Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A close election

Various observations I would make are:

1. The election did end up being closer than I anticipated. So close indeed that if the Liberals had been two points higher in Ontario and one in B.C. while the Conservatives were correspondingly lower, the outcome would have been reversed even if all other provinces had voted exactly the same way. Overall, had this been the case, the Liberals would have been four points down in the popular vote but ahead (barely) in seats. I was able to do this exercise because I have already built my model for the next election, courtesy of some preliminary data files on the Elections Canada web site. I simply varied the outcome from yesterday just enough to produce a Liberal win.

2. The closeness makes me think that if the campaign accidents such as the income trust affair, and certain stumbles, such as the military ad, had not occurred, this campaign could easily have had a different outcome. Certainly, the Liberal campaign planners made copious errors, while having to cope with an unfriendly media. As one example of the latter, I couldn’t believe the blatant shilling for the Conservatives I sometimes saw on the Mike Duffy show. As one friend noted, at least he wasn’t subtle about it.

3. My forecast model worked reasonably well, but not as well as in 2004 (as I anticipated here). I test the model’s accuracy by using actual vote shares (which are the perfect opinion poll). The results generated were:

C – 124
L – 94
NDP – 31
BQ – 59

The Liberal number, as you can see, did run ahead of the trend and demonstrated great vote efficiency. And Quebec contributed disproportionately to the number of errors.

But I have more work ahead to complete a full evaluation. I also want to do a full evaluation of poll accuracy. As many have noted, SES appears to have been the most accurate. Once again the Quebec pollsters were ahead of their national counterparts in getting Quebec public opinion right, although SES was also close here.

When I apply the average of closing polls to my new forecast model based on yesterday’s results, I get the following:

C – 132
L – 91
NDP – 36
BQ – 48

The largest difference, as it was last time, was in Ontario.

4. In some ways the Liberals will benefit from being out of office, but not far removed from power. This defeat will serve as punishment for the scandal and should end its political impact. Although this may be delayed until the trials are over in the spring.

5. The key for the Liberals is the party leadership. And here it is not at all clear who among all the potential candidates would be the best choice.

6. This election also completes the NDP’s full resurrection from the political graveyard they hung around throughout the nineties. They have picked up some interesting new talent, and have an energetic leader who is becoming progressively better in the role.

9. All elections do generate some clich├ęs in the post-election analysis. One, here on the CBC internet site, discusses an urban-rural divide. While the Conservatives did very poorly in the three biggest cities of Toronto, Montreal & Vancouver, they finished first in all the prairie cities including Winnipeg, as well as Ottawa, Quebec City and St. John’s (see Major Centres results here), so I think some qualifiers are in order.

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