Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Liberals up in Ontario, but outcome still uncertain

Before getting to what will likely be the last Ontario projection of the campaign, a few words about last night's election in Manitoba.

The polls nailed it. Angus-Reid and Probe Research put out the last polls of the campaign and both agreed that the NDP had 46% support and the Tories 43%. They put Liberal support at between 7% and 8%.

The end result was 46% for the NDP, 44% for the Tories, and 7.5% for the Liberals.

And when the polls are right, the seat projection model should be right as well. And, with the one error being the riding of St. Norbert, decided by less than 200 votes, the seat projection model called 56 of 57 ridings for an accuracy rating of 98.2%. If only the good people of St. Norbert had voted for the PCs, the projection would have been 100% correct. But I'll take 98.2%.

With this boost of confidence, I can now look to the Ontario election. But it is going to be trickier, because two polls released at the end of the day yesterday ruined the consensus that was building.

Nanos Research set the stage, saying that though they pegged the gap at about five points from October 1 to 3, the last two days of polling showed the Liberals over 40% support and well on their way to a majority.

EKOS Research, in a poll put out yesterday morning, agreed, with the Liberals at 39.1% support to the PCs' 29.1%. A poll they released this morning through iPolitics, with extra data from yesterday, corrobated their findings. Their IVR poll taken from October 2 to 4 and surveying 2,081 people has the Liberals at 39%, the Tories at 29.7%, and the New Democrats at 23%. In what EKOS considers likely voters, the Liberals still lead with 40% to 32% for the Tories and 21% for the NDP.

Regionally, EKOS has the Liberals ahead in Toronto (49% to the NDP's 23%), the GTA (38% to the PCs' 33%), southwestern Ontario (35% to the PCs' 31%), and northeastern/central Ontario (36% to the PCs' 28%). The Tories and Liberals are tied at 36% apiece in eastern Ontario, while the PCs lead in northwestern Ontario (37% to the NDP's 29%).

Ipsos-Reid then sealed it with a poll for the Ottawa Citizen, giving the Liberals a 10-point lead. In a telephone poll taken between September 30 and October 3 and surveying 1,020 people, Ipsos-Reid found Liberal support standing at 41%, with the Tories trailing with 31% and the NDP with 25%. Considering that Ipsos-Reid has generally put Conservative support higher than most other polling firms (to, perhaps, their credit), this kind of lead for the Liberals was doubly important.

The Liberals led in almost every part of the province in this poll: in the GTA (44% to the PCs' 28%), central Ontario (36% to the PCs' 35%), eastern Ontario (50% to the PCs' 35%), and southwestern Ontario (36% to the NDP's 34%). The NDP led in the north with 40%, ahead of the Liberals and Tories (both at 28%).

Ipsos-Reid also found that Dalton McGuinty was the preference to be premier at 37% to 27% for Tim Hudak, and gave the Liberals a 10 point lead among those aged 55 or older, the people in Ontario most likely to vote.

Then Abacus Data came along and muddied the waters in a poll for Sun Media. In an online poll of 1,015 Ontarians taken between October 3 and 4, the Liberals led with 37% to the Tories' 34%. A lead, but nowhere near as comfortable as Nanos, Ipsos-Reid, and EKOS found to be the case. The New Democrats came in third with 24%.

Regionally, Abacus gave the Tories the lead in eastern Ontario (42% to the Liberals' 35%), southwestern Ontario (35% to the Liberals' 27%), central Ontario (51% to the NDP's 24%), and the Hamilton/Niagara region (32% to the Liberals' 31%). The Liberals lead in Toronto (49% to the NDP's 26%), while the NDP led in the north (39% to the PCs' 34%). The GTA was tied with 38% apiece for the Liberals and Tories.

Abacus gave the leadership edge to McGuinty, with 30% to Hudak's 21%.

Finally, this morning Angus-Reid in a poll for the Toronto Star completely demolished the consensus of a Liberal lead. In an online poll taken between October 3 and 4 and interviewing 2,223 people, Angus-Reid pegged Progressive Conservative support at 36%, with the Liberals trailing at 33% and the NDP at 26%.

The Tories led in the 905 (41% to the Liberals' 29%), the southwest (38% to the Liberals' 29%), and the east (43% to the Liberals' 30%). The Liberals led in the 416 (46% to the NDP's 27%) and the Hamilton/Niagara region (36% to the PCs' 35%). The NDP led in the north (39% to the Liberals' 36%).

Perhaps significantly, though, Angus-Reid had McGuinty at 24% on who would be the best person to be premier, slightly ahead of Hudak (23%).

So what to make of this? We aren't talking margin-of-error issues at this point. Some of the pollsters will have egg on their face on Thursday night. One might consider Angus-Reid the outlier, but they nailed the Manitoba election and their data is newer than that of Nanos and Ipsos-Reid, and partly that of EKOS. It's also the largest poll in this last week. Perhaps it is a methodological issue, as the online polls are showing more favouable results for the Tories than those done over the telephone. Angus-Reid shows the Tories gaining, everyone else has them falling.

There are a few points of consensus, however. Dalton McGuinty is beating Tim Hudak on the all important leadership question, while regionally the Liberals are dominating in Toronto and the NDP is good in the north. Outside of these two regions, there is no consensus but it should be pointed out that in only one poll do the Tories have the kind of lead they need in the GTA to make a run at the premiership.
So, with all of these conflicting numbers the projection is falling, as it should, somewhere in the middle. The Liberals are projected to take 36% of the vote, with the Progressive Conservatives netting 33.2% and the NDP 24.8%. The Greens take 4.6% of the vote.

Since yesterday, that is a 0.1 point gain for the Liberals and a 0.5 point gain for the Greens. The Tories are down 0.2 points and the NDP is down 0.5 points. Nothing major, then.

The Liberals have picked up one seat, and are now projected to win 57. The Progressive Conservatives are unchanged at 30, while the New Democrats are down one to 20 seats.
The seat change is in the southwest, where the Liberals are now projected to win 13 seats, the Tories seven, and the New Democrats one.

There are still a number of close races, but not enough to put the Tories in range of even a minority government.

The Liberals lead in six close races and trail in four, putting their seat range at between 51 and 61 seats. Only 30% of their range is in minority territory.

The Progressive Conservatives lead in four close races and trail in five, putting their range at between 26 and 35 seats. They are no longer in danger of being supplanted by the NDP, as was starting to look like a possibility yesterday.

The New Democrats lead in one close race and trail in two, putting their range at between 19 and 22 seats.

But with the polls as confusing as they are, Thursday night is far from a sure bet. The Liberals were clearly going to win PEI and the electoral geography of Manitoba pointed to an NDP victory.

Tomorrow's final projection report will also make mention of the poll error adjustments I have done for Manitoba and PEI. In addition, though, I will put up projections for the kind of lead that Nanos, Ipsos, and EKOS are showing, as well as the result that Angus-Reid predicts. It will be a long night, and anything could still happen. But even the Tory lead in the Angus-Reid poll is not large enough to give the PCs much hope - which means we're looking at a Liberal re-election.


  1. I'd be curious to see how the projection works with just the Angus Reid poll.

  2. It'll be interesting to see if the polls saying 'easy Liberal majority' that we've seen lately change things at the last minute. Will it make people vote 'strategically' in order to have a shot at cabinet ministers, or to vote for a local issue feeling safe as to who will be in power (ie: no risk of 1990 again). Either case would create a snowball effect against the PC's in most races, but could shift Liberal votes to NDP or Green (Simcoe-Grey has the leader running, while Rob Strang in Dufferin-Caledon has been endorsed by the Orangeville Banner and Caledon Enterprise).

  3. Hrm. The two pollster I personally trust the most (Angus Reid and Nanos) are on opposite ends of the spectrum. I'm with Dan in that I'd be interested to see what's projected for the Angus Reid poll only, and what's projected for the Ipsos poll only too (which I think is the most favourable one to the Liberals?)

  4. NL poll out... not sure of the credibility though

  5. Not only is somebody is going to have egg on their face, but the discussion of polls for the next federal election and the next city of Toronto election will be just as partisan. Here's hoping for a well done projection again.

  6. Robert,

    It's by Environics, nothing odd about that. Thanks for the link.

  7. Eric,

    This election season affords you a lot of opportunities if we see the model as a work-in-progress. With PEI, the smaller riding sizes mean that unexpected events can turn seats in unpredictable ways, so we might find that the model is more reliable for larger elections.

    That being the case, I bet this week you'll find the very same thing you found in May - that having accurate percentage points leads to a quite accurate seat projection. If you do a post-election input of the actual election day results, as I'm sure you will.

    The problem is, though, that it's difficult to give much credence to polls that seem to be so all-over-the-shop. I have no idea what's going to happen Thursday, and I don't think anybody really does. But that's no fault of your projection, just of the numbers you have to use.

  8. Last Forum research poll is out (n=1034): Lib 37%, PC 36%, NDP 23%. Their prediction is Liberal minority, with the ranges of seats 40-60 for Libs, 31-51 for PC, 14-19 for NDP.

  9. One last Ontario Poll from the Toronto Star:

    A Forum Research survey found the Liberals at 37 per cent, the Progressive Conservatives at 36 per cent, the New Democrats at 23 per cent and the Green Party at 3 per cent.

    The interactive voice response poll of 1,034 Ontarians was conducted Tuesday and is considered accurate to within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

  10. Eric,

    Do you know anything about LISPOP election prediction model? It sounds like a basic swing model, without all your extra whistles and bells. They predict an almost majority (54) for Libs:

    What is interesting is that they can also estimate the "momentum" - I guess, the time derivative for voting intentions, based on the most recent polls - and then noting that Libs do seems to have a momentum now, estimate they can get as many as 60 seats tomorrow.

    Have you considered adding this "momentum" thing into your model? Of course, computing the derivative from noisy data is even more problematic than computing the means, as your model does...

  11. Earlier, we had a little discussion of gut feeling vs. polls, and now we are discussing many polls coalescing around one projected outcome, but with a couple of real outliers disputing that outcome.

    What helps me understand those polling differences is a little bit of an informed instinct (doesn't that sound a lot better than gut?) - hence, my view that the two sources of feedstock need to be integrated and reconciled.

    My instinct tells me that we are seeing a last minute community mindmeld coming together, along the lines of "we need stable government in troublous times and, whatever else we feel about him, Dalton is the best way to do that".

    Having knocked on doors for candidates when something like this was working for them, and when something like this was working against them, I feel like I can recognize the signs.

    Not all regions or demographic segments get caught up in this (see Manitoba, yesterday) and not all polling will capture this last minute type of swing.

    But I now believe that Dalton will win a healthy majority, despite his having ongoing weaknesses in how he is perceived. He will win despite the natural openness to a new team after two terms of office. He will win despite the fact that no one can be really passionate about a man who always seems at one remove from them. He will win despite the fact that very few people can distinguish his platform from that of his competitors.

    Of course, all that is a very subjective judgement wrapped in a narrative of a kind beloved of journalists and stock market commentators. It may have no basis in fact.

    For what its worth, I would personally prefer him to have a minority, as a shot across the bows. But my instinct tells me that just ain't going to happen.

    (Amateur Psephologist)

  12. Eric:
    It might be helpful to project just the Angus Reid poll to see the seat projection under that scenario. Thanks!

  13. This Forum poll seams to agree with your projection nicely:

  14. Hmm, Forum was projecting an even split of seats with these kinds of numbers before.

  15. New Angus Reid out now, now it shows the Liberals up:

  16. Newest Angus Reid also has Libs in the lead - so everyone seems to agree now.

  17. The Angus Reid poll has the NDP at 78% in the North lol.

  18. This points to the need for Electoral Reform along the lines advocated by Fairvote Canada. Of course the Liberals and the Tories wouldn't like that, it would cut into their seats.


  19. First of all, congrats for the excellent call on the Manitoba election. 98% is just awesome !

    As far as opinion polls, the biggest weakness is that these polls do not predict who is likely to vote and who isn't. It's all fine and dandy to have an opinion, but unless that person is going out and actually voting- it means zilch.

    Personally, I find that rural Tories and urban NDPers tend to be more gung-ho about voting (at least on the prairies), while middle of the road folks are less committed.

  20. Imagine that, if Dalton McGuinty wins a majority tomorrow, he will be the most electorally successful (big L) Liberal leader since Pierre Trudeau. While Jean Chretien was successful, he took advantage vote splitting in the right, and a NDP that was going no where.

    If McGuinty wins a majority, I think he will govern more cautiously than before. The Liberal leader would be thinking of this legacy now. Voters usually have a short term memory, so if McGuinty performs well in the next few years, they may forget about his previous scandals.

    - Maple

  21. Hmm ... Forum Research called me about 7 pm tonight ... so I don't think the poll they released this afternoon is their final one.

  22. From looking at the poll results, it looks like regional breakdowns are going to ultimately decide this election. It's one things to see the Liberals leading provincially, it's another to see them only leading in Toronto proper. Still, there seems to be two "camps" of results if you will, so it's anyone's guess.

    But the NDP at 78% in Northern Ontario... normally you'd look at that and say it can't be right, but I really wouldn't be surprised if they sweep or come very close to sweeping the North tomorrow.

  23. If the Liberals won a majority with 36% would that be the smallest vote percent for a majority provincial government in history? Or at least in recent history?

  24. Good question on majorities...
    2007: Liberals 42.25%
    2003: Liberals 46.4%
    1999: PC 45.1%
    1995: PC 44.8%
    1990: NDP 37.6%
    1987: Liberal 47.3%
    1985: Minority PC most seats, Liberal most votes at 37.9%
    1981: PC 44.4%
    1977: Minority PC 39.7%
    1975: Minority PC 36.1%
    1971: PC 44.5%
    1967: PC 42.3%
    1963: PC 48.9%
    1959: PC 46.3%
    1955: PC 48.5%
    1951: PC 48.5%
    1948: PC 41.5%
    1945: PC 44.3%
    1943: Minority PC 35.7%
    1937: Liberal 51.6% (real majority)
    1934: Liberal 50.4%
    1929: Conservative 58.8% (wow)
    1926: Conservative 57.6%
    1923: Conservative 49.8%

    Phew. Cannot find a case.


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