Sunday, May 08, 2005

B.C. Election – A Week to Go

News reports from the west coast indicate that Gordon Campbell has gone on the attack against the NDP, even invoking the name of the much despised Glen Clark. Earlier in the week a quickie Ipsos-Reid poll and media commentary generally gave the edge in the TV debate to Carole James. This strongly suggests a tightening race. In fact a new poll from Robbins SCE Research both reports James as the debate winner by a decisive margin, and actually places the NDP ahead of the Liberals 40-39. Two earlier polls by this firm reported higher levels of support for the NDP than those taken by their competitors.

Although Robbins reports that just one third of respondents watched the debate, commentary on their web site explains Carole James’ debate win as follows:

Insight- Pundits and talk show hosts were so busy ‘spinning’ for Gordon Campbell that they failed to see the ‘knock-out’ punch in the Great election debate. It came about when Carole James asked Premier Campbell to explain his actions and promises (which he will keep and which he won’t) to the television viewers. This revealed Ms. James ‘charisma’ and populist connection with people and exposed Gordon Campbell’s lack of ‘political humanity’. Mr. Campbell’s shortcoming has always been his inability to connect with the average voter and Ms. James exploited this very well knocking the Premier ‘out cold on his feet’.

The University of British Columbia’s election stock market, which I think should be interpreted as simply reflecting the expectations of its 82 market participants, has reacted since the debate by showing a tightening race. By the way I don’t accept the claims that the operators of these markets make that they are better at anticipating elections than the polls. For one thing it is quite clear that polls fundamentally affect the outcomes that one sees in these markets. But the measured expectations of a group of observers with a stake in the outcome are worthy of our attention in following these events.

The Liberals should not have been in any danger of losing this election but one of the uncertainties I noted at the outset was that for many voters Carole James was a blank slate. It looks like she has made a relatively dull and uneventful election campaign much more interesting and the outcome less clear.

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