Wednesday, August 19, 2009

St. Paul's vote a national battlefront?

That was the Star headline this morning. Since they included a question mark at the end, I'll answer them: no.

Putting aside that most of the "senior anonymous insiders" quoted in the story are simply trying to manage expectations, let's assume for a second the Tories do win St. Paul's. They won't, but we did just see a 20 point margin of victory safe seat switch hands in a by election a few months ago, so it's not ridiculous to speculate about this.

What is ridiculous is to assume this is some sort of Harper versus Ignatieff litmus test, that will impact when the next federal election happens. By elections, by their very nature, are pretty awful indicators of public opinion - trying to extrapolate out the results of a provincial by election to the federal political scene is about as useful as this.

Here's the federal Liberal vote share over the last 40 years, plotted against the provincial Liberal vote share in the election that preceded it:



For the more numerically inclined among you, there's a -0.583 correlation between the two variables - in normal speak, that means when the provincial Liberals do well, the federal Liberals don't. And, even though I used 40 years of data, it's been that way since the dawn of time (or, at least, the dawn of confederation).

If you prefer, we can use the change in provincial vote to predict the change in federal vote...at least that should control some of the secondary factors, right?



Well, once again, we get a negative correlation (-0.259).

So even if by some miracle the PCs do win St. Paul's, it won't tell you a thing about the upcoming federal election. If it did, you'd have to conclude that after the John Tory by election fiasco, Michael Ignatieff is poised paint rural Ontario red this fall.

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7 Comments:

  • Wow. A 'national battlefront?' Really? I thought the provincial by-election in Calgary-Glenmore was the national battlefront? What? St. Paul's?

    But seriously, that has to be the most hilariously Toronto-centric statement I've heard in a long long time. Wow.

    By Blogger daveberta, at 11:33 PM  

  • It sells newspapers. That's what's important.

    By Blogger Greg, at 6:43 AM  

  • It's not about selling newspapers, it's about setting the provincial Tories up for a fall.

    By Anonymous DR, at 2:00 PM  

  • I noticed the same non-correlation between federal and provincial Liberals. Ontarians seem to like to balance things out. Therefore, I continually hope the McGuinty Liberals continue to do well!

    By Blogger hatrock, at 3:38 PM  

  • Well byelections can be unpredictable because the turnout tends to be low (Hello Outremont - High Five), so I wouldn't actually be surprised if Ms. Levy took it.

    On the other hand, if I were a Grit I'd be a bit concerned about today's EKOS poll. According to EKOS the NDP are having a bit of post-Dexter swoon in Atlantic Canada (which translates as Nova Scotia). If the Dippers are at 23% region-wide it likely means they are doing very well in NS, which can't be good news for the Liberals and their five seats. A stronger NDP vote likely means more Tories and Dippers, and fewer Grits. Not exactly good news for a party that needs a forty seat swing in order to take power.

    By Anonymous herringchoker, at 7:25 PM  

  • St. Paul's has always been sort of a prestige riding, where the Tories and sometimes NDP will throw star candidates sure to lose. Isabel Basset, Peter Kent, Chris Summerville, etc.

    They do this because while it isn't a national battleground, the Toronto Star thinks it is. Consider the components that make up the Toronto Star universe:
    1. Toronto

    But how is St. Paul's even representative of Toronto, being an affluent, fairly white enclave in an ethnically and economically diverse city?

    Well obviously you don't understand Toronto Star math. Let me demonstrate by subtraction:
    1. People that voted for Mel Lastman in 1997 are not real Torontonians, rather they are gaudy suburbanites.
    2. Ethnics and the poor, while cute, admirable, and a good source for [terribly written, sappy, and infused with fake Parkdale street cred] Joe Fiorto articles are politically irrelevant. They should just listen to us on who to vote for.
    3. Good journalism is about not going very far in order to get stories. The best stories come from areas that happen to be close to Torstar headquarters, and the home of many Toronto Star employees.
    4. Toronto Centre doesn't count because it has U of T students, some of whom are from Windsor and Don Valley west doesn't count because they are TOO rich to have a social conscience.

    So the NDP and Tories know this and use St. Paul's to showcase a "new kind of ____". The Tories can show how pro-gay and progressive they are (with a candidate guaranteed to lose), and the NDP can show how fiscally responsible they are similarly. Their candidates will get lots of coverage (if they are running in the most important riding they must be an important candidate) and they won't have to change any of their policies either.

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