Monday, February 6, 2012

Redford's Tories on track for landslide in first projection

Premier Alison Redford is expected to present her first budget to the Alberta legislature this week, the first step towards the province’s next election scheduled to take place within the next four months. But if an election were held today, Ms. Redford’s Progressive Conservatives would win a landslide victory.

The latest seat and vote projections based on all publicly released polls indicate that the Progressive Conservatives have the support of 45.3 per cent of Albertans, down 7.4 points since the 2008 provincial election. But faced with a divided opposition, the Tories are projected to win 73 seats in the 87-seat legislature, six more than they currently hold.

You can read the rest of the article on ThreeHundredEight's first Alberta projection at The Globe and Mail website here.

With the Alberta legislature returning to work and an election call coming in four to six weeks, ThreeHundredEight is now launching its vote and seat projection model for the province. It's a little different from the models I've used in the past.

The graphic on the top of the page shows the projected vote and seats for each of the parties in Alberta. It also shows their low and high ranges. This is one of the changes that ThreeHundredEight will be making going forward, and that is a measure of the uncertainty involved in polling and projections.

This uncertainty is measured by the volatility in the polling. For example, if recent polls have one party's support varying by no more than three points, the volatility for that party will be low. In this Alberta projection, this applies to the Liberals and the New Democrats. On the other hand, if polls vary by a lot more points then the volatility will be quite high. This is the case for the Progressive Conservatives, projected to have the support of between 37.8% and 52.8%, and Wildrose (16.7% to 29.7%).

The projected result, however, is the most likely. But the projected vote is not just the result of an aggregation of the polls. Though weighing the polls by date, size, and polling firm accuracy is still most important, the polls are also adjusted according to how they should be expected to diverge from actual voting behaviour. After analyzing all recent provincial and federal elections where detailed polling data was available, I've found that the number of seats each party has in the legislature is the best predictor of how voting intentions differentiate from voting behaviour.

The first and second largest parties tend to out-perform the polls, perhaps because of their better organization, higher fundraising, and better chances at forming government. Third and fourth parties tend to under-achieve their poll results, likely because of their weaker organizations and susceptibility to strategic voting. In these cases, the difference is roughly by a factor of 5% or so (not percentage points). If a party is not represented in the legislature, they tend to under-perform the polls by about 25%.

This model, unlike previous ones, is a regional model. I have split Alberta into three regions: the CMAs of Edmonton and Calgary and the rest of Alberta. Aside from Forum Research, every active pollster in Alberta splits up the province in this way.

The seat projection is done at the regional level, and here again volatility comes into play. This determines the low and high ranges of the projections in each and every riding, and from these vote ranges the seat ranges are determined. If a party's high range is greater than the low range of the party projected to win the seat, that indicates that the seat is at play and this is how the seat ranges are determined. When there is less volatility in the polling, the ranges shrink. That is why the ranges for the NDP and the Liberals are so small, while that of the Tories and Wildrose are so large. Their polling has been all over the place.

The image at the top of the right-hand column shows the regional vote and seat projections. It can be clicked on to see the regional vote and seat ranges. The riding projections can be accessed by clicking on the "Alberta Riding Projections" banner under the main projection image at the top of the page.

Finally, the chart at the very bottom of this page shows which polls are included in the projection and what weight the polls of each firm are given. There are always older polls included in the projection than those showed, but their weights are too small to register. Also note that the weight chart lumps multiple polls for each pollster together. The main reason why Forum's polls are weighted more heavily than Léger's is because there are two of them to Léger's one.

As the projection is updated, I will put up the tracking charts that will follow the shifts in the vote projection and vote ranges over time. It should give a good road map to the campaign as it unfolds.

The potential for a good contests exists, as the vote ranges show the margin between the Tories and Wildrose could shrink to as little as eight points, and Wildrose could win as many as 24 seats. Those are, at this stage, unlikely outcomes. But hopefully we'll see plenty of action in the coming weeks both in the polls and on the campaign trail.