Monday, July 9, 2012

Transposition of votes for proposed Newfoundland & Labrador electoral boundaries

The redistribution of federal electoral districts is underway, and a few weeks ago the proposed boundary changes for Newfoundland and Labrador were announced. These boundaries are yet to be made official and the commission will hold public hearings before determining their final decision. But after transposing the votes from the 2011 federal election to the proposed boundaries, one riding changes hands: from the Liberals to the Conservatives.

For my take, including federal and provincial seat projections, on the Environics poll on the voting intentions of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, you can read my latest piece for The Globe and Mail here.

The following transposition of votes is, of course, unofficial. A few human errors might have slipped in, and it was not possible to transpose the votes cast in mobile polls or under the special voting rules. This means that the transposition has left some votes in predecessor ridings that have actually been re-located. But as ballots cast in this way represent a very small proportion of all ballots cast, and are unlikely to differ from the overall totals by a great degree, the overall effect represents a potential error of no more than a few tenths of a percentage point.

Newfoundland and Labrador received no new seats and two of the ridings, St. John's South - Mount Pearl (NDP) and Labrador (Conservative), were not changed at all. The two ridings on the Avalon Peninsula that did change are still recognizable, while the three ridings on the rest of the Rock were changed significantly. Let's go through them one by one, starting with the riding that swings with the transposed results.
Avalon lost a northern portion of its territory to Bonavista - Burin - Trinity, while it gained part of Conception Bay South from the old St. John's East. The effect of this trade-off is that the Liberals fall behind the Conservatives.

The 7,865 voters (this refers to people who voted in the 2011 election, rather than all eligible voters, as it will in the remainder of this post) in the area lost to Bonavista - Burin - Trinity were far more Liberal than the riding as a whole: 52.3% of them voted for Scott Andrews, while only 32.6% voted Conservative. That is compared to the 44% to 40.5% split between Andrews and Fabien Manning that occurred throughout Avalon.

The 6,790 voters picked up from St. John's East, however, voted en masse for the NDP. But that riding is home to Jack Harris, and undoubtedly many of the 72.3% of voters in this portion of the new Avalon riding cast their ballot for Harris rather than the NDP in particular. Another 20.7% voted Conservative and only 6.2% voted for the Liberals.

Taken together, the transposed result from the old Avalon to the new riding gives the Conservatives 38.5% of the vote to 34.9% for the Liberals. The New Democrats are bumped up considerably to 25.4% of the vote. That is an 11.2-point gain for the NDP, much of that (9.1 points) at the expense of the Liberals. The New Democrats picked up over 3,800 new supporters, while the Liberals lost almost 3,700.

But all is not lost for Andrews. He was facing a well-known Conservative candidate, which might not be the case in 2015. And a lot of those NDP voters in Conception Bay South may prefer voting for Andrews over the NDP candidate, as Andrews is still more likely to beat out whoever carries the Conservative banner. Nevertheless, the new boundaries make Avalon are more difficult hold for the Liberals, and give the New Democrats and Conservatives a better shot at the riding.
St. John's North, formally St. John's East, only lost that portion of Conception Bay South to Avalon. The rest of the riding stays intact, and the result is very little change from the 2011 result. The voters lost to Avalon voted in generally the same way as those in the rest of St. John's East, meaning that the transposed result gives the NDP 71% of the vote (-0.2), the Conservatives 20.9% (unchanged), and the Liberals 7% (+0.1).

In other words, Jack Harris is just as likely to hold St. John's North as he was St. John's East.
Bonavista - Burin - Trinity is a completely transformed riding. Though its predecessor has to be Random - Burin - St. George's by process of elimination, it is a very different riding. Tucked into the eastern part of the island rather than the south, Bonavista - Burin - Trinity is the riding in Newfoundland and Labrador that has the least in common with the ones on the old map.

Using Random - Burin - St. George's as the base for Bonavista - Burin - Trinity, the riding has lost 2,213 voters to Bay d'Espoir - Central - Notre Dame. These voters were slightly more Liberal and Conservative and less New Democratic than the riding as a whole, but the 10,485 voters lost to Long Range Mountains in the west had a much more different profile. While 44% of them voted for Liberal Judy Foote, 31.8% voted Conservative and 22.7% voted for the NDP. The New Democrats won quite a few polls in the area outside of Stephenville, and the loss of these voters hurts the party in Bonavista - Burin - Trinity, particularly as the 7,865 voters picked up from Avalon voted more or less like those in Random - Burin - St. George's.

The transposed result gives the Liberals 53.3% of the vote in Bonavista - Burin - Trinity, compared to 32% for the Tories and 13.6% for the New Democrats. This makes the riding a safer Liberal seat than Random - Burin - St. George's had been.
Bay d'Espoir - Central - Notre Dame occupies the centre of the island from north to south, with most of its territory belonging to the old Bonavista - Gander - Grand Falls - Windsor riding.

The 8,989 voters lost to Bonavista - Burin - Trinity voted in much the same way as those in the rest of the riding, but the 4,845 voters picked up from the old Humber - St. Barbe - Baie Verte and the 2,213 voters from Random - Burin - St. George's were less Liberal and more Conservative than those in Bonavista - Gander - Grand Falls - Windsor. Those picked up from Humber - St. Barbe - Baie Verte are especially problematic for the Liberals, as they split 42.6% for Gerry Byrne to 39.6% for the Conservative candidate. Those voters from Random - Burin - St. George's were less evenly split.

The transposed result gives the Liberals 54.8% of the vote (-2.9) and the Conservatives 30.4% (+2.8), with the New Democrats at 13.7%. It makes the riding slightly less safe for Scott Simms and the Liberals, but it is still a relatively safe Liberal seat.
Long Range Mountains occupies the westernmost part of Newfoundland, and is drawn largely from the old Humber - St. Barbe - Baie Verte riding. But by picking up the southwestern corner of the island from Random - Burin - St. George's, the riding has become slightly less Liberal and more NDP.

The riding lost a lot of Conservative voters, as 39.6% of the 4,845 lost to Bay d'Espoir - Central - Notre Dame voted Tory, while 42.6% voted Liberal. The 10,485 voters picked up from Random - Burin - St. George's, however, are little better for the Liberals. 44% of them voted for the party, while 31.8% voted Conservative and 22.7% voted for the NDP.

This results in a 1.8-point drop for Gerry Byrne, as the Liberals take 55.2% of the vote in new riding. The Conservatives are unchanged at 25.2%, while the NDP is up 2.1 points to 17.9%. This makes the riding slightly less safe for the Liberals and slightly more interesting for the NDP, but just like the rest of the ridings on the island of Newfoundland but west of Avalon, it remains a safe Liberal seat.

From four Liberal seats, two NDP seats, and one Conservative seat, the proposed boundaries would have transformed the 2011 election result into three seats for the Liberals and two apiece for the New Democrats and Conservatives.

Using's current polling averages and the current boundaries, the Liberals would be projected to win five seats (picking up Labrador) to the NDP's two in Newfoundland and Labrador. That would not change with the new boundaries, but it would make Avalon a close Liberal/NDP race.

Those Harris voters complicate things for Andrews, but they are unlikely to vote so heavily for the New Democrats again now that they are in Avalon. Nevertheless, the NDP candidate will have an easier job convincing voters to stick with the NDP in Conception Bay South than Andrews will convincing them to turn away from the NDP and towards the Liberals - that's a two-step process instead of one.

Losing the voters in the northwestern part of Avalon is the big issue, as the loss of just those voters would still give the Conservative the edge, with 42.7% to 41.7%. Not only would Andrews need to win over a lot of those NDP voters in Conception Bay South, he would need to beat out the Conservatives in that part of the riding by 5% or more. If the Tories stay low in Atlantic Canada in the polls, that will not be a problem. But if they recover, Avalon could be an interesting three-way race in 2015.