Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Liberals gain in Ontario, still low in Newfoundland

Before getting to today's polls, a few words about Prince Edward Island's election last night. A full post-mortem will come after the Newfoundland and Labrador election, when there will be some time to digest the results.

There were only two polls conducted in Prince Edward Island during the campaign and none in the last six days. But they nevertheless under-estimated Tory support and over-estimated that of the New Democrats. Had the polls been accurate, ThreeHundredEight's projection model would have had the Liberals at 25 seats and the Tories at two. Still off, but a little better.

My projected seat range with those numbers would have been 1-3 seats for the Tories, but if I extend that range to ridings projected to have been won by six per cent or less (instead of five per cent), then the high seat range for the PCs would have been five. I will be using the margin of six per cent to determine whether a race is close or not for subsequent elections.

Now, projecting a slightly larger overwhelming Liberal majority than the overwhelming Liberal majority that actually was elected last night is not a huge problem. It is Prince Edward Island, a province with a population smaller than a few ridings in Ontario. When two PC ridings were won by about 30 votes and 425 votes separated my high seat range of two from their result of five, I don't consider the model to have failed.

But the under-estimation of Conservative support, the third consecutive time this has happened in an election I have done projections for, is vexing. I will take a close look at it before making my final Manitoba projection later today.


One poll was released this morning by Nanos Research, as part of their rolling three day polling. Taken between October 1 and 3 and surveying 900 people, Nanos finds Liberal support standing at 37.7%, followed by the Tories at 33.2% and the NDP at 25.8%. This matches EKOS's latest findings in that the Liberals are beginning to pull ahead. Though the sample sizes are small, Nanos even has the Liberals over the 40% mark over the last two days.
With this Nanos poll added to the projection, the Liberals now stand to take 35.9% of the vote, with 33.4% going to the Progressive Conservatives.

The New Democrats are projected to take 25.3% while the Greens take 4.1%.

This is a gain of 0.7 points for the Liberals and 0.1 points for the NDP since yesterday's projection. The Greens have dropped 0.2 points and the Tories 0.6 points.

One seat has changed hands as a result, with the Liberals now up to 56 seats and the Progressive Conservatives down to 30. The New Democrats remain at 21 seats.

The Liberal seat gain comes in southwestern Ontario.

The Liberals are now projected to win 12 seats in the region, with seven going to the Tories and two to the New Democrats.

As mentioned, the bar for the seat ranges has now been moved to six per cent as a result of the PEI election. This doesn't change too much in Ontario, however.

The Liberals are leading in eight close races and trailing in five, putting their seat range at between 48 and 61. This is significant, as the Liberals are now at about even odds of pulling out a minority or majority government on Thursday.

The Progressive Conservatives lead in four close races and trail in six, putting their seat range at between 26 and 36. Things need to change in order for the Tories to be back in the race to form government.

The New Democrats lead in two close races and trail in three, putting their seat range at between 19 and 24. If things continue to go badly for the Tories, a scenario in which they finish third is not out of the question.

Newfoundland and Labrador

When MQO Research put Liberal support at 13% last week, Kevin Aylward, leader of the Newfoundland and Labrador Liberals, put out a press release accusing the Tories of having bought and paid for the poll. It was an unusual thing to do, as most political leaders brush poll results aside. It was a risky gamble that would pay off if the next poll put the Liberals up.

Well, it didn't. The latest poll by NTV and Telelink, conducted between October 1 and 2 and surveying 511 people by telephone, puts Progressive Conservative support at 58.9% of decided and leaning voters. The New Democrats follow with 28.4% while the Liberals stand at 12.5%.

In other words, this plainly independent poll is even better for the Tories and worse for the Liberals than the poll by MQO Research.

Kathy Dunderdale comes out even better on the leadership question, with 55% saying she is the best person for the job. Lorraine Michael of the NDP follows with 19% while Aylward is at 7%.
With this poll added, the Progressive Conservatives are now projected to take 56.7% of the vote. The New Democrats follow with 30.3% and the Liberals come up in third with 12.8%.

This represents a gain of 2.9 points for the Tories and a drop of 2.5 points for the NDP since the last projection. The Liberals are down 0.4 points.

This has not caused any changes in the seat projection.

The Progressive Conservatives are still projected to win 42 seats, the New Democrats four, and the Liberals two.

This has nudged a few seats out of being considered close races. The Liberals and NDP each lead in one close race, trailed by the Tories.

This puts the PC seat range at between 42 and 44 seats. The New Democrats are projected to win between three and four seats and the Liberals between one and two seats.

There is still a week to go before Newfoundland's vote, and I expect two or three polls before then. But Newfoundland and Labrador will pose some of the same problems as Prince Edward Island. The ridings are about twice as large, but they are still very small and subject to local factors to a degree that other provinces, particularly Ontario, are not. The polls seem to be relatively consistent, though, so the big question will be how they translate into seats.

I will post the final projection for Manitoba shortly, incorporating the latest poll from Angus-Reid.


  1. Eric,

    I presume you didn't include the today's Forum poll in 27 ridings in your current prediction?

    Another interesting point about this poll, aside from the unprecedented per-riding polled numbers, is that this time they provided the names of the local candidates, not just the party names, as all pollsters do. They claim that this fixed the prior poll (40,000) abnormalities, e.g. for Dalton McGuinty. WHat in fact they did was to account for the small, but non-negligible fraction of voters who vote for the local candidate, not for the party brand. Judging from the McGunity results, a surprisingly large fraction of voters in his riding didn't know that he runs in their riding. A poll done this way automatically takes into account the "star candidate" factor of your model (plus most of other factors - incumbancy etc.). What it doesn't include is of course the systematic error inherent for this specific pollster and this specific poll. Your model does try to correct for that - I guess based on prior pollster performance?

    Given that these two huge Forum polls both produce a draw prediction - the one you'd want to have a few days before the vote, to mobilize all three party supporters to go out and vote - I'm almost becoming paranoid in thinking that the polls were "made up".

  2. New Ekos poll is out: 10% lead for the Liberals (8.5% lead when adjusted for voter turnout factor).


  3. Isn't there a fair amount of documentation (at least in the UK) of the 'shy tory' problem?

  4. I'm starting to wonder if the people running the federal Liberals shifted to the provincial PC's this election. Two straight times they PC's had an election in their pocket, and now it looks like two straight times they blow it.

  5. To John_Northey:

    Quite to the contrary. Given how poorly the federal Liberals performed in recent elections, its them who'll be learning from the success (I hope) of their provincial cousins, not the other way around. In fact, I believe the McGuinty Liberals result in Ontario election could become a pivotal moment for federal Libs; a third majority would conceivably signal the end or the federal Libs downward spiral, and inject positive momentum for their slow recovery.

  6. I hope you weight pollsters based on their past performance. EKOS latest poll is another example of them significantly under-estimating Conservative support. It's such an obvious bias that their polls should hardly be included. They never once polled the Conservatives over 35% last election and pegged them almost tied with the NDP right before e-day. This 10 point lead poll result is a joke.

  7. Yes, pollsters are weighted by past performance.

    It is interesting to note, though, that on the question of who respondents voted for in 2007 the EKOS poll from today isn't very far off from the result: 29.5% to 31.6%. It under-estimates Tory support by two points, but is within the MOE.

  8. Hi Eric.

    I'm a little unclear about how you arrive at your regional seat projections - particularly for Newfoundland & Labrador.

    Most commentators on the ground have the most reliable seats for the NDP in St. John's. Specifically, Signal Hill-QV, St. John's North, and St. John's Center. Their rural support seems more tenuous - though with pockets on the Burin and maybe in Labrador.

    I'm just wondering how you arrived at your breakdowns.

  9. Chris,

    The projections are based on 2007's results, adjusted for current trends. Because the NDP had a few good results in rural ridings in 2007, those are the seats which are flipping to the NDP in the projection. You'll see they are doing well in St. John's, but the problem is that the PCs did VERY well in St. John's in 2007.

    In the end, the riding projections are the ingredients. The overall projection is more important.

  10. New Ipsos Reid poll is out: Liberals (41%) Open Ten-Point Lead over PCs (31%), NDP (25%) and Green Party Trail (3%)


  11. Ipsos Reid new poll confirms what Ekos said about the 10 point for the Liberals in Ontario. Even Abacus has the liberals leading the tories and when that happens you know the Liberals are really leading.

    All 4 polls today give the Liberals the lead

  12. @First, you misunderstood what he wrote. Although you are correct - the Ontario Liberals are much stronger than the federal brand has been over the past 5 years. The federal Liberals were acting like the American Democrats (capitulating to almost every conservative demand), and I think that this was one of the major things that did them in. Along with being perceived as arrogantly wanting power but not really having any clear ideas. That's something that you certainly can't say about McGuinty - he may be arrogant (though he tries not to show it), but he knows where he stands and where he wants to go, and he's capable of defending the reasoning behind it (whether you agree with it or not).

    @John_Northey, well, for some people that's exactly what happened. See Rocco Rossi. But I think there's a simpler explanation. The Tories have actually run a very good campaign... for an American party. But it's turned out that the same tactics that work very well in American states don't work so well in Ontario because people's worldview is different. The PCs have hired strategists from the American conservative movement such as Michael Prell to help run their campaign, and perhaps those guys have suggested tactics that just don't work on this side of the border.

  13. First I think you misunderstood. I was saying that the federal Liberal team that couldn't do anything right has moved to the provincial Progressive Conservatives. Neither seems to know how to win when faced with an opponent who has little charisma and is ripe for the taking. It is amazing to think Dalton will win again.

  14. Anyone know why Harris Decima appears to not be releasing a final poll for the Ontario election. Somebody said in the comment section for one of the posts on this blog that they had been polled the other day by Harris Decima. I would think that would mean they would release a poll before the election. But it is now 5 minutes to midnight on October 4 and starting at midnight five minutes from now polls are prohibited by law from being released due to a poll blackout period. Why wouldn't Harris Decima release their data before the blackout deadline. Do they not know about the blackout deadline or do they really not actually have a poll to release after all?

  15. Have you had a chance to factor in the newest Ipsos-Reid poll for Ontario?


  16. Brendan,

    The poll blackout period is at midnight on October 6, I believe. Polls can still be released on October 5.

    Anonymous 00:02,

    No, I will in the morning.

  17. What I am concerned about is the systematically lower Conservative support predicted by our best pollsters in the last federal election. Looking at your post-electoral analysis, and judging from the average error of the pollster, Angus, Nanos, Ipos, and Harris would deem to be the best (average error <=1.3%). Unfortunately, their error is not purely random and there is a significant systematic anti-CPC bias, -2.6% on average for the four of them nation-wide (bigger than their combined MOE, which I estimate at 1.5%), and -4.1% for Ontario (combined MOE ~2.6%).

    Do you expect something like that will happen in this Ontario election? Or was it a one-time event? Perhaps it was not even CPC-relevant, but rather a last moment pro-incumbent, pro-stability move of voters? Then one could argue this should benefit Liberals in the current election.

    Well, we will find out for sure in 2 days...


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