Monday, April 30, 2012

Tories narrowly lead NDP

A year after the federal election, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives and Thomas Mulcair’s New Democrats are almost neck-and-neck in national voting intentions. But while the gain for the main opposition party is well within the norm, the Prime Minister has lost more support than he did one year after his election victories in 2006 and 2008.

A weighted average of all public polls puts Conservative support at 34 per cent nationwide and narrowly ahead of the New Democrats, who trail with 32.9 per cent support. This represents a gain of 2.3 points over the last year for the NDP but a loss of 5.6 points for the Conservatives since the election. Compared to Mr. Harper’s past performances, this is a dramatic drop.

You can read the rest of the article, which includes a seat projection, at The Globe and Mail website here.

These latest set of numbers are heavily based upon the two latest polls by Nanos Research and Forum Research, reported by the Globe and Mail and Toronto Star, respectively. Both put the gap between the Conservatives and the New Democrats at between two and three points, the only difference being that the Tories led in the first and the NDP in the second. This, effectively, makes them almost tied.

What better time, then, to begin tracking federal voting intentions. The chart at the top of this page shows the weighted average of all federal polls. These are unadjusted - they are simply the average weighted by date, sample size, and record of polling firm accuracy. They serve as a good one-stop to see how the parties are doing. I will update these numbers as new polls are released, and the chart will be moved off to the right-hand column once the projection for the next provincial election (Quebec) is ready.

With more than three years to go before the next federal election, clearly the stakes are somewhat low. But Canadian politics is now a bit of a marathon (every party admits the campaigning continues between the writs), and it should be fascinating to watch how party support rises and falls over the next few years.

Some might consider that the numbers are meaningless this far out from an election. To them I say that the public opinion of Canadians is never meaningless, and that these federal polls act as an on-going barometer of what Canadians think of what the parties are doing. Those that, for instance, dismissed the NDP's decline in Quebec during the leadership race were dangerously dismissing the dissatisfaction Quebecers were having with that leadership race and the potential for anyone but Thomas Mulcair to come out on top. Those who today dismiss the Conservative slip are ignoring that a good deal of Canadians who had previously supported the Tories are unhappy with what the government is doing. These are important things to know - and what's best is that the polls are an objective measure.

I will not be maintaining an on-going seat projection. Along with the time it takes to keep a seat projection up to date, there is the problem of the boundary changes. Only once the new seats are decided and the votes have been transposed will I begin to consider maintaining an on-going projection. In the meantime, these check-ins with the Globe and Mail, projections for individual polls, and the seat projections that go along with the monthly poll averages should more than suffice!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Liberals, PQ neck-and-neck

Two polls released this week show the gap between the Parti Québécois and the Liberals has narrowed to virtual nothingness, with one survey putting the parties in a tie and the other giving the Liberals a two-point lead.
CROP was last in the field Mar. 15-19, and since then the PQ has dropped six points to 28%, behind the Liberals who are unchanged at 30%. The CAQ is up one point to 25%, while Québec Solidaire trails with 8% support.

That is a big drop for the Parti Québécois in only a month, and it took place throughout the province.

They still lead among francophones, but they are down nine points to 32%. They are at 32% as well in the regions of Quebec, a drop of 10 points.

The Liberals lead among non-francophones with 69% (-7) and in Montreal with 34%, down two points. The Coalition Avenir Québec is ahead in Quebec City with 40%, a gain of three points.

But this points to a close race everywhere - the margin between first and third among francophones is only 10 points, and in no part of the province does one party hold a very significant lead (Quebec City has a small sample size).
Forum shows the race neck-and-neck at 35% apiece for the PQ and the Liberals, but the CAQ is well behind with only 16%.

The PQ leads among francophones with 39% support and in the regions of Quebec with about 42%. The Liberals are ahead with 69% among non-francophones, 41% in Montreal, and 32% in Quebec City.

But Forum and CROP only really agree that the race between the PQ and the Liberals is close, and that the Liberals have the edge in Montreal and the PQ in the regions. Apart from that, there is little that is similar with CROP's polling.

And if we compare the trends by looking back at Forum's poll taken on Mar. 21, the disagreements are even greater. Though Forum has the PQ down six points since that poll, echoing CROP's drop, they have the Liberals up six points and the CAQ down three.

Forum sees the Liberals up in Montreal and the PQ and CAQ down, while Forum has the Liberals and PQ down and the CAQ up. In Quebec City, the CAQ is either way behind with 20% and dropping (Forum) or at 40% and gaining (CROP).

It either points to a large degree of volatility, or some odd results. What we can say definitively, however, is that the Parti Québécois has lost support over the last month and that they are effectively tied with the Liberals.

But either way, the Parti Québécois wins a minority government. With CROP's numbers, the PQ takes 49 seats with the Liberals winning 46, the CAQ winning 28, and Québec Solidaire winning two.

The PQ wins 15 seats in Montreal, one in Quebec City, and 33 in the rest of the province, while the Liberals win 32 in Montreal, three in Quebec City, and 11 in the rest of the province. The CAQ manages nine seats in and around Montreal, seven in Quebec City, and 12 in the regions.

With Forum's numbers, however, the PQ wins 60 seats to the Liberals' 58, with only five going to the CAQ. It is really the difference in opinion on where CAQ stands that separates the two polls.

In this scenario, the PQ wins 21 seats in Montreal, two in Quebec City, and 37 in the rest of the province. The Liberals win 35 seats in Montreal, seven in Quebec City, and 16 in the rest of the province, while the CAQ wins two seats in Quebec City and three in the regions.

It is difficult to bring these two polls together, but what does seem clear is that the Liberals have a big advantage in Montreal, while the Parti Québécois wins their seats primarily outside of the two cities. That makes the battleground the suburbs in between, and the role the CAQ plays becomes important at that point. If they are doing as well as they are in CROP's polling, then the suburbs become a three-way contest and the party can challenge the PQ in some of the more conservative rural parts of Quebec. If the CAQ is doing as badly as they are in Forum's polling, than they won't be a factor at all.

But Quebecers seem ready for an election. Forum puts support for a new vote at 49%, which is quite high. Satisfaction with the government is still incredibly low, and Charest's personal approval rating is lower than either Marois's or Legault's. Nevertheless, incumbents have won all seven of the provincial and federal elections held in the last 12 months.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Massive NDP leads in Quebec, Ontario competitive

Two federal polls conducted recently in Quebec by Forum Research and CROP indicate that the New Democrats have not only taken the lead, they are ahead by miles.
The CROP poll published by La Presse puts the NDP at a massive 51% - a gain of 22 points since CROP's last poll from mid-March.

The Bloc Québécois remains in second but with only 18% support, a drop of 10 points. The Liberals are down seven to 15% and the Conservatives are down six to 13%. Everyone has been shoved aside by Thomas Mulcair.

Interestingly, however, the gain has come almost exclusively from francophones. The NDP leads in this demographic with 54%, up 24 points since before the Mar. 24 leadership convention. The Bloc is down 11 to 22% and the Liberals and Tories have dropped seven and six points, respectively.

But among non-francophones, the NDP is only up nine points (considering the small sample size, it could even be considered to be within the MOE) and still trails the Liberals, 38% to 33%. It would appear that French Quebecers were concerned about the NDP choosing someone other than Mulcair, while English Quebecers were not nearly as worried about who would take over the helm of the party. Perhaps that is not so surprising.

The NDP leads by huge margins everywhere, with 52% in Montreal, 49% in Quebec City, and 48% in the rest of the province. In Montreal, their primary adversary is the Liberal Party (20%) while they face-off against the Tories in Quebec City (26%) and the Bloc in the regions (25%). But in every case the fight is one-sided.

With these levels of support, the New Democrats would win 66 of the province's 75 seats, a massive landslide. The Liberals would squeak by with five seats, the Tories three, and the Bloc only one.

An interesting result was on the question of who is the best option to be Prime Minister. Thomas Mulcair topped the list with 41%, well ahead of Stephen Harper (10%) and Bob Rae (9%). That a federalist like Mulcair can have such huge support despite (in CROP's polling) the Parti Québécois leading provincially is remarkable.
Forum's latest missive for the Montreal Gazette was taken on the last day of CROP's polling, so it is newer. Though it has the NDP a little lower, it is still showing the same landslide: 42% for the NDP, 19% for the Bloc, 17% for the Liberals, and 16% for the Conservatives.

This survey echoes CROP's quite a bit. The New Democrats are well ahead among francophones, but still trail the Liberals among non-francophones.

The fight in Montreal is between the NDP and the Liberals, between the NDP and the Tories in Quebec City, and between the NDP and the Bloc in the rest of the province. The margin in Quebec City, however, is far narrower.

But nevertheless the NDP romps to 60-seat victory, with nine seats for the Liberals, five for the Tories, and one for the Bloc.

Mulcair's personal rating is also very high in Forum's polling, with his approval rating sitting at 57% to only 11% disapproval. That is the mirror image of Harper's numbers in Quebec: 22% approval to 69% disapproval. Bob Rae splits 28% to 26%, with a relatively high proportion having no opinion.

What is absolutely fascinating about these personal numbers is that Thomas Mulcair gets a 58% approval rating from supporters of the Parti Québécois. In his days as a provincial MNA, Mulcair was one of the fiercest opponents of the PQ - but now he has apparently become Quebec's defender in the House of Commons.

Another fascinating breakdown by Forum shows how the federal and provincial voting intentions of Quebecers are mixed. Jean Charest's Liberals get 40% of their support from the federal Liberals, 30% from the Conservatives, and 27% from the New Democrats. The PQ draws 47% of its support from the Bloc and 38% from the NDP, while the Coalition Avenir Québec gets 58% of its support from the NDP, 22% from the Conservatives, and 10% from the Bloc. Federal and provincial politics in Quebec have no relation to one another, at least in terms of political support.
That is not the case in Ontario. In Forum's federal poll of the province, the firm found that 87% of Tim Hudak's PC support is drawn from the federal Conservatives, 79% of the provincial NDP's voters are federal NDP supporters, and 68% of Dalton McGuinty's supporters plump for the federal Liberals.

Province-wide, 36% of Ontarians support the federal Conservatives, compared to 32% supporting the NDP and 24% the Liberals.

The Conservatives lead in eastern Ontario, in the GTA as a whole (though only in the 905 area code), and in southwestern Ontario. The New Democrats are ahead in northern Ontario, while the Liberals lead in the City of Toronto.

These levels of support would deliver 61 seats to the Conservatives, 28 to the New Democrats, and 17 to the Liberals. Considering where most of the new seats are likely to be created (in the 905 area), the Tories should be able to pad that number.

But it shows that Ontario could be becoming more of a two-horse race, with the Liberals holding on to their seats in Toronto itself. It makes Ontario a battleground and, as always, an important one. If the New Democrats can maintain their huge representation in Quebec, the path to government lies in whittling down the Tory lead in Ontario.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Alberta election aftermath

That was a surprising result. But in the context of how uncomfortable I felt when posting my final projection late on Sunday, I found myself unsurprised last night that something so astonishing occurred. As my wide ranges suggested, this sort of outcome was plausible. But even those ranges did not manage to contain the wild swing that appears to have taken place in the last 48 hours of the campaign.

Wildrose's support simply cratered, and to an extent that no model or method could have anticipated. The Tories picked up the majority of that lost support, but also took some support from the New Democrats and Liberals.

For an in-depth look at what happened with the polls, check out my article for The Globe and Mail here. For a perspective on what this means for Alberta going forward, you can read my article for The Huffington Post Canada here.

Did the polls call this election wrongly? That depends. If there was the kind of swing I talk about in my Globe article, it is difficult to fault the pollsters for failing to identify a radical swing in the last two days of the campaign considering they all (except Forum) did their final numbers sometime in the last week. If they had all opted to poll on the Sunday, would they have all identified that last minute swing? The odds that they could have all been so wrong so spectacularly are quite remote.

As my model is limited by the data I have available to put into it, it can't really be faulted for being so far off. Compared to what every poll said and what some other seat projectors forecast, my projection was the only one that did not forecast a Wildrose majority and voices (like mine) that put into question the likelihood of the expected Wildrose landslide were few.
But even my uncertainty model could not have predicted such a Wildrose collapse. At the very least, however, the results demonstrated that maintaining (and perhaps, going forward, even emphasizing) this sort of uncertainty modelling was the right thing to do.

In the end, the New Democrats did almost exactly as expected, the four seats they won having been projected to go their way. The Liberals won two of the three seats they were projected as being in the running for in Edmonton, but completely over-achieved in Calgary. It wasn't that their vote spiked in the city (they did exactly as well as expected), it was simply that their vote was super-efficient.

The Tories won all of the swing seats they needed to, and some that weren't even seen as being potential wins for the PCs. But their result of 61 seats was just inside the upper extreme of the projected ranges, a remarkable result considering that the Liberals also over-achieved.

Wildrose, however, simply did not deliver. That they could have won as few as 22 seats might have seemed ridiculous going in to last night's vote. Instead, they won 17! Not only did they under-achieve their polling by a significant degree, they under-achieved their worst case scenario.

Once again, and painfully so, the seat projection model would have churned out good results with the correct vote share being plugged into it. With the real regional results, the seat projection would have given the Progressive Conservatives 65 seats (24 in Edmonton, 19 in Calgary, 22 in the rest of Alberta), Wildrose 18 seats (1/8/9), and the New Democrats four seats (all in Edmonton, of course). While this is too late to do any good, it shows that seat projection models can work, even in strange elections like this one (i.e., Wildrose going from 7% to 34% in one cycle).

Interestingly, it still would have delivered zero seats for the Liberals. For a party that sank from over 26% to under 10%, it is remarkable that some of their incumbents were still re-elected with 40% of the vote or more. The level of attachment that voters (in Calgary, particularly) had to their Liberal MLAs was surprisingly strong, and something that would have been difficult to model.

Something that was included in the model - the assumption that the Progressive Conservatives, as the government, would be under-estimated in polls and that Wildrose, as the third party in the legislature, would be over-estimated - did turn out to be prescient. But it would have required a ludicrous amount of adjustment to have come up with this sort of result.

The Alberta electorate did a number on pollsters and myself, so kudos to them for demonstrating why democracy can be an unpredictable but important thing.

A statistical breakdown of how the projection model performed is available here.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Final Alberta Projection: Wildrose victory

With mere hours to go before the polls open in Alberta, is unable to project with any great degree of certainty what the outcome will be. While the polls were all lining up over the final days, the Sunday poll by Forum Research has indicated that the race will go down to the wire. But though it is possible that either Danielle Smith or Alison Redford will come out on top tonight, the seat projection model suggests that Wildrose will win, but miss out on a majority of seats by a whisker.

Assuming no MLAs cross the floor and that the largest party in the legislature forms the government, the model also suggests that Alison Redford's Progressive Conservatives will lead the Official Opposition and that Brian Mason's NDP will sit as the third party in the legislature with a large amount of influence.

However, there are a multitude of close races and a great deal of uncertainty in Monday night's outcome.

Wildrose is projected to take 38.4% of the votes, giving them 43 seats. That is only one short of a majority of the 87 ridings contested, a historic result for a party that won zero seats in the last election. The Progressive Conservatives are projected to take 35.8% of the vote and to win 39 seats, their worst result since 1967.

The New Democrats are projected to finish third with 11.4% support and to win five seats, their best result since 1989. The Liberals, meanwhile, are on track to win only 11.1% of ballots cast and are projected to be shut out of the legislature entirely for the first time in 30 years.

The Alberta Party is projected to win 2.2% of the vote, while the Evergreen Party (the re-incarnation of the de-registered Green Party of Alberta) is projected to win 0.6%. Neither party is running a full slate. Independents and other parties are expected to garner 0.4% support.

Closing gap in final week

Edmonton vote projections
While the election will be decided in Calgary and outside of the two main cities, where the Tories and Wildrose are fighting for every vote, recent shifts in the voting intentions of people in Edmonton could also play an enormous role in deciding the make-up of the province's next legislature.

After regaining support in the city in Week 3 of the campaign, the Tories dropped like a stone in Edmonton over the last few days before yesterday's uptick. They are  projected to win 36.3% of the vote and 19 seats. Wildrose has been relatively steady and is expected to win 27.3% of the vote and five of the seats, but the New Democrats have been making gains in the city. They are now projected to win 18.2% and five seats, putting them in play in one-quarter of Greater Edmonton's ridings. The Liberals, however, have fallen back.

Calgary vote projections
While Danielle Smith has been treading water in the capital, things are going badly in Calgary where Wildrose has been falling precipitously over the last 10 days. Though they still lead with 40.9% and 19 seats, that is a far cry from the almost majority support they enjoyed in the city for a brief period and the likelihood of a clean sweep that existed at the time. The Tories have benefited the most, closing to 36.6% and eight seats (saving Redford's skin in the process). The Liberals are just over the double-digit bar, a disaster for a party that had over 30% support in Cowtown in 2008.

Rural Alberta vote projections
In the rest of the province, the Tories have slowly increased their level of support over the last 10 days at the expense of Wildrose. Nevertheless, Wildrose leads with 44.5% and 19 seats to the PCs' 34.4% and 12 seats. Neither the New Democrats nor the Liberals are much of a factor outside the two main cities, and they have not been for the duration of the campaign.

The difference between a Wildrose minority and a majority will hinge upon whether Danielle Smith can reverse the negative momentum in Calgary and rural Alberta. For the Tories, they will need to capitalize on that negative momentum to squeak out a victory of some kind, which is still possible.

Where they stand and what is at stake

Each party has a lot riding on the results of Alberta's election. Can the Tories pull victory out of the jaws of defeat? Will Wildrose win a majority or a minority, or not at all? What influence will the NDP have in the next legislature? And what of the Liberals?

Click to zoom
Despite a few hiccups over the last days that may have cost the party an outright victory, Wildrose ran a strong campaign and may have simply been the right party, with the right leader, at the right time (others have highlighted Raj Sherman as the right leader for the Liberals but at the wrong time). As recently as Mar. 13 they were projected to win only 17 seats, itself a big leap for the young party.

Wildrose has the best shot at forming a majority government, with every poll giving them a lead over the PCs. They are projected to take between 36.4% and 40.4% of the vote. That range has loosened somewhat, which should come as no surprise as the penultimate polls of the campaign all had the party at the exact same level of support. Forum then mixed things up considerably.

Because of that potentially tightening race and some regional variations, Wildrose could win as few as 22 seats. This would put them in the role of the Official Opposition and would still represent a huge gain for the party, but compared to expectations it would be a disappointing result. Wildrose could also win as many as 62 seats, giving them the kind of landslide that is possible if a "kick the bums out" mentality takes over the electorate and boosts anti-PC turnout.

Wildrose will have the most success outside of Calgary and Edmonton, as they are projected to win between 40.5% and 48.5% of the vote and between 10 and 25 seats. They should also do quite well in Calgary with between 38.4% and 43.4% support and between nine and 22 seats, though the projection expects them to be at the higher end of that scale.

Edmonton should prove a more difficult nut to crack for Danielle Smith. Though she has been running neck-and-neck in a few polls, for the most part her party is trailing the Tories. They are projected to win between 22.3% and 32.3% of the vote in the provincial capital, giving them between three and 15 seats. A breakthrough of more than half-a-dozen seats would likely mean that Wildrose is going to win a landslide. They are projected, however, to end up at the lower end of the scale. Nevertheless, they should win enough seats in the provincial capital to give the city some representation in a government.

And that is what they are most likely to win. The odds favour a Wildrose government of some kind, but at such close margins it is a virtual coin flip. If the party greatly under-performs its polls, then Wildrose could end up as the Official Opposition. If they over-achieve, particularly Forum's results, they will win handily.

Click to zoom
In the week before the campaign was officially called, Alison Redford was in a strong position. Though she was only a few points ahead of Wildrose in the polls, it was expected that she would be able to handle the upstart party on the hustings. But on Mar. 29, she gave up the lead and since then has never regained it. Her only hope is that PC voters will turn out in great numbers and that supporters of the Liberals and NDP will opt for the devil they know.

There is less certainty about where the Tories will end up. Some polls have them in the low-30s, others in the mid-30s. This puts their likely range at between 33.3% and 38.3%. This makes it quite likely, but by no means certain, that they will finish behind Wildrose in the popular vote. But if it ends up being close, it can be expected that the PCs will have a more efficient vote.

This means that the Tories could win between 20 and 62 seats, like Wildrose a very wide range. If they win as few as 20, it would be an unmitigated disaster. If they win 62, it would be a second miracle result for the PCs. While those extremes are unlikely, the ingredients for a minority or even a majority do exist - but the Progressive Conservatives would need a lot to swing their way for that to happen.

Edmonton and Calgary will be key for the party. In Edmonton, they stand to win between 32.3% and 40.3% of the vote, giving them between nine and 23 seats. They are projected to be near the higher end of that range, though, meaning they need to win those extra swing seats to challenge Wildrose for government.

In Calgary, the Tories need to exploit the recent weakness in Wildrose's numbers. They are currently expected to suffer quite significantly, with between 31.1% and 42.1% of the vote and between five and 18 seats. Uncertainty is quite high in the city, but if the PCs can manage to have the votes swing their way in Calgary then they will have a real shot. If things go as projected, however, they have no chance as this is the only region of the province where they are at the lower end of their projected range.

In the rest of Alberta, the Tories stand at between 30.9% and 37.9% of the vote, enough to give them between six and 21 seats.

If they hold on to Edmonton and have luck in rural Alberta and especially in Calgary, then Alison Redford can remain as premier. But that is a best case scenario - the most likely result is that Redford will become the Leader of the Opposition.

Click to zoom
Prior to the campaign's start and the gains by Wildrose, Brian Mason did have a very good shot at taking that job. The New Democrats were looking good after Alison Redford became PC leader and the NDP moved into a three-way tie for second place. But now that the fight is between conservative blue and green, the NDP has its sights set on being the standard bearer of the non-conservative opposition.

Still, they are leaps and bounds behind even the second place Tories. With between 9.9% and 12.9% of the vote, they are almost certain to register one of their best results since 1993. They could win as many as eight seats, which would be a tremendous gain for the party, or as few as three seats, which still represents an increase.

Edmonton is their bread and butter, and they are projected to win between 13.7% and 22.7% of the vote and between three and seven seats. In all likelihood, any MLAs the NDP elects will come from this city. They have seen an increase in support of late, and whether they end up at the top or bottom of the range will depend on whether that vote turns out or not.

Elsewhere, the party is not likely to win any seats. Because of some gains in Calgary, they do have an outside shot at one seat, but it is a very outside shot. Rural Alberta is not expected to have any dots of NDP orange, though the party is doing relatively well with between 8.1% and 12.1% of the vote.

Because the Tories are too far ahead and the Liberals are falling, it is difficult to imagine the New Democrats finishing anywhere but third in the legislature. What is important for the NDP, however, is whether that legislature will be run by a minority or majority government.

Click to zoom
For the Liberals, meanwhile, the question will be whether the party will survive Monday night's result. The Liberals have had a rough time of it ever since the last election, but the campaign plunged their vote even further down when it became clear that the only realistic options for premier were Danielle Smith and Alison Redford. This has, according to the polls, sent a large number of Liberal voters Redford's way.

As a result, the Liberals are projected to place fourth in the vote with between 9.1% and 13.1%. They could win as many as three seats, but being shut out of the legislature is considered more likely. If any of their MLAs manage to be re-elected, it is probably going to happen in Edmonton, where the party has between 11% and 18% support.

In Calgary and rural Alberta, however, no Liberal is expected to win. Liberal support in Calgary sits at between 9.1% and 14.1% support and between 4.8% and 10.8% in the rest of Alberta. While surprises are always possible, the Liberals are not in a position to win any seats here.

And that means the Liberals are at risk of extinction, at least from the legislature. That is considered the most likely result, though sitting as the fourth party or even the third party is still possible. As Raj Sherman is likely to be one of those three potential Liberal victors, he may not exit the political scene in Alberta so quickly.

Click to zoom
The Alberta Party is not expected to be a major factor in tonight's vote, nor in any individual ridings. Though it is possible they could manage the unexpected, the polls do not point to any likelihood that the Alberta Party will hold any seats in the legislature. They were hamstrung by not being in the debates, and as the election has become about a choice between the PCs and Wildrose, the niche that the Alberta Party could have carved out for itself as a centrist alternative has been pinched out.

They have the highest potential in Edmonton, but the best shot for an Alberta Party victory is likely in West Yellowhead, simply because that is where their leader, Glenn Taylor, is a candidate.

An uncertain projection for an uncertain time

At this stage, it is usually possible to make a confident forecast. Until yesterday, everything pointed to a Wildrose majority government, but there were still so many intangibles that anything from a Wildrose landslide to a majority PC government was plausible. Now that a poll on the final day of the campaign showed a drastically narrowing gap, I have never felt less confident in a projection. The seat ranges, wide as they are, are a clear indication of why:
The last polls of the campaign had been relatively in agreement - certainly province-wide and to a large degree at the regional level. But the problem was that Wildrose and the Tories were running relatively close in a few areas, and with a few points swinging here or there the implications could include dozens of seats. If the gap is as narrow as two points, and was closing by a great degree in the final hours, it is very difficult to know where the parties will end up.

And this is not about hedging - there was a point in the campaign when the Wildrose and PC ranges did not overlap at all. Wildrose was poised to win a majority and only a majority, while the Tories had no hope of victory. And before Wildrose's surge, Redford was certain of winning another election for her party. The volatility and margin for error has simply increased to almost incomprehensible levels.

This is certainly not the kind of projection I want to make on Election Day. If I manage to get 86 out of 87 ridings correct, I could still potentially make the wrong call on the Wildrose minority. If I manage to get 84 out of 87 ridings correct, which would still be a stellar 97% accuracy rating, I could choose the wrong winner entirely! And I never like being in the position of saying a party will win no seats. But, I'm tied to what the model spits out.

This election campaign is also exceptional in several ways that make it very difficult to forecast. The biggest problem is posed by Wildrose, which took less than 7% in 2008 and did not run a full slate in that election. From there, they have gone to a lead in the polls. Can this sort of bandwagon be accurately projected?

The 2011 federal election in Quebec demonstrated that it can be. The seat projection model is capable of translating the NDP increase from 12.2% in 2008 to 42.9% in 2011 with a surprising degree of accuracy: it results in a total of 60 seats for the NDP (they actually won 59). But in 2008, the NDP managed to run a full slate of candidates in Quebec. Wildrose did not run a full slate last time, particularly in Edmonton. Where are their pockets of support likely to be in that city? As the capital and its surrounding region has roughly 1/3 of Alberta's seats, it is a large black hole for Wildrose.

The Progressive Conservatives, meanwhile, are seeing a wholesale change in the make-up of their supporters. Their voters have flocked to Wildrose and have been, in part, replaced by Liberals. That is a big demographic shift.

Final riding projections
Then there's the problem of the Liberals themselves, who are going from the main alternative to virtual fringe party status. Will their incumbents buck the regional trends? Could someone like David Swann keep enough of his votes in his Calgary riding to survive, while other Liberal candidates in the city do very poorly? Is there enough connection to voters' Liberal MLAs to ensure their survival? And what role will the Alberta Party play?

New boundaries could also mix things up, but that does not necessarily pose a problem for the projection model. Manitoba's boundaries were changed for the 2011 election, but nevertheless the model called 56 of the province's 57 ridings correctly.

What is different this time around is that I have added an adjustment to the polls to make up for the difference in voting intentions and voting behaviour, something that has become all the more apparent in recent years. This adjustment, which is based on how polls have been off of the result in other provincial and federal elections, assumes that the first and second parties in the legislature (in this case, the Liberals and the Tories) will be under-estimated in the polls while third, fourth, and fifth parties (in this case, Wildrose, the NDP, and the Alberta Party) will be over-estimated. Parties not in the legislature (in this case, Evergreen) are assumed to be greatly over-estimated. Had this adjustment been in place in 2011, ThreeHundredEight likely would have called the Conservative majority. It needs to be pointed out, however, that the adjustment is not based solely on that election's discrepancy.

What if that adjustment was removed, and the polls were assumed to be completely on the mark for this election? The result is a greater seat haul for Wildrose, all at the expense of the Tories, while the New Democrats still pick-up five seats. This result, however, is already encompassed by the projection's seat ranges. But it does show that Wildrose is well placed to win a majority. If Forum's poll is a complete outlier, then Wildrose will absolutely win 50 seats or more. If the momentum they measured is real and continues through to today, then the Progressive Conservatives could win that many seats.

An historic election

Alberta's election was never expected to be a very interesting one. While 2011 was jam-packed, 2012 appeared to be a very thin year for elections: Quebec maybe, and Alberta (yawn). Instead, observers from outside the province were treated to a political drama, while Albertans were offered a real choice for the first time in decades. And since the election will, one way or the other, result in the first female premier elected to govern a major province, Monday night stands to be historic.

But voters will be heading to the polling booths today without any strong idea of who will end up winning. While Wildrose is the favourite, the Tories could still manage to pull it off. And if the seat result is close, there is no telling what will happen in the legislature. On the other hand, a Wildrose landslide is still very much in the cards. Anything can happen. It is fitting that this surprising election campaign's voting day will hold more than a few surprises of its own.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Forum shows closing gap in last hours

Note: An analysis of ThreeHundredEight's final projection will be posted Monday morning. 

Three final polls saw the light of day on this, the last day of the Alberta campaign. Forum's was reported in The Globe and Mail this morning, while Angus-Reid released theirs less than an hour ago. It was taken on Apr. 20-21, however, whereas the very last poll of the campaign, again by Forum, was conducted today. It shows a very close race.
Forum puts Wildrose at 38% support to 36% for the Progressive Conservatives, 12% for the NDP, 10% for the Liberals, 3% for the Alberta Party, and 1% for other parties.

This is quite a change from their polling conducted yesterday. Forum has Wildrose down three points while the Tories are up four. The gap has narrowed to two points from nine, according to these numbers.

Forum polled 1,949 Albertans via their IVR method, giving the survey a sampling margin of error of +/- 2.2%, 19 times out of 20.

The big sea change that Forum has is a gain by the Tories in Edmonton. In their polling completed yesterday, the PCs were at 31% to 30% for Wildrose. The numbers are now 37% to 25% with the Tories well ahead. The gap is also smaller in Calgary (from 12 points to six) and in the rest of Alberta (from 16 points to nine), but it is in Edmonton where things have shifted the most.

Is Forum capturing last minute second thoughts? They are the only firm to have done any polling today. Weekend polling always comes with some risk and as Forum now stands alone going into voting day (all other polls put Wildrose at 41% with the Tories in the mid-to-low 30s), and they will either sink or swim. If they have it right, then we are in for a long night tomorrow.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Wildrose poised for slim majority

With only days remaining before Monday's vote, the final polls of the campaign are being released. Léger Marketing, ThinkHQ, Campaign Research, and Abacus Data have all put out their final numbers and they all agree: while Wildrose's lead has been diminished over the latter half of the campaign, they are still in the lead.

Wildrose is projected to take 39.6% of the vote, down only 0.1 point since the Apr. 17 projection. The Progressive Conservatives have slipped 0.5 points to 34.8%, putting the gap between the two parties at just under five points.

The four most recent polls put the gap at between six and ten points, but as explained in that Apr. 17 analysis the model makes adjustments for expected discrepancies between voting intentions and voting behaviour (i.e., turnout).

The Liberals are up 0.8 points to 11.5%, putting them ahead of the New Democrats, who are unchanged at 11%. The Alberta Party is up 0.3 points since Apr. 17 to 2.1%.

At these levels of support, Wildrose is projected to win 45 seats. That puts them just over the bar for a majority. The Tories have picked up one seat since Apr. 17 and are projected to win 37.

The New Democrats are unchanged at four seats, while the Liberals are back to being on track to win a single seat.

As the polls are lining up (none of the newest ones feature anything that could be considered an "outlier" result), the ranges have been reduced. Wildrose's likely vote haul now no longer overlaps with the PCs: they are projected to win between 38.1% and 41.1% compared to between 32.3% and 37.3% for the Tories. In other words, if an election were held today the Wildrose would certainly finish ahead of the PCs in the popular vote.

The Liberals (10% to 13%) and the NDP (9% to 13%) are bunched up closely together, making it difficult to determine who is most likely to finish in third. At this stage, however, the Liberals have the advantage.
At least in the vote. In terms of seats, the New Democrats range between two and eight while the Liberals remain mired at between zero and three seats. This means it is possible that the Liberals could sit third in the legislature, but the odds do not favour this result.

The seat ranges for Wildrose and the Tories overlap dramatically, due in large part to the huge number of ridings that are being decided by only a few percentage points. And with the polls still unsure as to where the Tories stand in Calgary and Wildrose in Edmonton (though the order seems rather clear, the closeness of the race is still difficult to determine) anything from a Wildrose majority to a PC majority, and everything in between, is possible with the polls where they are. However, the odds favour a Wildrose majority government, and are heavily stacked against one headed by Alison Redford.

Edmonton voting intentions
The race is becoming increasingly four-sided in Edmonton, as both the Liberals and New Democrats have made gains in the capital. Wildrose support has been stagnant in the city for some time, while the NDP has hit a bit of a plateau as well. But the Liberals have made a small comeback, primarily at the expense of the Tories.

Since Apr. 17, the PCs have dropped 3.6 points and one seat in Edmonton. They are projected to win 35.4% of the vote and 19 seats. Wildrose is steady at 26.6%, but the New Democrats are up 0.9 points to 17.2%. The Liberals made the biggest leap, jumping 2.6 points to 16.8%, putting one seat back into their column. The Alberta Party stands to get its best result in Edmonton with 2.9%, a gain of 0.3 points.

But the polls are not exactly showing a consensus in the city. While the PC (31.4% to 39.4%) and Liberal (13.8% to 19.8%) ranges are relatively narrow, Wildrose could take as much as 32.1% of the vote or as little as 21.1%. The NDP could take between 12.2% and 22.2%. Though something in between is most likely, this degree of uncertainty means the PCs could win between nine and 26 seats in Edmonton, while Wildrose could take between one and 15 and the NDP between two and seven.

Calgary is also unsettled. Wildrose has dropped 2.2 points but still leads with 42.3% support. The Tories trail with 35.7% (-0.9) while the Liberals sit at 11.8% (+0.8). The New Democrats are up 1.2 points to 7.3% and the Alberta Party is up 0.2 points to 2%. The range for the Tories is incredibly wide, however: they could take between 27.7% and 43.7% of the vote, giving them between one and 18 seats. They are projected to win eight to Wildrose's 19.

In the rest of the province, Wildrose is up 0.5 points to 47.8% but down two seats to 21, as the Tories have picked up 2.1 points to hit 33%. The New Democrats are down 0.7 points to 9.7% and the Liberals are down 0.8 points to 6.6%.
EDIT: An earlier graphic mixed up the results of Abacus and Campaign Research. My apologies.

Provincially, the polls are all in general agreement. Wildrose scored 41% in the last three polls taken Apr. 17-19, while they were at 42% in Léger's poll taken Apr. 13-16.

Tory support is somewhat more uncertain, standing between 31% and 36%, though support for the Liberals (9% to 12%) and the NDP (10% to 13%) varies by no more than three, and in polls taken since Apr. 17 their results differ by no more than two points.

Regional results, though, are less certain. In Edmonton, the gap between the Tories and Wildrose is somewhere between two and seven points, while it ranges between three and 15 points in Calgary. Outside of the two cities, it is somewhere between 13 and 24 points. One can now see why my own projection ranges are so wide.

They all, however, put the Progressive Conservatives ahead in Edmonton and Wildrose ahead in Calgary and the rest of the province. They all give the Liberals (13%-19%) and the NDP (16%-22%) their best results in Edmonton, and show the two parties to be completely out of the race in Calgary and the rest of Alberta. No poll gives the two parties a combined score higher than 25% in Calgary or 17% outside the two cities (compared to a combined high of 38% in Edmonton in one survey).

They all also tend to show that Wildrose's momentum has stalled or has turned negative, while the Tories' slide has stopped or has even been reversed. If Angus-Reid or (more likely) Forum decide to do some polling today or tomorrow, we might get a more definitive idea of whether the gap is going to be tightening between now and Monday.

Note: A final projection will be posted either late on Sunday or early Monday. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

PCs lead, NDP second in Ontario

Considering the Ontario Liberal government could (but probably won't) fall as soon as Tuesday, it comes as no surprise that two polls have been released within the last 24 hours. The results, however, are surprising: Tim Hudak's Progressive Conservatives are in the lead, trailed not by the Liberals but by Andrea Horwath's NDP.
Since Forum was last in the field on Mar. 28, the Tories have held steady with 34% support. The New Democrats, however, are up one point to 31%, moving them ahead of the Liberals who are down two points to 28%.

The Greens are unchanged at 5% support.

It is a very close three-way race. The PCs lead in eastern Ontario with 43% (unchanged) and southwestern Ontario with 37% (+2), and are tied for the lead in the GTA with 32% (+1).

The New Democrats, meanwhile, lead in northwestern Ontario with 57% (+14), northern Ontario with 40% (+9), northeastern Ontario with 37% (+8), and the 905 Area Code with 35% (+3).

The Liberals are ahead in the 416 Area Code with 37% (-7) and are tied for first with 32% (-4) in the GTA.

Note that Forum combines the 416 and 905 results to get their GTA total, while northeastern and northwestern Ontario combine to give the northern Ontario total.

Each party has their region of strength, but each party is also competitive in every part of the province. This makes the potential seat result unpredictable. A few points here, a few points there, and dozens of seats could be swapped.
Environics, which has not released an Ontario poll since the election, agrees with the general trend that Forum has identified. In their polling, the Tories lead with 37%, followed by the NDP at 30%, the Liberals at 27%, and the Greens at 6%.

Though it is still a close three-way race, according to Environics the Tories are much better positioned. However, this survey is half the size of Forum's so the margin of error (+/- 4.5%) is quite large.

Because of the smaller sample, Environics split the regional results into the GTA and the rest of Ontario only.

In the GTA, the Liberals lead with 37% to 34% for the PCs and 24% for the NDP. This is not exactly what Forum found, as they pegged the Liberals and Tories at 32% to 31% for the NDP. But with the MOE we're looking at a tight contest either way.

In the rest of Ontario, the Tories hold a wide lead - as should be expected. They are ahead with 39%, followed closely by the NDP at 34%. The Liberals are well behind with 20%.

This is in general agreement with Forum, as outside of the GTA the Liberals only scored between 23% and 27%, while the NDP was between 26% and 40% and the PCs between 30% and 43%.

In terms of raw seat numbers, these two polls make no difference for the New Democrats. But context is very important.

With Forum's close race, the Progressive Conservatives win 48 seats to 31 for the NDP and 28 for the Liberals. That means a minority government of some kind. Would it be a Hudak minority propped up by the Liberals, or an NDP-Liberal coalition?

But with Environics' seven-point lead for the PCs, the Tories win 55 seats and a slim majority. The NDP still wins 31 seats but are left without much influence in the legislature. The Liberals are reduced to 21 seats.

But with this kind of confused jumble of a three-way race, anything could happen. The last campaign demonstrated how fickle voters can be, with the Tories having squandered a wide lead in a matter of weeks. While the PCs have committed to voting down the budget, the New Democrats should take a lesson from Tim Hudak's experience last fall. They might be riding high now, but what about after four weeks of campaigning?

It seems very likely that the NDP will support the budget after getting a few concessions from Dalton McGuinty. Only about one-third of people polled are open to having another election, and the parties themselves are heavily in debt from the last campaign. But the brinksmanship is on, and while it seems a fair bet that Ontarians won't be going to the polls this spring, it seems just as unlikely that the government will survive until 2015.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

NDP holds wide lead over divided right in B.C.

Though the B.C. New Democrats have been leading in British Columbia for some time, the margin between them and the governing Liberals appear to be widening. Two polls released since the beginning of April put that gap at 20 points or more. They also put the Liberals and the B.C. Conservatives in a tie. On the eve of two by-elections, this means that Christy Clark is in dire straits.
The most recent survey was conducted by Forum Research on Apr. 11. They had last been in the field on Mar. 19, and since then the New Democrats have slipped one point to 46%. That is not much of a problem for Adrian Dix, however, as that still gives him a 23-point lead over the Liberals, up two points to 23%.

The Conservatives are also up two points to 23%, putting them in a tie with the government. The Greens, meanwhile, are down one to 8%.

The NDP has uniform support across the province, leading in the Interior and North with 43% (-5), Vancouver and the Lower Mainland with 45% (-1), and on Vancouver Island with 50% (unchanged).

The Liberals and Conservatives, too, have generally uniform support. But the Conservatives have the edge in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland at 24% (+3) and in the Interior and North, where they also have 24% support. The Liberals, however, are second on Vancouver Island with 22%, up three points. They are also up three points in the Interior and North to 20% support.

If the Greens and Conservatives were closer to their 2009 levels of support, the New Democrats would still likely win with 46% province-wide. With the Conservatives dead-even with the Liberals, it is a landslide.
Angus-Reid's poll is somewhat older, having been taken at the end of March. But the poll comes to the same conclusions, with the New Democrats at 43%, a gain of one point since Angus-Reid's Jan. 27-29 poll.

The real indication of how things have changed over the last few months, however, is that the Liberals are down five points to 23% while the Conservatives are up four points to that level of support. The swing has been taking place almost entirely between these two parties.

The Greens are up two to 8%. That means Angus-Reid and Forum's results are identical, except for the 43% to 46% disparity for the NDP.

But regionally, things were less uniform in Angus-Reid's polling. The New Democrats lead with 54% in the North (+11), 51% on Vancouver Island (unchanged), and 46% in Metro Vancouver (+4). They are second to the Conservatives in the Interior with 30%, a drop of seven points.

The Conservatives lead with 32% (+12) in that part of the province, where most of their growth has taken place. They are also second on Vancouver Island with 20% (+8), while the Liberals place second in Metro Vancouver with 24% (-3) and in the North with 23% (-4). But the margins of error are much smaller in the regional samples, meaning that neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives have a statistically significant edge over one another in any part of British Columbia.

In seats, however, the Liberals get the slight edge for the role of the Official Opposition. Nevertheless, in both Angus-Reid and Forum polls the New Democrats would romp to a huge majority of 66 (Angus-Reid) or 71 (Forum) seats.

The Liberals win 12 seats with Angus-Reid's numbers, while the Conservatives take five seats. With Forum's results, the Liberals win eight seats and the Conservatives four.

But neither of these two parties have particularly popular leaders. While Adrian Dix tops the list on the Best Premier question with 25% in Angus-Reid's polling, a drop of one point since January, Clark is down five points to 17%. John Cummins of the Conservatives is up four to 12%.

Both Clark and Cummins have negative approval ratings. Clark's approval stands at between 26% and 32% depending on the poll, compared to a disapproval of between 59% and 60%. Cummins has an approval rating of 28% in both polls, while his disapproval stands at between 35% and 38%. This gives Christy Clark a negative net rating of about 31 points, with Cummins at around -9.

Dix, on the other hand, has an approval rating of between 38% and 45% and a disapproval rating of between 35% and 40%. His net rating is an average of +4. Certainly not gangbusters, but heads and shoulders above his two rivals.

The odds are that his party will also come out on top in tomorrow's two by-elections in Chilliwack-Hope and Port Moody-Coquitlam. If we apply these two polls to the swing model for these two individual ridings, we get the following results (not a prediction!):

New Democrats: 41-43%
Liberals: 32%
Conservatives: 26-27%

New Democrats: 46%
Liberals: 28-30%
Conservatives: 24-26%

Of course, by-elections can be unpredictable. I will be especially looking to see how the Conservatives do. These ridings are not in the parts of the province where the Conservatives should be expected to do best, but both of these polls show that the party is competitive (at least compared to the Liberals) throughout British Columbia. Will their vote turn out? Are they a real alternative option in the province? We'll find out tomorrow night.

Neither of these seats belong to the New Democrats. It will thus be a coup if they win both, but as they are almost assured of a good result they will have a positive headline whether they win them or not. Expectations for the Liberals are already low, so the damage will be somewhat mitigated if they lose one of them. If she wins both, she may be able to start turning things around for her party. If she loses both, the decline will continue. And for the Conservatives, anything over 20% will show they are the real deal.

But neither Dix nor Cummins have nearly as much riding on these results as the premier. By-elections can be odd little one-off events that have no wider meaning, but the effect the results will have on the political mood in the province could be significant.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Gap narrows, but Wildrose still in control

Since the weekend, two polls have been released indicating that the margin between Wildrose and the Progressive Conservatives has shrunk to seven points in Alberta's provincial voting intentions. That means that, though Wildrose is still on track to win a majority government, the race has tightened up.

Since Apr. 13, the projection that incorporated all pre-debate polling, Wildrose has dropped 2.2 points and now sits at a projected 39.7% of the vote. The Tories have picked up 2.1 points and are now at 35.3%, their highest level of support since Mar. 29.

This reduces the gap between the two parties to 4.4 points. That is certainly less than the seven points forecast by the two recent polls, so now is a good time to remind readers that the vote projection model includes an adjustment that increases or decreases projected vote share. This adjustment is based on where a party sits in the legislature, and so indirectly incorporates a whole slew of intangibles: organization, enthusiasm, fundraising, and incumbency. Past federal and provincial elections have indicated that there is some relationship between polls over- or under-estimating a party's support and the position of that party in the legislature at dissolution: bigger parties tend to be under-estimated, smaller parties are over-estimated.

The New Democrats have moved into third with a gain 0.2 points. They now have a projected 11% support, just ahead of the Liberals at 10.8% (-0.3).

This tightening of the race means that the Tories have picked up nine seats in the projection since the debate, all at the expense of Wildrose. Danielle Smith's party is now projected to win 47 seats against 36 for the PCs and four for the NDP (unchanged).

The two new polls disagree with one another strongly at the regional level, but less so province-wide. The result is that Wildrose is projected to take between 36.7% and 42.7% of the vote, compared to a range of 31.8% to 38.8% for the PCs. The two parties overlap one another once again.

The NDP range has moved ahead of the Liberals, as the NDP would take between 9% and 13% of the vote if an election were held today, while the Liberals would only take between 9.5% and 11.9%.
Though the likely seat ranges for the Liberals and NDP remain unchanged, the Wildrose range has stretched downwards. They are projected to win between 27 and 74 seats, while the Progressive Conservatives can win between nine and 58 seats. This gives both parties the chance of forming a majority government, though the votes would have to swing heavily in the PCs' favour for them to win it.

Calgary vote projections
The biggest shift in support has taken place in Calgary, where Wildrose dropped 3.3 points and seven seats to 44.5% and 19 seats. The Tories picked up 4.3 points (thus, it would appear, stealing votes from the left as well as the right), and is now projected to take 34.8% of the vote in the city, as well as eight seats.

The Liberals are down 0.6 points to 11%, while the New Democrats are down 1.1 points to only 6.1% in the city.

The ranges are widest here, however, as the Tories could conceivably take between 24.8% and 44.8% of the vote in the city, giving them between zero and 19 seats. Wildrose, meanwhile, could take between 37.5% and 51.5% of the vote, giving them between eight and 27 seats. The race in the city is quite difficult to pin down at this stage.

Edmonton is a little clearer - but only a little. The Tories are up 0.3 points to 39%, while Wildrose is down 0.9 points to 26.4%. The New Democrats are virtually unchanged, down 0.1 point to 16.3%, while the Liberals are up 0.3 points to 14.2%. The Alberta Party has picked up 0.3 points and stands at 2.6% support. This all adds up to 20 seats for the Tories, five for Wildrose, and four for the New Democrats.

But with the recent polls disagreeing on who leads in the provincial capital, the ranges for the Tories and Wildrose now overlap: 32% to 46% for the PCs and 19.1% to 33.7% for Wildrose. This means between eight and 26 seats for the Tories and between one and 18 seats for Wildrose. The NDP, meanwhile, could win as much as 19.9% of the vote and seven seats, while the Liberals could take 18.2% of the vote and three seats.

In the rest of the province, things are more clear cut. Wildrose is down 2.9 points to 47.3% and two seats to 23, while the Tories are up 0.2 points to 30.9% and two seats to eight. The New Democrats are up 2.4 points to 10.4%, while the Liberals are up 0.2 points to 7.4%. The ranges put Wildrose support at between 43.2% and 51.4% (18-29 seats) and the Tories at between 27.8% and 34% (1-13 seats), meaning we can definitively say that Wildrose is ahead outside the two cities.

The Return on Insight poll done for the CBC puts Wildrose at 43% to 36% for the Tories, with the Liberals at 11% and the NDP at 9%. It is impossible to really look at trends with this survey, however, as RoI was last in the field at the end of January. But contrary to virtually every single poll out in this campaign, RoI puts the Tories ahead in Calgary and Wildrose ahead in Edmonton.

Forum is a little more conventional, but also shows that seven point gap. They have Wildrose at 40%, down three points since Apr. 9, and the Tories at 33%, up two points. The NDP is up one to 12% and the Liberals are unchanged at 10%. Like other polls, they show the comfortable Wildrose and Tory leads in Calgary and Edmonton, respectively.

While it is difficult to figure out what is going on in the two main cities (though it is safe to say that Forum is probably closer to the mark), it does appear that the margin between the two parties is closing. Will it close fast enough for the Tories? The next few days will tell us - and as the headlines aren't exactly positive for Wildrose at the moment, things could move quickly.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Pre-debate, Wildrose still well ahead

In the run-up to Thursday's leaders' debate, Wildrose widened its lead over the Progressive Conservatives, who in turn wiped the Liberals off the electoral map.

For a comparison of how things have shifted over the last two weeks, take a look at my article for The Globe and Mail here.

The projection was last updated in the early hours of Apr. 13, and since the previous projection of Apr. 11 the Wildrose have picked up one point to lead with 41.9%. This is the high watermark of the campaign for Danielle Smith.

The Tories, meanwhile, have dropped 0.2 points to 33.2%, almost nine points behind Wildrose.

The Liberals are down 0.1 point to 11% support, while the New Democrats are unchanged at 10.8%. For the Liberals, this is their lowest level of support in the campaign.

The net result is that Wildrose is unchanged at a projected haul of 56 seats, while the Progressive Conservatives are up one seat to 27. This has come at the expense of the Liberals, who are now projected to win zero seats. The New Democrats have held steady at four seats.

The likely range of Wildrose support has increased to between 36.6% and 47.1%, while the Tories are holding generally steady at between 30.5% and 35.9%. The two parties had overlapped since the Apr. 10 projection, but no more.

The Liberals sit between 9.6% and 12.5%, narrowly ahead of the New Democrats, who are projected to take between 9.1% and 12.4% of the vote.
This puts the likely range for the Liberals at between zero and three seats, while the New Democrats stand to win between two and eight sits. There is a very strong likelihood that the NDP will emerge as the third party in the legislature ahead of the Liberals, who may not sit at all.

Wildrose should win between 30 and 74 seats, a range that puts the odds of a Wildrose majority strongly in their favour. The Tories stand between eight and 55 seats, which makes a PC win plausible but nevertheless unlikely.

Edmonton vote projections
The one region of the province keeping them in the game is Edmonton, where the Progressive Conservatives gained 1.8 points since Apr. 11. They now lead with 38.7% and have gained one seat. Wildrose is down 1.9 points to 27.3%, while the New Democrats are up 1.8 points to 16.4%.

The Liberals have dropped 0.8 points to 13.9%, shutting them out seat-wise. Though they could still potentially win three seats in the capital and take 16.9% of the vote, they are being squeezed out by the other three parties. This has been going on since Apr. 5.

The Alberta Party is down 0.7 points to 2.3%. Also note that the projection was updated to accurately reflect where candidates for the Alberta, Evergreen, and other parties are running. This has had the effect of boosting support for these parties in each riding (i.e., a party at 5% in a region with two ridings would have 5% in each, if they only run one candidate they would need to have 10% in that one riding).

In Calgary, Wildrose is up 1.5 points and two seats to 47.8% and 26 seats. They also have it within their power to sweep the city, though as many as seven Tories could survive the onslaught. The PCs are down 1.8 points to 30.5%, while the Liberals are up 1.5 points to 11.6% and the NDP down 0.2 points to 7.2%. Though this is one bit of good news for the Liberals, they are far from being within range of a single seat in the city.

In the rest of the province, Wildrose has taken a step back from its high and is down 2.3 points to 50.2% support. This has cost them two seats in the region, both going to the Tories. They are up 0.8 points to 30.7%. The Liberals (+0.1) and Alberta Party (-0.1) are virtually unchanged at 7.2% and 2%, respectively. The New Democrats, however, are up 1.5 points to 8% and could even win as much as 11% of the vote and one seat outside the two cities.

The three polls added to the projection all tell somewhat different stories, one of the reasons why the likely seat and vote ranges are so wide.

ThinkHQ (Apr. 9-10, 1,223 surveyed) has Wildrose steady at 43% since their Apr. 2-3 poll, while the Tories are down one to 29% support. They generally have the parties holding firm throughout the province, though they see the parties neck-and-neck in Edmonton. Interestingly, however, ThinkHQ records that the personal impression of Wildrose has dropped significantly in the last week in Edmonton.

Abacus Data (Apr. 9-11, 900 surveyed) puts Wildrose up three points since their Apr. 2-4 poll to 46%, while the Tories are down two to 29%. They show big Wildrose gains in Calgary and a big PC drop in the rest of Alberta, while giving the Tories a seven point (and increasing) edge in Edmonton.

Finally, Campaign Research (Apr. 11, 894 surveyed) has Wildrose down 2.7 points since their Apr. 3 poll to 42.8%, while the Tories are up six points to 34.4% support. They show general stability in Calgary and the rest of Alberta, but a big Tory leap in Edmonton, where they hold a 22-point lead over Wildrose.

If there is a trend to be seen in these polls, it is that the fortunes are improving for the Progressive Conservatives in Edmonton, but that they trail by significant (insurmountable?) margins in Calgary and the rest of Alberta. This is, of course, reflected in the projection.

Did the debate change anything? What about Peter Lougheed's public endorsement of Alison Redford? We shall soon find out. A poll by Return on Insight out today shows a somewhat closer race between the Tories and Wildrose, however the firm had no other poll out during the campaign with which to compare trends. But with such a wide gap between the two frontrunners, the best Redford might be able to hope for is a minority - headed by Danielle Smith.