Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Topp Spin

There's no positive spin to put on yesterday's by elections for the Liberals, which may be a good thing, because trying to spin by elections too much can make you look rather, well, like Brian Topp:

The Liberal vote in Montreal dropped by about 30 per cent (the Michael Ignatieff-led Liberals got slightly more than 14 per cent in that riding, compared to the Stéphane Dion-led Liberals, who got 20.7 per cent in the 2008 general election).

The Liberal vote in rural Quebec dropped by about 15 per cent (Ignatieff a little over 13 per cent, Dion 15.4 per cent)

The Liberal vote in British Columbia dropped by about 10 per cent (Ignatieff a bit more than 10 per cent, Dion 11.3 per cent).

[...]these by-elections will give the NDP under Leader Jack Layton new energy, new credibility, and an opportunity to focus on providing Canadians with their best alternative to Mr. Harper. As the results show, Canadians are taking a careful look at Jack Layton and the New Democrats.

The Conservatives are holding their rural franchise and filling it in around the edges. But they appear to be in big trouble in British Columbia, and going nowhere in urban Canada. There is no Conservative majority in these tea leaves.

[...]

33,608 Canadians voted Tory in these by-elections, which was 35.72 per cent of the total vote cast.

22,783 Canadians voted New Democrat, 24.22 per cent of the total.

19,709 Canadians (perhaps we should say, Quebeckers) voted Bloc, 20.95 per cent of the total.

And 13,914 Canadians voted Liberal, 14.79 per cent of the total.

Ergo, in terms of the absolute national poll, Mr. Harper got in the range of what he had in the 2008 election. Mr. Layton is a solid second, improving nicely. And Mr. Ignatieff led his party to fourth place in terms of total vote, behind the Bloc Québécois.


So, to recap, the Liberal vote drops from 11.3% to 10.3% in a BC riding, and, ergo, this translates into disastrous news for the grits across British Columbia. Some people look at a smudgy window and see Jesus' face - Brian Topp looks at a smudgy window and sees NDP victory.

Now, I don't want to dwell on this too much because, to be honest, if there was any good news, the Liberals would be doing the exact same spin-job. However, I would like to point out to Topp that in the March 2008 by elections:

1. The NDP vote in British Columbia dropped by 10% (from 16.1% in 2006 to 14.4% in the by election).

2. The NDP vote in Ontario collapsed by nearly 50%.

3. The Liberals were in majority territory with a total of 48% of the vote in these by elections, while the NDP were just 2 points up on the Greens (12% vs. 10%).

And even I'll concede the Dippers had a fairly good 2008 election, gaining seats. So, you know, maybe those by elections weren't the best predictor of what was to come 7 months later.

I'm not saying by elections are meaningless - my post yesterday, which looked at the numbers, shows they're about twice as useful as past election results when it comes to predicting electoral outcomes.

But trying to predict how an entire city or province will vote, based on a few shifting percentage points (when only a quarter of people are voting)? Or simulating a national election based on four ridings?

In the words of Gob Bluth - Come On!

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11 Comments:

  • Good deconstruction.

    All the parties engage in this sort of intellectually dishonest spin. It always makes me wonder: do they think that anyone buys it?

    By Blogger Charles Aymard, at 7:30 PM  

  • do they think that anyone buys it?

    You must not be acquainted with the Blogging Tories.

    By Blogger Robert McClelland, at 7:37 PM  

  • Mr. Aymard:

    The partisan from the different parties by their partys' spin while discounting the spin from the other guys.

    The average Canadian yawns and wonders what all of the fuss is about.

    By Blogger ottlib, at 8:02 PM  

  • You'd have to be living in Toronto not to get that Ignatieff manages to repel centre-left voters while at the same time is too stuffy and patronizing to win over the right wing yobs who he's ideologically in line with. The result is that he is the most disastrously incompetent leader the Liberals have had yet, a feat both his predecessors could claim as well. The LPC is becoming increasingly irrelevant and that's a good thing for the country. The prep school kids who live in a vacuum and joined the party in order to get laid will be the last to find out.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:27 PM  

  • Anon - If I hear you correctly, you're saying that Ignatieff isn't doing well?

    Thanks for the memo.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 9:25 AM  

  • Notice how he downplayed the threat of a Tory majority. A credible threat of a Tory majority would result in their votes running to the Liberals in order to block it.

    Ignatieff should have been a Tory. I wonder why he chose the Liberals.

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 10:12 AM  

  • Iggy had an opportunity to be PM and shed the perception that he was just another rightwing Bushloving neocon but he chickened out with the approval of this and most other prominent Liberal blogs. He isn't going to get another chance. The Royal Jelly test has come and gone. The only question now is how decimated his party will be after the next election.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:21 AM  

  • The real question is, why do partisan hacks comment on this blog anonymously?

    By Anonymous DJ Abraham Lincoln, at 10:47 AM  

  • But trying to predict how an entire city or province will vote, based on a few shifting percentage points (when only a quarter of people are voting)? Or simulating a national election based on four ridings?

    Absolutely right, CG. There are too many factors that go into how people vote in by-elections to do any meaningful prognostications.

    By Blogger Brian in Calgary, at 1:56 PM  

  • "Ignatieff should have been a Tory. I wonder why he chose the Liberals."

    It's simple, Robert. At the time Iggy decided to become a Canadian patriot for a change, the path to the PMO, or at least ministerial power, was through the Liberal party. His lust for power trumped his value system and now he can't undo his mistake.

    He's not the first Liberal of convenience with inauspicious timing...look at Stronach and Brison. Belinda predictably baled out of yet another "look busy" project (politics) and Brison wakes up every morning knowing he could have been having his helmet polished by ministerial aides in the back of a government limo instead of driving his moped to the office every day.

    If Iggy achieves no significant improvement come next election, I believe the Conservative line on him will manifest itself. He will pack up for some high-brow university or political think-tank off shore.

    Otherwise he's a very good man with talents the country could use in a ministerial position but serving the wrong party in the wrong position (leader).

    By Blogger Dr. Strangelove, at 10:44 AM  

  • I thought that article was a ridiculous one as well.

    The CPC drops by 3%, but in order to make that number sound impressive he relies on the '10% of 30%' figure.

    Especially on a night that saw the CPC gain 2 seats that it did not hold a week ago.

    By Blogger Eric, at 9:32 PM  

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