Saturday, April 30, 2011

Liberal Decline

The post mortems on this election are beginning.  Two topics are of particular interest: the NDP wave in Quebec (and, one should add, Atlantic Canada) and Liberal decline.

Too much of the blame for Liberal decline is attributed to Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff but he deserves some of it. The roots of Liberal decline are long-term and complex. TC wrote a series of posts about Liberal decline last year in June and July. Much of the analysis stands up reasonably well. Here are links to that series:
The Liberal Party in Decline: Part One - The Early Years
Part Two: The Chr├ętien Era
Part Three: The NDP Revives
Part Four: Conclusion

NDP gains in Quebec

It is clear now the NDP will win a huge number of seats in Quebec on Monday, likely more than 50.  In the process the orange wave will wash over some very big names. Here are a few examples of well-known MPs certain to lose:
  • BQ Leader Gilles Duceppe in Montreal's Laurier St. Marie
  • Conservative Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon in Pontiac
  • Liberal and former Canadian astronaut Marc Garneau in Westmount-Ville-Marie

Thursday, April 28, 2011

No Tory Majority Come Monday

The overall shape of the final outcome is now clear.  The election next Monday will not produce a Conservative majority.  The Conservatives will finish first, followed by the NDP, with the Liberals third and the Bloc a distant fourth.

Here is a chart showing shifts in support from 2008, compared to polls released since Monday, April 25.

Polls - Last week of April

Change since 2008

C.P.C. Liberal NDP Green Bloc Other
Canada -2.3 -3.3 10.2 -0.6 -4.2 0.1
Atlantic 2.7 -4.4 4.7 -1.4 0.0 -1.7
Quebec -6.8 -7.3 25.9 0.0 -12.8 1.0
Ontario 0.4 -4.3 5.3 -1.6 0.0 0.3
Man/Sask -3.3 1.1 2.6 -0.7 0.0 0.3
Alberta -5.2 2.5 4.9 -0.7 0.0 -1.4
BC -5.4 2.4 2.4 0.1 0.0 0.6

Apart from a tiny gain in Ontario and a small increase in Atlantic Canada, the Conservatives are losing ground, not making gains. The story of the campaign is the spectacular success of Jack Layton's NDP, with the possibility that their final total will top 100 seats. A perfect symbol is all the commercials the Conservatives are running attacking Michael Ignatieff who no longer poses a threat.

Come Monday night, there will be disappointment for Stephen Harper, celebrations from coast to coast for the NDP, and devastation for the Liberals and Bloc.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The East is Orange

It is becoming clearer that there is an NDP wave not confined to Quebec. Comparing polls in Atlantic Canada released from April 15 to17 (shortly after the debates held April 12 & 13) to those released on April 21 & 22, we see an average NDP gain of ten points, most of it coming at the expense of the Liberals:

CPC Liberal NDP Green Other
April 15-17 36.0 38.6 17.0 4.4 4.1
April 21-22 36.7 30.7 27.6 4.2 0.9

This is the point in the campaign where a clear direction is established.  The story of the campaign has been the NDP's growing wave of support in Quebec, with a parallel move happening in Atlantic Canada.

This commentary by former CBC Ottawa bureau chief Elly Alboim captures the significance of the moment:
More often than not, these sorts of break outs cannot be reversed. They represent a collective decision making process that sometimes builds on mounting evidence or sometimes catches media by surprise after events or debates — although this would represent a very slow reaction to a debate. There are notable exceptions like the PC’s beating back the resurgent Liberals in 1988 but they are rare.

Often, the final results overshoot the initial wave. Momentum builds and begins to sweep into ridings that most think are not in play. I’ve been involved in dozens of CBC projection meetings where seasoned political reporters said that it was inconceivable that certain ridings and personalities were lost. And yet they were. Canada is littered with former cabinet ministers who never should have lost.
There have been some small NDP gains in provinces west of the Ottawa River, but so far they lag the progress Mr. Layton's party is making in the east. Conservative support so far is holding but not growing.  Here is another table comparing early national polls to the last few days:

CPC Liberal NDP Bloc Green Other
March 24-28 38.8 25.0 18.0 9.7 7.5 0.9
April 21-22 38.0 24.7 23.5 6.7 4.9 2.0

The Conservatives' hoped for majority remains elusive but possible. Vote-splitting by the opposition may help. The open question is: how far can the NDP go?

More on online vs phone polls

There was an interesting analysis of online vs phone polling on the Carleton School of Journalism election commentary web site by Christopher Waddell who suggests online polls might overstate support for the NDP:
In the 2006 election, Decima Research conducted a series of experiments comparing polling results from an online panel it had assembled with those obtained from traditional telephone polling. The goal was to see how accurately online polls could match telephone results and to try to figure out how online polls should be weighted compared to the traditional demographic weighting done for phone polls to ensure the pool of respondents matched the demographics of the country.
On election day, Decima asked the members of its online panel to report how they voted in an attempt to create a national exit poll. About 10,000 people responded and by 6:30 pm in Ottawa – three hours before the polls had closed everywhere west of New Brunswick – it was obvious Stephen Harper and the Conservatives were going to beat Paul Martin and the Liberals. There there was a clear gap in the share of the vote each attracted and while Liberal vote share was below 2004 results, the Conservatives were significantly higher.

By the end of the night the Liberal and Conservative vote shares in the online poll were pretty close to their actual results. The one discrepancy was the NDP which did several percentage points better in the online results than it did in actual voting results across the country. This difference was most pronounced in Atlantic Canada where the NDP was 7-8 percentage points online better than it was in the ballot box.
Intrigued, TC compared online and phone polls conducted during this election cycle and found that the online polls gave the NDP two extra points:

CPC Liberal NDP Bloc Green Other
Online 37.7 26.2 20.1 8.9 6.3 0.7
Phone 38.9 27.9 18.1 8.4 5.5 1.2

This is not to suggest that there is no NDP surge. There is indeed movement to the NDP in all polls. It is evident in the numbers in the previous post, which compared four phone polls with the 2008 results. As my earlier post on the subject discussed, there are numerous problems with online polls.  It seems significant, given the experiment described above, that HarrisDecima currently polls by telephone.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A polling sweet spot for the Conservatives

The polls from the last few days have captured an NDP surge that is strong in Quebec and evident, although much weaker, elsewhere.  Here is the change in support between the 2008 election and an average of four polls released over the past two days:

C.P.C. Liberal NDP Green Bloc Other
Canada -0.5 -1.5 5.4 -0.3 -4.4 1.3
Atlantic 7.1 -4.9 1.3 -1.3 0.0 -2.2
Quebec -2.9 -5.7 17.7 0.3 -10.4 0.9
Ontario 1.7 -2.6 1.3 -1.8 2.0 -0.6
Man/Sask -3.1 1.8 1.8 -0.9 0.0 0.3
Alberta -3.6 2.7 2.3 -0.3 0.0 -1.1
BC -2.4 -1.6 3.7 -1.4 0.0 1.6

The current distribution of preferences gets us close to a Conservative majority and a close contest for official opposition. However, I don't feel confident about my seat forecast in Quebec given the unprecedented character of support for the NDP in that province, so there is considerable uncertainty to this estimate:

C.P.C. Liberal NDP Green Bloc Other Total
CANADA 153 58 61 0 35 1 308

However, note in the table above that the Conservatives are down in most provinces/regions. TC would add that the Ipsos poll, which is included in the averages used to calculate the table above has a decidedly Conservative tilt. Their regional numbers in particular seem inconsistent with the other surveys. 

The even split overall between the Liberals and the NDP should be highly beneficial to the Conservatives, but somehow, this sweet spot still leaves them short of an overall majority.  TC has been skeptical all along that the Conservatives will win a majority and remains so. 

The movement to the NDP is not yet finished, so we are still likely see changes in the days ahead that will alter the seat configuration.  In particular, Conservative support in BC in recent days looks too high to me, and I expect the NDP to make further gains there at the expense of the Conservatives.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Still no sign of that Conservative majority

TC has previously discussed the difficulty faced by the Conservative party in winning a majority.  The prospect of a Conservative majority continues to be unlikely.

TC has averaged the polls released in the past five days and projects the following outcome:

C.P.C. Liberal NDP Green Bloc Other Total
CDA 143 79 37 0 48 1 308

The seat totals make it clear that to date there has been remarkably little change since 2008.  Here is the shift represented by the poll average used in the seat projection from the 2008 results:

C.P.C. Liberal NDP Green Bloc Other
Canada 0.2 1.1 1.6 1.7 -4.7 -0.0
Atlantic 4.9 2.2 -3.8 -1.8 1.8 -2.3
Quebec -2.7 -3.7 9.7 2.7 -6.6 0.5
Ontario 2.2 1.8 -0.8 -2.6 0.4 -0.8
Man/Sask -2.5 3.8 -3.2 1.0 1.5 -0.7
Alberta -3.5 5.4 0.9 -1.4 1.0 -1.5
BC -4.9 5.5 -1.1 -0.0 1.4 0.2

Note that biggest shift is represented by NDP gains in Quebec. The Conservatives have gained about five points in Atlantic Canada while losing a similar share in BC.  The Liberals have gained five points in BC and Alberta but lost ground in Quebec.  The other polling numbers represent, at best, quite limited shifts. Given the uncertainty and difficulty of measuring regional outcomes accurately, we cannot be certain that there have been significant shifts anywhere. However, the NDP's almost ten point gain in Quebec is clearly too large to ignore.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

What an economic model forecasts for the Canadian election

Economic models have had a strong record in predicting which party will win the White House in U.S. elections.  Now a model built by a couple of Canadian political scientists is making a striking forecast for Canada, suggesting Stephen Harper could lose a lot of seats.  Courtesy of Brendan Nyan's Twitter feed and the Monkey Cage:
For the upcoming election, the unemployment rate is 7.7% (average of November-December-January), the incumbent party's popularity is 38% (average of eight published polls during the month of February), and the longevity measure is equal to 63 months (logged value = 4.143). Hence, the model's forecast gives 34.4% of the vote and 114 seats out of 308 to the Conservative Party.
All such efforts should be taken with the proverbial grain of salt but it is quite at odds with both current polling and conventional wisdom. Interesting.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011


A couple of items jumped out of the election news this week. First, from Harris-Decima's poll this week:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's 'unfavourable' rating increased by nine points to 52 per cent, up from 43 per cent in February. That's Harper's highest unfavourable ranking since the start of the last federal election in September 2008.
Highest unfavourable rating since 2008?  Does it reflect the accumulated weight of all the negatives of the past two months... Carson, contempt, etc?  This is not good news for the Conservatives.

And then this from Paul Wells:
.... the 2011 Harper is different from earlier editions. His tone is dark, his body language weary, his appeals to brighter emotions rote or non-existent. He runs the emotional gamut from bored to angry. “Of course,” his detractors will say. But he truly has has not always been this way on the road.

Early in the 2008 election I wrote about a Harper rally in a barn in Saskatchewan, not because it stood out, really, but because it typified the tone of his first campaign week that year. The barn was newly built, the crowd at dusk hushed and attentive. Harper was positively lyrical.
This is not what one would expect of a highly successful campaign. It remains early, the period of the phony war, the electorate not yet engaged, but perhaps it is significant.