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.


  1. I think flaw in using the second choice theory is that these voters are still aware of the existence of the seems to me like it should be interpreted as a preferential vote.

    Also, I disagree with the notion that a party getting 41% can't really lose, because if there is only one other party seem as that viable (hypothetically a united right), the result could be, for example, 45-41 or so, still leaving 14% for smaller parties, and resulting in the party getting 41% losing lots of two party races (like in MB 2011 election, where where NDP beat PC 46-44 but won a majority govt.

    1. It isn't that 41% is a guaranteed victory, but that historically it has been enough in the vast majority of cases.

    2. The more serious parties you have in the race the lower a percentage of the vote you need to win. In BC since 1975 most elections have really been two party affairs meaning that the NDp has managed to get over 40% of the vote in five elections in the last 36 years and lose

  2. Thanks for posting this. Suspected this was the case but wasn't aware of the hard polling data. It also suggests that under PR the NDP would have been able to find coalition partners, either from Wildrose, or from some new party carved in part out of Wildrose voters.

  3. Fascinating analysis Eric. I remember during that campaign also being struck by how broad the NDP's support seemed to be in the various polls, especially towards the latter half. You couldn't say that women got them elected, or younger voters, or the university-educated or urban voters (though the last two did slant their way) - they seemed to draw from everywhere, which further supports the theory that it was less an ideological shift that a coalescence of anti-PC sentiment settling on the most electable alternative.

  4. The vote splitting resulted in a weak mandate is always a faulty argument, whether it is coming from the left or right.

    Same could be said about the Chretien majority elections of 1993, 1997 and 2001.

    Chretien did not win by default like some on the right claim. A two way race between the Liberals and Reform/Alliance or Liberals and PCs will have still netted a Liberal victory.

    The second choice of many PC voters were Liberals. And Reform voters were simply not thrilled to vote PC over Liberal.

    And of course, a two way race between Stephen Harper and either Stephane Dion or Michael Ignatieff would have not resulted in a Liberal win either.

    1. Also, the Chrétien Liberals took more of the vote than the combined Reform/CA and PC tallies anyway in 1993, 1997, and 2000. The split just made it easier.

    2. The split likely also suppressed their vote totals. The right didn't present a coherent message in the 1990s, and it was clear they couldn't win an election. If there had been only one party, they might have done much better. They also might have done worse by alienating the fringes of the votes they did get.

      We don't know.

      I think your headline is entirely too confident.

    3. Not really, It's just debunking the theory that the ANDP won on the back of right-wing vote splitting.

      The numbers never did say that and after further analysts the numbers confirm that it would not have stopped the ANDP. Mrs. Notley's victory was her own and not due to a mathematical quirk (though the Flaws of the FPTP system is ever present).

      Further to all this, it points that the claim of vote splitting on the left might be equally a false notion. There is nothing that proves that party ,aside from small core base of support (at most 10-15%), are so homogenous a collection of voters that they can't loose support to opposing ideological parties.

      The vast majority of voters are up for grabs and no party should feel so safe as to assume last cycle's voters wont vote for the other guy this cycle.

    4. Quote "The vast majority of voters are up for grabs and no party should feel so safe as to assume last cycle's voters wont vote for the other guy this cycle."

      /\ Nice take on it .. I would agree.

  5. Fantastic work Eric....You made your excellent analysis very easy to digest.

    The NDP won legitimately.


  6. Thank you for debunking this conventional wisdom. The talk of vote-splitting has been almost ritualistically simplistic and it takes a closer reading than most pundits and mainstream reporters are prepared to conduct to truly understand what's happening.

  7. And just one note, the polls and your analysis of the second choice vote bears out what was notable anecdotally during the election, namely, that many people asked about their voting preferences replied that they weren't going to vote PC, but they hadn't decided between the NDP and Wildrose.

  8. A Liberal based blog has looked at this same sort of thing federally, and concluded that uniting the NDP and Liberals would not diminish the Conservative's ability to win the election...

  9. I find your analysis a bit shallow on this.

    Granted, so are the claims about a vote split.

    But when you take away one opposition party, you're assuming that the winning party keeps all of its seats, and that's by no means guaranteed. As you correctly point out, the NDP and WR split the anit-PC vote. If there were no PC party, there wouldn't be any anti-PC vote. So where would they go?

    We have no idea.

    I think you're drawing conclusions here in the face of remarkably spotty evidence.

    1. I'm not sure what you're getting at. I did talk about what would happen if the PCs were gone - it would still be an NDP majority. But the bulk of this is written from the perspective of WR (which finished third in the vote, and is the newer party) disappearing. So, the anti-PC vote still exists there.

    2. Got to agree here with you Ira. Too easy to think wrong in this situation,.

    3. But in both cases, you assumed that the NDP would keep all of their votes, and we don't know that.

      Since, as you point out, there was a bunch of anti-PC vote, we don't know if it went to the NDP because those votes actually like the NDP, or if those voters thought voting NDP was the best way to defeat the PCs.

      You're making the same mistake the PR people do when they assume that all votes that are cast represent a genuine preference for that party.

    4. Ira,

      While I understand that in a hypothetical situation anything at all can happen, I don't understand what is behind your argument. Are you suggesting that if Wildrose did not exist, anti-PC voters that voted for the NDP would have instead voted for another party because Wildrose wasn't somewhere on the ballot? I suppose that could happen, but apart from an "anything can happen" argument, what's the basis of it?

      If it was the PCs that did not exist, then you might be on more solid ground since that anti-PC motivation would not be there. But it doesn't seem very important - the PCs were the government and were defeated. That is where this whole thing comes from, not from the idea that it was Wildrose that was robbed, but rather that the PCs are the 'rightful' conservative party, at least in terms of seniority.

      I suppose I could have just written an article that said "Without Wildrose or a divided right, NDP might still have won, or lost, or maybe the Liberals would have won - we just can't know and can never know!"

      That would have been the most accurate, but hardly very interesting or useful. This serves as a rebuttal, based on what we do know, to the argument of a divided right being behind the NDP's victory.

    5. Also, I should reiterate that I did not pull this 'hypothetical' out of my rear. It actually isn't a hypothetical at all. It is a direct rebuttal of the claims made in some of the articles I linked to at the beginning of my piece. Those claims assume Wildrosers should be PCs, and thus the PCs lost because of a split. I am using the data we have to show that this is false.

    6. In this specific election, I agree with the conclusion. I just don't think the mechanism you've identified is relevant.

      The NDP was going to win that election regardless. The PCs had to go, and WR basically didn't exist only weeks before the vote. There was no one else to win.

      But there's tons of uncertainty in the actual numbers. In a 2-way NDP-PC race, for example, I expect the Liberals and Alberta Party would have done far worse, as all of their votes would have gone to the NDP (to stop the Tories).

      There was do many moving parts in elections, I don't think we can meaningfully claim to have any knowledge about what would happen if we change one variable.

    7. It is highly likely that almost all the Liberal and Alberta party supporters bent on getting rid of the Tories had already gone to the NDP. What you have left are the diehard Liberal supports that don't have much of a preference between the NDP and Conservatives. Even if you are right, and the Liberals would jump ship to the NDP, you'd get an almost equal number jumping to the PCs. 1+1 never equals 2 in politics.

  10. I haven't looked at the riding by riding results, but I think the better 2-party measure would be to exclude either the PC or WR depending on which party finished third in each riding. To exclude all PC or all WR might inflate the measure you produce of NDP seats.

    1. That's an excellent idea. If, using that method, the NDP still wins a majority, then that would unequivocally prove Éric's point.

      To me, this post seemed like it was starting with the conclusion (which is probably correct), and then working backward to create a justification for that conclusion.

      But that's not how evidence-based analysis works. The conclusion should come after the work, not before. And if we're trying to draw conclusions from the evidence, I don't think the evidence Éric presented supports that conclusion.

    2. Easily done. I'll be back.

    3. I should point out, though, that much of the grumbling is coming from PC quarters, not Wildrose (which seemed pleased as punch on election night). Wildrose is the younger party, the smaller party in terms of support. The PCs were the incumbent. As debunking goes, I think my approach was the right one.

      As a wider conservative vs. NDP question, this suggested approach is perhaps better.

    4. I personally don't think there was much to debunk. The claims that the NDP won because of a vote split were significantly less well supported than your claims here.

      I don't think we should be particularly confident of a multi-decade NDP dynasty, but there wasn't really any other likely election outcome this time around.

    5. Ran the numbers, distributing WR votes when PCs finished second, and distributing PC votes when WR finished second. The results:

      NDP 49%, 55 seats
      PC/WR 39%, 30 seats
      ALP/AP, 2 seats

    6. I've added this result to the post above.

    7. Sorry, I didn't describe my method correctly. In ridings where the PCs finished behind WR, I distributed the PC vote according to second choice polling. In ridings where WR finished behind the PCs, I distributed the WR vote according to second choice polling.

    8. But it is much closer than the other methods. That's more what I was expecting to see.

      Thanks, Éric.

  11. Antony makes an interesting point, the one that is slightly removed from the premise that is this post which considers a united right. To paraphrase him, what would be there implications of a optional preferential system a la New South Wales or Queensland, when the votes of the bottom ranked parties were allocated (with some exhaustion).

  12. This election was more about kicking the PCs out of power than it was about right vs. left. I think looking at it that way is incorrect because I can still manipulate the numbers to show an undivided right wins the election.

    As you said, there's only 4 instances of a party receiving over 40.6% of the vote and not forming government and in no case did the party receive over 50%. A united right receives 52% of the vote and therefore, very likely, forms government.

    I really enjoyed your analysis of 2nd choice vote intention, but it assumes that everything else stays the same except for the one party that you choose to get rid of. Given that assumption, I can't argue with your conclusion.

    I don't think you can argue with my conclusion either. I'm assuming that there exists one, not arrogant, right wing party that is neither filled with corrupt candidates nor other non-corrupt candidates that previously served under a corrupt government.

    We can't both be correct which is why this election was about kicking out the current government rather than left vs right.

    1. I'm not creating some thought-exercise hypothetical what-if. I'm rebutting the argument that the NDP won because the right was divided, or more precisely, that the PCs lost because their vote was divided by Wildrose. Data does not exist to back that argument up, as my post demonstrated.

      Alternate universe where there is a happy and healthy right-wing party? Why would I even bother with such a hypothetical when no one was making that argument? That boils down to an argument along the lines of "if the PCs were not a party that was going to lose an election, they would have won." Well, duh.

    2. You are using a hypothetical what-if to support your argument. An alternate universe where 1 party doesn't exist.

      I completely agree with your point that it wasn't a divided right that propelled the NDP into government. What I didn't like was using a hypothetical situation to support that point and that's really what I was trying to show by creating my own hypothetical situation. As I look over my previous comment, perhaps that was not really clear.

    3. No, it isn't a hypothetical what-if. I am showing that the conservative vote wasn't divided, because the conservative vote wasn't uniform and a lot of Wildrose supporters preferred an NDP government to a PC re-election. A split of the conservative vote did not give the NDP victory, because that conservative vote was not large enough to block an NDP win.

    4. Éric,

      What you were saying was that the right-wing vote may have been divided, but not nearly as much as the anti-PC vote. Therefore the NDP were the losers from vote splitting, not the winners. You make that case convincingly.

  13. And Nano says :

    NDP pulls even with Liberals, Conservatives in close Nanos Index race

  14. The point that's been made here and which several of the regulars choose to ignore is that voters, of all stripes, had decided to remove the governing party.

    The only viable large scale option was the NDP and hence the success. The same desire is being seen nationally but with two potential parties a little harder to get a real clear decision.

    1. Except nationally voters have decided to remove the third party and two viable options have emerged.

    2. Quite right Capilano and the only two remaining are the NDP and Liberals as the country shifts left !

    3. Peter, I think a glance at today's Ekos poll might lead you to reconsider... NDP 31.3%; Cons 29.2%, Libs 23.9%. The Liberals seem to be going into a tail spin, and the Cons may well be following them... (

    4. No I won't reconsider for two reasons. First is a precipitous slide in CPC support and second never give the ultra Right any hope. Actually I won't be surprised to see the CPC end up third after October !!

    5. Wowza! :O First time my model projects an NDP win. It gives:

      127 NDP
      126 CPC
      79 LPC
      5 BQ
      1 GPC

      By region, it gives:

      17 LPC
      9 CPC
      6 NDP

      57 NDP
      10 LPC
      6 CPC
      5 BQ

      55 CPC
      36 LPC
      30 NDP

      12 CPC
      10 NDP
      6 LPC

      28 CPC
      4 NDP
      2 LPC

      British Columbia
      19 NDP
      15 CPC
      7 LPC
      1 GPC

      1 NDP
      1 CPC
      1 LPC

    6. Peter - what precipitous slide? The CPC has been polling in generally the same place since early 2013.

      If anyone is in a precipitous slide, it's the Liberals, who appear to have dropped 20 points in the past year.

    7. Thierry, remarkable! But then it is a strong poll for the NDP, isn't it. Every region has the NDP at 20% or higher, in first place in the three most populace provinces, and in first or second place in every region except Manitoba.

    8. Peter, I mean that if there is a two-horse race, it doesn't involve the Liberals. rather, the NDP and Conservatives.

    9. Yes, I have to agree with Ira here - the CPC are not tumbling, though they may be slowly sliding. The LPC - at least from the EKOS poll - appear to be collapsing. This may be an outlier, but it follows the general trends of the last month: NDP slowly rising, Liberals declining, and CPC stagnant with little room to grow. If these trends continue, disaffected Liberal support may coalesce around the NDP, putting in majority territory, just as we saw in Alberta. But I can't see the Liberals falling that far. Unless Trudeau puts another foot in it.

    10. No Peter Meldrum,

      The two remaining parties are the Dippers and Tories. The Liberals now trail the Dippers in every category on Eric's board. The NDP can expect to garner a higher minimum vote and seats than the Liberals all the way to the NDP can expect to have a larger maximum popular vote and maximum seats than the Liberals. The Liberals are officially Canada's third party. Campaigns matter of course and Mulcair is certainly capable of grasping defeat from the jaws of semi-victory (Official Opposition status) but, the graphs tell the tale and it appears to be a story of terminal decline for the Liberal party whereas; the graphs indicate the Tories are consolidating a high and the Dippers are on the march. Things are shaping up well for the Tories a second majority and the end of the Liberal party-no wonder Harper has been all smiles lately.

    11. If one views the graphs it appears the CPC are consolidating a high (to take a phrase from the world of stock markets and finance)

      The graphs provide a shocking conclusion for the LPC-they are a party in likely terminal decline.

  15. I would be curious to know how many WRP supporters ended up voting for their second choice, due to the belief that the WRP could not win the election , and that the election was coming down to either the PC party or the NDP. Did the media put this thought into our minds, to keep WRP from winning? Was that why Nenshi predicted a PC government? I believe we simply needed 1/3rd of the vote to form government (We received 34% in 2012), and am wondering if we bleed 40% to these other parties. We seem to be alway's one step behind, and am glad to have decided not to vote anymore.

    1. I wouldn't be at all surprised if WR supporters in Edmonton voted NDP. But I also don't think it made much difference.

    2. There are WR supporters in Edmonton?

  16. I will have more comments later. .
    first have to go scrape my jaw off the floor. .

    1. Quote "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). "
      I dont have access to the Ipsos numbers (someone wanna lend me $100? LOL)
      but looking at the mainstreet numbers I'm getting a strong feeling that 1/3 of voters really have no idea who they are voting for..
      Or at least they are not going by what the party stands for and their platforms..
      which is kinda freaky..
      has anyone every studied or looked into the idea that 1/3 of the voters actually randomly vote?
      Thats the only explanation I can think of why a persons second choice would be diametrically opposite of their first vote?

    2. They might be voting based on some esoteric criterion. We don't know why an individual votes.

    3. You are oversimplifying things. The WRP platform is NOT diametrically opposed to the NDP platform.

      People vote for different reasons other than ideology. Some people vote based on which party leader they like the most. Others vote based on which individual candidate in their riding they feel will best represent the constituency in the Legislature,regardless of party affiliation. Some vote based on which party platform best represents their own positions on issues. Others vote strategically - i.e. Which candidate has the best chance of defeating the incumbent in this riding? And so on. Most people use a combination of methods. Most of us aren't as rigidly dogmatic in commitment to one ideology or another as the pundits would have you believe. Most Albertans are moderates, is a fact that often gets missed, because for decades we're been electing moderate "conservative" governments. This time, for a variety of reasons, we chose a moderate NDP government. It's the wing nuts that would try to have you believe otherwise.

    4. I would agree with your characterization of the tories as moderate under Redford, Lougheed, maybe even Getty, but certainly not Klein. He was in for far too long for Albertans not to recognize how much more conservative his government was that its predecessors (more than his own past self for that matter), or how much he was in the pocket of big oil. It comes back to your earlier point about ideology not always being the critcal factor - Klein's folksy manner made people comfortable, and well, so what if he was the right of Attila the Hun?

    5. Ralph was the best premier Alberta ever had.

  17. If you are going to use theoretical polls questions then how about this one:

    If the election were called before Danielle Smith left the Widrose party how big would the Wildrose Majority be?

    The wildrose that had its party totally gutted and left for dead just 4 months before this election won 21 seats and 24% of the popular vote.....

    1. The WIldrose leaders abandoned the party but the base never did. Just because the leaders left it didn't make Wildrose supporters like PC any better. It was a huge miscalculation on Smith's part. Still they dropped a lot in popular vote which is significant because the vote was for change, yet voters did not want Wildrose change.

    2. To get the big WR victory you're looking for, BCVoR, you'd need to have Alison Redford call a snap election instead resigning.

      But then, yes, the polls say WR would have run away with that election, possibly winning every riding outside Edmonton.

      But that we can point to moments in history like this - moments between elections where campaign dynamics don't really apply - show the folly of chasing these hypotheticals.

    3. Sort of like Eric's hypothetical where the NDP would in fact get 50% of the vote in a 2 party race?

      Obviously in a 2 party race 40% will not get you a majority.

    4. The better question is: if Danielle had not committed political harakiri, could Wildrose have won enough seats outside of the southern Alberta base to form government with her as leader?

      A: Doubtful. Most Albertans were growing as tired of her constant whining as they were of the PCs corruption. Rachel led a positive, respectful campaign that resonated with the majority of Albertans. The only thing that would have been more enjoyable than watching her crush Prentice in the leadership debate would have been the dynamic with the three female leaders and Dr. Swann. THAT would have been an interesting debate!

  18. Hi Eric,
    I've been reading your blog since 2011, thank you so much for keeping this up!
    I'd like to request an article for next time there is a slow polling week (if it interests you).
    What kind of support redistribution would happen if an NDP-Liberal, NDP-Green or Liberal-Conservative merger were to occur? Would the new parties lose some of the support that their predecessors enjoyed? Or attract even more under the new umbrella? I've been curious about this for a long time. Is there even any data out there to support any hypotheses?

  19. With the 4 week rolling polls from Nanos, are you double-counting results when you use two poll releases with overlapping polling periods?

    Right now, your projection uses both the May 17 poll, and the May 2 poll, but they're both 4 week polls, so they share data.

    You probably already accounted for this. I just noticed it and wanted to ask.

    1. I reduce the weight of the older poll by how much it overlaps with the newer poll. So, in this case that older Nanos is 50% of the weight that it normally would be.

  20. Today with the NDP tying the Liberal's in popular support really cements the fact the Liberals are in the midst of a long term and potentially terminal decline. At this rate they'll be lower than 25% at election time and may no longer be a competitive party for government.

    Good news for the Tories and to a lesser extent the NDP, it certainly sets up the Conservatives as Canada's natural governing party of the 21st century with a semi-permanent NDP Official Opposition.

  21. I think what's really happening is that the electorate at large is nowhere near as ideological as the punditocracy, the blogosphere or the Twitterverse. Voters, most of whom have never taken a poli-sci course, vote for their own, largely pragmatic reasons. This is why Wildrose voters can with a straight face can pick the NDP as their second choice, a finding that is astounding to many ideologically-committed commentators.

    This is also why the "unite the [pick your preferred ideology here] wing" advocates are so wrong. Uniting the Redorm-Alliance & federal PCs was not a panacea for conservatives, and uniting the Liberals, NDP & Greens wouldn't be for the centre-right. The electorate at large just doesn't think like that.

    1. I agree - plenty of older conservative rural voters probably looked at Rachel Notley and said "Straight shooter, hard worker, country girl, I knew her dad - I can live with her as a premier". Large-I ideology is often overestimated as a factor in voting decisions.

    2. There is no doubt uniting the Alliance with the PCs paved the way for Martin's minority then Harper's subsequent wins. A united Conservative party won 21 more seats than the Alliance and PCs combined in the 2000 general election.

      With the facts available we can already see the split on the "centre-left" makes it easier for the Tories to capture a plurality and or a majority of seats. As Eric demonstrated with his hypothetical 2003 election a split right would have left Martin in power until 2008 maybe longer. A split "centre-left" is likely to have a similar effect for Mr. Harper keeping Mulcair from ever becoming PM (Thank God).

    3. That may be, but as someone said earlier, vote-splitting is an advantage, until it's not. The new numbers in Ontario are very interesting. The NDP had been stobbornly a distant third place, but recently rose to what is now parity with the CPC. If their surge continues, the remaining LPC supporters will increasingly be blue liberals, suggesting instead a split on the right. With such a bounty of seats in Ontario it could propel the NDP into government. Vote efficiency and the ground game will certainly play a huge part if things stay this close, and both favour the CPC.

  22. I am always surprised to hear Canadians talking about a "two way race;" we have not had anything like a two party system for a very long time. That's because two parties can't possibly come close to representing the interests of all the citizens in a nation as diverse as ours. If there wasn't a need for every single Registered Political Party from the Marijuana Party to the Pirate Party, none of these smaller parties would exist.

    Representative Democracy is supposed to work by sending delegates -- our chosen representatives-- to Parliament. When a significant number of eligible voters are not voting for the person or party we think will best represent us, democracy is an illusion, and there is no such thing as a mandate. .

    As lovely as this win is, the Alberta NDP's 41% of the vote is as much a phony majority as those of the Conservative Party before them.

    In Canadian winner-take-all elections, the candidate either wins or she loses. And the same is true for voters: either our vote counts and we win representation in the legislature, or our vote doesn't, and we are a majority of losers without representation in a legislature where there is no one to speak for us. And "vote splitting" only exists in such a polarizing system.

    The disparity between the worth of our votes in a system where some votes count more than others, and most votes not count at all makes it extremely difficult to hold any government to account because it is nearly impossible to vote them out. Only on those rare occasions when the government of the day has succeeding in angering enough Canadians across party lines does this happen, as we have just seen in Alberta, and will most certainly see again federally this fall.

    The NDP-- and indeed the majority of Albertans-- have been the losers for 40 years. This year the tables have turned and a different mix of winners have won the brass ring, creating a somewhat different majority of losers.

    Now that the NDP enjoys a majority, phony or not, it has the power to legislate the things its members think are important. But it will certainly take an enormous amount of time and work to undo all the things the Conservatives have done.

    Even the most ruthless dictator would have trouble undoing the work of four decades in a single term of office. And next time, who knows which party's phony majority will achieve power.

    The best way to avoid having the pendulum swing back would be to modernize the electoral system to ensure no party will be able to win a disproportionate amount of power in the future. Proportional Representation would change the very nature of the system and give smaller parties the opportunity to be heard. That's why this would be an excellent time for Ms. Notley's NDP to begin the process of electoral reform to a Proportional System.

    The Federal branch of the NDP is making Proportional Representation an election issue. Certainly their cause would be helped enormously if Alberta were to lead the way.

    1. Laurel, I completely disagree. I think proportional representation is a recipe for big inefficient government. Majorities generally govern better by having clear objectives.

      In Alberta, I wanted a majority government. I wasn't nearly as concerned with which party won, as long as that party won a majority.

      You've appealed the the principle of democracy inn your post, but you've offered no justification for that. Why is democracy valuable, regardless of the quality of government it provides?

    2. Why is efficiency valuable, regardless of the quality of the democracy that enables it?

    3. That's an excellent question. And until we answer questions like it, there's no point arguing for one system over another based on these foundationless principles like democracy or efficiency.

      What do we want from government? Why do we want that? Which system is best at providing it? These are the questions we should be asking.

    4. Yes Ira indeed. Now the first question is "What Is Democracy" ?? After we answer that then we can start to look at systems !!

    5. I'm going to throw this out for discussion. With today's "connection" is it necessary to have a bunch of people representing us??

      The Internet seems to be the real world now so why can't we, the public, vote directly on bills ?? Seems it could be done fairly easily ??

    6. How many people would spend the time necessary to read and understand a bill? Elected officials do this as a full time job (or they should - many of them seem to think that getting re-elected is a full-time job - Chrétien actually said this outright).

      If there's a change to tax policy, do you honestly think that ordinary Canadians will bother to learn enough about it to make an informed decision? Again, I offer the GST as an example. It's unequivocally better than the tax it replaced, and yet it was widely reviled when it was enacted.

      Or look at municipalities in California. They can't raise taxes without a referendum, so they never raise taxes. So they go broke, or they cut services.

      People are dumb. Moreover, you're basically letting the majority decide everything. Why is that a good thing? Tyranny of the majority is something we should fear, not embrace. If the majority decided that I'm not allowed to paint my house green, why is it good that I listen to them? Because I'm outnumbered?

    7. And no, Peter, that is not the first question. You're presupposing that democracy is relevant.

    8. If not Ira then what is ? Dictatorship, communism etc ??

    9. What do we want government to do? What is the point of having government? If there is a point (and I'm assuming there is), what is it?

      Once we know that, we can examine the available systems to determine how best to achieve that objective.

      But democracy isn't an objective. It's a process. Why should we be wed to some procedural ideal? Should we not be pursuing desirable outcomes rather than a desirable process?

      Isn't that the progressive argument against unfettered capitalism? Regardless of how fair the process is, if it leads to unacceptable outcomes you don't like it. So why should the political system be any different from the economic system in this regard?

    10. Let me put this another way...

      If we're going to chance democratic ideals, why are we doing that? Starting from the rational default position of uncertainty, what reason do we have to favour democracy over some other form of government selection?

      Your answer to that question will help uncover what you think our actual goal is.

  23. It's an interesting idea trying to determine WR's second preferences but, the wrong choice. Your analysis should focus on what would have happened if the PCs had disappeared since, they were the discredited party. I think you'd still have a NDP majority but nowhere near the 68 seats predicted with the elimination of Wild Rose.

    1. I did that and wrote about it in this very piece.

  24. I see that new poll from Forum is still showing their massive pro-Liberal house effect.

    1. Massive ????????? 1 % is MASSIVE ???????
      Give me a break !!

    2. Since the 2011 election, the 13 highest Liberal poll results have all been Forum polls. That's a noteworthy bias.

    3. Stop "spinning" Ira. 1% is NOT massive and is less than the Margin Of Error !!

    4. Over the course of all their polls, no it isn't. I don't think you understand how margin of error works.

      I'm not suggesting there's any intent behind the bias, simply that the bias exists.

  25. This is simply hands down the best non-partisan political blog in North America. Keep up the exceptional work!


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