Fun with Numbers: Conservative Ridings
For the short and boring explanation, let me just say that I took the Conservative vote in each riding as the response variable and a slew of demographics as the predictors. In other words, I'm trying to find out what "type" of ridings tend to vote Conservative.
From this, we get a model that explains 80% of the variance in vote - higher than for the Liberal Party, partly because it's not always easy to distinguish between Liberal and NDP ridings. Even when we control for many of the demographics, Atlantic Canadian ridings are less likely to vote Conservative (consider this the Danny Williams dummy variable) and Western ones are more likely to (surprise surprise). There's no direct difference between Quebec and Ontario, but the Tories do well when there's a high percentage of voters with English of their mother tongue, so that kind of serves as the proxy.
Ridings with more seniors are more likely to vote Conservative. Ridings with more aboriginals, visible minorities, single parent families, unemployed, well educated, and divorced residents are less likely to.
When we look at the list of the 10 ridings where the Conservatives have "over performed" in recent years, we can see that it's littered with Quebec and Alberta ridings:
1. Louis St. Laurent (+25%) - Josee Verner's seat
2. Jonquiere Alma (+20%) - JP "Tequilla" Blackburn
3. New Brunswick Southwest (+20%) - This one strikes me as a "true" outlier...I really have a hard time explaining it.
4. Crowfoot (+19%) - They're expected to win big. Just not this big.
5. Calgary Southwest (+18%) - Surprising, given the substandard quality of the Conservative candidate here the last few elections...
6. Beauce (+17%) - No surprise here
7. Macleod (+17%)
8. Beauport-Limoilou (+15%)
9. Wetaskiwin (+14%)
10. Calgary East (+14%)
Seeing all those Alberta ridings isn't a huge surprise because, even after we control for that "western" factor, the province just tends to vote Conservative at a higher level than the demographics would suggest - Edmonton Strathcona and Edmonton Sherwood Park are the only ridings where they've failed to meet expectations over the past 3 elections.
It also shouldn't be a huge surprise that Quebec doesn't fit the mould - target Tory voters there differ from elsewhere and their poor performance in 2004 skews the data a bit. I also think their success in that province has relied heavily on the ground game and strong candidates more so than elsewhere.
And while I'd hate to help them out, here's a list of ridings the Tories don't currently hold, where they're projected to be at 40% or above - these are seats that, long term, they probably want to target: Wascana, Western Arctic, Vancouver Quadra, British Columbia Southern Interior, Edmonton Strathcona, Esquimalt Juan De Fuca, and Nippising-Timiskaming.