Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Likely close contest in Calgary Centre

The last poll by Forum Research in Calgary Centre spilled a lot of ink last week, as it showed a mere two point lead for Conservative candidate Joan Crockatt over Liberal Harvey Locke in what is supposed to be one of the safest regions for the Tories in all of a Canada. But it had the look of an outlier poll - that is, until Forum did another survey this week and showed that the race was looking no different.
When originally faced with such an outlandish result, the smart money was to consider the poll more likely than not to be misreading the race. To have another poll showing no statistically significant difference adds a lot of weight to the argument that Calgary Centre is indeed a horse race, which no longer seems so unthinkable considering how things have been unfolding in the riding. Nevertheless, the possibility that Forum is still misreading the race for methodological reasons cannot be dismissed out of hand, but there is less reason for caution than there was a few days ago.

The poll found Crockatt at 35%, up three points since Forum's Nov. 12 poll. Locke was unchanged at 30%, while Green candidate Chris Turner was up two points to 25%. Dan Meades of the NDP was down four points to 8%, while 2% of respondents said they would vote for another party (-2). As mentioned, none of these shifts of support are outside the margin of error.

While the evidence leans in favour of a Crockatt lead (she has not trailed in any of Forum's polls) the gap between her and Locke is within the margin of error. But so is the gap between Locke and Turner, though again the most likely situation is 1-2-3 for the Tories, Liberals, and Greens.

But this poll is not completely beyond questioning. Though I highlighted Forum's recent successes in riding polls last week, there are a few points to consider. Firstly, the poll was conducted on a Saturday, generally a bad day to do a poll.

Secondly, the findings in the report on how respondents voted in the last federal election do not match up entirely with the real results. The totals for the Tories and Greens are within the MOE, but it seems possible that the sample is slightly (maybe by a point or two) over-sampling Liberals and under-sampling New Democrats (by two or three points). This can be due to lapses in memory or a changing population (2% said they voted for the Bloc, so they are either displaced Quebecers or fibbers), and is probably not enough to cause a major problem. We also don't know how Forum weighs these responses, if it all. If they don't, there is the possibility that Crockatt's lead is slightly under-estimated.

But it is hard to tell with sample sizes of about 400 people or less in each of the polls Forum has conducted during the by-election campaign. It is actually theoretically possible that the poll is gauging things correctly within the margin of error and Crockatt's support has not dipped below 37% over the last few weeks, or that Locke's has never been higher than 25% since the campaign began.
That is, however, more unlikely than the true support levels being closer to Forum's estimation. Theoretically at least, the odds that the real situation is at the extreme of the margin of error is quite low. But recent elections have demonstrated just how much theory can depart from reality.

The chart above shows support for each party and the bands of support that is accounted for by the margin of error. The band is narrower, for example, for the NDP than the Conservatives because margin of error is calculated differently depending on the support a party has. To put it simply, a party can't have a margin of error of +/- 5% if its support is gauged at 4%.

The chart shows how it is possible for there to be little movement from poll-to-poll. The Liberals being stagnant at 26% is possible throughout Forum's polling. Conversely, it is also possible (though far less likely) that the Liberals have gone from 16% to 35%. What this chart does show quite clearly, however, is that a drop in Crockatt's support has almost certainly occurred, with almost all of that going to Turner of the Greens.

Despite the close race, a lot of factors weigh in Crockatt's favour. Most importantly, she has yet to relinquish the lead in any of these polls. She is the closest thing to an incumbent, and her support is likely to be drawn from those older voters who are more likely to turnout. It is possible that the enthusiasm the Turner and Locke campaigns have created (simply because it doesn't look like they'll be trounced) could boost turnout among their supporters and that Crockatt's performance in this campaign will depress her own turnout, but the fundamentals of the riding still point to her having the advantage. Nevertheless, this last week could be decisive.

30 comments:

  1. Looks like the Greens have the momentum here. You gotta admit it would be pretty wild if they won this riding. For this reason, I'm rooting for them!

    Dom

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    1. The Greens traditionally do quite well iin Alberta.

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    2. That's true, but it's mostly because none of the opposition parties have much hope of winning seats there. If the 2nd and 3rd place parties have no chance of winning, there's no particular reason to vote for them instead of the Greens.

      The same thing happens in the anglophone ridings of Quebec -- the Greens do relatively well because everyone expects the Liberals to win in a landslide and so your vote for any other party is wasted no matter which one you choose.

      Once non-Tory voters realize that the 2nd place party has a real chance to win the seat, I would expect support for the Greens to fade.

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  2. I'm not convinced that such huge shifts are taking place... I'll still be betting that the Conservatives end up with at least +40% of the vote. If they didn't, and especially if they lose this riding, this by-election is going to have to be studied inside and out. Its possibly as groundshaking as Outremont was back in 2007 - and while that is a lot to put on a single data point, just imagine the headlines that will come after it.

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    1. I'm with you Volkov. What I would be interested to know is if there is any group in the riding that is trying to bring the opposition vote together behind the Liberal candidate. In the 2008 election in Edmonton-Strathcona, an organized "Liberals for Linda" group emerged urging Liberals to vote for Duncan. I'm curious whether a group to encourage Greens and New Democrats to vote for Locke.

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  3. It will be interesting to see if there is a strong move to coalese around the most likely non-Conservative candidate. NDP supporters should be tempted since there candidate is doing so poorly and they should be motivated to defeat a Conservative most of all.

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    1. It's a tough call on which candidate would be best to coalesce around though. Granted, the Liberals are 2nd, but they appear to have plateaued, whereas the Greens are now nipping at their heels and are clearly attracting the support of disaffected CPC supporters. Furthermore, this latest poll was conducted before Crockatt suffered more bad press as a result of Nenshi calling her out for being a no-show at the debate, which could have pushed even more of her supporters over to the Greens. Agreed though that the NDP supporters ought to be tempted to flock elsewhere at this point, but then again there's always a certain minimum base of diehards which has possibly already been reached. It's a gonna be a nail-biter for sure!

      Dom

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    2. I don't think it is necessarily clear that either the Liberal has plateaued or the Green is gaining. All of the change between polls is within the margin of error, and could well just be noise.

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    3. The change between Oct 26 and Nov 12 is definitely outside the margin of error for both the Conservatives and the Greens. This is quite obvious in Éric's graph above. Hence his remark:

      "What this chart does show quite clearly, however, is that a drop in Crockatt's support has almost certainly occurred, with almost all of that going to Turner of the Greens."

      Dom

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  4. Interesting polls. I am thinking this may be one by-election where the polls actually have a big impact on the electoral outcome. I am still not holding my breath for a non-conservative win though.

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  5. A Green victory would be a real slap down for the Oil Barons and Harperites.

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    1. Charles Harrison22 November, 2012 14:10

      A Green victory would actually be unlikely.

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  6. I think that It is best for liberals to go green this time. Green candidates rarely get that much support in a riding, and Green supporters think that the reward for winning a riding for the greens far outweighs the risk of a conservative winning. They are probably used to conservatives winning that they don't care anymore if they win again.

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  7. It is very difficult to persuade voters to vote strategically. They look at you as if you are "stealing their vote". Best to put the poll results on a card, hand it out in their neighbourhood and let the chips fall.

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  8. Wherein McGuinty assassinates his own party by decimating their chances in the Calgary by election.

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  9. Best thing to happen for the Green candidate for sure. How many McGuinty's can resign in one month?

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  10. The latest poll of 401 Calgary Centre voters, paid for and conducted by ROI, shows the Conservatives at 37%, the Liberals at 32%, Greens at 17% and NDP at 12%. The media release is available here:
    http://return-on-insight.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/ROI-Media-Release-YYC-Centre-poll-Nov-22.pdf

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  11. Conservatives find themselves in a corner, the Liberals find a way to come running to their rescue.Now its by the words of David McGuinty

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  12. Eric

    Too many Anonymous again !!

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    1. Agreed Peter. I think it is the same anonymous who is an excessive poster as opposed to multiple anonymouses.

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    2. Derek I think you are probably right.

      Over to Eric then I guess ??

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    3. Actually, Derek, I'm the Anonymous you are referring to, and I have already said in an earlier entry that I apologize if I had broke any rules. This is a different Anonymous this time. Please don't lay the blame on someone until you have evidence. Thanks.

      -VM

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    4. If you want proof of my apology then you can read the comments section of the entry that Eric made last thursday.

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    5. I have nothing against anonymous comments as long as they don't harm anyone. I don't think the anon comments on this page has hurt anyone, so why do you two want to shut it down? Freedom of speech, people.

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    6. Mark

      Freedom Of Speech implies accepting responsibility for what you say.

      Hiding behind Anonymous removes that responsibility and thus should not be allowed.

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    7. Peter, I will take responsibility and from now on I'm not going to make any more comments as Anonymous or any other screen name on this site. Any Anonymous comments that you see on this page and any other page that Eric creates from now on are not my doing. Thanks.

      -VM

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    8. VM,

      I am not laying blame.
      However, you have made an accusatory statement towards me! How do you know to whom I am referring or even what posts I am referring? A pre-emptive mea culpa?

      You should publish a list of all your anonymous posts so people can make their own conclusions!

      An anonymous on another thread accused a poster of "stalking" and wrote towards another poster that he had poor logic twice!

      Peter is right. Freedom of speech requires accepting responsibility for what one writes. Writing anonymously shirks that responsibility and allows a person a "blank cheque" to write what they will irregardless of the truth behind the statement.

      Finally, it is important to have a moniker for simplicity of reading. On another thread following the conversation became impossible because one anonymous (maybe more) posted repetitiously sometimes re-posting the same point only minutes later.

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    9. I'm not making an accusatory statement towards you, I'm sorry if what I've said made you misunderstood what I mean. I said I'm the Anonymous who you accused of being an excessive poster. There could be other anonymouses who are also excessive posters. I'm just saying I apologize for being one of them. I could have misunderstood you for a saying it could be "the" same anonymous who is an excessive poster, so I assumed you are only talking about me. I could have understood what you have said better if you said it could be "many" Anonymouses who are all excessive posters.

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    10. And I couldn't publish all my anonymous posts because they stretch back for weeks and months. I simply can't remember everything I posted here and when they occurred, so I apologize for that too. I suppose that if you assume the posts are within 1 minute of each other, then those comments are made by one person.

      Also, I feel it's kind of pointless to reply to comments like these. How do I know you are the same Derek that posted here before? Anyone can write their name as Derek Andrew and post something and claim they are the same person. I guess you could also make the same counter argument by saying that I could be a different VM than the VM who posted above. So Eric, getting rid of Anonymous and posts with a user defined name is not a bad idea. It holds commenters accountable for their own actions.

      -VM

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