Wednesday, April 23, 2014

An exceptional poll

TC does not ordinarily take note of just one poll unless there is something unusual or special about it.  Well there is a highly unusual result in the latest Angus Reid poll released on April 22.

Ordinarily, the numbers go up and down routinely, but the data within one poll is typically within shouting distance of the previous survey and is not worthy of note. Unless an election campaign is underway it is unusual for public opinion to depart sharply from previous patterns, particularly with regard to a single poll.

However, the regional data for Ontario in the Reid poll have produced a result that is quite different from the patterns in other regions in the same poll, and strikingly different from the Ontario data in other national polls from 2014. In particular, the Liberals have averaged a five point lead on the Conservatives in 2014 but in this poll they have a seventeen point deficit.

Another oddity: the poll comes close to replicating actual vote shares in Ontario in 2011.

When one turns the numbers from this survey into a national seat projection one gets another unusual result: the NDP is in second place in seats, a status they haven't enjoyed since the rise of Justin Trudeau (one reason for this is a relatively high poll share for the NDP in Quebec). The boost to Conservative fortunes in the survey from a very good result in Ontario is still not enough, however, to get them close to a majority.

For me to take this survey seriously, it would be necessary to see something like this result replicated in other polls. For the moment I would have to say this result doesn't look right. One should not forget like many other Canadian polls, this is an online survey, a methodology I continue to regard as experimental.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Toronto Mayoralty Race: Does Ford have a chance to win?

Rob Ford kicked off his 2014 re-election campaign last night at the Toronto Congress Centre, which is located not far from Toronto's western boundary.  In the middle of Ford's speech according to this tweet, the hall looked like this from the back:

Rob Ford Campaign Launch April 17, 2014
According to the Toronto Star report on the event there was "no crowd estimate but about half of the 290 tables set up in the cavernous centre were empty." Another estimate I saw suggested a crowd of 2000. Regardless, if your campaign manager can only partly fill the venue for your campaign launch he should be fired. This may be difficult if the manager is also your brother Doug.

The media coverage of this fiasco was, in TC's view, generous to Ford to a fault, not at all what one might expect from the evil media elite. And inevitably there was another media story, this one from, suggesting Ford could win despite currently trailing in the polls. Anyone who has read this blog before will know that TC does not believe this will happen.

The new Forum poll released April 15 and alluded to above does have some interesting findings beyond the top line voter preference numbers all of which point clearly to a Ford defeat.

Let's look at them in turn.  Here is how Forum summarizes the race in their press release:
TORONTO APRIL 15th, 2014 ‐ In a random sampling of public opinion taken by the Forum Poll™ among 882 Toronto voters, one third would vote Olivia Chow for mayor if the municipal election were held today (34%), while a quarter or just more would vote either Rob Ford (27%) or John Tory (24%). Neither Karen Stintz (6%) nor David Soknacki (4%) are contenders. Very few have no opinion in the race (5%).
On the face of it Ford is in second place 7 percentage points behind leader Olivia Chow, apparently still well within range. However, there are other numbers and questions in the survey that help us understand the race. For example, one question simply asked respondents if they would vote for Ford in the municipal election in October or not.

Will vote for Rob Ford               29%
Will not vote for Rob Ford         63%
Don't know                                  8%

Another question asks "Which candidate would you never vote for?"  This is an interesting question because of its declarative emphasis. It is a good question for eliciting strong feelings. Of those expressing an opinion (I am excluding the "Don't Know" here) 56% say they would never vote for Rob Ford; the only other candidate who evokes negative feelings to any degree is Olivia Chow who comes in at 29%. The winner here is John Tory as only 3% say they would never vote for him.

These two responses illustrate what should be obvious: Ford is a highly polarizing figure. A large part of the electorate is clearly going to do whatever seems necessary to defeat him.

I have seen many news stories which report that Ford still has a reasonably strong approval rate. This survey includes approval numbers for all candidates so we can directly compare Ford's approval numbers to his opponents.  Here are the results:

Ford  Stintz Tory Chow Soknacki
Approve 46 46 65 60 47
Disapprove 54 54 35 40 53

Seen from this perspective both Tory and Chow have much higher approval ratings than the mayor. They are the two strong candidates in this race. Unless Karen Stintz and David Soknacki can start moving their numbers up soon they are likely going to be forced from the race by September.

It appears highly likely that there will be an Ontario election this summer, which will put the mayor's race on hold and, depending on the outcome, could have an impact of the results. Restarting the race in the dog days of August is not likely to work well for the minor candidates.

My view is that come fall there will be a competitive race for mayor between John Tory and Olivia Chow with Ford trailing. Depending on campaign dynamics either Tory or Chow could win although Chow has the edge now. Ford Nation is, compared to supporters for other candidates, generally lower income and less well-educated. My view is that poll results in the autumn will discourage turnout among an already low turnout group, meaning Ford's actual vote is likely to trail his share in the polls.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Quebec election: "You don't need a weatherman....

... to know which way the wind blows", goes the old Bob Dylan song. It applies well to this Quebec election, which has had plenty of twists, turns and surprises but whose outcome now seems clear.

The final polls on the Quebec election will come out this weekend but the verdict can be discerned without looking at the polls. By the way the polling numbers can all be found on this Wikipedia page.

Consider this: Pauline Marois promised tax cuts on April 3rd (after the budget is balanced). An appealing campaign promise in Quebec with its allegedly high taxes, right? Except it comes much too late in the campaign to do any good. Nearly 18% of Quebec voters had already voted in advance polls prior to yesterday, about 24% of the total vote we will see come April 7, if we use the 2012 turnout as a benchmark. If tax cuts are an important way to win votes perhaps it would have been be more beneficial to make the promise before any voters got to the polls. When parties begin to behave in an erratic and desperate pattern, you know they are in trouble.

There are good reasons to be cautious about polls in Quebec. Most of them are online surveys, a method TC thinks should be regarded as experimental. Given that we haven't seen a reliable poll yet there is some uncertainty, but all the non-poll indicators suggest the Liberals will easily win a majority.

It appears that the PQ coalition among francophones is fracturing - movement to the right to the CAQ (Coalition Avenir Québec) and movement to the left in the form of the Québec solidaire and some to Option Nationale (a party formed by dissidents from the PQ). The movements have been complicated. It seems that mid-campaign there was movement from the CAQ to the Liberals based on antipathy to a referendum. More recently the CAQ has been doing better based on leader François Legault`s performance in the second TV debate.

The PQ campaign has been an amazing display of incompetence. They let themselves be dazzled by the Pierre-Karl Péledeau (or PKP as he is known) recruitment, not recognizing the downside to his candidacy. By highlighting the prospect of a referendum during the announcement PKP and the PQ aroused all the latent hostility to holding a referendum. The PQ also ignored the potential for having a notorious strike-breaker in their midst to drive traditional left of centre PQ voters to Québec solidaire. There could be a post-election bloodbath in the PQ ranks.

There was an excellent report by Terence McKenna on the April 3rd edition of the CBC National that is well worth watching.

One of the extraordinary items in the report is about the Liberal leader Philippe Couillard's defence of his assertion in a TV debate that learning in English can be helpful to Quebeckers in the workplace. In spite of attacks on him from nationalists a couple of days after the debate he said:
"We absolutely want to protect our identity, our language... But it has nothing to do with the fact that we want to give our children the chance to learn another language. Is there a parent in Quebec that doesn’t want their child to learn another language? No."
On the face of it this should have been fatal in a Quebec election campaign given the anxiety of many francophones about the future of the French language in Quebec. However, it is Pauline Marois who has resorted to desperate late promises about taxes, not Couillard. She has also tried to kickstart her campaign by promoting the so-called "Charter of Values", but as I noted in my previous post it ranks low among the considerations of voters who might be expected to support it, and it continues to cause deep divisions in the ranks of those who favour Quebec independence.