Friday, February 3, 2012

Tory fundraising lead narrows

The Conservatives remain Canada’s best funded political party, but for the first time in five years they are no longer taking in most of Canada’s political donations.

Financial reports posted on the Elections Canada website this week show that the Conservatives raised $4.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2011. While this was more than any other party, it was the worst fourth quarter result since before Stephen Harper became prime minister. 

You can read the rest of the article on The Huffington Post Canada website here. It takes a look at how this fourth quarter of 2011 compares to others in the past.

Compared to the Conservatives' $4.1 million raised, the Liberals raised $2.8 million, the NDP $1.6 million, the Greens $383,000 and the Bloc Québécois $162,000. What does that mean in electoral terms?

Let's try to find out. In the second quarter of 2011, which happened to include a federal election, the Conservatives raised $8.2 million, more than the other four parties combined. The Liberals raised $3.6 million while the New Democrats raised $3.1 million. The Greens raked in almost $800,000 while the Bloc took in almost $600,000.

What did it get them? For the sake of this exercise, let's assume that money raised during the second quarter of 2011 is related to the number of votes each party received. How much money did each party have to raise to get one vote?

$1.41 per vote - Conservatives
$1.34 per vote - Greens
$1.31 per vote - Liberals
$0.69 per vote - New Democrats
$0.64 per vote - Bloc Québécois

With these numbers, let's "buy" votes using money raised in the fourth quarter. The end result, in total vote share (and with difference from the 2011 election result in brackets), is:

36.6% - Conservatives (-3.0)
29.5% - New Democrats  (-1.1)
27.0% - Liberals (+8.1)
3.6% - Greens (-0.3)
3.2% - Bloc Québécois (-2.8)

This actually looks quite similar to the some of the polls that we've seen recently. But what it does put into context is that this was a very good quarter for the Liberals. Of course, the Conservatives still raised the most money but their advantage over the Liberals and, to a lesser extent, the New Democrats has been reduced. It almost appears that the Liberals and NDP have kept their fundraising machines ticking while the Conservatives have taken their foot off the gas a little.

It should come as no surprise, however, that the Bloc Québécois would be having such a hard time of it after the May 2011 debacle. Adding to their trouble is that Quebec is heading towards an election, meaning the average Bloc donor is probably giving his or her money to the Parti Québécois, if at all. Translating that 3.2% in our exercise means a drop to about 12.5% in Quebec - absolute disaster for the Bloc. But the party tends to raise a lot of its funds at the local level, so perhaps this isn't as disastrous as it appears.

Also released this week were the fundraising totals of the NDP leadership hopefuls. Glen McGregor has a very neat graph here and the CBC has the actual details here. Brian Topp and Thomas Mulcair top the list, with Topp raising the most money but Mulcair having the most donors. Peggy Nash and Paul Dewar came in third and fourth, rounding out the top four. But surprisingly, Nathan Cullen pulled in the fifth most amount of money, coming up less than $8,000 short of Dewar's total. Cullen may be a much more important factor in this race than previously thought, as both he and Dewar have raised around $90,000 despite Dewar having the far greater national profile.

Martin Singh comes up with almost $50,000, while Roméo Saganash and Niki Ashton each raised less than $20,000.

These totals tell a slightly different story of the race than, for example, my endorsement rankings. Brian Topp is still in first, but Thomas Mulcair is very close and well ahead of both Nash and Dewar. Though those are the four frontrunners, Nathan Cullen is very much in the race and Niki Ashton is very much at the bottom. However, we don't know how much was raised in January and there is still more than a month before the convention, so these numbers could change dramatically before the end of March. But these totals do paint a portrait of the race that is easily the most objective and quantifiable information that we've seen so far in this campaign.


  1. As a professional fundraiser myself, I know there are significant seasonal variations in fundraising. As such, I think it would be more informative to compare Q4 2011 to Q4 2010.

    And, in addition to being a completely different time of year, Q2 also had an election in it. Elections tend to increase political revenue dramatically (I used to work in politics, as well).

    So, if you want to compare Q2 2011 to Q4 2011, you should also look back at fundraising mubers for prior election years to see if you can isolate that bump.

    I'm a big fan of yours, Éric, but this post is based on remarkably shallow analysis.

  2. Ouch. If you read my Huffington Post article, you'll see I only compared fourth quarters to fourth quarters.

    Now, indeed there are seasonal differences but those should apply across the board to all parties. I compared Q2 to Q4 in terms of share, not dollars, so the fact that there was an election in Q2 is besides the point. Any differences that apply to Conservative fundraising between Q2 and Q4 also apply to the Liberals, the NDP, etc.

    I'm not quite sure of what you're objecting to, as I didn't compare dollars to dollars as some sort of sign that fundraising has decreased for the Conservatives. I'm comparing party to party. Obviously fundraising in Q4 was much smaller than Q2, but how what was raised compares between parties is what is important, and is what I focused on.

  3. The methodology used to determine the relationship between money and voting preference is too simplistic to tell us anything.

    For starters it assumes a completely linear relationship between one dollar and one vote, which rules out the possibility of diminishing returns on the high end or an ideological base on the low end.

    There's also a mix of different variables that go into those voter preference numbers which don't even have to apply evenly to different parties. Way too many confounding variables.

    And finally you're only using Q2 fundraising. A better guess at the gap between the parties would be to use both Q1 and Q2 numbers with assets/liabilities from year end statements somehow factored in as well.

    What's needed is some kind of regression analysis done over the last four cycles that tries to sort out just what the relationship between $1 and 1 vote is and how that relationship changes at different levels of support.

  4. Crothers and Ira, I believe you may be reading too much into these numbers and what I was trying to show.

    Put simply, since the last five or six years, the Tories have always had a much larger fundraising edge over their adversaries than they did in votes. This simple analysis, and yes of course it is a simple analysis which set out the parameters and stuck to them, is just a way to show how the narrowing margin between the Conservatives and the Liberals is more than just a dollars and cents issue.

    Crothers, perhaps you are right about the idea of diminishing returns - it seems quite likely the Tories are raising more money than they actually need. But maybe they aren't.

  5. The Tories are certainly raising more money than they need. They go into every election with vastly more money than they're allowed to spend. Some of their wealthier riding associations have, for years (as far back as 1998), been funded entirely by investment income with fundraising being used only to increase their savings.

    As for my earlier comment, I mistakenly took the HuffPo introduction as relevant to this post (I hadn't read the HuffPo article), so I thought you were making a different comparison.

    That said, I'd still be more interested in a marginal cost per marginal vote comparison rather than just as straight cost per vote. Isolating the election bump for each party (they are likely proportionately different sizes) would still be helpful.

    I might try to do that myself.

  6. The other metric that is very important is the number of donations. When one looks at that factor, Paul Dewar is in second, while Nash and Topp rely heavily on fewer large endorsements.

  7. Interesting, Ira. Thanks.

    Anonymous 12:13, good point, and in a OMOV race that might give Mulcair and Dewar more of an edge.

  8. Ira we shouldn't just look at the election spending limits though.

    All parties can take out loans and max out their spending during the writ period.

    It seems to me that money matters in two ways.

    One is to pay for pre-writ advertising.

    The other is to invest in voter identification.

    The first would be reflected in the polls but the second likely accounts for that bump on election day that the wealthy parties usually get from being able to reach out to their supporters and making sure they vote.

    Voter databases get stale over time but it takes awhile to build them up and for them to wear down.

    It'll take a few more quarters of numbers before we know anything for sure but even if Tory fundraising is down it seems like Harper will still have that edge.

    Reminds me of the federal Liberals in '04 or even the Ontario Liberals this go around.

    These things always take a cycle to catch up.

  9. I dont think the Q4 numbers are at all relavent. Especially in an election year that skews donations to a particular month.

    For example, you noted that the powerful tory fundraising machine out raised the entire field in Q2. With increased donations during an election period there would naturally be less to come in in Q4 with our fundraising yearly caps. Whether one can shift donations and concentrate them early in a year is not equal across all parties. and isnt likely to be unless they each pull the same support as the other parties from the available demographics.

    Someone on a fixed salary living paycheque to paycheque simply doesnt have the same oppertunity as say a farmer whos income is generated on a yearly basis and not a monthly one.

    such a comparison of fundraising capacity needs to be done year over year. snd with yearly numbers not affected by an election that frontloaded alot of donations and ran into the cap early.

  10. Anyone in Ontario know how this ORNGE scandal is playing ?

    It wouldn't surprise me if there was another provincial election after the budget is presented.

    From what i've just read it sounds like it has the potential to be another sponsorship scandal if its found that anyone's pay was inflated.

  11. Barcs, possibly, but the Liberals still had their best Q4 since the 2006 leadership race, which is quite independent of the Tories hitting a cap.

  12. Tories:
    23 million in 2011
    17.3 million in 2010
    17 million in 2009

    10.3 million in 2011 (record since new rules)
    6.6 million in 2010
    9.5 million in 2009

    7.5 million
    4.3 million
    4 million

    (taken from the G&M)

    The NDP did well in this election year. They raised alot more.

    The Liberals had a very bad year in 2010. And a record year in 2011. Was that just because of it being an election year? Or is it a trend? We'll have to see.

    The tories raised the bar (again). Despite the lower Q4 total... They actually increased their funding about 25% over previous years.

    year over year.
    2009 opposition 13.5 million, tories 17 million... 126%
    2010 opposition 10.9 million, tories 17.3 million... 158%
    2011 opposition 17.8 million, toreis 23 million... 129%

    Based on the tories increasing theirs.. the ratio in '11 basically the same as '09. in '10 the liberal fundraising fell flat.

    In other words, the liberals had a record year, the NDP had a super year, and so did the Tories. Monetary support for political causes is doing well. But the tories (based on totals) frontloaded alot of donors during the election and those donors hit the cap before Q4. They have lost none of their monetary advantage.

    I do agree with you tho. And extend congratulations to both the NDP and the liberals (as well as the tories) on an exceptional year of fundraising :)

  13. Barcs

    In fairness to the Liberal's 2010 performance, their 2009 total number overstates their real performance. It includes, for example, the convention fees for their leadership convention (coronation - surely).

    Apart from the obvious point (you don't want to have a leadership convention every year), as one of my friends pointed out, conventions cost money, so looking at the party's revenue really overstates their net "haul" for 2009 since a good chunk of those "contributions" ended up in the pocket of the Vancouver Convention Center, which doesn't do the grits much good. So really, 2009 wasn't as good a year as the raw data suggests, and 2010 and 2011 reflect steady improvement on 2008 and 2007. It has to be somewhat comforting to the LIberals that, despite being pounded in an election, they managed to significiantly outperform their fundraising in 2008 and 2006, both in terms of totals and number of contributors.

    On the other hand, your point's a good one, they aren't even close to the Tories.


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