Friday, May 28, 2010

Fun with Numbers: Conservative Ridings

Earlier this week I looked at the link between demographics and the Liberal vote share in ridings across Canada. For the long and boring explanation, just click here.

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.


  • Would New Brunswick Southwest be so high because of Greg Thompson? He's a 6 term MP. I suppose we can find out since he's not running next election.

    By Blogger Bailey, at 9:50 a.m.  

  • 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.

    Can you split seniors up based on their wealth? I think you'll find that seniors on low, fixed incomes are in the second group.

    The main thing is to identify the perceptions:
    - How independent does the voter perceive themselves to be (that is, how dependent on the government/others do they perceive themselves to be)?
    - What is their perception of whether the Conservatives will sustain and/or increase government assistance/intervention?

    Low/Low: Conservative
    High/High: Conservative
    Other: Elsewhere.

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 10:44 a.m.  

  • Would New Brunswick Southwest be so high because it's in southwestern New Brunswick.

    Never underestimate the power of electoral culture, tradition, and simple inertia to override demography.

    By Blogger WJM, at 12:10 p.m.  

  • Well, next election in NB Southwest will be a nice case study (I hadn't remembered that Thompson was retiring).

    As a 6 term MP, Thompson should have some impact. But I tend to think, like WJM said, that it may just be part of the local electoral culture.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 1:42 p.m.  

  • Robert - You're probably right, but there's no way to do this from the census data.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 1:47 p.m.  

  • It's worth noting that Edmonton-Sherwood Park only didn't meet expectations because an "independent" conservative ran against the Conservative candidate.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:14 p.m.  

  • All of the PC seats in New Brunswick-Saint John, Fredericton, NB Southwest,Tobique-Mactaquac-have gone to the Conservatives after Liberal blips. The Acadian vote keeps some Liberals in place.
    It will interesting what happens in Vaughn if Maurizio steps down to run for mayor as rumoured.

    By Blogger nuna d. above, at 7:11 p.m.  

  • SWNB is the most socially conservative area of the country.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 7:46 p.m.  

  • Really the Western Arctic? I find it hard to believe that if your prior point about aboriginals being less likely to vote conservative is true... there are a lot of aboriginals in the NWT.

    Regardless, that'll be an interesting riding to watch next election. From what I understand the Liberals have a former Premier who represented the capital region as their nominee. I like candidates who bring their own political base and don't need to learn how to campaign.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:12 p.m.  

  • Soem of those ridings you listed at the end provide interesting examples of where the local candidate matters:

    Wascana - clearly the Goodale factor. He's fairly likeable - by politician standards, at least.

    BC Southern Interior - looks like a real unite the left movement here.

    Edmonton Strathcona - I'm going to call this one the "we want Jaffer to lose" effect. I guarantee this riding with get more support from the national party and the local riding association with Jaffer as the candidate.

    Esquimalt Juan De Fuca - Keith Martin is popular. Although he did only win by 72 votes.

    Nippising - don't know about this one. Maybe it's the University students. :)

    By Anonymous Michael Fox, at 4:40 p.m.  

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