 19.6%. The Bloc is running third after a 3.4 point drop to 17.8%, while the Liberals are down 0.4 points to 13.8% in Quebec.

Finally, in Atlantic Canada the Conservatives are up 4.1 points and the NDP 3.7 points. The Tories led with 37.7% and the NDP trailed with 35.5%, while the Liberals were far in the rear with 24.5% support.

If an election had been held in September, the Conservatives would have won a slim majority government with 157 seats. That is a gain of 18 since the August projection. The New Democrats would have won 110 seats, a gain of one since August, while the Liberals would have dropped 17 seats and taken 39.

The Conservatives would have won 18 seats in British Columbia, 27 in Alberta, 23 in the Prairies, 61 in Ontario, nine in Quebec, 18 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the North.

The New Democrats would have won 12 seats in British Columbia, one in Alberta, two in the Prairies, 25 in Ontario, 61 in Quebec, eight in Atlantic Canada, and one in the North.

The Liberals would have won five seats in British Columbia, three in the Prairies, 20 in Ontario, four in Quebec, six in Atlantic Canada, and one in the North.

The Greens would have won one seat in British Columbia and the Bloc Québécois would have won one seat in Quebec.

Before the 2015 election, however, the electoral map will be re-drawn. Since we do not know the boundaries yet, I cannot project for those extra seats. But assuming that the next House of Commons will have 334 seats, based on reports that have come out this week, and that Ontario will have 13 more seats, Alberta six, British Columbia five, and Quebec two, and assuming that those seats are won in a similar proportion to how the seats went provincially as a whole, the Conservatives would win 174 seats, the New Democrats 117, and the Liberals 41 in this 334-seat House of Commons, based on September support levels.

And before you ask, ThreeHundredEight will not be changing its name to ThreeFortyFour. By the time the seat changes are actually official, ThreeHundredEight will have existed for four or five years. Having it named after the number of seats in the House of Commons when it was launched is good enough for me.
Aside from a blip in August, you can see that the parties have been generally stable since the May election at the national level. The same goes for Alberta, the Prairies, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada. But in Ontario and British Columbia, things have not been so steady.

In British Columbia the Tories have dropped quite a bit, much of that support seemingly having gone to the Liberals. This has put the NDP and Conservatives in a close race for the last two months. And in Ontario, the Conservatives have dropped from around 44% to between 38% and 39%. While neither the Liberals nor the NDP have really taken advantage, being below 40% in Ontario is problematic for the Conservatives. They can still win a majority government with that level of support, but it becomes one that is won on a knife's edge.

Unless the New Democrats take a tumble in Quebec, the next election will likely be focused on what happens in British Columbia and Ontario. But until the New Democrats are in a position to win 35 or more seats in Ontario, I cannot see how they can form the next government. Holding Quebec and conquering Ontario will be the challenge for the party's next leader.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Electoral stakes high for Tories in allocating $35 billion for naval refit

In the next few days, a decision Stephen Harper would prefer not to make will be announced.
At stake: $35 billion and as many as 10,000 jobs.

Canada's navy is in need of a refit, and two shipbuilding contracts worth $35 billion will be awarded to two of three Canadian shipyards that have tendered bids.

One of them, the most likely to win the largest of the contracts, is in Halifax. The other two are in Vancouver and Lévis, across the St. Lawrence River from Quebec City.

The potential political fallout from the decision could be catastrophic...

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

Of course, the merits of the three bids are certainly to be a major, if not the major, factor in making the decision. Whether or not politics will play a role in decision-making, the decision will have political repercussions.

One of the polls I mention in this article is the Léger Marketing poll released yesterday by Le Devoir. The poll indicates that very little has changed in Quebec since May 2nd.
The New Democrats still lead in Quebec with 43%, well ahead of the Bloc Québécois at 21% and the Conservatives at 18%.

The Liberals trail far behind at 11%, with the Greens at 6%.

Compared to Léger's last poll in September, there have been no significant changes.

In the sub-samples, however, there have been two shifts worth mentioning.

The last full breakdown of the regional and linguistic numbers we have from Léger dates from June, and since then the voting intentions by language have moved.

Among francophones, the Conservatives have picked up six points and stand at 18%, within striking distance of the Bloc's 25%. The Liberals have dropped to only 7% support among francophones, who make up 80% of the population.

Among non-francophones, the Liberals are back. The New Democrats are down 13 points since that June poll in this demographic, leading by 34% to the Liberals' 29%, up 12. This is a very different result from June, when it looked like the non-francophone community had gone en masse for the NDP, leaving the Liberals in the lurch and putting the Conservatives in a position to win some seats on the island of Montreal. It appears, however, that the NDP is losing some support among non-francophones, which perhaps comes as little surprise as the NDP begins to speak out more about Quebec's interests.

The NDP still has a comfortable lead in Montreal, Quebec City, and the rest of Quebec. The Bloc trails by a wide margin in both Montreal and the regions, while the Conservatives are 15 points behind the NDP in the Quebec City. In the context of the shipbuilding contracts, this is important.

Of course, the NDP's support at this stage is as interim as Nycole Turmel's leadership. Once the new leader is chosen we will see what the NDP's future in the province will be. The choice of the Bloc's next leader is unlikely to have a big effect, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a bump in their favour in December and January after the leadership convention when the Bloc will be back in the news for a little while. It is possible, though, that the Bloc could ride that tiny bump for some time if the choice of the leader of the NDP does not jive with Quebecers.

But things are in stasis in Quebec. Between now and 2015, the NDP leadership convention and the next Quebec provincial election will take place. Both these events will shake things up in Quebec to a great degree, so this is all pre-season jockeying before the real games begin.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Does lower voter turnout always favour incumbents?

When Ontarians were called to the polls this month, fewer than half of eligible voters bothered to cast a ballot and the incumbent Liberals were returned to power. Turnout dropped in both Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador as their governing parties were re-elected. So does lower turnout always favour the incumbent?

You can find out by reading the rest of the article on The Globe and Mail website here.

Anyone who reads this site must be a political junkie, and I imagine that 95% of my readership votes. Undoubtedly, you all share my disappointment when turnout is so low. We're all excited when election day comes, but to an increasing number of Canadians (and, apparently, a majority of Ontarians) the whole process is a big yawner.

This puts the Occupy protests in an odd context. The protestors claim to represent the 99% of people who are under the tutelage of the richest 1%. But throughout the weekend I couldn't help but think if the proportion of those 99 percenters who hadn't voted in the 2011 federal and Ontario elections had voted, they alone could have elected a government. An Occupy Party with 100% of that vote would have been swept to power.

Of course, things are never so simple, and I imagine that most of the 40% to 50% of people who haven't been voting are also the same people who are unlikely to attend a protest.

Two questions come to mind. Firstly, what do we need to do to increase voter turnout and, secondly, is that something we want to do?

Though Elections Ontario tried to make voting as easy as possible by having advance voting booths open for a good part of the campaign, turnout dropped. So it does not seem that making it easier to vote (i.e., via the Internet) is sure to increase turnout. The problem is increasing interest, and the political parties are partly to blame for that. Also to blame could be our school systems - I don't recall taking a civics class when I was in high school.

Mandatory voting is an option, and isn't as outlandish as it may sound. Australians have it, Andrew Coyne loves it, and Canadians already have to fill out a census form. That's mandatory, so why not voting?

But we all have a friend or family member who is woefully uninformed about politics. Is an uninformed voter worse than someone who doesn't vote at all?

I don't have the answers to these questions, but you can have it out in the comments.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Manitoba: Projection vs. Results

If you'll allow me a little immodesty, the projection for the 2011 Manitoba provincial election was ThreeHundredEight's Mona Lisa. Tongue firmly in cheek, of course, but of the 57 ridings in the province, 56 were called correctly and the 57th was so close that it is currently under judicial review.

The Manitoba election might seem trivial to people who aren't one of the 1.3 million Manitobans in the province, but this was an election that was thought to be very close. It was an election that demonstrated perfectly the usefulness of seat projections, as though the polls pointed to a tight race my seat projection model indicated that the New Democrats could win a comfortable majority with an uncomfortable margin in the popular vote. And, as I will show, this projection was no mere accident or stroke of luck. Even at the individual riding level the projection model performed very well.

In the end, Greg Selinger's New Democrats won an even larger majority than was projected, defeating Hugh McFadyen's Progressive Conservatives. Jon Gerrard, leader of the Manitoba Liberals, was the only candidate elected for that party.
ThreeHundredEight projected 36 New Democrats would be elected, 20 Progressive Conservatives, and one Liberal.

The result was 37 New Democrats, 19 Progressive Conservatives, and one Liberal. Using the actual provincial vote tally did not change the projection.

In all, the model called 56 out of 57 ridings correctly for an accuracy rating of 98.2%.
The projected seat ranges anticipated this result, as the New Democrats were expected to win between 35 and 38 seats, while the Tories were expected to win between 18 and 21 seats. The result was within the expected seat range. The Liberals were expected to win one seat and one seat only, and so they did.

As the polls by Probe Research and Angus-Reid at the end of the campaign were excellent, the vote projection was excellent as well. It under-estimated Progressive Conservative support by one point, but was within 0.6 points for the New Democrats, Liberals, and Greens.

The chart below shows a few quick facts about the projection at the riding level.

The margin of victory in St. Norbert, the one riding incorrectly called, was only one per cent.

Generally speaking, the Progressive Conservatives were under-estimated at the riding level. In 16 ridings they were over-estimated, in four ridings the projection was accurate, and in the remaining 37 they were under-estimated.

For the other parties the projection was generally solid, with the New Democrats over-estimated in 35 ridings, correctly called in five, and under-estimated in the remaining 17. The Liberals were over-estimated in 31 ridings, correctly projected in eight, and under-estimated in 18.

In all, 79% of individual riding projections for the New Democrats, or 45 out of 57, were called to within 5% of the result. That increased to 81% for the Tories and in almost every case the riding projections were within 5% for the Liberals and Greens. In 40 ridings, or 70%, every party was pegged to within 5% of their actual result. That is no mere coincidence or accident.

On average, the riding projections were 1.9 points higher for the NDP than the result and 2.2 points lower for the Tories. The Green and Liberal estimations were even closer, putting the margin of error for each party's riding projections at +/- 2.7%. That is, I believe, quite extraordinary.

To compare to the Prince Edward Island election, less than 30% of those ridings had every party called to within 5% and the average margin of error was +/- 4.6%.

Many ridings were called very well, but here are the top three:

In Dawson Trail and Selkirk, the projection was only off by one point for the three parties running. This is a good time to remind readers that the boundaries in Manitoba changed since the 2007 election, compounding the difficulty in making accurate projections.

Rossmere was off by a total of three points across four parties.

Now, what of St. Norbert, the one riding that got away? As mentioned, a judicial recount will take place and the results revealed on October 24. So, it could be that the result will be overturned and the projection will end up being 100% accurate. Note also that the vote in Kirkfield Park, which was correctly called, will also be reviewed. Hopefully that one won't be overturned.

If the result is not overturned in St. Norbert, why did the projection get it wrong? St. Norbert only bucked provincial trends by the tiniest amount, and it appears that the lack of an NDP incumbent did not hurt the party at all. But removing that factor still would have given the riding to the Tories.

So, it would appear that local factors were at play. Perhaps a good performance by Dave Gaudreau, the NDP candidate, or a less than good performance by Karen Velthuys, the Tory candidate, is to blame. Handing Gaudreau the star candidate bonus would have given him the riding, but he doesn't fit the profile of a star candidate and Velthuys does not seem to have been especially problematic.

The wrong call in this one riding needs to be attributed to the fact that the model cannot precisely predict how thousands of individuals will behave. St. Norbert being the one wrong call is, I think you'll agree, perfectly acceptable.

It should come as no surprise that the 2011 Manitoba provincial election projection is the best of the seven that ThreeHundredEight has called. And that is by a wide margin - the per party error on the vote projection was almost half the error of the next best called (2008 Quebec election) and the per party seat error was almost one-third of that in the 2008 Quebec election. I do not consider it likely that the projection model will ever provide a better result than it did in Manitoba.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Greens take a hit provincially

This year has been a bit of a mixed bag for the Green Party.

On the one hand, they elected their first Member of Parliament when Elizabeth May beat Conservative cabinet minister Gary Lunn in the riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands on May 2.

On the other hand, the party lost votes federally and took a hit in this fall’s provincial elections. 

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

How might the Greens do in Saskatchewan? According to my latest projection from early September, they stand to take about 4% of the vote in the November 7 election. That would be an increase on the 2% they took in the 2007 election, but I imagine that number may be driven down as the campaign goes on - assuming we get some polls out of the province.

One of the things the Greens may be able to do in Saskatchewan is supplant the Liberals for third. The Greens are already a third-place party in Prince Edward Island and were in British Columbia in 2009. I imagine, though, they will lose that spot in BC due to the support of John Cummins' BC Conservatives.

People still care about the environment, but in a time of economic uncertainty it takes a bit of a back seat. When confronted with two product choices of equal cost, people will always take the greener one. But when they aren't the same price, most people will take the cheaper one. This is, undoubtedly, compounded in a time like this. The Greens may recover in better times and in 2015 Elizabeth May might be able to use her seat as a platform to win a second or a third, but I wonder if the Greens peaked in the federal and provincial elections between 2007 and 2009.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

PEI: Projection vs. Results

It's time to return to the island, and take an indepth look at how the projection stacked up against the results in Prince Edward Island, the first election in the series of five to take place in 2011.

In what is most important, the projection made the right call. Robert Ghiz's Liberals were given a majority government, with Olive Crane's Progressive Conservatives forming the Official Opposition. Neither the Greens nor the New Democrats entered the legislature.

But with the polls showing a strong lead for Ghiz, his re-election with a majority was a foregone conclusion.

ThreeHundredEight projected 26 Liberals and one Progressive Conservative, when instead 22 Liberals and five Progressive Conservatives were elected. With the exact provincial vote totals input into the model, the projection gave the Liberals 25 seats and the Tories two. While better, it was still off.
The projected seat range of between 25 and 26 Liberals and between one and two Progressive Conservatives was as good as the projection with the actual results. I'll return to why the projection made the wrong calls in several ridings later.
The vote projection for the Liberals and the Greens was quite good, missing the Liberals by only 1.5 points and the Greens by 0.3. But the Progressive Conservatives took six more points than expected while the NDP took almost five points less.

There are a few reasons for this. Both polls released at the end of the campaign under-estimated the Tories and over-estimated the New Democrats, and both polls were released almost a week before the vote was held. Opinion may have shifted in those last days of the campaign, and the inability of the New Democrats to run a full slate undoubtedly contributed to them garnering less of the vote.

In the end, the projection had an accuracy rating of 85.2%, making the correct call in 23 of the 27 ridings in Prince Edward Island. The projection with the actual vote totals would have made the correct call in 24 of 27 ridings, for an accuracy rating of 88.9%.
As you can see from the list of facts above, in the four ridings where the wrong calls were made the average margin of victory was 9.0%. This is somewhat skewed, as in two ridings the margin was less than 1.5%, while in two others it was over 12%.

The biggest problem was the over-estimation of Liberal strength, which was done in almost 82% of ridings. The same was done for the NDP in 73% of the ridings in which they ran candidates, while the Tories were under-estimated in 85% of ridings.

On average, Liberal support was projected to be 5.3% higher than it actually was in each riding, while it was projected to be 5% lower than the actual result for the Tories. The Green and NDP estimates were much better.

But that does not mean the riding projections weren't accurate. In roughly half of ridings the Liberal and/or PC support was estimated at within 5% of the actual result, while that increases to over 85% for the New Democrats and Greens (not surprisingly, since in most ridings they did not get much more than 5%). In all, 29.6% of party support projections in each riding were at or within 5% of the final result.

Taken together, the margin of error for each and every riding projection was, on average, +/- 4.6%.
The chart above shows the three closest riding projections, in Alberton-Roseville, Kensington-Malpeque, and Vernon River-Stratford.

The performance of the Island Party in Alberton-Roseville prevented that projection from being absolutely perfect.

While the projection in Prince Edward Island was adequate, what prevented it from being more accurate?

In addition to the local factors at play, which will always be amplified in a smaller province, there were a few other problems.

The most important was the unexpected strength of the Progressive Conservatives in eastern PEI. It was expected to be their best region, but they did much better there than the provincial swing should have indicated.

Does Prince Edward Island need a regional model? It probably would have helped. The last poll from Corporate Research Associates did have a regional breakdown, but it wasn't reported in full in The Guardian. Constructing a regional model for PEI would require more information in future elections. In any case, both CRA and MQO Research (especially) under-estimated Progressive Conservative support, and even in the regional breakdowns CRA had the Tories and Liberals "neck-and-neck" in eastern PEI, when the result was actually a seven point edge for the Tories.

But what of the four ridings in which the wrong calls were made? Souris-Elmira and Tignish-Palmer Road went Tory for no reason that the projection model could have predicted. Removing the incumbency bonuses and giving the two PC candidates the "star" bonus still would have shown them leaning Liberal.

Stratford-Kinlock would have been projected to vote PC if James Aylward had been considered a star candidate, but Aylward does not fit the profile.

Georgetown-St. Peters is a little more interesting. With the correct province-wide vote, the projection would have given this riding to the Tories. But it seems that the lack of a PC incumbent did not play a big role in this riding - removing this factor would have given the riding to the Tories in the pre-election projection.

What this boils down to is that two of the four ridings that were wrongly called could not have been correctly called by this projection model. The ridings simply went their own way and bucked province-wide trends. Another would have been correctly called had the vote projection been accurate, while the last riding could have only been projected correctly by assigning the Tory candidate a star bonus he (to be harsh) did not deserve. A regional model which would have had the Progressive Conservatives doing better in the eastern part of the island might have done a better job getting Stratford-Kinlock and Souris-Elmira correct, meaning only Tignish-Palmer Road would have still voted unexpectedly in a perfect projection storm.

The projection for Prince Edward Island was a middling performance, ranking fourth in the seven elections that ThreeHundredEight has made projections up to this point.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Liberals defy trends in Newfoundland and Labrador

Last night's election in Newfoundland and Labrador played out generally as expected, but around the margins the Liberals managed to cling to the role of the Official Opposition by a handful of votes.

A full analysis of the results of the Newfoundland and Labrador election can be read on The Huffington Post Canada website here.

For the projection, it was a bit of a rough ride. Though the final results were not significantly different from the final projection in terms of seats (at an error of 3.3 seats per party it ranks as the third best projection of seven), in terms of outcome it was greatly different. Yes, the Progressive Conservatives won a majority and the NDP made a historic breakthrough, but the Liberals outperformed expectations and won six seats instead of two.

And they did so in a slighlty bizarre fashion. One incumbent was re-elected, one Liberal seat was held, one Liberal incumbent was defeated, one Liberal seat was lost, and four completely new seats were won at the expense of the Progressive Conservatives. The Liberals dropped from 22% to 19% but gained two seats, and it is difficult to attribute those seats entirely to vote splits or the rise of the New Democrats. It was just a somewhat abnormal performance.

The New Democrats also bucked provincial trends, doing much better in St. John's than was expected, winning a seat in western Newfoundland but losing what was supposed to be their best shot outside of the capital in Burin-Placentia West.

The regional divisions that the election indicated (New Democrats in St. John's and eastern Newfoundland, the Liberals in western Newfoundland and Labrador) point, again, to the need for a regional model for even a small province like Newfoundland and Labrador. This election did provide some regional data, so perhaps that is something to look at for the future.

Another thing was the shift in votes from the last polls of the campaign, released a week before the vote. The New Democrats dropped by about five points and all of it went to the Liberals. The chart below shows the change.

 Had this sort of shift been anticipated, the projection model would have given the Tories 41 seats, the Liberals four, and the NDP three. Though the level of error would have been only a little better, projecting the Liberals as the Official Opposition would have been key. However, the riding-level accuracy would have been even lower, demonstrating the difficulty in projecting smaller provinces.

The Electoral Track Record has been updated, so you can see how the Newfoundland and Labrador projection stacks up to others.

Moving forward, we have one last election left this year. Saskatchewan should not hold many surprises, as the race is between two parties and Brad Wall has a massive lead over the NDP. It could play out more predictably, as the Manitoba election did. The site will be updated soon to give the Saskatchewan election more prominence.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Final NL Projection: Dunderdale's Tories win majority government

Tonight, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians will give the Progressive Conservatives of Kathy Dunderdale a majority government. That much is absolutely assured. Who will sit across from the premier in the House of Assembly, however, is not so certain. But projects that Lorraine Michael's New Democrats will form the Official Opposition, while Kevin Aylward's Liberals will be the third party in the legislature.
Based on an aggregation of the campaign's polls, the Progressive Conservatives are projected to take 55.2% of the vote tonight, with the New Democrats taking 30.5% and the Liberals 14.1%.

This represents a historic high for the NL NDP and a historic low for the Liberals.

The Progressive Conservatives are projected to win 42 seats, with four going to the NDP and two to the Liberals.

The Progressive Conservatives are projected to win 19 seats on the main part of Newfoundland, 13 in the St. John's region, eight on the Avalon and Burin peninsulas, and two in Labrador.

The New Democrats are projected to win one seat in each region, while the Liberals win one in Labrador and one in rural Newfoundland.

Because of the smaller sizes of the ridings and the unpredictable nature of the NDP's rise, I've increased the "close races" margin to 10%. The Tories lead in two such close races, and trail in two. This gives them a seat range of between 40 and 44 seats. The Liberals and NDP lead and trail in one seat apiece, putting their range at 3-5 for the NDP and 1-3 for the Liberals.

But I wanted to do something else a little different this time. The elections in all three provinces so far this fall have shown that, while the polls have done generally well, they've had a little difficulty pinning down the difference between eligible voters and actual voters.

Though I plan to investigate whether a model to determine this difference is necessary, in the meantime there are other options. Some pollsters report both decided and decided + leaners results. Others, like EKOS in the Ontario election, reported the results for eligible but also most likely voters. For EKOS, their estimate of the support of likely voters was closer to the mark and put them on par with other firms like Nanos and Angus-Reid.

Luckily, the last three polls of the Newfoundland and Labrador campaign reported their numbers for decided voters, in addition to their decided and leaning results. If we take these last polls and change them to only their decided results, the projection changes.

Though I will stick with the projection based on eligible voters for continuity, I think this may be a likely outcome. In future elections, I will either determine how to chart the difference between polls and results, or I will simply use these kinds of results (decided only, certain to vote, likely voters, etc.).

In this projection, the Progressive Conservatives take 57.5% of the vote, with the New Democrats taking 28.3% and the Liberals 14.1%. This is a difference of about two points extra for the Tories, taken from the NDP.

The seat projection changes to 43 for the Tories, three for the NDP, and two for the Liberals.

The seat range becomes 41-44 for the Progressive Conservatives, 3-4 for the NDP, and 1-3 for the Liberals.
The polls released during this campaign (five in all) don't point to any major problems in assessing the popular vote. The Tories have gotten between 51% and 59% in every poll. That is a big spread, but they all mean a big PC majority.

Results for the New Democrats have been as consistent, ranging between 27% and 35%. This is a bit more important, as at the higher end of the scale the NDP is in a good position to win more than a couple seats in St. John's. At the bottom end of that scale, the NDP will come up short.

Liberal results have been most consistent, at between 13% and 18%. They have not been close to the NDP in any poll since the campaign began, indicating it is highly unlikely they will come up second in the popular vote.
But that doesn't make it impossible. A full week has passed between today and the last poll. There was enough consistency during the campaign to suggest we should expect little movement in the final week, but seven days is a long time in a campaign. During the 2005-2006 federal campaign, the Conservatives took off during the holidays. One of the theories is that people got together during the holidays and discusssed politics enough to shift the vote. These last seven days include Thanksgiving, so there is the potential for this kind of shift.

There are also the factors of motivation and organization. The Liberals are generally said to be not well organized and, considering how the campaign has gone, they can't be very motivated. The Tories are well-organized but their voters might not be motivated to vote in an election the results of which are considered a foregone conclusion. How will the NDP's organization perform, and will their voters be motivated with the history-making opportunity that tonight's vote represents?

In terms of the projection itself, there is a lot of potential for ridings to buck provincial trends. Ridings in Newfoundland and Labrador aren't very large, and many parts of the province are quite isolated. Incumbents might be difficult to defeat, incumbents unpopular with the locals may not be able to hold on. A few specific oddities from the 2007 election (one MHA won by acclamation, another candidate died and thereby forced a special election, the lack of NDP candidates compared to a full slate this time around) could also cause the projection to be skewed. So, there could be a lot of surprises in store for us tonight.

But the one thing we know for certain (well, 99.99% certain) is that Kathy Dunderdale will win the election and take a majority of the legislature's seats. How NDP and Liberal voters behave, however, will determine who forms the Official Opposition. The polls point to the NDP, but voting intentions do not always turn into votes, and performing well in polls is not the same as winning seats. We'll find out soon.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Last polls of campaign still show PCs dominant, NDP over-achieving in NL

On Tuesday, Newfoundland and Labrador voters are expected to give the Progressive Conservatives their third consecutive mandate since 2003 – and a first under the leadership of Premier Kathy Dunderdale. While there is little doubt about the make-up of the next government in Newfoundland and Labrador, how the opposition parties will fare is the big question heading into election day. 

For the first time in their history, Newfoundland New Democrats are running second in the polls and are on track to form the Official Opposition. The Liberals, who have governed the province for most of its post-Confederation history, are a distant third but may have enough pockets of strength in the rural parts of the island to come out ahead of Lorraine Michael’s NDP.

You can read the rest of the article on The Globe and Mail website here. Complete details of the new projection can be found in the article.

The last two polls of the campaign in Newfoundland and Labrador, from Environics and Corporate Research Associates, show very little change from what MQO Research and NTV/Telelink have found to be the case. In short, the Tories are still well ahead, the New Democrats have a lock on second, and the Liberals are floundering below 20% support.

It's the regional data that is interesting. Environics has NDP and PC support at 47% apiece in St. John's, with the Liberals trailing at 6%. From my estimates of what was gleaned from The Telegram's reports, CRA has support for the PCs at 60% in St. John's, with the NDP at 31% and the Liberals at 9%. Those would, of course, have very different outcomes on election night.

In the rest of Newfoundland and Labrador, Environics has PC support at 54% to 28% for the NDP and 18% for the Liberals. That is actually a very good showing for the New Democrats. CRA broke it down into the west (Labrador, west coast, central Newfoundland) and the east (east and northeast coasts), showing the Progressive Conservatives leading in the west with 57% and in the east with 61%, with the Liberals second in the west (28%) and third in the east (16%). The NDP was third in the west with 15% and second in the east with 23%.

So, what this breaks down to is the Tories dominating everywhere, but that the NDP and Liberals have enough pockets of support to be competitive in several ridings. Where those seats will be will be interesting to watch on Tuesday night.

I don't expect any new numbers to come out, but I will post the final projection for Newfoundland and Labrador on Tuesday morning.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Ontario election - the morning after

Ontario elected a Liberal government last night, but it took until the wee hours of the morning before it could be definitively called a minority government. The Liberals won 53 seats, one short of a majority. It doesn't get any closer than that.

I called a Liberal majority. The polls suggested that would be the case, with the gap being 3.3 points in my weighted aggregation and 4.8 points in the average of the last six polling firms to report. Instead, the gap was 2.2 points. Some pollsters did very well (Forum and Abacus, for example), others did less well. That is how it goes.

And just like the pollsters, ThreeHundredEight will learn from this election and move on. It was, by no means, a failure like that of the 2011 federal election. And it was only a few days ago that I called 98.2% of ridings, 56 out of 57, in Manitoba. Like the pollsters, you lose some and you win some. In this election, my vote projection beat out four of the seven polling firms to report in the last week of the campaign.

Before moving on to how the projection performed, I invite you to read my articles today on The Globe and Mail website about how the pollsters performed, and at the Huffington Post Canada, on where the election was won and lost. Also, a full post-mortem of the Ontario projection will follow in the coming weeks.

The projection model performed adequately, with an 85% accuracy rating on the riding calls and an average error of 5.3 seats per party. In a more clear cut election, that would have been acceptable. In a close election like last night's, that was the difference between a minority and a majority government. But it compares quite favourably to the 13.3 seats per party error in Ontario that I had in the abysmal federal election projection.

The seat ranges, dipping to 51 for the Liberals, did envision this sort of minority result.

But the polls are not to blame for the errors in the precise projection. With the actual results, I would have still projected a Liberal majority of 58 seats, with 30 going to the Progressive Conservatives and 19 to the New Democrats. Why?

There are two reasons for the discrepancy. The first is turnout. At 48%, a drop from 53% in 2007, the question of who votes becomes paramount. Polls showing between 70% and 90% of respondents as decided are going to have problems and seat projections based on past results are going to have problems. Whether this was actually one of the reasons for the errors in the projection is difficult to say, but it would seem to be one likely suspect.

The second is the regional variations in Ontario. As the polls don't divide Ontario up uniformly, I did not have a regional model for the province. In other provinces this might not be a big issue, but in Ontario it is a big problem. I will work towards developing a regional model for Ontario for the next election, whenever it comes.

That it was the regional breakdown that caused the most problems is apparent by the projection's accuracy on a region-by-region basis. The projection called every seat correctly in the Hamilton/Niagara region and 91% of the seats correctly in central Ontario and Toronto. The accuracy rating was 89% in the GTA, still acceptable, while it was 86% in eastern Ontario. In northern Ontario, 9 out of 11 were called correctly.

In southwestern Ontario, however, the projection was only 67% accurate. This is where the projection failed.

Had the polls been dead-on, my projected seat range would have been much better, at 49-60 Liberals, 28-39 Progressive Conservatives, and 18-21 New Democrats. I only would have been off for the NDP by one seat in the ranges. This is where local factors come into play - the projection (except in rare cases, as in Manitoba) cannot get everything right. The ranges are just as important, but just as a pollsters can't report only using the MOEs, I need to make a precise call.

The Electoral Track Record has been updated with these details, and you can see how it stacks up to past performances. Let no one say that I cover up past errors, they are there for everyone to see - as are my successes.

Going forward, I believe that a regional model is necessary for some provinces, particularly Quebec and Ontario. They will be developed. I also believe that ThreeHundredEight needs to be able to predict the vote and not just aggregate the polls. An aggregation needs to be maintained to give a clear picture of what the polls are saying, but a prediction should be more useful in the future. With the Conservatives being under-estimated in every election so far this year, it seems that there is a systemic problem in how people respond to polls. Is the "shy Tory" factor for real in Canada?

I don't consider it too likely that Ontario will be heading back to the polls soon, so there is time to work on these things. Newfoundland and Labrador votes Tuesday and Saskatchewan goes to the polls on November 7. There is still a lot to do! The Newfoundland and Labrador projection will be updated over the Thanksgiving weekend, but in the meantime the Campaign Polling Trends chart has been updated for the province.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Final Ontario Projection: McGuinty's Liberals win majority

Prince Edward Island and Manitoba were appetizers to what is the main course of this election season: the provincial election in Ontario. ThreeHundredEight projects that the Liberals under Dalton McGuinty will win their third consecutive majority government, with Tim Hudak's Progressive Conservatives forming the Official Opposition. The New Democrats under Andrea Horwath will be the third party in the Ontario legislature.

The projection has changed since the last update, as Angus-Reid and Forum Research released some new data. They made it a consensus - the Liberals lead in every final poll of the campaign, but the size of that lead stands at anywhere from one point to as much as 10. Either way, the Liberals should be re-elected with a majority. Even Forum's numbers point to a slim two-seat majority for them.

UPDATE: EKOS ruined my night by posting their final numbers a little before 11 PM. I've updated everything (again) with these new numbers, but it changes little.

Before the successful projection of the Manitoba election, the volatility and uncertainty indicated by the polls would have left me ill at ease going into the Ontario vote. I don't know how the polls will perform tomorrow, but I am confident that if the polls do well the projection model should also do well. Of course, the 2011 Ontario might be one of those enigmatic elections, like the one in 1990 that left everyone surprised.
ThreeHundredEight's aggregation of the polls gives the Liberals a 3.3-point lead over the Tories. The Liberals are projected to take 36.6% of the vote, with the Progressive Conservatives taking 33.3% and the New Democrats 24.7%. The Greens come in fourth with 4.1% of the vote.

The Liberals are projected to win 58 seats, with 29 being won by the Tories and 20 by the New Democrats.

The Liberals are projected to win 15 seats in Toronto, 15 seats in the Greater Toronto region, 14 seats in southwestern Ontario, seven seats in Ottawa and eastern Ontario, three seats in the Hamilton/Niagara region, and two seats in central and northern Ontario each.

The Progressive Conservatives are projected to win nine seats in central Ontario, six in Ottawa and eastern Ontario, six in southwestern Ontario, three in the Hamilton/Niagara region, two in Greater Toronto, two in the north, and one in Toronto itself.

The New Democrats win seven seats in northern Ontario, six in Toronto, four in the Hamilton/Niagara region, and one each in Ottawa, Greater Toronto, and southwestern Ontario.

When the campaign began, there were about 30 races which were projected to be 'close'. That has dropped to about a dozen.

The Liberals lead in seven close races and trail in four, putting their likely seat range at between 51 and 62 seats. In other words, the possibility for a Liberal minority still exists.

The Progressive Conservatives lead in four close races and trail in six, putting their likely seat range at between 25 and 35 seats.

The New Democrats are leading in one close race and trailing in two, putting their likely seat range at between 19 and 22 seats. Note that the NDP won 10 seats in the 2007 election.

But with the last month's worth of polling, one can't help but feel like anything could happen on election night. Ontarians have been some of the most difficult voters to call in the last three federal elections. Will they fall in line as they did in 2007, when the polls were within 1% of the PC and Liberal results?

A lot of polls were released in this campaign. Twelve were taken in the five first days of October alone. In the 26 polls released since September 1, the gap between the Tories and the Liberals has been three points or less in 12. It has been an amazingly close race, and only in the final week has it really become clearer who is ahead.
And that party is, of course, the Liberals. They took the lead on September 29, two days after the debate, and have never looked back. The gap has narrowed in the last few days, but the Liberal lead is larger than any the Tories had during the campaign, except on one day.

Generally speaking, though, the campaign has moved very little. The New Democrats have been steady at around 23% to 26% since Day 1. The Greens have faltered, though, dropping to about 3% or 4% about the same time as the leaders' debate took place. One wonders if the presence of Mike Schreiner in the debate would have changed anything.

As with the PEI and Manitoba elections, though in neither case did the same kind of error repeat itself, let's take a look at some other possible scenarios if the polls are inaccurate in the same ways as they were in the 2007 provincial and 2011 federal elections.
In the 2007 provincial race, the polls were quite accurate, and there would be little change in the projection. The only difference is that the New Democrats take a little less of the vote, giving the PCs one more seat.

If the polls are wrong in the same way as they were at the national federal level in the May election, the Liberals would win the bare minimum of a majority government.

But what if the polls repeat the same error that happened in the federal election in Ontario? Here, the Conservative vote was greatly underestimated. However, the Liberal vote was about right. So what we have in that situation is the Liberals and Tories tied at a little more than 36% and the NDP below 23%. This results, again, in a Liberal majority. Indeed, the Liberals are the beneficiary of a greater drop in NDP support.

The PEI and Manitoba projection each had very different levels of accuracy. As I called 98.2% of races correctly in Manitoba, that gives the Ontario projection a two seat window - in other words, 56-60 seats for the Liberals, 27-31 seats for the Progressive Conservatives, and 18-22 seats for the New Democrats (and 0 to 2 seats for the Greens, if you wish). But with the 85.2% accuracy rating of PEI, that extends the margin to 16 seats, or 42-74 seats for the Liberals, 13-45 seats for the Tories, and 4-36 seats for the New Democrats. That seems to be a margin too wide to be worth anything, but if the Greens win 16 seats you'll have heard it here first.

More so than probably any other province, Ontario has a great degree of political regionalization. Unfortunately, the model was unable to take that into account due to the lack of uniformity in how the pollsters break down their polls. This could be a problem when the votes are counted, but I don't think it will be. If the polls have this one right, and even if they are off by a little, Ontario will elect a slim Liberal majority government on Thursday night. But if this campaign has taught us anything, it is to expect nothing.