Monday, June 29, 2015

NDP now favoured in new polls and seat projection

In the first update since the site went on hiatus two weeks ago, the New Democrats are now leading in both the vote and seat projections for the first time since 2012.

It was quite a two weeks to be away, as it featured some of the most dramatic swings in voting intentions we've seen since the immediate aftermath of Justin Trudeau's Liberal leadership victory. Coupled with the NDP's surge into first place in every poll conducted by a gaggle of pollsters using every methodology under the sun was the return of Gilles Duceppe as leader of the Bloc Québécois, jarring the race in Quebec as well.

The NDP now leads in the poll average with 32.4%, an increase of over three points since the pre-hiatus projection update. The Conservatives have dropped a little more than one point to 28.9%, while the Liberals are down a little less than one point to 27.4%. The Bloc has moved ahead of the Greens with 5.2% to 4.9%.

In terms of the seat count, the NDP is now projected to win between 113 and 140 seats, up significantly from the pre-hiatus update which did have the NDP overlapping with the Conservatives but still firmly in second place. The Tories have fallen to between 99 and 141 seats, while the Liberals have dropped to between 71 and 106 seats.

The Bloc is now projected to take between one and five seats, and the Greens are projected to win just one.

While the NDP and Conservatives have a similar high range, the Conservative's low range is 14 seats below that of the New Democrats - and the precise projection puts the NDP at 127 to 114 for the Conservatives. This is the first time that the Conservatives have trailed in the seat projection since the official model was launched at the beginning of the year.

There were quite a few polls released over the two weeks I was away, but their field dates influenced the last five weeks of projections in the model. For instance, the Angus Reid poll that was released while I was away was actually older than the EKOS Research poll that was out on the Friday just before my departure.

So, I've compiled all the numbers in the chart below to give you all a full accounting of how the projection would have looked throughout the month of June. As a reference point, I've included the projection just before the NDP's provincial victory in Alberta, which seems to have been the catalyst for the recent shift in voting intentions.

As you can see, the NDP's numbers were relatively stable over the last week of May and first two weeks of June, after initially surging from the pre-Alberta numbers. But the party has seen been edging up over the last two weeks.

And with the addition of the Angus Reid poll, we can see that the NDP has been leading in the poll average now since the week ending June 8.

This is because the Conservatives have been slipping. The Liberals seem to have contributed to the NDP's surge in May, but since the beginning of the month the NDP has primarily been taking from the Conservatives and Greens. The Tories were at 30.8% and leading in the week ending on June 1, but have since been dropping in every subsequent week. The Greens have taken a hit over the last two weeks, though that might be because of the unusually poor results for the party in the most recent polls by Forum Research and Ipsos Reid.

In terms of the seat ranges, we can see that the Conservatives were comfortably ahead at the beginning of May. They overlapped only slightly with the Liberals, while the NDP was solidly in third.

The NDP did move into second place by the end of May, and were overlapping with the Conservatives more than they were the Liberals. By June 8, the NDP had moved clear of the Liberals and was seriously challenging the Conservatives. By June 22, the NDP and Conservatives were effectively tied in the seat count, and they have since pulled into a far superior position. The Liberals' high range has inched upwards, while the Bloc has gone from end-times-disaster levels to 2011-disaster levels.

Going just by the averages, we see the same sort of story being played out. After dropping, the Liberals are now holding steady as the NDP eats into the Conservatives' seat numbers. Sooner or later, the Tories will need to turn more of their attention on Thomas Mulcair.

The shift over the last two months has been nothing short of incredible. The Conservatives have dropped 29 seats and the Liberals have dropped 20 seats in the projection since the beginning of May. The NDP, meanwhile, has picked up 48 to move into first place.

At these levels of support, the NDP is on track for a plurality of seats. It is interesting to note, though, that the maximum projected total for the NDP is 179 seats, which puts them over the majority mark. Granted, that assumes the NDP has hit about 41% support in voting intentions. But the path to a majority can at least be laid out. The same goes for the Conservatives but not, at this stage, the Liberals.

There are two questions that will be answered over the next few weeks. The first is, of course, whether or not the New Democrats will continue to lead in the polls through to the start of the campaign (official or not, we have to consider August 6 to be the effective start of the campaign as that is when the Maclean's debate will be held).

The second question (a set of them, really) revolves around the Liberals and the Conservatives. Look at the recent set of polls that have been out:

The Conservatives seem to have dropped quite a bit, after routinely polling over 30%. They are now polling in the high-20s, which has put them in a tie with or behind the Liberals in four of the last polls. This is in contrast to the EKOS and Angus polls from earlier in June which suggested that the Liberals were collapsing.

Are the Conservatives going to continue losing support? Did the Liberals hit a rough patch in early June, only to recover over the last few weeks, or were those polls by EKOS and Angus Reid slightly anomalous? Can the Liberals sustain support in the high-20s when the NDP is polling in the mid-30s?

We're in the midst of a period of transition in voting intentions, so it will be very interesting to see where the numbers go from here.

Duceppe: 2011 results in a 2015 context

I would be remiss not to address the shifting landscape in Quebec, which has two factors currently at play. The first being the surge of the NDP, which was felt in Quebec before the change of leadership at the Bloc, and the second being that return by Gilles Duceppe.

There definitely has been some movement that can only be attributed to Duceppe. In the week ending June 8, just before Duceppe returned to lead the Bloc, the party was polling at 17.4%. It is now projected to take 21.4%, its best score since the official model was launched at the beginning of the year and better than any monthly average Mario Beaulieu ever managed. Even two large-sample polls by Léger and CROP put the Bloc at 26% and 25%, respectively.

Still, in terms of the weighted average it is an increase of just four points that can be attributed to Duceppe. And this is still two points below Duceppe's performance in 2011. But despite the poorer showing than that election the model gives the party between one and five seats, potentially matching or surpassing that 2011 performance. The reason for that is simple: the NDP remains the Bloc's main opponent in most ridings in Quebec, and the NDP is averaging 35.1%. That is below the 42.9% of 2011, and so this gives the Bloc a better shot. Every extra point pays out-sized dividends to the Bloc when the NDP is below 40%.

But has Duceppe's return hurt the NDP? That is more difficult to say. The NDP was in the midst of a surge in Quebec when Duceppe made his announcement. In the week ending on June 1, the party was averaging 37.8% in the polls and was well on its way to repeating its 2011 scores. At first glance it appears that Duceppe may have reversed that NDP surge somewhat from the high-30s to the mid-30s, but it is impossible to know for certain. The average for the week ending June 8, before Duceppe's return, put the NDP back down to 35.9% in Quebec.

What can be said with certainty is that both the Liberals and Conservatives are doing worse in Quebec than they were just a few weeks ago. The Liberals were slowly leaking support through to the end of May, but fell steeply over the last few weeks to 23.5%, down from 26% or 27%. The Conservatives, meanwhile, have dropped to 15.8% from 21% at the beginning of May, and from 18% just before Duceppe's return.

The trend lines tell the story that the NDP was making gains at the expense of the Liberals and Conservatives in Quebec after their Alberta victory, and then subsequently the Bloc made gains at the expense of the NDP when Duceppe came back onto the scene (though not nearly enough to erase the gains the NDP had made). Undoubtedly, though, the truth is somewhat more complicated than that, with voters crossing the political spectrum in less direct ways.

These are interesting times, with multiple front campaigns taking place everywhere. The NDP appears to have made its gains at the expense of the Liberals in most parts of the country, and are now starting to eat into Conservative support. The rejuvenated (re-oldinated?) Bloc in Quebec makes for a different dynamic there. Every party needs to start reviewing its strategy with just a few months to go.

Friday, June 12, 2015 on hiatus until June 29

In order to take some time off for a much-needed vacation and to re-charge the batteries for the final sprint towards Election Day in October, I will not be posting any new articles or projection updates to or writing for or appearing on the CBC for the next two weeks.

I will be very infrequently checking Twitter and moderating comments here, but I will otherwise be incommunicado. 

But it isn't all bad news! In fact, shortly after I get back to work I will have something very, very cool to show all of you. I'm really excited about it, and I think you will all love it.

In the meantime, there is plenty right here on 308 to keep you busy. Here are a few of my favourite pieces I've written over the last few months that you might have missed:

Introducing the 2015 federal election projection model. Goes over how the model did in 2011 and what changes have been made since then. Probably a good thing to read as we head into the final stretch.

- The Federal Election of 2003 that never was. Paul Martin vs. Stephen Harper vs. Peter MacKay. Go! (Also Jack Layton and, of course, Gilles Duceppe)

- Without Wildrose or a divided right, the Alberta NDP would have still won. A somewhat controversial post. Really, it is about how the NDP's win was not the product of a divided right, and not an alternate history in which I neglected to consider the possibility of Zombie Lougheed winning it all.

- Are conservative parties under-estimated in the polls? Spoiler alert: they are, but not as much as you might think.

The quest for official party status. Suddenly more relevant with the return of Duceppe. Looks at the Greens, too.

- Redemption for the pollsters, revolution for Albertans. My relieved look-back at Alberta's election results.

You can also take a look at the archive of my weekly columns for the CBC here, and my monthly columns for The Hill Times here (paywalled, but nothing's free in this world, except this site).

I'm sure I'll have a lot to catch-up on when I get back to work, so if any of you see a poll you think I should know about please do tweet me or email me. It will help!

See you in a few weeks! 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

NDP gains, Liberals drop in Atlantic Canada

The latest polling from the Corporate Research Associates shows that the New Democrats have made impressive gains in Atlantic Canada over the last few months, with big increases in each of the region's four provinces. The gains have come primarily at the expense of the Liberals, but that party is nevertheless on track to win a majority of the region's seats.

The Liberals led in the region-wide poll with 43% support, a steep drop from the 56% that CRA pegged the Liberals to be at in February.

The New Democrats were up 15 points to 29%, while the Conservatives were down two points to 24%. The Greens were unchanged at 4%.

Undecideds, would-not-votes, and non-responses totaled 41%. While that might seem very high, note that CRA does not ask a follow-up 'leaning' question outside of an election campaign, contrary to what most other pollsters do.

Justin Trudeau scored highest on who would make the best prime minister with 36%, followed by Thomas Mulcair at 22% and Stephen Harper at 19%. After taking out the undecideds, these numbers are virtually identical to party support, and the shift for each of the leaders mirrors that for their respective parties.

What is most interesting about CRA's polling is that it allows us to look at the party standings in each of the region's four provinces.

The results were generally uniform, with the Liberals leading in all four provinces with between 40% and 47%. The NDP placed second in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia (where the margin was smallest), and Prince Edward Island. The Conservatives were second only in New Brunswick.

Compared to CRA's last poll, and taking into account the margin of error, the shift in voting intentions was generally uniform throughout the region. New Brunswick bucked the trend, though, with the Liberals sliding only a little and the Conservatives dropping quite a bit more than they did elsewhere in Atlantic Canada.

The drama comes when we compare these numbers to the 2011 election. The NDP is almost back to where it was in 2011, up two points from that score in Nova Scotia (to 32% in CRA's polling) and 11 points in PEI (to 26%), and down three points in both Newfoundland and Labrador (to 30%) and New Brunswick (to 26%).

The Liberals, however, have taken a huge chunk of the vote away from the Conservatives, even in light of this more recent drop. The party is up four points over its 2011 performance in PEI (to 45%), nine point in Newfoundland and Labrador (to 47%), 12 points in Nova Scotia (to 41%), and 17 points in New Brunswick (to 40%).

The Conservatives have dropped six points in Newfoundland and Labrador since 2011 (to 22%), 14 points in Nova Scotia (to 23%), 16 points in New Brunswick (to 28%), and 21 points in Prince Edward Island (to 20%). Those are some huge shifts in support in four years.

In terms of seats, the Liberals would take the lion's share. They'd win five in New Brunswick, six in Nova Scotia, all four in PEI, and five in Newfoundland and Labrador for a total of 20. The New Democrats and Conservatives would each win six seats. Three of them would come for the NDP in Nova Scotia, two in Newfoundland and Labrador, and one in New Brunswick. The Conservatives would win four seats in New Brunswick and two in Nova Scotia.

The shift in voting intentions since February is too large to be a blip (click on CRA's PDF for the comically enormous swing in their tracking chart). And other polls have shown the NDP on the uptick in Atlantic Canada and the Liberals slipping, as shown by the polling averages chart below (before the inclusion of the CRA poll).

Polling averages before inclusion of CRA poll
That the Conservatives are on track for a drubbing in Atlantic Canada seems clear, as they have been struggling in the region for most of the last four years. They will put up a tough fight in a limited number of ridings, however.

The real question is whether the movement between the Liberals and NDP is part of a trend or just a new reality. Will the NDP continue to climb until the two parties pass each other, or will the Liberals retain their double-digit lead?

Monday, June 8, 2015

May 2015 federal polling averages

A total of nine polls interviewed over 16,000 Canadians throughout the month of May, recording one of the most dramatic swings in voting intentions in years.

The Conservatives led in polls conducted in May, averaging 30.2% support. That was a drop of 2.2 points from April, however, and marked the third consecutive month of decrease for the Tories from 33%. It was their worst score since October 2014, and a significant departure from the 32% to 33% the Conservatives had managed over the previous six months.

The big shift boosted the New Democrats into second place, the first time they've polled this high in over two years, the last time being January 2013. The NDP was up 5.5 points to 28.5%, marking their third consecutive month of increase from 20% support three months ago. There have only been two cases of a jump this large in voting intentions since the end of 2008: when the Liberals jumped six points between June and July 2014, and when the NDP surged in the 2011 election campaign.

The Liberals were down 2.1 points to 28.4%. They have dropped or have been stagnant for 10 consecutive months now, having polled at 39% at their peak. May's score was their worst since March 2013, or the month before Justin Trudeau became party leader.

The Greens were down 0.9 points to 6.5%, while the Bloc Québécois was down 0.1 point to 4.2%. An average of 2.3% of Canadians said they would vote for another party or independent candidate.

Undecideds, when reported, averaged 16.6%.

There was a clear and dramatic shift last month. The Conservatives ranged between 29% and 36% in polls conducted in April, but ranged only between 28% and 33% in May. The Liberal range decreased from between 28% and 35% to 26% and 31%. The NDP ranged between 21% and 25% in April. In May, polls put them between 24% and 30%.

Click/tap to magnify
There were big changes in the NDP's voting intentions everywhere, but one of the biggest was in British Columbia. The NDP jumped 7.2 points to 31.9%, their best since March 2013 and their first lead since last fall. The Conservatives were down 2.9 points to 27.9%, their worst since July 2014, while the Liberals were down 1.9 points to 26.6%. They haven't been that low since January 2014. The Greens were also down, slipping two points to 11.6%.

The only good news for the Conservatives was in Alberta, where the stink of the provincial campaign seems to be drifting away. The Tories were up 3.6 points to 47.2%, halting a three-month decline. The New Democrats were up 3.5 points to 27%, their best on record. Their previous best before the recent surge was 21% in early 2012. The Liberals were down big, plummeting 6.1 points to 16.8%, their worst since January 2013. The Greens were down 0.9 points to 5%.

The Conservatives continue to hold steady in the Prairies, where they have averaged 39% to 43% for the past nine months. In May, they were down 1.8 points from April to 40% support. The Liberals were down 2.8 points to 27.3%, their worst since January 2013, while the NDP was up 4.3 points to 24.6%. The Greens were down 0.5 points to 5.6%.

Despite dropping 2.2 points, the Conservatives still led in Ontario with 34.5%. The Liberals, down over the last eight months from 43%, slipped 1.2 points in May to 32.3%. The NDP, which was at 17% just three months ago, was up 4.7 points to 24.9%, their best since March 2014. The Greens were down 0.6 points to 6.4%.

In Quebec, the New Democrats surged 7.2 points to 35.6%, their best since August 2012, when Thomas Mulcair was at the tail-end of his leadership honeymoon. The Liberals, who were at 37% eight months ago, continued their slide by 1.3 points to hit 24.9%, their worst since March 2013. Mario Beaulieu's Bloc Québécois was down 1.3 points to 16.5%, while the Conservatives fell 4.7 points to just 16.4%. That is their worst score since December, when the party started to see improvement in the polls. The Greens were down 0.2 points to 4.7%.

The Liberals only led in Atlantic Canada, where they were down 1.6 points to 43.6%. That's their lowest since July 2013 (they were at 51% three months ago). The NDP was up 3.6 points and moved into second with 24.3%, their best since July 2014, while the Conservatives were down 1.6 points to 22.8%. The Greens were also down, falling one point to 7%. Note that this is Elizabeth May's best result in any region after B.C.

With these levels of support, the Conservatives would likely win a plurality of seats with 128, followed by the New Democrats at 109, the Liberals at 99, and the Greens with two. The Bloc would be shutout.

Compared to April, this is a 15-seat drop for the Conservatives, a 14-seat decrease for the Liberals, and a 30-seat increase for the NDP. The Bloc had been projected to win one seat with the April averages.

The seat changes demonstrate the shift that took place in May, and the real world consequences of them. The NDP picked up seven seats in British Columbia, three in the Prairies, seven in Ontario, 11 in Quebec, and two in Atlantic Canada. It retained its projected wins in Alberta and the North.

The Conservatives dropped six seats in B.C., two in the Prairies, two in Ontario, and six in Quebec. They gained one in Alberta. These changes do show how, regionally, different parties are affected by the NDP gain. The Conservatives lost more support than the Liberals in B.C., Ontario, and Quebec.

The Liberals fell one seat in British Columbia, one in Alberta, one in the Prairies, five in Ontario, four in Quebec, and two in Atlantic Canada.

Early June polls suggest that the three-way race is not going anywhere, though so far there has been some disagreement as to whether it is the Liberals or the NDP that is seeing its momentum shift (if at all). The split to the left of the Conservatives certainly helps the Tories, but the party is still in a very dangerous position. Compared to 2011 (and the 308-seat House), the NDP is up six seats and the Liberals are up 65. The Conservatives are down by almost 40 seats.

In 2008, Stephen Harper successfully (and somewhat aptly) portrayed the coalition attempt as a coalition of losers. The Liberals had dropped, the NDP had made only modest gains, and the two parties needed the Bloc to survive in power. But if these numbers are repeated on election day, it would be hard to portray the Liberals and NDP in that light again.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Without Wildrose or a divided right, the Alberta NDP would have still won (updated)

The only reason that the Alberta New Democrats won last month's provincial election is because the vote on the right was split between the Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose. Or, at least, that is what many people have said. Here are a few examples of that. It certainly feels right. But it isn't.

(I've added an update to the end of this post to clairfy some things.)

The New Democrats captured 40.6% of the vote, with the PCs taking 27.8% and Wildrose capturing 24.2%. If you add up the PC and Wildrose vote, seeing as they are both conservative parties, you get 52% and 59 seats. That beats the NDP, even if you give them the votes of the Liberal and Alberta parties.

Of course, the math is not as simple as that. We don't even need to break out a calculator. We can just look at Alberta's history. If the NDP's victory was an artificial one, we should expect to see multiple cases of an opposition party winning at least 40.6% of the vote and losing against a united right.

But only four times in Alberta's 29 provincial elections has a party taken more than 40.6% of the vote and fail to form government: Harry Strom's Social Credit in 1971 (41.1%), Andrew Davison's Independent Citizens Association in 1940 (42.5%), and Edward Michener's Conservatives in 1917 (41.8%) and 1913 (45.1%). That we have to go back 44 years to find the last example, when the political dynamics of the province were completely different, shows how this line of thinking falls flat.

Granted, few governments have won less than 40.6% of the vote, so it does make Rachel Notley's victory somewhat notable. It has happened only three times, with the most recent one being 75 years ago: John Brownlee's United Farmers in 1930 (39.4%), as well as his 1926 victory (39.7%) and that of his predecessor, Henry Wise Wood, in 1921 (28.9%).

Nevertheless, this isn't the smallest government to take power. Ralph Klein won a smaller share of seats in 1993, as did Ernest Manning in 1955, Brownlee in 1930, and Arthur Sifton in 1917.

By historical standards, then, the NDP's victory is somewhat exceptional. But generally speaking, if you get 41% of the vote in Alberta you'll win the election.

More compelling is the data from the 2015 vote. The idea that the PCs and Wildrose share the same voter pool is simply wrong. The right wasn't divided. Rather, the anti-PC vote was divided between the New Democrats and Wildrose.

In Ipsos Reid's final poll of the Alberta campaign, one of the questions asked voters what their second choice would be if they were forced to make such a choice.

For the most part, the results were intuitive. The top second choice option for PC voters was Wildrose, while it was the Liberal Party for New Democrats (it wasn't all so simple, though, as a large proportion of PCs chose the NDP as their second choice, and a large proportion of New Democrats chose Wildrose). 

But the results for Wildrose showed that they were not all, or even mostly, lapsed Tories. The New Democrats were the second choice of 33% of Wildrose voters, compared to just 21% for the PCs. More Wildrosers would vote for the Alberta Party (15%) and the Liberals (9%) than the Tories if forced to make a choice. 

Another 16% were undecided and 5% would not vote, while 2% would support another party.

Immediately, we see that Wildrose was not an obstacle to the Tories. In fact, Wildrose potentially drew away more anti-PC voters from the NDP than they did conservative voters from the PCs.

If we distribute Wildrose's vote according to this second choice poll (doing away with the undecideds entirely, and portioning out Wildrosers' Liberal and Alberta Party second choice votes where they did not run a candidate), we get a surprising result. The NDP's majority is not reduced. It is increased.

The New Democrats would capture 53% of the vote and 68 seats, with the Progressive Conservatives taking just 36% of the vote and 17 seats. The Liberals, with 6%, and the Alberta Party, with 4.5%, would each retain the one seat they actually did win on May 5.

The New Democrats would dominate Edmonton and the surrounding region, with 64% to the PC's 27%, and all 27 seats.

The NDP would also win Calgary with 45% to 39% for the Tories, and 20 seats to the PCs' five.

In the rest of the province, the NDP would take 49% and 21 seats to 41% and 12 seats for the Tories.

We could run the numbers different ways, but we always come to the same result: an NDP majority.

If we got rid of the PCs and instead gave those votes to Wildrose (as more PC voters did opt for Wildrose as a second choice), the overall tally would be closer (roughly 48% for the NDP to 36% for Wildrose), but it would still deliver a solid majority government.

If we distribute Wildrose votes in ridings where they finished behind the PCs and PC votes in ridings where they finished behind Wildrose, we still end up with an NDP majority government (55 seats to 30 for the combined PC/Wildrose option).

Mainstreet Technologies also had a second choice question in its final poll, but it only asked voters whose commitment to their party was weak. It found that 46% of uncommitted Wildrosers would opt for the PCs as their second choice, while only 23% would go for the NDP. The rest were either undecided or would vote for the Liberals.

But since this question was limited to only uncommitted voters, it doesn't get to the root of the issue as the Ipsos poll did. Committed Wildrosers might have been more anti-PC than they were pro-conservative. Ipsos's numbers would certainly seem to suggest that.

Nevertheless, if we distribute Wildrose's vote according to Mainstreet's breakdown, we still get an NDP majority. A narrow one (48% of the vote to 42% for the Tories, and 44 NDP seats to 41 for the PCs), but a majority nevertheless. The NDP did not win because the vote was divided. The PCs simply lost, and no re-jigging of the numbers gives them victory.

Of course, if Wildrose never existed perhaps the dynamics of the campaign would have been completely different. That's the kind of hypothetical that numbers cannot inform us about.

The divided right undoubtedly did help the NDP in certain ridings, and perhaps if Mainstreet's second choice poll was more reflective of reality it made a big difference in the magnitude of the NDP's win. But based on the data at hand, the narrative that the NDP's victory was due to a split on the right does not stand up to serious scrutiny.

JUNE 5 UPDATE ------

I wanted to further clarify something as some readers have misinterpreted this post. They've interpreted it as a sort of hypothetical, what-if scenario that imagines that Wildrose did not exist. I've written about those kinds of things before, so this interpretation is perhaps not a surprise. And my chart showing what would happen if we distributed Wildrose's vote elsewhere might give the impression that this re-distribution is the focus. It was meant, instead, to illustrate why the 'divided-right' argument does not hold-up because the votes to the right of the NDP were not uniform, and in fact a large proportion of those voters preferred the NDP to the re-election of the Progressive Conservatives.

This post is instead about debunking the notion that "Alberta was able to elect a majority NDP government because the conservative vote was split", to quote one of the links in the first paragraph. Or how "if you take [the PC] vote, plus the Wildrose vote, you'd have had a much different result in almost every constituency" and "Wildrose and PCs split the vote in a number of ridings that caused [Rachel Notley] to get a much bigger win than she otherwise would have", to quote two others, is based on a faulty premise. Those votes do not combine so easily.

The NDP's win was no accident caused by the split on the right. As I lay out in the first part of my post, the 41% the NDP won has historically been enough to form a government. If it wasn't, and the split on the right was behind the NDP's win, we'd expect to see many cases of parties taking that much of the vote but failing to form government.

Moreover, as I lay out in the second part of my post, the conservative vote to the right of the NDP was not something that was split between two parties that, instead, should have been the domain of one. That is because it was not a uniform vote. Many Wildrosers preferred an NDP government to a PC re-election, and many others would rather have voted for more centrist options like the Liberals or the Alberta Party than the PCs, which the people quoted above seem to believe would be their natural home. That simply was not the case. There were enough Wildrosers who preferred the NDP to the PCs to actually boost the NDP's majority, as my second chart spells out. Voters made a choice to defeat the PCs. They were not bamboozled by having their conservative loyalties split in two.

This post is written wholly within the context of 2015 and the anger voters had with the PC government. It says nothing about a hypothetical alternate universe where voters are not angry at the PCs or where the climate for the emergence of Wildrose never existed. It says nothing about whether Alberta is a conservative province or not. It says nothing about whether Albertans were truly enamoured with the NDP rather than just angry with the PCs. It says nothing about what will happen in 2019.

It is entirely about the 2015 campaign and the choice Albertans made. And that choice was not an artificial one because their 'true' conservative nature was split between two options. Wildrose did not split the PCs' vote and doom them to defeat. The PCs simply lost the election because too many Albertans did not want to vote for them, and the NDP won because enough Albertans wanted to vote for them. The split of the actual conservative vote did mean the PCs came out of it worse than they would have otherwise, but they had alienated so many voters that they no longer had a base large enough to re-elect them. The NDP did not win by default.

That some people misinterpreted my argument is, as the writer of this post, in part my fault. The headline might have been more appropriately along the lines of "the split of the right was not behind the NDP's victory," as the current headline sets people up for this misinterpretation. I hope this update clears things up.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

How this NDP surge is different from the last one

The projection has been updated, including the two most recent polls from EKOS Research (for iPolitics) and Ipsos Reid (for Global News). Both polls show a remarkable three-way race, with EKOS gauging the numbers as 30% for the Conservatives, 29% for the NDP, and 27% for the Liberals, and Ipsos as 31% for the Conservatives, 31% for the Liberals, and 30% for the NDP.

The Ipsos poll serves as a much-needed confirmation of the EKOS numbers, which had been virtually alone since the Alberta election of May 5.

The projection still lags the polls a little, in part because May has been a quiet month (10 polls had been done in April, while we're up to seven for May). Polls that show a three-way race currently take up 61% of the projection. But the NDP has averaged 29.5% in those polls, whereas they have averaged just around 23% in the remaining polls taking up 39% of the weight.

Nevertheless, the NDP's growth has been remarkable. This is especially so when we consider that the model, at this stage, is designed to react slowly to what could be blips in voting intentions. Since the week ending on May 4, the New Democrats have jumped from 22.9% to 27.1%. Both the Conservatives and the Liberals have dropped 1.3 points over that time.

The Conservatives were leading in the seat projection then with between 125 to 164 seats against 93-129 for the Liberals and 65-91 for the NDP. That count currently stands at 118-153 for the Conservatives, 77-120 for the Liberals, and 87-118 for the NDP.

The New Democrats have picked up 5.5 points over that time in British Columbia, 2.5 points in Alberta, 4.5 points in the Prairies, four points in Ontario, 5.8 points in Quebec, and 0.8 points in Atlantic Canada. Interestingly, though, neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals have been the sole relinquisher of votes. The Liberals have suffered the bulk of the losses in Alberta, the Prairies, Ontario, and Atlantic Canada, but the Conservatives have slid most in British Columbia and Quebec.

A recent piece by the Canadian Press suggested that this latest surge was the first to happen for the NDP since the late 1980s, making it difficult to make comparisons. Of course, as readers of this site know, the NDP has surged much more recently than that. The party was averaging about 35% in May and June 2012, putting it in first place nationwide. So, we do have something to compare the current uptick to. Let's do that.

What I've done below is taken the two most recent polls from EKOS and Ipsos and compared them to the polls from these two firms in late June 2012. At the time, Ipsos had the NDP ahead with 38% to 35% for the Conservatives and 18% for the Liberals. EKOS put the NDP at 32% to 29% for the Conservatives and 19% for the Liberals.

For both Ipsos and EKOS, the NDP was doing better in 2012 than they are now. We should expect their numbers to be better at the regional level as well. But that is not so. The NDP's electorate has shifted since the last time the party was popular.

First, the good news for the NDP. It has made some major gains in Alberta. Both Ipsos and EKOS put the NDP at 13% in the province at a time when the party was doing better nationwide. Now, they have the NDP at 25% to 31%, meaning the New Democrats are roughly doubling their support from 2012. That extra support means a boost of around two points nationwide. Without it, the race would not be as close.

The NDP is doing slightly better in Quebec now than it was in 2012 meaning that, proportionately speaking, its Quebec support is far more significant to the party than it was three years ago.

Two areas have mixed news. According to Ipsos, the NDP is doing about as well in British Columbia as it was doing in 2012, while EKOS has the NDP doing worse. The opposite is the case in the Prairies. These two regions, then, are inconclusive.

But the party is doing significantly worse now in Atlantic Canada than it was doing in 2012. And more importantly, the New Democrats have not made the same inroads into Ontario that they had during Thomas Mulcair's honeymoon period.

This is important, because the gains the New Democrats have made in Alberta will not translate into a lot of new seats. They were much better positioned, with their strong numbers in Ontario, in 2012. The New Democrats have put together a bit of a West + Quebec coalition that aligns with their 2011 breakthrough in Quebec and their traditional strength in B.C. and the Prairies. In 2012, however, they had added Atlantic Canada and Ontario to that coalition.

This is why we're looking at a three-way race instead of a two-headed contest. The Liberals are doing much better in Atlantic Canada and Ontario than they were in 2012, putting them in contention. The Conservatives have their western bases as well as a good chunk of Ontario, giving them the edge in seats. The NDP can now threaten to win a plurality thanks to inroads in B.C., as well as a handful of new seats in the Prairies, in addition to their retention of Quebec.

It makes for an interesting regionalized race between three parties. The contest is between the Conservatives and the Liberals in Manitoba, Ontario, and parts of British Columbia (Vancouver suburbs) and Atlantic Canada (the Maritimes). It is between the Conservatives and the New Democrats in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and parts of British Columbia (the Interior) and Ontario (the southwest and north). And it is between the Liberals and the NDP in Quebec and parts of British Columbia (Vancouver), Ontario (Toronto), and Atlantic Canada (Halifax and Newfoundland). There are plenty of smaller local battles that include other match-ups on Vancouver Island, in Calgary, in Winnipeg, in Quebec City, and in central Quebec.

A swirling mess of a campaign that could produce virtually any result. Will the summer clarify things?