Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Trumpism in Canada, Part 1: Ontario

You might be shocked to hear this, but Donald J. Trump is not popular politically in Canada.

In fact, according to any poll he isn't popular almost anywhere, including within the country he'll now lead. Yet the man convincingly won an election through the Electoral College - the question is, of course, how?

The short answer is this: demographics. Trump won overwhelmingly among whites in the United States, 58% to 37% for Clinton - that spread is even larger among non-college educated whites and white men. This wouldn't have necessarily been a winning number, as Romney won with a similar spread - except that combined with lower turnout among blacks, Hispanics, and younger voters, Clinton fell back harshly.

The longer answer involves shifts in voter patterns in particular states. The most notable: College grads went for Romney in 2012, but Clinton in 2016; while non-college grads went Obama in 2012, but Trump in 2016.
In 2012, Obama in particular swept the board among non-college grads in swing states, including Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, and Wisconsin - all states that flipped to Trump this year. Consider the chart below.

If you're looking for the reason why Trump won, the shift of these voters - especially white non-college grad voters - in these states are main reason. Many of these voters are the "white blue collar worker" we heard so much about during the campaign, especially the older among them who never had to attend college because they had a good paying job at home. That was, at least, until the jobs started leaving and new people started coming into their neighbourhoods...

The point is, regardless of how much voters disliked Trump, they still voted for him. Likeability is meaningless so long as you have something to sell, which makes all these polls useless.

So where am I going with this?

It's clear that "Trumpism" has won a legitimate place on the political spectrum, meaning that we're going to hear a lot about it over the next few years. You can say whatever you want - it's the politics of white grievance, it's the anguished cries of the middle class, it's whiplash against the establishment - but the fact is that it's coming, and Canada is square in the sights of it.

So I've started a project to see where Trumpism can grow in Canada, using the voting patterns laid out in the 2016 exit polls and the demographic information provided by the Canadian census. The first part will deal with Ontario, my home province and easily the biggest target for Trumpism's particular appeals.

A couple of caveats before you read on further.
  1. This is by no means a 100% accurate estimate of how we would have voted if Ontario was a state in the US. A lot of our voting patterns here have to do with regional variations and attitude, so there's nothing stopping people in a pro-Trump area demographically voting for Clinton because they like her more. That being said, there is a strong correlation between our political spectrum in Canada and the way these demographics show Trump's support.

  2. I'm using data from the 2011 Census, much of it also from the National Household Survey, aka the long-form census that was voluntary. Many global response rates were around 30% or higher. This is however the data I have, and I can't do much about that, just keep it in mind when you see close results below.

Got it? Let's move on. Welcome to Trump's Ontario.

The above map illustrates where and how likely Trumpism could win in Ontario's 121 federal ridings, and the province as a whole. The chart at the bottom right shows how Trumpism would do based on single demographic lines - i.e., if people voted plainly along income distribution, race, and so on, that is how the vote would go. The darker the shade, the more likely the winning candidate. How I got there I'll explain at the end of this post, which will also have riding-by-riding charts.

I chose to use the federal ridings because that is how we vote here, and if we had the result above, 100 seats would fall into the Clinton camp versus 21 for Trump.

Here's the facts about Ontario - we are a more diverse and well educated province compared to states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, or Michigan. We're close, but we veer closer to Virgina, New York, and the New England states on many metrics. We're also less segregated than many US states, though we do have high concentrations of ethnic groups in some regions, i.e. rural Ontario is incredibly white while many parts of the GTA are already majority-minority. One of the biggest differences however is the number of foreign-born citizens - i.e., Ontario is about 28% foreign-born compared to just 4% in Ohio.

We're also more somewhat more religiously diverse, where Ontario is a lot more Catholic and non-religious than any of the states in the Upper Midwest, but we are about on par with income levels in those states.

Trumpism is strongest in the rural ridings in eastern Ontario, the rural and small-town ex-manufacturing ridings in southwest Ontario, and the still labour-dominated northern Ontario ridings. It's weakest in and around the GTA and smaller cities, particularly Ottawa, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Windsor. The Canadian politics nerds among you are probably already noticing a pattern here related to our own politics - Trumpism does better in areas currently or recently dominated by Conservatives and New Democrats, in particular for the latter their rural/small town labour base.

Put this all together and we get a close race, but not enough for Trump (or a Trump-like candidate) to win the province.

But there is a cavaet, and here's where we really get into it.

A major factor in any US political race is turnout among demographics. In 2016, Donald Trump won because turnout was up or maintained a larger share than it should among older white voters (they represented at least 70% of the 2016 electorate, but only around 64% of the population), while Clinton saw a drop among non-white, non-religious and younger voters. The above map reflects that turnout ratio as best as I could manage in Ontario. The map obviously got a lot more redder.

While it's wouldn't be enough for Trumpism to win in the province (in terms of the popular vote and seats, losing 68-53), it gets pretty damn close. The GTA is still a fairly solid wall against it, there are cracks appearing. Outside of the GTA it's a massacre, with nearly every rural riding minus one (Kenora) trending for Trumpism.

This is why voting is important, kids.

There are of course some things I can't account for, such as whether Ford Nation fall behind Trumpism. Demographically, suburban Toronto is not a friend to Trumpism, but it went heavily to both Fords in 2010 and 2014, and the movements aren't that far off. Also a good question, would Canadian union households swing an election for Trumpism? There's no good statistics I can use for union membership in the province, so it's impossible to say.

However, there are a few conclusions we can reach about Trumpism in Ontario:

  1. It's a close run thing, but could easily fall back out of reach with high turnout among youth and visible minorities.

  2. It has little to no traction in the majority-minority suburbs around Toronto, unlike how Harper's Conservatives did with their strong outreach to immigrant and minority communities.

  3. Trumpism mirrors quite well the receding of Liberal support from southwestern Ontario and other rural parts of the province, showing how the establishment left's problems in Ontario are pretty much the same as they are in the United States - aka, we are not immune.

  4. Ontario's demographics are moving away from pro-Trump groups, thus by 2019, a Trump-like candidate (coughKellieLeitchcough) might not be able to rely on the above maps to get them through.
The warning signs are there, folks. Just remember that.

Next up: Alberta.

A quick note on methodology:

The basic idea behind the above maps was based on seven demographic metrics - age, education, immigration, income, marital, race, and religion - for Ontario's 121 ridings adjusted by the results of the 2016 US presidential election's results for those metrics, as shown by the exit polls. The metrics were chosen based on what I had reasonable data for, for example I couldn't adjust the numbers by ideology or church attendance simply because the census didn't have that information.

To get a "Solid" result, a candidate had to win six to seven of the metrics in the riding. "Likely" was five, four was "Leaning." This is a crude way of projecting a result, but also effective - the more demographics a candidate can win among, the more likely they're to win the riding overall. Margin between the candidates was not taken into account.

Turnout was adjusted using a rough ratio method, and is only meant to be a general representative view, not completely accurate.

Below are charts for riding-by-riding, one without turnout adjustments and one with.


  1. If the second map ever verified in a provincial election, it would be an absolute nightmare to govern. That would be an incredibly divided province between the GTA and the other regions, and there would be incredible hatred from the rest of Ontario (and rare unity from the north, east and southwest).

    1. Just imagine that this map is probably pretty standard in many US states in governorships and state houses, nevermind the country at large.