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.