8 MAY: BC ELECTION 2017 – CLOSE CALL, AND MAYBE A FEW SURPRISES

The polls remain close on voter intentions, and there as still some gaps in societal expectations. The Lower Mainland is showing some growing strength for the NDP. BUT is it enough? With 44 seats required for a majority, and the number of Liberal safe seats factored in and southern and eastern parts of the province resurgent in their favour, a qualified tip of the hat goes to Christy Clark’s party. However, should some switching occur from the Greens to the NDP, there is still an opportunity for some surprises on Tuesday.

One of the challenges of polling in any election cycle is to first get behind the horse race numbers but also to get a sense of what voter turnout will be. Further, it is imperative that pollsters improve their ability to triangulate diverse data sources and looking at “necessary and sufficient conditions” to bring depth to the fundamentals of tracking voter intentions. During this writ period, experimenting with an online data collection platform (see note below*), Justason Marketing Intelligence and zinc tank have teamed up to offer regular insights on this Provincial Election. This is now Wave 4 on both intentions and social cues in this election cycle. We even conducted and IVR poll, and Justason is reporting mixed mode findings (IVR + Google Surveys) in their final post before the election. We will be posting Google Surveys only, and encourage readers to consider Justason’s approach. Lastly, as the 2016 Census data was released last week, we weighted the Wave 4 data with that population data. We assessed the previous waves – there were some minor changes, but not enough to alter the overall trends we have seen over all tracking waves.

 

VOTER INTENTIONS

Overall, over 4 waves, it still looks close on the popular vote.

It is close. And note, not that dissimilar from the mixed mode findings mentioned above.

Let’s look at some of the regional races.

  • Looking at the Greater Vancouver Area (excluding the City), it appears that the NDP have opened a lead. The Lower Mainland is a riding-rich region, and the NDP were looking to make some inroads here.
  • Vancouver Island/Gulf Islands: With the Liberal vote likely wasted in this region, it appears that there is some switching in intentions to the Greens.
  • South/Rest of BC**: What initially was a close race, intentions have shifted over to the Liberals.

 

NEIGHBOUR VOTE

Adopting techniques from psychology and behavioural economics on social desirability bias, crowd dynamics and social conditioning, we asked respondents to put themselves into the minds of their neighbours and how they think they will vote.

This measure also tracked intentions closely – indicating a stronger two-party race, and at a higher voting intention. As with intentions, this indicates the closeness of the NDP and Liberal vote at the provincial level.

Regionally, there are some differences worth noting (note: caution with regional subsamples).

There are clear cues for the NDP to do well in the City of Vancouver and the Capital Region. The Liberals appear to have a lock on most ridings in Nothern BC. Looking at the same regions identified above (in Intentions).

  • Balance of Greater Vancouver Region: Starting in Wave 3, perceptions appear to have closed between the Liberals and NDP. This reinforces intentions tracking presented above.
  • Vancouver Island/Gulf Islands: While the Greens have grown in intentions, the social cue appears to favour the NDP.
  • South/Rest of BC**: As with intentions, perceptions have opened up in favour of the Liberals.

 

BRINGING IT ALTOGETHER – THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR

First off, we mapped the difference between neighbours perceptions and intentions. It appears that there is still some upside for the NDP and Liberals, with the Greens lagging in this critical gap. However, there is no alignment – Net Zero – for any party.

So what’s our assessment for Tuesday? Let’s consider some necessary and sufficient conditions from a series of questions.

  • Have the NDP done enough to secure a majority? With a few strong regions, it remains unclear from a seat count perspective. They are more competitive in the Lower Mainland than anticipated.
  • Have the Liberals done enough to secure a majority? As per 2013, there were about 30 ridings that they won by large margins. As a starting point, considering this, and what the regional breakdowns point to, there is an easier path to 44 seats for the Liberals than the NDP. Other than South/Rest of BC and Northern BC, the NDP appears to have targeted riding-rich Lower Mainland and both measures indicate a competitive region.
  • Will the Greens be NDP spoilers? This appears to be a risk in close ridings. There are approximately 10 ridings that potentially fit in this category.
  • What about the large advance polls? Traditionally, high advance turnouts are bad news for incumbents. However, according to Political Scientist David Moscrop when there are more days for advance voting people take advantage of them. “Those who are voting early are the ones who would have voted on election day anyway,” he said. “So it’s not like there’s a flood of new voters necessarily. It’s the same old folks doing it earlier.” Advance voting in B.C. has been tracked by Elections B.C. since 1996. Participation has increased for each election. At this point, based on where the biggest turnouts have been to date, we would give a slight lean to the NDP.
  • And voter turnout? Even with the advanced polls, it is difficult to anticipate a turnout higher than 60%. The closer that turnout is to this number (and higher), it favours the NDP. Anything below 55% will likely favour the Liberals.
  • Are the Liberals vulnerable on corruption? In the battle between corruption and economy, it appears that the economy is winning. And that favours an incumbent – the Liberals. However, a concerted campaign to highlight corruption among the Liberals may yet sway some voters to look at other parties.
  • How about the housing crisis? Housing affordability is one of the biggest top-of-mind issues for voters. As it stands, has the NDP – most trusted to deal with housing affordability – done enough to make it a ballot box question where it counts? This is not clear from our and other polls we have reviewed.
  • What about key voter demographics? The key 55 years+ demo strongly favour the Liberals (see in tables below). However, the 35 to 54 years demo – those in prime family formation years and likely dealing with escalating housing prices – favour the NDP. The under 35s – the group most challenging to show up – favour the NDP. As commitment to vote increases with age, this likely tips the scales in favour of the Liberals.

So, those are the conditions – simplified – that are key to electoral success. Triangulating, at this point, it is difficult to determine if the Liberals have ticked off enough voters to change the government. However, there will be some close races. And if there are some of the shifts we are anticipating among those intending to vote Green are realized, there are a few of those close races that may swing the NDP way.

Let’s see what Tuesday brings.

Thus endeth our election polling experiment.

 

Inspirations: System 1 Research Blog – Politics; Mark Earls: I’ll Have What She’s Having; and, Robert Bain: Whatever Next?

For more information, contact Barb Justason, 604.783.4165 or Brian F. Singh, 403.861.9462.

 

VIEW INTENTIONS WAVE 4 DATA TABLES HERE.

VIEW NEIGHBOURS WAVE 4 DATA TABLES HERE.

 

* THESE SURVEYS WERE CONDUCTED VIA GOOGLE SURVEYS OVER (MAY 4-7, 2017). GOOGLE SURVEYS USES A COMBINATION OF BAYESIAN, RIVER-SAMPLING METHODOLOGY ONLINE AND MOBILE AND TAPPING INTO GOOGLE COMMUNITIES TO YIELD A POPULATION REFLECTIVE SAMPLE OF BC’S POPULATION. HENCE, NO MARGIN OF ERROR IS REPORTED. OF NOTE, BC HAS A HIGH PENETRATION RATE OF MOBILE USAGE IN NORTH AMERICA, AND BROADBAND INTERNET ACCESS EXCEEDS LAND LINE USAGE. GOOGLE SURVEYS CONTINUES TO BE RATED FAVOURABLY (RATED BY 538: B), AND WAS USED EXTENSIVELY BY BRIAN F. SINGH IN HIS WORK ON BRIAN BOWMAN’S SUCCESSFUL MAYORAL CAMPAIGN IN THE 2014 WINNIPEG MUNICIPAL ELECTION, AND DURING THE ALBERTA AND FEDERAL ELECTIONS IN 2015. GOOGLE SURVEYS IS BUT ONE METHODOLOGY IN A POLLSTERS TOOLKIT WHILE NOT DEFINITIVE (AS HAS BEEN WITNESSED WITH OTHER POLLING METHODS), IT PROVIDES QUALITY DIRECTIONAL DATA THAT IS ABLE TO STAND ON ITS OWN AND IN CONCERT WITH OTHER MODES OF DATA COLLECTION, AND WE CROSS VALIDATE ITS FINDINGS FROM OTHER POLLING FIRMS THAT USE OTHER FORMS OF TRADITIONAL POLLING.

** South/Rest of BC comprises: Central Okanagan, North Okanagan, Okanagan-Similkameen, Columbia-Shuswap; East Kootenay, Central Kootenay, Kootenay Boundary, Thompson-Nicola, Squamish-Lillooet, Cariboo, Fraser Valley, Powell River, Sunshine Coast and Central Coast.

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