Sunday, January 15, 2006

What is happening in B.C.?

This is a key question in determining the final shape of this election but the polling data is somewhat opaque.

Part of the problem in making an assessment is that B.C. is the most competitive political environment in Canada – in other words a three way race where tiny vote shifts or poll errors have huge consequences.

Nevertheless, there are a few things one can say:

1. Looking at the several polls available from the past week, one sees an apparent decline in support for the NDP from a high of 27% in an Ipsos-Reid internet poll from last weekend to 20% in the January 10-11 poll for Strategic Counsel. However, they are at 24% and 25% in the two polls out yesterday from Ekos and Ipsos-Reid. SES, which has consistently reported weak results for the NDP, has them at 21% during the past week. In 2004 they received 26.8% so the polls suggest their performance this time will be at least a little weaker, assuming these surveys are anywhere near accurate, an unsafe assumption in B.C. The prospects for the NDP in terms of seats are maximized by relatively even split between the Liberals and Conservatives and minimized if the latter have a sweep.

2. The Conservatives are ascendant but the range of their support is from 47% to 30%. The differences are enormously consequential. The Conservative average is 38%. In 2004 they received 36.3% of the votes

3. The Liberals show narrower variation with three polls putting them at 28% and one as high as 34%, although this latter number seems improbable to me. The average is 31%, better than their 2004 showing of 28.6%.

4. Once averaged, the polls suggest seat distribution will be Conservatives - 21, Liberals -11 and NDP - 4. I do not make this as a prediction. The races in many ridings are extremely close and make these outcomes highly uncertain. I just can’t tell what is going to emerge at this point.

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