Monday, April 25, 2011

Poll Soup: What the NDP surge means

Trying to make sense of what the NDP's Quebec surge means in terms of seats is a difficult game. For starters, most public polls lump all of Quebec together when, in reality, a voter in Montreal is very different from a voter in Abitibi. Just because the Liberals or Conservatives are down province-wide, it doesn't mean their incumbents are in danger, because their vote is so concentrated.

Even more challenging is trying to understand how a surge like this will be spread across the province. Most seat projections use the 2008 election as their baseline - my model is based primarily on 2008, but it also factors in the previous 2 elections and a regression "prediction" based on riding demographics. I think that's a key improvement since it includes information about the voters, not just how they've voted in the past, but even then, all that data is from the old reality. We're living in a very new reality.

If the NDP doubles or triples their Quebec-wide vote, it's impossible to predict what the impact will be in each individual riding. The simulation model I use factors this in to a certain extent, which is why I report the probability of a given seat going to each party, rather than boldly saying if they'll will win or lose. But the end result of this is a 95% confidence interval for NDP seats in Quebec of 3 to 19 - that's hardly a precise target, and there are a lot of seats they have between a 4% and 8% chance of winning...with a few more polls showing the Dippers in first, that range will creep up.

Pundits Guide has a good article on the danger of taking these projections as the gospel truth. It's also important to remember that a lot can change in a week - just because something is projected today, it doesn't mean it will come to pass on May 2nd.

So with all those caveats, here's where we stand with 7 days to go (change since last week in brackets):

CPC 38.6% (+0.5)
Lib 25.7% (-1.3)
NDP 22.0% (+1.9)
BQ 7.6% (-0.7)
Green 5.1% (-0.4)

Keep in mind that with the exception of a turkey-dinner fueled Nanos poll, we haven't seen data from any phone calls conducted since last Wednesday (NOTE - I ran this before today's Innovative and Environics polls were released).

So the above vote and the following seat projections could very well change significantly in the coming days. As such, I'll be back with updated projections later this week, a closer look at the seats to watch in each region over the weekend, and a final projection on Sunday night. Also, I'll post daily seat projections on Twitter.

Not surprisingly, the largest NDP movement has come in Quebec, where they've gone from a 0-7 seat range last week, up to a 3-18 range this week. These gains have come almost exclusively at the Bloc's expense, with Liberal and Conservative seat ranges in Quebec unchanged from last week:

To get a better sense of how well the model is handling the wacky world of Quebec politics, consider the following two riding polls, released today (and fielded last week):

Brome Mississquoi - Bloc 32%, Lib 26%, NDP 26%, CPC 11%
Chambly Borduas - Bloc 37%, NDP 24%, Lib 15%, CPC 7%

Comparatively speaking, my model has Brome as a 35% chance of going Bloc, 35% chance of going Liberal, and 28% chance of going NDP. Which makes a lot of sense given the riding survey findings. It also underscores why a probability model is so much better for these kind of ridings. A simple projection would just put it down as a Bloc victory, without recognizing there's a very good chance the Liberals and NDP could very well win it.

In Chambly, I still show the Bloc with a 96% chance of winning, with the NDP at just 4% - once again, this is consistent with the riding poll that has the Bloc up by 13 points.



  • I think you will need to factor in much higher rates of "strategy voting" then we've ever seen before. Anyone you are projecting to win with less than 50% of the vote is potentially in danger.

    By Blogger Dan F, at 5:02 p.m.  

  • Dan F - I won't include it in the model, since that's hard to quantify.

    Out of curiosity, what leads you to believe there will be more strategic voting this time than last election? With the Liberals and NDP battling for second place, and Quebec a 4-way mess, it seems like it would be very difficult for anyone to even know WHO it makes the most "strategic" sense to vote for.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 5:04 p.m.  

  • Ha ha nice try ha ha but it's strategic to vote for the guy who's winning and right now there's just one guy winning ha ha ha

    By Blogger Joseph Kerr, at 5:53 p.m.  

  • EKOS just released a poll with the NDP second at 28 percent and the Liberals third with 23 percent. Frank Graves predicts 100 seats for the NDP, with PM Layton heading a coalition government.

    By Anonymous Nuna D. Above, at 6:19 p.m.  

  • CG: Just hypothetically say EKOS numbers ARE accurate and that's we get on e-day: NDP 100 seats, Libs 65 seats. Do you think the Liberals would really let Stephen Harper stay PM rather than govern in a coaltion government with Jack as PM?

    Sure Iggy said no to a coalition but that was only to lead one. Or he could just prop a Layton minority up, but basically it would fall to the Liberals in this case to choose the government.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:41 p.m.  

  • No The Liberals has a large numbers of Blue Liberals who won't stand a NDP lead Government...

    Anyway the Ekos poll is clearly the outlier here since NO poll this election expect them has shown the Conservatives so low.

    By Blogger Andre, at 6:46 p.m.  

  • Andre and there are center and left-leaning Liberals who have been campaigning for 5 years against a Harper led government that we wanted gone.

    Liberals would probably be offered Finance Minister in an NDP government and other cabinet seats, but obviousy if that EKOS scenario panned out, the Liberal Party will face some real division over what to do, but I'm curious what CG thinks as to what would ultimately happen...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:09 p.m.  

  • With 3 new polls today putting the NDP at an average 12% lead in Qu├ębec, you'll need to do this again soon!

    By Blogger Election Watcher, at 7:28 p.m.  

  • In the scenario Ekos projects, the Liberals might back the NDP on confidence votes, but I don't think they would join a coalition as junior partners. In Westminster democracies, junior coalition members tend to suffer electorally. Take a look at the Liberal Democrat poll numbers since forming a coalition with the Tories for a case in point.

    By Anonymous hosertohoosier, at 7:28 p.m.  

  • If Ekos is right (or even close to being right)I can't wait to hear/read the strategy of the Tories going into Sault Ste. Marie and Windsor - their internal polling must be telling them they have at least an outside chance to take one of those ridings (SSM?) for Harper to spend the last Monday in those ridings - if the NDP was going to get 100 seats, Harper would be in BC and/or SK today, not SSM and Windsor.

    Ekos has had the Tories continuously lower than EVERY other pollster the whole campaign. My favourite is Graves quote in the report, "Perhaps the country was in some form of mood disorder based on too much Easter chocolate, but it is hard to overstate the improbability of the current results given the received wisdom at the outset of this campaign."

    BTW, if PM Jack Layton does not send all Blue Liberals scurrying to the Tories to block Jack, I don't know what will! :-)


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:08 p.m.  

  • On an aside, I have to say my favourite commenter of the election has been hosertohoosier. He's been able to look at it from a distance and give a pretty good opinion of things minus the childish antics of some anonymous cowards.

    Nice one!

    By Blogger Gene Rayburn, at 8:37 p.m.  

  • Honestly, if the Libs finish behind the NDP, they may be better off with a Harper majority.

    Under the Ekos scenario, the choice of proping up either Harper or Layton is a "no win" scenario which would divide the Liberal base.

    Either you prop up the man you've been trying to defeat while Layton confidently opposes Harper as opposition leader, or you legitimize the NDP as a possible government and risk getting squeezed out of existence like in Man or Sask.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 11:19 p.m.  

  • That said, the Ekos projection is based on 53 NDP seats in Quebec. That seems a little far fetched.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 11:20 p.m.  

  • EW - Yes, I think I'll update projections on a daily basis this week, given all the poll movement.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 11:20 p.m.  

  • Who can tell the future? Not I.

    But I thought on Debate night how amazing Layton was and I sensed a certain je ne sais quoi about him. He seemed vibrant and strong and sharp. I thought then maybe there was going to be "something" big about him. He's my pick for winner of the election. Even if he only gets Opposition, he's still the winner. Even if he only grabs a few more seats in Quebec, he's a winner. I've been amazed by him this campaign.

    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 12:04 a.m.  

  • I thought about the Liberals. Unfortunately, they do not currently support proportional representation. Therefore, I chose the NDP instead. I do wish the NDP and other opposition parties well. All the best to the Canadian voters on Election Day.

    By Anonymous Atlanta Roofing, at 2:21 a.m.  

  • It's fun to think of what could happen if an electoral-reform-supporting party grabbed power.

    Of course, the Tories were all about reform at one time, ie. the Senate. Time as always will tell...

    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 10:03 a.m.  

  • To my mind one and all must go through this.

    By Anonymous, at 4:03 a.m.  

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