Thursday, April 30, 2015

#abvote: Despite Losing Massively in Votes, Could PCs Still Win in Seats?

There are a number of poll releases today, with two currently out already (one from Return on Insights done at the behest of the CBC, and a Leger poll that I can't find the link for but shows similar results) making me feel right silly because I updated my average yesterday - oh well.

In lieu of a weekly update, I thought I'd do a post on an idea currently going around, being promoted by the folks at 1ABVote and CBC: that the PCs, despite being far, far behind the NDP in support, could still come up with a majority government.

While this idea isn't an impossibility, it is fairly, if not extremely and close to impossibly, unlikely - not with the levels of support we are currently seeing for the NDP across all regions, not just Edmonton.

While I don't pretend my model is perfect and 100% accurate, it does have the benefit of working off of actual numbers, ones from 2012 in particular that have been modified to reflect what current polling says. If we take 1ABVote's Google Surveys poll, the one they said showed the PCs winning a minority despite being 24-points behind the NDP, we get this:

That is hardly a "PC minority," and indeed the Tories would be very hard pressed to get anything close to a minority situating when they are 24-points behind the leading party.

So why is this idea persisting? Part of the reason is that people see that high number in Edmonton, and assume the NDP lead is built solely off of that; of course it isn't, as in the above poll, the NDP lead in every region, and in the RoI poll done for the CBC, the NDP lead in both Edmonton and the Rest of Alberta, while they're sitting at 25% in Calgary, second only to the PCs who are at 32%.

The NDP surge is centered in Edmonton, but it is hardly only there. Like in 2011, the rise in one part of the country (Quebec) led to similar increases in other parties as anti-Conservative votes and people who always wanted to vote NDP but never thought they could win decided to jump on the bandwagon. In that situation, the increases were less impressive but still suitably strong for the party to score second place in a number of provinces it never had before. In Alberta, we're seeing increases that, while they don't match the party's score in Edmonton, are very impressive for a party that earned maybe 10% or less in these regions before.

We're talking about a party that may triple or quadruple its vote share across the province, not just in one location. Despite an inefficient vote generally, that kind of tide would be very hard for the other parties to hold against. Its just too much to handle, and a lot of things would have to go just right for the Tories to eek out any kind of government on those numbers. It would be nigh on impossible, really.

If the PCs do eek out a win, the numbers will not look like what are coming out of pollsters currently; you will either see the PCs with a lead in votes, or the PCs with numbers very close to or matching the NDP (or whoever is leading). Once the parties start matching each other, then absolutely the PCs could and would win. Both parties on 35% each on election night, and my bet is for the PCs to have many more seats, maybe even a majority - the PC vote is simply more spread out, more efficient, and frankly has a larger pool of voters to draw from than the NDP do.

That isn't what the polls are showing, however - they're previewing an NDP sweep. Maybe the trend is moving towards the PCs but until I see one come out with them neck and neck, I wouldn't get my hackles up.

Where things get trickier is if you start assuming that the polling itself is wrong, or if you inflate the margins of error to ridiculous levels. Once you do that, you can cook up any result you wish basically. For my part, I don't assume the polls are inaccurate until they can be proven to be poorly done or on election day. After all, I have no more special insights into the electorate's mind than these pollsters, or anyone else for that matter, does.


  1. I think AB1Vote assumes the PCs will get a ballot box bump due to their over-sampling of young voters and the "Tory neighbour" phenomenon they observed.

    The Leger poll had the NDP at 38% and the PCs at 30 with the MOE around 2% (I think). The Tories had slight leads over the NDP and Wildrose in Calgary and the "ROA."

  2. "Despite Losing Massively in Votes, Could PCs Still Win in Seats?"
    Yes, period.

  3. I believe Ekos is coming out with a poll that has the NDP at 40%, Wildrose and PCs at 23% each. Clearly Majority territory for the PCs :-p