Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Toronto--Danforth on track for repeat

On Wednesday, the Toronto Star released the details of a new Forum Research poll for the riding of Toronto--Danforth. The by-election to fill Jack Layton's vacant seat is scheduled for March 19. The poll shows that voters intend to cast their ballots almost exactly the way they did on May 2, 2011.
The poll indicates that Craig Scott, the NDP candidate, has the support of 61% of respondents, identical to the 60.8% who voted for Jack Layton in the last election.

Liberal Grant Gordon has 19% support while Conservative Andrew Keyes has 14%. This compares to the 17.6% and 14.3% that their parties each received in May 2011.

Another 4% intend to vote for the Green candidate Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu, the only major returning candidate from the last election. She got 6.5% at that time. Finally, 2% said they will vote for someone else. They will have the option, as another half-dozen names will be on the ballot.

It does not appear that it will be an exciting election night, with no variation in support of more than 1.5 points since last year.

Demographically, Scott gets his best numbers among voters aged 18-34 (67%) and 55-64 (70%). It could be coincidental, but Jack Layton was 61 when he passed away.

Scott also over-performs among women at 68% support.

Grant Gordon does better among men than he does women, but his numbers are generally uniform across all age groups. This is also the case for the Liberal Party itself in most national polls.

Andrew Keyes does best among the oldest cohort of voters (65+), with 22%.

Somewhat oddly, the poll asked respondents how they would vote if either Thomas Mulcair or Justin Trudeau were leaders of their respective parties. Neither case changes much for the NDP, as Scott would receive 58% of decided support in both scenarios. It improves slightly for the Liberals with Mulcair leading the NDP (22%) and somewhat more with Trudeau leading the Liberals (24%). Of course, Trudeau has already said he isn't interested and the NDP leadership race comes to an end after the by-election.

The New Democrats could actually end up with a higher level of support when the votes are counted. The poll shows that 54% of its respondents voted for the NDP in the last election, rather than the actual 61%. The poll could have under-sampled NDP voters. It does not appear likely that people would be reluctant to admit that they voted for Jack Layton. Voters who say they voted for another party were over-represented (6%), but it could be that these people were just not willing to divulge who they voted for.

The poll also says that 2% of respondents did not vote (rather than the actual 35%), but this may simply show that undecideds and people who do not respond to polls also tend to be non-voters. Though it would have been better had respondents lined up more closely to the results of the 2011 election, the population has undoubtedly changed over the last nine months. The population of students, for example, would be quite different in the months of February and May.

In any case, the poll quite clearly shows what everyone expects from the riding - it is a safe NDP seat. My history of the riding makes that clear. The Conservatives may have liked to portray this as a seat for the Liberals to lose, but that was a little far-fetched. And as my article in the Globe showed yesterday, the retention rate for incumbent parties over the last half-century is more than two-thirds in by-elections. Barring a huge upset, Craig Scott will be Toronto--Danforth's next MP.