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.


  1. Like I commented in the past thread, I was expecting something like this : that the actual election results, inputted in the model, would yield accurate results.

    The only discrepancy seems to be the 5 liberal MLAs elected. The libs are the third party in legislature, not bad for a party that was "supposed" to get shut out!

  2. CBC shows 4 Liberals. Who is the 5th?

    1. Elections Alberta has them with 5 - Sherman, Blakeman, Kang, Swann, and Hehr.

    2. Ah! Kang is the one. The CBC called his riding for the Wildrose too early it seems. Thanks.

    3. An interesting result with Kang as he got over 1500 votes in the two advance polls represent a gain of over 1000 votes and over a third of his total votes. If this is correct, his advance team won him the election, but an investigation is warranted as this is not representative of any advance voting elsewhere.

  3. There is defintely an urban rural split between the PC (and liberal, NDP) and the Wildrose. demographically the future sees growth in the urban centers, so if there a long view future of the Wildrose Party? Was this their one chance and high water mark as happened with the Quebec reformation for the future of that province?

  4. Polls are at best just for intertainment purposes.

    At worst they are an election tool to present a political point of view or assist a particular political party.

    I can see a day when any poll publishing will need to contain that sort of explanation or they face the serious classification as 3rd party political advertizing.

    I have not fully formulated my tin-foil conspiracy theory but would guess that the over reporting of Wildrose support drew out many traditional non-voting left of centre and drove Liberals and NDP to vote CP for the first time in their lives..

    If the traditional Liberal/NDP voter had been presented with CP at 40 % and WR at 35 they would have felt more comfortable voting for the Liberals/NDP to keep them as their voice in the legislature.

    It would really be interesting to have exit polls show the support the PC's got from the AFL Teachers and Nurses unions. Propably the hisghest organize union support for a right of Centre government in the history of democracy :)

  5. I posted this in the other thread, but I think it bears repeating here.

    The model did alright IMHO. The results were right on the edge of the range you gave, and I'd bet dollars to donuts that you're pretty much the only notable pundit to even suggest that such a result was possible.

  6. "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."

    Of course it can. You are as capable of examining the data with a sensitive, critical eye as anyone else, and you are ultimately the arbiter of what to feed into the model.

    But if you give me such an absurdly wide confidence interval, and still fail to hit it, I won't hesitate to call your model useless until significantly improved and tested.

    1. What possible data could I have included in the model to come up with such a result? Sunday I was a fool for not assuming a Wildrose majority. Today, it's because I didn't see the thing no one saw coming, a PC majority. There's no pleasing some people.

    2. Eric,

      Please ignore, the poster, above. It has been a pleasure reading your website throughout this election!


    3. I don't think it's useless at all! I've been following this blog for about a year now, and I'd say it does a good job of reporting poll results. All pollsters and bloggers predicted the WR to pick up seats, even news outlets like CBC. It's hardly the fault of the blogger for reporting the numbers received by Angus-Reid, et cetera. Even the internal polling occurring here in Edmonton by the riding offices predicted more WR presence in the province. It just goes to show that people are complex, and there must have been a lot of undecided voters who chose to give Redford the benefit of the doubt rather than vote in a new, inexperienced leader. And there was loads of strategic voting going on to keep the WR out, after WR party members made headlines with their homophobic, racist candidates running for office. The polls indicated the PCs had gained some support in the last week over the WR, probably because people realized just how bat shit crazy some of the Wild Rose candidates actually were.

    4. I would love to see attempt a better job the Eric. By making alternations to the poll data, no matter what reasons, it still renders the process arbitrary. I am happy with Eric's work, & I think you should appreciate his work too.

    5. "Useless" is an absurd generalization on the basis of a single election. Look at all the far more accurate predictions from earlier in the year, then come back and tell me Eric's models are "useless" (good luck with that).

      Eric can tweak the model all he likes, but his output is constrained by his inputs: (A) the previous election's results, and (B) the swing as indicated by the polls. The past results are static; the shifts are derived from the polls.

      None of the pollsters were even close to the result we saw. It is possible to adjust the input somewhat to account for various intangibles, but getting this overall outcome in advance would have required outright falsification.

      The pollsters failed, plain and simple. There's no real way for a third-party model to account for that.

    6. I have to agree with Eric here. The wide confidence intervals are a product of uncertainty which Eric correctly captured.

    7. With respect, he did not correctly capture the uncertainty, since the results for 2 out of 4 parties fell outside the confidence intervals.

      While "useless" is strong language, it is noteworthy that of the 9 elections in the "Track Record" page (adding Alberta), the wrong winner has been called 1/9 times, the wrong Official Opposition has been called 2/9 times, a party has been predicted to receive 0 seats but actually received more (or vice-versa) 3/9 times, and a minority has been called where a majority resulted (or vice-versa) 3/9 times. Only in 3 out of 9 elections thus far have all the following criteria been met: (1) parties are called in the right order, (2) a minority/majority is correctly called, and (3) the identity of all parties receiving seats is correctly called.

      And while it is easy to say "if I had correct poll numbers, the model would have projected better," the professed utility of the site is in giving seat projections *before* the election, not after all the facts are known. If the model can't project elections accurately based on the information available, the model does not work for its intended purpose.

    8. There are two factors at play here. The utility of the seat projection model is to translate polls into seats in a reasonably accurate manner.

      I think I have shown that, with a few exceptions, the model can do that quite well - if the polls are accurate.

      The seat projection model is my personal input, the vote projection model is heavily influenced by the input of others. I try my best, but nailing the popular vote is quite a challenge. If the polls are accurate, I should be as well. If they are not, there is only so much I can do. But I am constantly trying to improve both models.

      I'd also submit that the utility of this site goes beyond seat projections. It is my goal to provide non-partisan and independent analysis of polls and polling trends, in addition to reliable projections.

  7. I wonder whether election day organization becomes a factor in influencing the results. This would (typically) act against newer parties, and support well-established parties.

  8. Eric - yours was by far the most prescient analysis I read of any of the commentators I was following in the hours before the first results came in.

    You were about the only one who seemed open to the fact that PCs could win this thing.

    Clearly that last minute Forum Research poll was the only one which even half reflected what must have been a massive swing over the last 48 hours.

    But you're quite right - there's no way you or anyone could have looked at that single poll and extrapolated the momentum to come up with a PC majority - it could just as easily have been the outlier/rogue poll on a blow-out night for Wildrose.

    Must admit, that was my initial impression reading the Forum poll - some last minute momentum for the PCs sure, but not enough to threaten the WRP in light of all the other polling evidence (including Forum's poll from the day before...)

    ThreeHundredEight came closest to the mark.

  9. As an Edmonton I maintained all along that the polls were predicting completely different results to those I was witnessing on the ground. In my riding the polls were saying the WR was winning by a landslide and as the votes came in, the WR candidate received the least amount of votes. I never felt the pull of the WR in Edmonton at all (although I can't speak for Calgary or rural areas). My main qualm with the polls (the actual polls, not results and predictions posted by bloggers) is with who was being polled, who sponsored the poll, and what kinds of questions were being asked? I've worked in market research before and these are really important factors. I think everyone here is surprised at how unsurprising this election was in the end. Maybe people got cold feet and stuck with the PCs after all. Plus, there was a lot of strategic voting going on.

  10. Eric:

    I follow your blog daily and I think that you are one of the best in the business. I do think that you missed one big factor in this election.

    None of your analysis I read on this election (at least the published bits) focused on the large number of pollsetrs who reported they were "undecided". I have read figures that this was as high as 25% in some polls a week before the election. Surely that was salient enough to warrant an analysis of its own or to indicate the model incabaple of prediction under this circumstance.

  11. There needs to be some serious scrutiny of polling firms. The model projections used by Eric show that polling is not giving us an accurate representation of voters intentions or how fast those intentions were changing.

    Eric did not commission the polls, he only reported what their manifestation would be given a sound model. The problem here is not the model, it is the data that was put into the model.

    If people don't like the election result, well that's tough, but sheesh, don't blame the messenger.

    Polling firms need to do some real soul searching here and review how data is collected, i.e., time frame, sample size, and how voters are surveyed.

    I suspect there was also a profound effect from the percentage of potential voters that actually voted. There have been some shockingly low provincial and federal voter turnouts of late. If there is a higher than expected turnout, this can play havoc with polls. I will bet that a lot of those extra voters in this elections are the kind that usually are counted as undecided in a poll.

    If all those undecideds actually vote and most of them go one way, then you can swing the ballot result dramatically in a place where 40% of the voters actually bothered to do so last time around.

  12. It is interesting to note that the strength of the PC campaign (their strategists are being touted as geniuses now) was, in fact, its pathetic weakness.

    Had the WRP and the PCs been running neck and neck (or even with a slight PC edge), we probably would've seen a PC minority with 30+ Wildrose seats.

    It was only because Wildrose jumped out to such an early, seemingly insurmountable lead that the PCs were able to pull off the result they did. It put the burden of scrutiny on the Wildrose, as opposed to the incumbent party, where the bulk of public scrutiny usually falls. It also delivered a few strategic voters into the PCs' hands.

    I do wonder if voters in Alberta intended to give Redford such a strong mandate. I got the impression that many people felt that the WRP candidates just weren't experienced or ready enough to serve as MLAs, and they may have been trying to temper Wildrose growth (thinking they'd rather have a WRP minority or a PC minority), but instead, too many people got the same idea and delivered a rather strange result - a result even most voters surely found strange.

    If the election were to be held again in a couple days - this time with the perception that the WRP are underdogs and not favourites to form government - how different might the results be? I expect you'd see the Wildrose with a seat total closer in line to where their 35% of the popular vote should have put them (30-35 seats).

  13. I wonder about how good the methodology is behind these polls or if there is some inherent bias because of who they are calling and when. Also with the rise of call display via cell phones I wonder how many people are starting to simply not answer the pollsters at all..

    1. Campaign Research included the response rates in their poll reports. Their final poll had a response rate of 14.7% of those who picked up the phone, and 5.6% overall (roughly 2/3rds of households did not pick up, but they might have been out).

    2. This would bias the sample of course only if supporters of a certain party tended to not answer more than supporters of another party. This is of course possible.

  14. Eric you couldn't do any better than you did. Although the last Forum Poll indicated the race was tightening, it was difficult if not impossible to extrapolate from that to a 9 point PC win in the election. Obviously some Albertans weren't truthful with the pollsters and many others changed their mind at the last minute.

    What some people don't understand is that your model is only as good as the data fed into it. If the data isn't there then it becomes impossible to accurately predict the outcome.

    As an aside we have now seen in both the last Federal election and the Alberta election that the polls were way off. Are more people being untruthful when they answer the pollsters questions? Might be. That would render polling useless. Even the PC's admitted their internal polling didn't show the kind of shift that happened.

  15. Whats funny is how 43% of the vote gets over 2/3rds of the seats. The voters themselves wanted a minority government, as they almost always do. The PC's should've been sharing power with 3 parties to choose from (ala Harper federally pre the last election). Instead everyone who votes for anyone else is left in a situation where their representatives will be 100% ignored.

    Ah well. Brick wall = FPTP and I figure banging my head on it won't help.

    I do find it funny though that the FPTP system has ended up creating a more liberal PC party for the next 4 years as the most right wing members of the PC's probably lost to the Wildrose Party (figuring the furthest right wing ridings would've shifted). So a far right party doing well creates a more lift wing government.

  16. Readers - what did you like, what did you not like, what was missing, what was not needed, etc. in my coverage of Alberta's election? I tried a few new things during this campaign (graphics, charts, approach, etc.) and I'd like to know what improvements I can make in the presentation and analysis of information going forward.

    You can save the "don't be wrong" comments, comedians.

    1. Eric, I liked evertything, the graphics were great and the analysis was thought provolking. As I mentioned in my previous comment a more detailed look at undecided voters would add some context that would be valuable.

      All in all though I thought your site had the best pre-election coverage of polling.

    2. Thanks! I will try to do something for undecideds next time (Quebec, likely) but it is difficult because you get very different undecided results depending on the method. I suppose I could just choose the best method for recording undecideds, which is live-callers I think, and go with that.

    3. Hi Eric,

      I would love to see maps with the distributions color coded like how you have done your individual seat projections. So in your projection you had Cardston - Warner 85.9% so, it would be a dark green. Then having one like Calgary Fort at 35.9% a light blue. Just showing the various ranges and such according to the party that looks like it is going to win.

      Heard you on the Dave Rutherford show this morning. Thought you were very well spoken and did the best that you could. Love the sight. I visit it on a daily basis.



    4. I love maps, but that might be a bit of too much work. It already takes quite a bit of time to update the projection and do the graphics.

      And thanks. I've been on Rutherford a couple times now, he's always fair with me.

    5. I'd like to second Rocky's suggestion. An interactive map (perhaps even one that you could scroll over and the numbers pop up) would be a huge asset to this site.

      Hard work, I know, but well worth it. Keep up the great work.

    6. I liked way you presented the uncertainty for each individual riding. It was good to see at a glance what seats had the possibility to become competitive if the polls shifted in a particular direction.

  17. Thanks for all your hard work on this election Eric, and ignore the haters. They clearly reveal that they don't understand the difference between a subjective prediction and an objective projection.

    Thanks for enabling our habit once again!

  18. DM

    Considering this is the second election for the WR they actually did very well. Strategic voting did play a part in the PC win.

    When you account for the fact 54% of the people voted against the PC the PC will have their work cut out for them next election.

    Plus the money tree for the PC coffers in the form of municipalities handing out tax payers money to riding associations will be a dangerous game in the future for Redford.

    The swing to the left in the last weeks of the campain could well go the other way 4 years from now.

    I enjoy reading threehundredeight.com and given the data it would be hrd to predict the final voting day result.

  19. I think you deserve an A+ for your model, Eric! You were in the range for the Progressive Conservatives and you saw Wildrose's chances of forming the Official Opposition when people actually didn't even see they were in decline. The only thing that didn't really work was projecting the Liberals' 5 seats. Maybe should you give even more "bonus points" for incumbents running for re-election? In fact, every Liberal who ran for re-election succeeded!

    1. Thanks!

      Yes, the incumbency factor will be re-evaluated after this election (as it is after all elections). It will undoubtedly get a bit of a boost because of the Liberal performance, but I still don't think it could capture the exceptional resilience of these Liberal MLAs.

    2. I feel like the strong performances of incumbents in Alberta may be a relatively unique trait *to* Alberta, or at least to areas where incumbency is just as deeply rooted. This is a province with no change of party for 41 years, after all.

      That said, the opposition members in this province have to work extra hard to keep their seats, because all opposition is considered somewhat fringe in Alberta. So any opposition member who has held their seat for more than two elections must be tenacious indeed. Let alone someone like Laurie Blakeman who's been there since 1997.

      Does endurance count in your incumbency model? Ie. how many elections they've won?

  20. What about the 'honesty' of the person taking the poll? I know of PC voters who were putting Wildrose signs on their lawns but told me personally that they were voting PC.

    1. How do you quantify something like that? Without some kind of statistics to give it mathematical meaning, including it in the model is nothing more than putting a thumb on the scales to get the result that 'seems' right.

  21. Three things I learned from this election:

    1. Perception can be just as important as raw polling numbers. People love an underdog and can grow to resent a dominant force; that's just human nature. Had the WRP not looked so strong so early, their polling numbers may have translated into more seats/popular vote.

    2. Never underestimate the power of incumbency in Canadian politics. There is nothing harder to do than unseat an incumbent with name recognition.

    3. The smaller the election, the more the quality of the local candidate and organization at the ground level matters. This can cause a wide discrepancy between polls and results.

    Having said that, for all the hoopla that was made about the overlap between federal Conservatives and WRP strategists and style, I can't believe how many unforced errors a supposedly "Harper Team" made. Say what you like about Harper, but that man's team wins elections.

    Things that were ignored from Harper's play-book:

    1. When you are a new, untested, or inexperienced party and experience a surge in the polls, DOWNPLAY YOUR SUPPORT. For more on this, see the 2006 election where Harper won for the first time. The M-word ("majority") was forbidden. I think they tried a similar tactic the second time around, as well.

    2. DOMINATE THE NEWS CYCLE. Again, in 2006, the Harper team was releasing a policy announcement every single day and Paul Martin was caught with his pants down. In doing this, you keep attention off the sideshow distractions and you make yourself into a moving target. By the time your opponent can react to your policy proposal, you're on to the next one.

    By comparison, can anyone remember a single substantive policy announcement made by Danielle Smith in the final week and a half from the debate onwards? Me neither.

    3. When you're ahead, DON'T ROCK THE BOAT. Keep the message simple and on point. Keep the message as inoffensive and uncontroversial as vanilla ice cream. The final week is not a good time to allow your more extreme elements in the party to spout off on their rants, or to open new, controversial debates.

    Harper's 2008 and 2011 elections were lessons in keeping your mouth shut and making the election about as little as possible.

    4. FIND YOUR KEY, WINNING THEMES and play them up at every opportunity. Your platform should be based around these winning themes and you should hammer them home whenever possible. The 2006 Conservative 5 point plan played this angle to a tee.

    In contrast, Danielle Smith wandered off the key points of cronyism and fiscal recklessness quite early on. It seems to me that this message was lost around the time of the debate. I thought she had landed a solid blow by challenging Redford to repeal the 30% increase to cabinet minister salaries, but the point was quickly forgotten.

    1. These are all true, and I'd add a fifth one: sell the party, not just the leader. Over the years, Harper built up a number of reliable star candidates who portrayed the rank-and-file of the Conservatives as being professional, proven, and diverse. Comments from a guy like Rob Anders didn't really hurt the party because Canadians had come to respect a lot of other guys like Baird, Flaherty, MacKay, and others. On the other hand, the WRP product was Smith and her alone. So when a few guys start to say some crazy things, that created the perception that they speak for the rank-and-file of the party.

    2. Dead on, Eric and Anonymous.

  22. Hey Eric, I've got a crazy theory I wanted to float and get your thoughts on: is it possible that the federal robocall controversy has created increasing suspicion of robocall polls, and as a result we might be seeing decreased accuracy of robocall polling, at least temporarily? I'm not sure if the polling firms release such data, but a significant increase in the number of non-respondents since the robocall scandal first came to light might lend support to such an idea.

    Anyway, I've enjoyed following the blog throughout the campaign. The recap posts are always my favorite, as they analyze what worked and what didn't. I knew something was screwy with the Liberal seat projections in Calgary, and it's interesting to see that it's the one thing that can be attributed not to bad polling data but simply to being so localized that the projection model couldn't predict it.

    1. While that is possible on the robocalls, online and live-caller polls had the same results.

      And you've got it about Calgary. That's the right way to look at things like this.

    2. yeah i think it'd be nearly impossible to predict the vote efficiency the Liberals had. 10% in the polls was accurate, not because it had fallen uniformly, but because the Liberal vote collapsed completely to the PCs everywhere but where they had incumbents... no model can predict that

  23. I really cannot fault Eric and his fine site and his meticulousness studying the polls and coming to the conclusion that he did. He is not a pollster...never claimed to be. He just runs the numbers availible and stay's scientific to the mandate he appointed himself.

    Nor do I blame the pollsters either. I think right down to the last minute their polling was accurate. This election was just special. This election was not so much an endorsement of Allison Redford as it was a last minute "cold feet" reflex on renewal.Via the Wildrose. It must be remembered that even the great Lougheed government only got in their first election by 7 seat's. The next election cycle they swept the province. Wildrose got 17.Think about that....

  24. Is it just me, or is there an interesting parallel to the Ontario election last year?

    A big-spending long-in-the-tooth centrist party looks like it's going to lose the election to Tea Party-like conservatives on their right, but manages to win because their main opponents make some bigoted comments during the campaign and because they peel away support from a smaller party that was much more popular in the previous election (the Ontario Greens, the Alberta Liberals).

    Both the Ontario PCs and the Alberta Wildrose got about the same percent support.

    1. This is interesting. Another factor that is in play - the federal Conservatives weighing in heavily on the side of the Tea Party-like conservative party.

    2. It's not just you. My first reaction upon reading the election results in the Tuesday morning paper was "Heh, looks like Smith pulled a Hudak."

  25. Eric,

    In thinking about Incumbency issues.

    Have you given consideration to adding weight based on the number of consecutive elections a particular riding has voted for the same party/candidate.

    ie. As opposed to simply delineating incumbent (1 term or 5 term) as getting slightly extra eight vs. a new candidate...

    What if someone got X extra weight as an incumbent but 1.3X if they were a 2-term incumbent (or their party was); and 1.5x if its 3-term and so-on.

    I realize that's a lot of added complexity.

    But I'm wondering if it would better capture those ridings that almost never change hands.

    1. When I originally studied the issue of incumbency, I found no marked difference between a two term or five term MP. The only big difference was between a veteran (two terms +) MP and rookies (one term).

  26. "Never underestimate the power of incumbency in Canadian politics. There is nothing harder to do than unseat an incumbent with name recognition"

    except in Quebec where being a BQ incumbent was a kiss of death against unknown, unqualified NDP candidates.

    In the Alberta election I think the electorate looked at the quality of the WRA candidates and the minimal competetion and scrutiny they would have had securing the nomination in 2011.

    Alberta was not going to elect a bunch of Ruth Ellen Brosseau's over very qualified CP incumbents just because they liked Danielle Smith more than Ms. Redford.

    Its not like the CP all the sudden had a slate of union reps running for them. Most of the incumbents candidates would have strong right of Centre qualifications.

  27. It's really annoying that the polls don't report undecided information more clearly. Makes it really hard to tell what exactly happened in the last couple of days. Were the WR flat in the overall poll info the whole time, with just the undecideds bubbling them up and down, and finally way down on election day? That's my suspicion. There's a lot of talk about strategic voting deciding this election, but the Alberta Liberals collapsed in the polls shortly after the Federal election, iirc, and never recovered. While the bulk of their 26% from 2008 probably did go to the PCs, it probably did so long before anyone had a clue the WR were likely to do well in this election. It seems to me it was either a massive swing of undecideds or a mass exodus of the WR's northern and city support in the final day (or some combination thereof) that gave us the result we have.

  28. Oh barf! The PC's had a bunch of new candidates as well. How well were they scrutinized by the electorate? Or even more importantly...by the media? As far as I can tell there were only two new candidates in this election (besides Danielle Smith) that garnered a close look by the public and that was the two idiotic pastors that represented the WR. They were stupid enough to sink a entire campaign and were low hanging fruit enough for the media to run away with.

    1. Why do you and others keep imagining that the Wildrose and PCs are something other than they are? They are intolerant.. their voting supporters aren't (necessarily), but both parties' members, etc. have long traditions of intolerant politics... like any other right ring party/movement.

    2. I've come to see "tolerance" as a fairly meaningless word in Canadian politics. The fact of the matter is that it has become a code word for "adherence to MY values".

      Most people, while describing themselves as tolerant, have no problem drawing the line between themselves and their political opponents. One can only be so tolerant before you become a moral vacuum, after all.

      The word "tolerance" to me is not moral or immoral, but amoral. A perfectly tolerant person would not have a code of ethics or morality by their very nature. At some point, we all stop being tolerant, and it's not a bad thing to admit.

  29. Do not fully understand the interpretation of this election. The Wildrose went from one elected seat and 3 floor crossers to 17 bona fide elected seats. Not bad for a party that did not exist in the last election.

    The PC's although still a majority government actually lost seats.

    1. Is it really hard to understand that a party that for several weeks had been touted/expected to form a huge majority government but then failed in that regard represents something much less than a triumph? It's an indictment of the programme promoted by Flanagan, et al.

    2. It's an indictment of a sloppy campaign and a weak ground game.

      Let's not forget that WRP did get 35% of the vote in a higher turnout election. Those people are mostly going to be die-hards. The fence sitters jumped off at the last moment.

      WRP will always enjoy a 30-35% base of support from a committed group of likely voters. That's nothing to scoff at. If they manage to keep that base and flip another 5-10% of the population, they've got their majority.

      If Redford stumbles at all (like Stelmach), you better believe those votes are falling straight into WRP hands.

      Experience (or lack thereof) was the defining issue for many voters. They simply could not hand a party with 4 seats the keys to government. Perhaps the voters got that one right. But that issue comes off the table in 2016. As does the large structural advantage of the established parties.

    3. How did we know that WRA was the front runner and ran a sloppy campaign???

      The pollsters told us.

      That was the only way.

      Having the WRA going from 1 seat to majority was a spectacular news story but in retrospect was just that... a made up story.

      There is no one that can really make an arguement that the WRA ever had above 40%.

      It is not inconvievable that in a similar situation the next WRA (supporters) will commision some polls to show the CP at 50%.

      q1. Is Alberta the best place to live in Canada?

      q2. I Alberta better governed than any province in Canada?

      q2a. Who would be better?

      q3. Who will you be voting for?

      a poll showing a comfortable CP majority would motivate the WRA base and relax the PC vote. Liberals would vote Liberal and NDP vote NDP trying to be the opposition party.

      This paticular tin-foil consiparcy theory makes sense as the PC party of 41 years is by far the richest provincial party, (Maybe outide the Ontario Liberal party and the Quebec Liberal party) and its supporters can influence the pollsters either directly (cash) or indirectly with future Government work.

      In BC I am fully expecting to have polls showing the NDP polling at 50% during the election and a huge rally behind the BC liberals to stop the Unions taking over the provinces purse strings.

      managing and manipulating polls is a far more effective strategy than robocalling or even policy and promises.

    4. I disagree that the pollsters got it wrong in the lead up to the election.

      When the WRP was polling with 40-45% and a 10-17 point lead, they were truly that far ahead at the time.

      I'm actually inclined to give the pollsters an easier time than most people. A lot of people are flaming them, but every poll was fairly consistent right up until April 21.

      At the last moment, a lot of people got cold feet about handing a very new, inexperienced party a majority. I really don't think a lot of the last minute PC supporters intended to give Redford such a strong majority; most were probably hoping for a minority in some form.

      I'd be curious to see a poll conducted now to find out if the 44% who voted PC actually wanted a PC 61 seat majority.

      Many of the strategic voters were just trying to blunt the growth of the WRP, not hand the PCs a whopping majority. Many NDPs and Libs who switched were hoping for a minority in which they would have the balance of power. Kind of backfired on them, no?

    5. Precisely. I think the pollsters were accurately reflecting what voting intentions really were. People just gave sober second thought at the last moment and were not willing to stupidly hand over the keys to power to a still untried group of inexperienced politicians. But Alberta is not like most provinces in the sense that we really are not given to wholesale change despite popular myth ala the 1971 election. People forget that the Lougheed pc's originally only got in by 7 or 8 seats the first time around and did not sweep the province until the next election cycle.

  30. Actually I think there was a union link- I had heard that some unions phoned all their members - interesting I got a call from AFL - I have never been associated with them!

  31. Pollsters do not call cell phones - bias
    Maybe predicted lead caused some who would have voted WR to vote another way so majority for WR not too big- I also would like to rerun election today and see buyer remorse factor
    Cannot under estimate the big blue election machine: lists, money, volunteers

    I agree that the call thing has got to be regulated- but I am not sure it can be. We have rules in elections Ab and they are broken constantly. Never mind the 70 investigations of illegal donations before the election- set those aside. But Alberta federation of labor ran a push poll- not a lobby group- under investigation- so what- a little late. Stephen carter ran a push poll early- legal? Not sure if he is under investigation. Vote4 kids pamphlets sent to schools and parents before the election about all the wonderful stuff, and then vote4 kids signs go up during election- legal? Teachers writing in newsletters, deputy super intent sending letters to parents, ATA and other unions phoning members- legal? I do not know. But it shows the fine line and the efforts to get around the rules

    So robo calls- this one is troubling. Great modern tool for messaging. But there have been so many boiler room calls. Early in the campaign, calls representing WR flooded some tidings. Caught an Edmonton number and reported to Elections Alberta. Was not WR, just someone ticking people off and used the name
    Then later the calls of same nature up in grande prairie area. Reported by WR to RCMP again with numbers. Not WR - again someone ticking off the people falsely identifying as WR.
    So there are legal and illegal use of these. How do you stop. Go to a boiler room- takes a while to trace.

  32. Here's another possibility:

    This is the first election held since the robocall scandal became an everyday discussion. It is slowly sinking in that when you answer political questions on the phone, your answers are tracked and associated with you, since the caller knows who you are. We hear allegations of people who said they won't vote CPC being given misleading information on polling day. There is a reason for the secret ballot, it is to prevent vote buying and intimidation.

    Given this, which would you prefer:
    1) PCs win and they know you said you'd vote WR.
    2) WR wins and they know you said you'd vote PC.

    In the voting booth, you choose who you think will do the best job. But when polled, you might choose the one from whom you fear the greatest level of vindictive retaliation.

    I think I'd rather disappoint the ones who say the other side will drag us back to the 50s, rather than anger the ones who say those they dislike will be thrown into a lake of fire.

  33. I assumed from day one Redford would have won a sweeping majority regardless of polls, so the only thing that surprised me was the fact that the Liberals hung on to 5 seats. That being said, it's fair to say that this election was really a fight between two visions for the future of the province, and ironically the party of change, was the party that had been in power for 41 years. Wildrose wasn't really extraordinary or exciting, just a bland right wing populism that the PC's dominating during the Klein years. The dynasty may still continue, but Redford will shape up to be a major figure in the future of Alberta politics.

  34. What this shows is that politics is something beyond mere statistics. I've commented a couple of time before (as have others) on the importance of political issues and trends (I don't mean statistical trends) in various political races, but no election more than this one demonstrates that an understanding of underlying philosophical (rather, political) issues is essential to have a sense of what's going on. By analysing - in political terms, not statistical terms - the situation in Alberta, my wife predicted a PC minority and thought a PC majority wasn't unlikely - based on observations of descriptions in the mainstream and alternative media, on various Internet users' comments/posts, and the like. Did she anticipate the actual number of seats? No. But she gleaned the most significant trend developing... the retention of the PC government and the rejection of the more extreme Wildrose "brand". Statistics should be used to back up more theoretical analyses, not to supplant them.

    For the record, my jury was out for this election... I grew up in Calgary and was prepared to see either the Tories or the Wildrose win.

  35. I was just on Daveberta and one of the comments was from a young person who started a Facebook with her friends as anyone but wild rose. They got over 1000 friends per day. She said the pollsters never contact people with cells, so they miss a Facebook circle just as these.

    1. Pollsters do call cell phones.

    2. One wonders why, though.

      I just don't see what people find scary about Wildrose. I don't see why young people would be so opposed to them. They're about moving away from the stodgy controlling government of the past, and instead letting people make their own decisions.

      What's not to like about that?

    3. Social conservatism doesn't sell well with young people Ira, and the refusal to acknowledge the science behind climate change. That's what it came down to.

    4. Keep in mind too that as impressive and energetic as Smith herself may be, she is only on the ballot in a single riding. In many other ridings Wild Rose was running candidates saying stupid things like being white would make them a better MLA. You can like a party leader and still be scared $#*^less of the party itself.

    5. I would assume, however, that cell users are less likely to respond/answer, since they have a limited number of minutes, unlike on a landline.

  36. Your model would have looked a lot better had you simply avoided the impulse to call a concrete result, and simply predict what the polls were saying: to close to call.

    1. I seriously considered that, but thought that I'd be accused of hedging.

    2. Doug Earl, that would have missed the point of 308. As Eric has said time and again, the point of the site is to turn a vote projection into seat projections. Just saying "too close to call" and walking away would have been the easy way out. Eric took the harder road, and was one of the few to even acknowledge the possibility of PC majority government.

  37. I must say the Alberta voters are an astute bunch. Two weeks ago I had the feeling that we were going to see a situation similar to what happened in Sask in 1982,Ontario in 1990. In those elections there were upsets and most ridings ended up with MLA's or MPP's that didn't have a clue and weren't even interested.
    And then we had Quebec that embraces the band wagon affect. The voters didn't even know or care who the candidate was,they voted for the 'smiling moustache'.
    The Alberta voter as result of a couple off the cuff comments decided to give their heads a shake and decided the devil they knew was better than the one they didn't know. And to sum it all up this was a wake up call to the PC's to pay a little more attention to the electorate.
    In closing I must say that Danille Smith looked relieved. If they had won she wouldn't have had a team of qualified people to form a government.

  38. The day before the election, as a Tory party official, I just made a guess: PC 48 seats; Wildrose 34 seats, NDP 4 seats, liberal 1 seat.
    My guess out of the blue was closer than your "scientific" projection.

    1. You are mixing up Eric's model and the polls. Plus, presumably as "a Tory party official", you had access to PC internal polling, which was reportedly showing the same spike that Forum picked up on in their last poll of the campaign.

    2. Were you at a level where you had access to the PC's internal polling?

    3. Noticing what went wrong with this projection, and the federal one, I have a suggestion that might improve your predictor.

      In this election, you over-predicted for the falling Wildrose, while in the federal election you under-predicted for the surging NDP. It seems to me that the model struggles to project momentum. Therefore, would something where if a party gains or loses at least x points in y of the last z polls, then the momentum would carry through to an election if it were held that day (and therefore, you add x points to that party).

    4. Internal party polling seemed to put us neck and neck in Calgary on Friday, which was the last day I was aware of any internal polling. We could not know how reliable it was compared to media polls released around the same time that painted a different picture.

  39. I have followed this site through the whole AB campaign, and I think overall it was great.

    One thing that your methodology did not take into account, are the individual candidates in each riding. However, you probably are not able to do so.

    As an example, in Calgary Buffalo, the Liberal incumbent has generally been well liked. When I saw your projections by riding, I knew that Kent Hehr would not do as poorly as you indicated. (I didn't necessarily know he would win, but that he wouldn't get blown away.) In addition to his natural support, he also got a lot of strategic votes from people wanting to avoid Wildrose or WRP&PCAA.

    Anyway, great job, I have enjoyed your site through this election.

  40. I would say that the polls were quite accurate, and they correctly captured WR's peak and the Tories' positive reversal of fortune. That reversal turned into a tidal wave the weekend preceding the election.

    One reason for the late break was that news takes time to trickle out. The weekend before voting day was the first weekend that people really had a lot of time to socialize and talk election.

    I was at a social function on the weekend with a couple hundred people from both Edmonton and Calgary. The chatter was ALL election. There were a number of undecideds in the crowd, and they were being updated on the WR's horrendous week and being told that WR were backward, and that WR majority would be a death knell for Alberta's prosperity. This was coming from a Calgary oil executive who had turned against WR for their climate change position. All the undecideds were told they had to vote - it was an absolute emergency to prevent a WR majority!

    As they knew very little about the election or policy themselves, I'm sure that was enough for them to decide to vote, and vote PC.

    So what I'm saying is ... the polls in the week leading up to the election captured a small percentage of the population that consisted of the politically informed who were turning away from the WR and to the PCs.

    But as the weekdays are busy, the small percentage of politically informed people didn't have time to exert their influence on less informed people until the weekend. So a 2% vote swing during the weekday, could turn into a bigger, say, 6-8% vote swing by the weekend. That wouldn't be captured by polls taken earlier.

    I suspect that we would have seen an even bigger Tory majority had the election been held a few days later.

    The WR vote had simply lost its cachet as the cool protest vote (for people who have no idea about actual policy). The cool protest vote had become PC.

  41. Also, Eric - I would suggest that you widen the boundaries for comments. They're quite narrow, which means there's a lot of scrolling down.

    Other than that, the site is sharp, and your commentary and analysis is great.

    I don't know why people expect youu to be able to predict the future. If it was that easy, then all those stock analysts would be rich, and so would anyone who takes their advice.

    Obviously, it doesn't work that way.

  42. I hope someone reads this...
    The missing thing in all this hubbub is that the Wildrose GAINED 13 seats. The PCs LOST 5 or 9 seats, depending on how you want to count it. Not as dramatic as it couldve been, but still.

    I think people ultimately got scared and decided to go with what they know, give Danielle 4 years to build a strong opposition with no nutcases, and then shell get her premiership. Its frustrating, but understandable. Wildrose is doing like Ron Paul here in the US. In 2008, a little smidge of the vote. In 2012, high expectations, but disappointing results that are nonetheless a boost. 2016 bodes well for both (altho it is expect that his son will take up the reins).


COMMENT MODERATION POLICY - Please be respectful when commenting. If choosing to remain anonymous, please sign your comment with some sort of pseudonym to avoid confusion. Please do not use any derogatory terms for fellow commenters, parties, or politicians. Inflammatory and overly partisan comments will not be posted. PLEASE KEEP DISCUSSION ON TOPIC.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.