Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tory, polls, big winners in Toronto's election

Though at one point in the count it looked like the result would be far closer than anyone expected, in the end John Tory prevailed over Doug Ford and Olivia Chow comfortably. The polls performed remarkably well and, on average, estimated each candidate's support to within two percentage points.

Tory took 40.3% of the vote last night, beating out Ford at 33.7% and Chow at 23.2%. The dozens of other candidates combined for 2.8% of the vote.

ThreeHundredEight.com's weighted average was only slightly different, at 42.8% for Tory, 32.2% for Ford, and 22.2% for Chow. Support for other candidates was exactly right at 2.8%, for a total error of five points. That equates to an error of 1.7 points per candidate, or 1.3 points if we include the estimate for 'other' support.

But the average performed well not because it found the middle-road among a group of disparate polling results, but rather because each of the pollsters in the field in the final days came very close to the mark.

The closest was Mainstreet Technologies, which polled four days before the vote and had a massive sample of about 3,320 decided voters. In the first public test of its polling, its overall error was 3.4 points, or 0.9 points per candidate (including others). It was the only poll to nail one of the candidates' support levels exactly, estimating Ford to have the support of 34% of voters. It was also the closest for estimating Chow's support. Tory was over-estimated slightly and Chow was under-estimated a little, but all reported results were within the poll's small margin of error.

Ipsos Reid, which polled the furthest out from Election Day of the three (October 21-23) was the next closest, with a total error of 6.3 points (or 1.6 points per candidate, including others). Ipsos was the closest for Tory, at 41.7%. It under-estimated Ford and over-estimated Chow, but all results were again within the margin of error of a random sample of similar size.

The most active pollster on the municipal scene, Forum Research, was the furthest with a total error of 7.8 points (or two per candidate, including others). Its estimate for Tory was just outside of the margin of error, over-estimating his support by almost four points. Ford and Chow were both under-estimated slightly, but overall it was still a decent result.

It is interesting to note that without Forum's final poll, the averages would have been 41.7% for Tory, 32.4% for Ford, and 23.1% for Chow. That would have given a total error of 2.8 points, better than either the Mainstreet or Ipsos surveys.

But overall, the polls told the story of the campaign in Toronto accurately, and those surveys that had Ford at a relatively high level of support were by no means implausible. In fact, Ford ended up with more of the vote than the polling averages (with the exception of one update on October 6) ever gave him. We can reasonably conclude then that the polls served the electorate well, with little misleading information being published.

Other cities

As far as I am aware, Forum was the only pollster active outside of Toronto with the exception of Mainstreet in Brampton (if I am wrong here, please correct me).

The polling in Mississauga was done closest to the vote out of these non-Toronto polls, and the result was not exactly stellar. The final Forum poll of October 24 surveyed 308 people in Mississauga, estimating Bonnie Crombie's support to be 52% against 34% for Steven Mahoney. The result was actually 64% for Crombie and 29% for Mahoney. An earlier poll by Forum done on October 15 with a larger sample of 769 respondents was closer, with 56% for Crombie to 31% for Mahoney. The winner was right here, but the margin was not.

In Hamilton, Forum did better. The last poll of October 17 (751 surveyed) put Fred Eisenberger ahead with 37% to 25% for Brad Clark and 22% for Brian McHattie. The result was 40% for Eisenberger to 32% for Clark and 20% for McHattie. Not a bad performance, but Clark was well outside the margin of error.

Mainstreet was last in the field in Brampton, reporting a poll of October 20 with 1,602 respondents that showed 41% for Linda Jeffrey, 34% for John Sanderson, and 13% for Susan Fennell. Forum was in the field earlier on October 16 (surveying 1,020), putting Jeffrey ahead with 42% to 27% for Sanderson and 14% for Fennell. The result: 49% for Jeffrey, 22% for Sanderson, and 13% for Fennell. An over-estimation of Sanderson's support to the detriment of Jeffrey by both Mainstreet and Forum.

In London, Forum was out of the field almost three weeks before the vote (Oct 8-10, surveying 782) so it is hard to blame it for the size of its error. But it did have the winner right, giving Matt Brown 35% to 27% for Paul Cheng. In the end, Brown won with 58% of the vote to Cheng's 34%.

The one real upset, if we can call it that, was in St. Catharines, but again that is based on an old poll of October 7 (729 surveyed). The poll gave Jeff Burch the edge among decided voters with 32% to Walter Sendzik's 24% and Peter Secord's 22%. The result was instead a Sendzik victory with 40% to 35% for Burch and 20% for Secord.

Finally, there was the poll in Ottawa. This was done well before the election on September 18, surveying 1,096 people. But the campaign here was very dry and low key, which explains why Ontario's second-largest city went virtually unpolled. The Forum survey gave Jim Watson the support of 63% of decided voters, followed by Mike Maguire at 24%. In the end, Watson won in an even bigger landslide with 76% to Maguire's 19%.

So the polling outside of Toronto (featuring lower profile campaigns with fewer voters, so there is more potential for error) was hit or miss. Of the polls done within two weeks of the vote, the one in Hamilton was a success with those in Mississauga and Brampton being of mixed quality. The older surveys in London, St. Catharines, and Ottawa were only somewhat indicative of what the result would end up being. The winners were identified in London and Ottawa, and that it could be a close race was hinted at in St. Catharines. On that score, the polls outside of Toronto would get only a passing grade, compared to the straight-As the polls receive in Toronto.

This is likely to be the last major election to be held for quite some time. Newfoundland and Labrador will probably not head to the polls until next year, and it remains to be seen what will happen in Alberta. But if Jim Prentice decides to take his strong by-election results as a mini-mandate, there may be no high-profile election held before the federal vote next fall. That leaves Toronto as the 'what have you done for me lately' election for the polls, one in which they were vindicated. I naively hope that will quiet the critics for now.


  1. No major elections for a while? Whoah, are BC municipals really that insignificant ... compared to London or Hamilton or... Ottawa? Way to make us feel like chopped liver!

    We'll understand if you don't want to cover BC polls because of a recent traumatic experience that we won't discuss.

    1. The elections outside of Toronto were not significant from a national perspective - I was referring to the vote in Toronto itself, which certainly was. I do not suspect that the BC municipal vote will be national news.

    2. ...and, more to the point, nor do I expect it to get much attention from pollsters.

  2. Any chance you'll cover the mayor's race in Surrey? It seems pretty competitive and it's the 12th largest city in Canada (with Vancouver proper ranking just 8th).

  3. It will be interesting to see what happens federally as there are rumours of a spring election to beat the Duffy trial and even some who thought they would be crazy enough to do a winter one in an attempt to take advantage of Trudeau not looking the best on the Parliament Hill attack.

    As to Ontario - here in Thunder Bay we had a 3 person race and the incumbent won although a ranked ballot method probably would've resulted in him losing. We really need electoral reform of some kind as, regardless of who wins, I hate results where I suspect 50%+ were against the 'winner'.

  4. Éric,

    John Tory strikes me as too thin-skinned for his own good...it's a bad sign when the mayor-elect starts on the very night of his election to deliberately exclude people who are prepared to play with him in his sandbox. That does not bode well for the future as Tory is likely to find out in short order. Mayor of All Torontonians. Remember, John?

  5. Two companies, Oraclepoll Research and Prime Contact, were actively polling in Sudbury as well -- Oracle put out four polls that I know of, and Prime put out one. Prime's poll attracted the largest amount of "never heard of these guys before, so I don't trust this" commentary, at the time, but it actually got far closer than Oracle ever did to pegging the winner's final margin.

  6. I really think the by-elections last night in Alberta held greater "national importance than the mayoral race in Toronto. I don't think we learned much from Toronto; a third of votes support the Fords, with Rob back in his council chair they aren't likely to go away anytime soon. John Tory finally received an electoral win something he deserves. Finally, Olivia Chow's political career is over.

    In Alberta on the other hand the Tory sweep of by-elections has the potential to radically alter politics in the province. The failure of Wildrose to win a seat may indicate it is a spent force, the leadership vote in a month may well determine if the party contests the next election. The NDP, Liberals and Alberta party are splitting the centre-left vote and the results strengthen the case for merger.

    What these by-elections demonstrate is that short of an external shock or internal scandal some form of cooperation among the opposition parties is required to defeat the Tories.

    1. Those were all pretty safe PC ridings, and Wildrose came very close in Calgary West.

      Moreover, Wildrose isn't even the likely challenger in all of them. If anyone other than the PCs was going to win Edmonton-Whitemud, for example, it would have been the NDP.

      The Alberta Party even managed to finish second in one of the races. That's not a credible result in a regular election, but in a byelection with low turnout, these things happen.

    2. That was my thinking too - the PC's 'won' by keeping the seats but also lost by losing a lot of support. The price of a 'first past the post' system - a party can drop tons of votes but if you win by 1% or 40% it is the same end result.

    3. Ira and John Northey,

      All four ridings were safe PC ridings but, given the unique nature of "democracy" in Alberta if a change is going to come these are examples of ridings where you would expect to see indication of change. Perhaps we did as Ira mentioned WRP came within a couple of points in Calgary-West. This follows their election result when WRP had their best results in rural and suburban areas. In Edmonton Whitemud the WRP and NDP were almost tied for second place with roughly 20% of the vote. Edmonton Whitemud should demonstrate to the opposition parties that cooperation is the only strategy that will wrest ridings such as EWM from the Tories. 20% is not a good result and it demonstrates how uncompetitive the riding is. Wildrose should have done better, they have tried to position themselves as the Opposition and government-in-waiting, my reading of the results is that message has fallen on deaf ears.

    4. I'm in Edmonton-Whitemud, and WR's campaign wasn't well conceived. They filled the streets with signs that said "Only Grover can beat Mandel", except that was obviously not true, and when WR didn't even manage to finish second it's just embarrassing.

      That sort of unifying opposition message needs a strong base of support from which to work, and WR has never had that in Edmonton-Whitemud (or much of Edmonton).

      Edmonton-Whitemud was the last Alberta riding to unseat a sitting Premier - Don Getty, in 1989. It's not a conservative area, by Albertan standards.

    5. The big challenge for those trying to unseat a government is to use a bit of logic. For example, if you know you are unlikely to win a certain riding (as in not a hope) then don't put any resources into it beyond the basic paper candidate. Let someone else fight hard for it. Then put all your efforts into ones you could win.

      The next federal election the smart moves by the NDP & Liberals & Greens would be to stay out of each others way and focus on ridings the Conservatives are weak in but also to watch who the others are running and if one of the others has a really strong candidate then just stay out of it and double your efforts elsewhere. Make it so a minority gov't situations happens and go from there. Instead we'll probably see the Liberals/NDP do a death battle (Greens mixed in some places) while the Conservatives laugh all the way to the voting booth.

    6. First John logic and politics rarely go together. But this coming election is going to be interesting because one party is failing badly outside it's power base province.

      Will voters elsewhere split or will they stay as they have been or even more interesting swing towards one party over another and ignore the third?

      Second Now recent stuff that's come out show the NDP failing badly outside Quebec so that sets up a two way battle and that one is going to yield a minority govt. Interesting times ahead.

    7. You're right Peter, the Liberals are failing badly outside their power base of PEI. You know the Liberals are in serious trouble and basically unelectable when the Tories can be at a historic low in a poll and the Liberals not in majority territory. It is a party living in its past and living off its past; No policies, no vision (this may well be its last election).


      Your last paragraph could easily apply to Alberta politics. The PC Association is an institutionalised piece of Alberta's Government along with The Queen and the Legislative Assembly. For change in government to occur another party must become the dominant party or the current party system (a dominant party system) must be broken.

      Collaboration among opposition parties has the potential to remake the party system in Alberta. It was tried in the 1940's and while it was not successful the Unity/ Independent movement came within 335 votes of winning the popular vote in the 1940 election.

      I think such collaboration would need a little more planning than you propose. Some form of agreement "dividing" the Province among the opposition would be required. Perhaps Liberals run in Calgary, NDP run in Edmonton, Wildrose in Rural Alberta and the North with perhaps the Alberta party receiving a couple seats in Calgary to keep them happy.

      It is perhaps a pipedream but, without some change it looks almost inevitable that the PCs will win the next election.

    8. No Bede you are wrong. The Liberals are surging in their power base, Ontario. If you weren't so blinded you would have known I was referring to the NDP and Quebec.

    9. The fact you have to make "attacking statements" on a thread that was discussing Alberta politics is another indication of the weakness even Liberals feel toward their leader and party.

      Quebec was the Liberal's power base for the past 100 years the fact you have now written Quebec off to the NDP demonstrates the shrinking and disintegrating Liberal coalition.

      As for Ontario a 7 point lead is nothing to get smug about and it is hardly a "surge". What does it say about the strength of the party when they only manage 40% in their "power base"?

    10. I find it distressing that the country is becoming a series of 'power bases' (although it has always had that to some degree). Right now I'd say the east coast is Liberal, Quebec NDP, Ontario flip flops, Alberta/Saskatchewan Conservative, BC a mix and match. So really, if you are wanting to get power you should pretty much ignore all provinces other than Ontario & BC.

      Now, of course, Quebec used to be a key province as they could shift almost all seats to one party or the other at times - PC for Mulroney, Liberal for Trudeau, BQ in the 90's/00's, now NDP. The Conservatives have given up on it I suspect as their max seems to be in the 10 seats range - important but not as big as what they could gain elsewhere. Thus Liberal & NDP will fight it out in Quebec but given Montreal seems Liberal, Quebec City CPC and the rest NDP it may not be much of a battle.

      Want politicians to care about you? Just be a flip flopping voting area ala the 905 region (soccer mom's who now get income splitting, lots of write offs for sports, etc.).

    11. The problem John isn't just the "power bases" but the approach that only certain power bases are correct and only they have the correct view. Which completely neglects what the public actually wants in favour of the view of a central party.

      In other words this is a vast country, there are bound to be divergent views across it's size. So lets accept that and see what commonalities can be found instead of impressing on the whole country a specific set of views ?

    12. "So lets accept that and see what commonalities can be found instead of impressing on the whole country a specific set of views"

      Oh, you mean like the NEP and the Trudeau constitution? The centralising influence you dismiss in Canadian politics is the Liberal party.

    13. John,

      The Tories have not given up on Quebec they think there are a number of seats, perhaps as many as 10-12 around Quebec City and the Lower St-Lawrence they can pick up.

    14. "Oh, you mean like the NEP and the Trudeau constitution? The centralising influence you dismiss in Canadian politics is the Liberal party. "

      Well done bede, you've finally embraced the idea of commonality !!

  7. So the man no one wanted as Primer of Ontario, is now mayor of Toronto... between this and the Ontario Liberal Party wining a majority I think I need a stiff drink.

    A drink that might well last the next four years as I try to understand what the voters in Toronto are thinking... if they even are...

    1. Heh. The problem is lousy choices. The 3 realistic options were Tory, Ford, and Chow. So a guy who failed to win Toronto & Ontario before, Rob Ford's brother, and someone viewed as far left of any recent mayor.

      The Liberals winning provincially... hrm... I still don't know how the Tories blew it 3 times in a row when all 3 appeared to be 'show up and win' situations for them (very good at shooting themselves in the foot). If they put Doug Ford in as leader I suspect we'll see them blow an easy win for a 4th time in a row.

  8. Understand what the voters were thinking ?? Try the really simple answer Anybody But Ford !!

    1. Voting out Ford to elect Tory is like buying the same car with a different colour.

      The stupidity of Anyone But, strikes again.

  9. Ford was a good mayor. Tory will likely do similar things, policy-wise.

    Toronto chose well.

  10. I can't tell if you're trying to be funny or not....

  11. Didn't even vote in this one. I'm generally satisfied with both Jim Watson and my ward's councillor and neither was facing a competitive race.

    Ottawa's experience with Jim Watson makes it clear why Toronto voted for the least flamboyant of the three candidates. I like Chow better, but Tory is as good of a foil to Ford as Watson's been to that ass clown Larry O'Brien.


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