Sunday, July 10, 2011

Manitoba NDP has a realistic chance to win

With the notable exceptions of Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador, few provincial governments keep the same partisan colour beyond two terms in government.  The Manitoba NDP has now made it through three terms, so it should be due to lose the next election. Polls over the past couple of years have been pointing in that direction. However, the NDP has continued to lead in the City of Winnipeg in most surveys to date, including polls that give a substantial overall lead to the PCs (this March poll from Probe for example). TC has been convinced for some time that a change in government was coming. Now I am not so sure.

An Angus Reid online poll released on June 7 that measured premier popularity put Greg Selinger's approval rating at 48%, second highest in Canada behind just Saskatchewan's Brad Wall and a gain of 20 points since the previous survey in November 2010. Perhaps this is due to his handling of the flood situation.

A Probe Research poll released on June 29 reported an overall dead heat between the NDP and the PCs at 44% with the Liberals a quite distant third at 9%. This represented a 9 point boost for the NDP.  More importantly it would easily give the NDP a fourth majority despite the overall closeness in the vote.

TC estimates it would deliver 34 seats to the NDP, 21 to the PCs and 2 to the Liberals. The key to this is the historically efficient vote pattern the NDP has achieved since it first won office in 1969.  Simply put, the NDP's margins in the city are smaller than the huge margins run up by the PCs in rural southwestern and southeastern Manitoba - more seats for exactly the same share of the vote. The final factor is that the NDP has had a virtual lock on the small northern ridings since its initial breakthrough 42 years ago.

Using the Probe poll numbers TC can estimate a vote share for every riding. With exactly the same overall vote, the NDP wins its ridings by an average margin of 25.4%, while the PC wins their seats by an average of 36.9%. Therein lies the difference. In the March 2011 Probe poll the PCs had an overall lead of 47% to 35% but still trailed the NDP by six points in the City of Winnipeg. It would have yielded a bare majority for the PCs. But you can see their problem.

The election could still go the other way, but the NDP's structural advantages and Selinger's growing popularity may well give it an unprecedented fourth term.