Wednesday, May 1, 2013

B.C. volatility increases as campaign heats up

The B.C. Liberals continue to make modest gains as the campaign progresses in British Columbia, and though their odds of winning the popular vote on May 14 have increased, those still stand at only 4.6%. But the volatility in the polls have increased considerably, making it more difficult to estimate where the parties will end up on election night.

The projected ranges have decreased since Monday's update due to more polling data being available, with the B.C. New Democrats at between 44.2% and 49.4% of the vote and the Liberals at between 30.8% and 35.6%. That gives them 48-66 and 16-36 seats respectively, with the most likely outcome being 56 and 28 seats apiece. That is a drop of three seats for the NDP from Monday's update, which decreases their chances of winning the most seats to 95.2%, if an election were held today.

But the forecasted ranges for May 14 have increased dramatically. The NDP could take between 40.8% and 52.8% of the vote and the Liberals between 27.2% and 39.2%. Drilled down to the regional level, where fluctuations have been even larger, this gives the NDP between 18 and 83 seats and the Liberals between 1 and 64. In other words, anything could potentially happen.

The potential is not particularly strong, though, but the possibility exists. The model is designed to increase its uncertainty of a future event when the polls show less consistency, and that is starting to occur.

Province-wide, polls taken in the 18 days before the most recent poll have shown a variation of six points for both the Liberals and NDP. In the Interior and North, that discrepancy is as large as 12 points for the Liberals, as large as 16 points for the NDP in metropolitan Vancouver, and as large as 18 points (again for the NDP) on Vancouver Island.

That means the model considers a great deal of movement to be possible between now and election night, making the seat forecast as wide as it is. By comparison, as recently as the forecast for Apr. 14 the estimated margin of error in the polls was actually larger than the discrepancy between province-wide polls for the Liberals.

Unless the polls start to agree with one another more, it is possible that the forecasted ranges will remain as wide as they are straight through to election day. That would be unfortunate, as it lessens the usefulness of the estimates, but in forecasting the choice often has to be made between precision and accuracy. A model that is more precise is not necessarily more accurate. Consider the forecasted ranges, then, as an absolute best and worst case scenario if another Alberta-level event occurs. Hopefully the polls will tighten up.
This latest update was driven by a new poll from Abacus Data. The firm has not delved into British Columbia before, so there is no baseline with which to compare these numbers. They are broadly in-line with what other firms have shown, however, and suggest that the lead the New Democrats have over the Liberals could potentially be narrowing.

The demographic breakdowns give more credence to the results as they are also consistent with what other surveys have shown: a four-point edge for the NDP among men but a 16-point advantage among women. The New Democrats even lead among those aged 60 and over, otherwise known as 'voters'.

The poll has some other interesting tidbits. The B.C. Liberals are getting a majority of federal Conservative and Liberal support, but not enough of it as 18% of federal Tories are voting NDP and 30% of federal Liberals are as well.

The survey also shows that only 41% of respondents would consider voting Liberal, while 50% would consider voting for the NDP. Fully 34% would consider voting Green, putting them closer to the Liberals than the Liberals are to the NDP. On Vancouver Island, 49% would consider voting Green. That bodes well for their chances.

If we remove the undecideds, however, we get a look at the absolute ceilings for each party: 61% for the New Democrats, 52% for the Liberals, 45% for the Greens, and 32% for the Conservatives.

Regionally, Abacus is showing a closer race in and around Vancouver (which for them stretches out to Chilliwack) while the race in the Interior and Central/North is also very close. On Vancouver Island, the NDP is dominating and the Greens are 10 points up on the Liberals. Interesting numbers.

Also interesting are Abacus's ratings of the leaders, which show British Columbians to be somewhat less upset with Christy Clark than other surveys have suggested. Abacus measured favourability, rather than approval (which are two different things), and found Clark to have a higher favourability rating than Adrian Dix (barely, at 24% to 23%). But her unfavourability was much higher, at 42% to 35%. Only 6% said they had a favourable opinion of John Cummins.

On several issues, Dix and Clark were actually very closely rated. The margin was no larger than a statistically insignificant handful of points on the questions of qualifications, judgment, and likability. But Dix did much better than Clark on being able to understand B.C.'s problems and having a clear vision for the province, whereas Clark scored higher than Dix on being style over substance and out of touch. That hurts her.

In the coming days, the first post-debate polls will be released. Though most surveys seem to have given the debate to Dix, it will be interesting to see whether it will have an effect. Any changes may have less to do with Clark and Dix than with Cummins and Sterk. Do they get a boost or does one or both of them drop, to the benefit of the other parties?


  1. You appear to have missed that the Abacus poll is admittedly not a random sample (see article in Tyee). As such I question whether it should be considered in your model at all.

    1. Abacus used an online panel, just as Angus-Reid and Ipsos-Reid do and Justason partly does. There was no difference in their methods.

      Online panels may not be able to build the same probabilistic sample as telephone polling was once able to do, but it has proven its viability in the past.

  2. Although I think this poll may be a bit of an outlyer (sp?) I do like the job they did comparing voting intentions. I took a look yesterday and was impressed. In that way, things still seem to favour the NDP, at least that seemed to be abacus' take. Having said that however, the Liberals seem to be getting their legs under them somewhat as the campaign passes the half-way point. The NDP, and particularly Dix, need to get their game faces on or we'll be saddled with another four years of this mini-CPC crowd (shudder). It should be an interesting couple of weeks.

    1. Another four years of declining poverty and a lower debt to GDP ratio wouldn't be so bad. Both of those went up under the BC NDP and down under the BC Liberals. Poverty even went up faster than the national average under the BC NDP, and went down (barely) faster than the national average under the BC Liberals.

      What's more important, helping the poor while keep the province's finances solid, or venting a little bit of anger over issues of style rather than substance.

    2. Ryan I ain't no fish and I won't rise to that smelly bait. I stick with what I said above.

    3. Hey Pink, it's just the truth. I don't think we're able to post links here, but Google can dig it up pretty quickly. Even the papers that attack the BC Liberals on their record on poverty show it.

      Let me ask this in all earnestness - what areas do you feel our province has gotten worse in, relative to how it was under the NDP?

      Or do you just feel the NDP will do better than last time? If so, fair enough. Hindsight is 20:20 after all, and maybe they've learned from previous mistakes.

  3. Awesome analysis, Eric! Nuanced, intelligent; why don't the pro pollsters consult you?
    We will not see a 2001 wipe out, unfortunately, as a dipper nothing would give me more pleasure than to deny the Libs Official Opposition status as they did to Joy & Jenny all those years ago...

    1. macadavy,

      In 2001 the BC NDP did not receive official opposition or party status because they failed to win the required 4 seats to be recognised as a party.

      It was not the Liberals who denied them this honour rather, it was the standing orders of the BC Legislature where the seat requirement is set forth.

      Standing order may be changed by the will of the House. I very much doubt the BC NDP was generous toward BC Reform when it won two seats in 1996. My recollection is BC Reform was not considered an official party in 1996.

  4. Eric, up until now, I thought your website was quite credible with its blending of polls to give an overall poll.

    Your utilizing of Abacus has put your credibility down several notches. As soon as I read that Abacus Data is the official pollster for the Sun News Network, I took their results with a grain of salt.

    You claim, "Abacus used an online panel, just as Angus-Reid and Ipsos-Reid do and Justason partly does. There was no difference in their methods."

    There is one big difference. Unlike the other polling firms, Abacus has close ties to the ultra right wing Sun News Network.

    Just for laughs, I will put the Sun TV News on for about 1/2 hour (I can't stomach more than 30 minutes of their mega bias) to listen to the hysterically loony, extreme conservative propaganda rants of the likes of Ezra Levant, Brian Lilley, Charles Adler, etc.

    You can't seriously consider Abacus as an unbiased source of information!

    After all, Abacus won't bite the hand that belongs to Abacus's major provider of revenue!

    No doubt, Abacus's quality standards in panel recruitment might be a tad tainted to suit Sun News Network (using the word "standards" very loosely!

    Hell, up until the Abacus BC poll that was just released, I had never even heard of Abacus Data!

    1. There is absolutely no reason to believe that because Abacus works with SNN that their numbers are unreliable. I have worked with Abacus when they did a poll for The Huffington Post, and they are very professional.

      Abacus also releases very complete information and detailed reports, which most other pollsters do not do.

      Abacus has been around since 2010, and they have been tested in several election campaigns. They performed quite well in the 2011 federal and Ontario provincial elections. They do not have their own panel, so there is no recruitment.

      And you make a mistake to assume that the opinions of columnists and TV personalities are representative of everyone who works for a media organization or is contracted to do work for them. You also make a mistake to believe that political polling is a "major provider" of revenue for Abacus - polling firms make most of their revenue doing market research.

  5. There's a new Forum poll out now. Only a 4 point lead for the NDP.

    1. Polls showing a tightening race COULD actually help the NDP motivate their voters to turn out and may also encourage some migration from Greens back to NDP.

      That said I suspect the Forum poll is a bit of an outlier. I believe that the race is tightening, but I'll reserve belief that it has tightened that much till I see corroborating evidence.

    2. I don't disagree with your analysis but, I also think the opposite may be true. A close race will encourage Conservative supporters to vote BC Liberal. A tightening race may also help the BC Liberals motivate their voters to get out to the polls, especially since the situation no longer appears hopeless.

      To quote Ryan: "Never give up never surrender"!

  6. @bede dunelm: You're right, I stand corrected.

  7. New Poll:

  8. Maybe the whole thing doesn't matter until the Stanley Cup playoffs are over ???

    1. For the Canucks that likely means in the next few days or so.

    2. Easy Pink. The last time the Nux played the Sharks in the playoffs San Jose went up 3-0. Vancouver won the series in 7 games on their way to the finals!


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