Saturday, June 05, 2004

Assessment of Week Two - the Polls

Polls & Seats

In a federal election, sometimes the campaign matters, and sometimes it is events outside the campaign that determine the outcome. So far, I think it is the latter. I agree with Darrell Bricker’s assessment in the Saturday Globe that the two most important factors in the campaign so far are the Ontario budget and the sponsorship scandal. The campaign itself as yet does not seem to have had much impact. One has to remember that the first instinct of the media is to attribute every little wiggle in the polls to some campaign development. I attribute most of the wiggles to the margin of error. For example, there is no way that the NDP is really at 14% on Tuesday in B.C. but 23% on Saturday - but that is what the Reid poll reported. I realize the temptation to do this microanalysis is strong but one must resist. It is usually not justified.

On average the four most recent polls would produce an average seat distribution as follows: Liberal – 107, Conservatives –111, NDP – 33, BQ – 57.

This means a weak minority Conservative government that can only ensure a partisan majority with the support of the Bloc, a sure fire formula for instability given the differences between the two groups. The nub of the problem was articulated in an op-ed in the Globe by former Bloc MP Pierrette Venne:

Just consider the Bloc's history: When it was first elected in 1993, it was so uncomfortable in the role of Official Opposition that Lucien Bouchard even refused to move into Stornoway, the official residence of the Leader of the Opposition. In its very early days, long before being taken over by career union leaders and becoming a branch of the Parti Québécois, the Bloc's roots were profoundly conservative.

Over the years, however, in order to rid the party of everything that was not appropriately social democratic, it has undergone several purges. It's hard to see how Gilles Duceppe and Co. could associate themselves with outsiders who have a conservative ideology they could not stomach in their own ranks.

I tried out various scenarios again in my number cruncher to try to find a Conservative majority. I couldn’t do it, mainly because the Conservatives won’t win seats in Quebec. Even an optimistic projection elsewhere at best gets them into the 140 to 145 range, but that is the equivalent of a landslide on a 1984 scale in English Canada. The key difference this time is that defecting Liberals are about as likely to vote NDP as Conservative.

More on The Campaign & the Leaders Tomorrow

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